Life Science: Jen

In Life Science, students are learning a great deal about the ecosystems around them and how the abiotic factors (temperature, precipitation, space, etc) all affect the biotic (living things) elements in the ecosystems. We are currently creating a biome/ecosystem display for each student to explore the food/energy diagrams at a glance and determine a hypothetical response to a change in either organism representation or to an abiotic factor. For example, if a major plant food source were removed, what would happen to the animals. In addition, if the sunlight were to dramatically be changed, how might that affect the ecosystem. Students have also discovered different relationships within ecosystems between different organisms such as parasitism, commensalism, and mutualism. Quiz them and ask them for an example of each!

Physical Science:  Ryan

Students studied Daniel Bernoulli and Fluid Dynamics during the month of December and had a blast reenacting experiments Bernoulli did that later formed the basis of papers such as Hydrodynamica. We looked at how airplane wings gain lift; we studied the relationship between airspeed and force perpendicular to the direction of current. One of the primary takeaways was for students to grasp the incompressibility of liquids, which is the concept at the heart of hydraulics. Of course we had to explore how hydraulic pressure works and that’s led us to a fun and engaging project still underway in mid-January, and I’ll save that story for next month’s newsletter!

Earth & Space Science: Ryan

We were excited in December to work with the Renaissance’s Fourth Grade class. Sam Gerlack guided our visitors through the scientific method and how it related to the once mysterious “sailing stones” of Death Valley. It was fun to share the idea of recreating earth-based geologic phenomenon in a laboratory setting and the questions and hypotheses that ensued were extremely stimulating.  

During December, we continued our work exploring rocks and minerals and enjoyed relating them to meta-processes such as ocean and atmospheric currents. The exciting thing about Science, certainly Earth and Space Science included, is that all concepts interrelate if only one seeks the connection. Often we’ll find ourselves following a thread of curiosity sparked by research or discussion and then we’re off pacing the parking lot to model the distance from the sun to Earth given a model diameter of Earth equal to one and a half centimeters. This exercise will pave the way for the work we’ll do on our solar system and specifically the Earth’s relationship to its moon and sun. We live on an amazing planet with a four and a half billion year history so it can sometimes be difficult redirecting student interest in order to set the stage for high school.

Ultimately I seek a balance between planned curriculum and student curiosity. Engaged learning is an absolute priority and a beautiful thing about the independent school climate is having the latitude to focus the microscope or telescope on the topics and questions most relevant or gleaming to the class.