STEM in the Middle School
Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics in Grades 5-8
Students in each grade of our Middle School participate in our One-to-One Program. The goal of this program is to put as much meaningful and enriching technology in the hands of as many students as possible. Fifth and Sixth Graders receive their own Chromebooks, which are small laptops that run on Google’s Chrome operating system. Seventh and Eighth Graders are provided with MacBook Pro laptops that allow them to use both Windows and Mac platforms. Technology use is balanced by discussions of when technology is helpful and when it is best to turn it off.
Fifth Graders use the engineering design process to guide them as they solve problems in all their units of study. Using this process, students designed a water filtration device to yield the purest water. Students learn about renewable and non-renewable energy sources and, working in teams, design a device that uses the power of wind to generate electricity. Fifth Graders learn engineering and design through programming LEGO robots to accomplish specific tasks and constructing an eco-friendly prototype. They also spend time learning about and building electrical circuits.
Sixth Graders write and perform controlled, hands-on lab experiments and analyze the data that they gather. Science topics tie to other strands in the Sixth Grade curriculum to promote interdisciplinary experiences. For example, lessons on immunity coincide with studying the historical consequences of disease in Social Studies. Sixth Graders participate in Tinkering Week at the Butler Campus, where girls deconstruct and reconfigure anything from puppet theaters to Shakespeare’s language to cookie recipes to appliances. Science stumper challenges help students to experience the ties between science and game design, writing fiction and non-fiction, animation and the visual arts. Fifth and Sixth Grade Students also participate in Explorations, a course that introduces them to Digital Design, Information Technology and Library Resources, three-dimensional problem solving, research and design thinking.
During the year, Seventh Graders undertake several engineering design challenges on topics as varied as earthquake resistant buildings and prosthetic limbs. Teams use the engineering design cycle to design, build, test and refine their unique solutions to these challenges. Throughout the year, students use computer applications, models and simulations to enhance their understanding of the evolution of Earth and its living inhabitants. Seventh Graders end the year with a two-week archaeological dig at the Butler Campus focused on field methods, data collection and interpreting evidence.
Eighth Graders adopt both a model-based learning approach by using verbal, pictorial, graphical and mathematical models to interpret data, and a problem-based learning approach by conducting hands-on investigations to solve real-world issues. Students collect and analyze data in order to make and test predictions. Each month, Eighth Graders choose a current scientific article to summarize on an online discussion board, where they can read and comment on their classmates’ reflections. Students in the Seventh and Eighth Grades can choose to participate in one or more of our STEM electives. Science Symposium allows girls to further investigate any facet of science that sparks their interest through independent research. The Engineering Design Lab affords Seventh and Eighth Grade students an opportunity to explore design challenges beyond the classroom. Recent projects have included building an aquatic ROV (Remotely Operated Vehicle) and electric guitars. Students are introduced to advances in design through Mini-Makers and Robotics.