Science education at Sewickley Academy is informed by the Next Generation Science Standards. Instruction is framed around enduring understandings, essential questions, and active learning. All students learn and practice observing, taking accurate notes, asking questions, probing, analyzing, developing hypotheses, testing, and drawing conclusions from data.
In Pre-K and Kindergarten, the focus is on observing, comparing, sorting, organizing, wondering, predicting, hypothesizing, experimenting, exploring, and beginning to infer and draw conclusions. The Early Childhood Science program builds on the natural curiosity and wonder of young children. Students are provided with opportunities to experience the outdoors as an extension of the classroom.
In the early grades, children begin to make graphs and create models using collected data. The emphasis is on creating balance with curiosity, open-minded questioning, and the importance of observation and data collection. Children are encouraged to think like scientists and to value and respect different explanations for a phenomenon for which there may not be one clear answer. Children experience and practice scientific process skills including observing, classifying, comparing, measuring, estimating, collecting data, making graphs, predicting, and creating models.
In Grade 2, children are able to raise questions about the world around them and seek answers by observing, collecting data, and noting accurate observations in journals. They experience and appreciate science through hands-on, guided discovery, which explores and extends classroom thematic units of study through inquiry investigations, group discussion, field trips, and nature walks. The program fosters independent thinking skills through questioning as students conduct and summarize investigations. Typical topics include fossils and dinosaurs, bats and trees, nutrition, chemical tests, properties of lights, natural resources, soil science, and birds.
Inquiry and curiosity, observation, data collection, and accurate recording skills continue to be key. Children become more refined in the ways they frame questions and analyze observations and data. Students begin to understand the importance of records, especially when new observations seem to contradict earlier notations. Children also begin to grasp that competing or conflicting explanations may not be easily resolved. They begin to offer reasons for their conclusions and consider the explanations of others. Topics are drawn from the plant and animal worlds, weather, matter, force and motion, and length/capacity.
The discovery-based program enhances students’ natural curiosity through hands-on projects that allow for student exploration. The focus includes life science (human body and plant cells), physical science (electricity), and earth science (rocks and minerals) that emphasize the model of the scientific process. Inquiry-based learning is enhanced through the use of non-fiction literature from which students learn to use textual features (headings, subheadings, tables of contents, and captions) to assist in forming hypotheses and drawing conclusions. Synthesizing textual materials, lab-based experiments, and life experiences help to build the foundation to construct meaning from the natural world.
Grade 5 Science begins with a study of the universe on a broad spectrum and works its way back to the human person. Children study types of galaxies, life cycles of stars, Earth’s solar system as well as Earth and its moon. As a culminating activity, students participate in a live teleconference with the Challenger Learning Center, where they work in teams to rescue a lost space shuttle.
Also in Grade 5, students study Earth’s atmosphere, oceans and their features, environments, and solar energy. The units culminate in a visit to the Sunship Study Station at McKeever Environmental Center, where they learn how to be effective "passengers" aboard Sunship Earth.
Investigating and Questioning our World through Science and Technology is a new curriculum that we have adopted at Sewickley Academy Middle School. It is designed to teach science by doing science. Each level from Grade 6 through 8 will engage students in four units of study (physics, chemistry, earth science, and life science) organized around driving questions designed to support students’ understanding of the essential ideas of science. Scientific practices such as collecting and analyzing data, designing and evaluating models, developing evidence based arguments are embedded in each unit. IQWST has been ten years in the making with support from the National Science Foundation to develop the next generation of science materials. Students will eventually be expected to use a variety of online tools and websites during the course of the year. IQWST has produced a large variety of activities and projects to engage students and allow them to assume a participatory role in their science education through computer based learning, student led inquiry, hands-on labs, virtual labs and science projects. In addition to the IQWST curriculum, each grade level provides the opportunity for students to further enhance their understanding through additional projects, activities, and advanced concepts.
The Senior School Science program demonstrates an openness to multiple ways of making sense of the natural world as well as the development of a broadly skeptical frame of mind, one that weighs evidence and applies a critical, questioning attitude to a variety of life challenges. In Grade 9, students study Biology, the study of life on both the micro- and macro-levels. Topics include cellular biology, classical Mendelian genetics, evolution and ecology, and a survey of life forms on Earth. The year-long course concludes with an overview of human systems.
Grade 10 students study Chemistry, a survey course that introduces the student to the structure and composition of matter and the processes by which matter undergoes change. Using a combination of laboratory work, class discussion, and problem solving students learn chemical concepts and how they apply to our world. Topics include atomic structure and the Periodic Table, bonding and shapes of molecules, properties of solutions, chemical equilibrium, rates of reactions, electrochemistry, and acids and bases. An advanced, honors-level course is available to students who have demonstrated success and serious interest in science. In addition to the topics noted above, the Honors Chemistry course also covers stoichiometry and thermochemistry.
Students typically study Physics. They may also elect Anatomy and Physiology or Earth and Space Science. The full-year Physics course introduces students to classical physics. Topics in Newtonian mechanics include kinematics, dynamics, energy, and momentum. Major topics in electricity and magnetism include electrostatics, electric forces and fields, current electricity, and magnetic fields and forces.
Seniors who have successfully completed the core courses in biology, chemistry, and physics may elect Advanced Placement Biology, Advanced Placement Chemistry, Advanced Placement Environmental Science, or Advanced Placement Physics. Additional electives include Anatomy and Physiology, which examines the anatomical structures and functions that make human life possible, and Earth and Space Science, which explores the concepts driving complex systems in geology, meteorology, and astronomy. Anatomy and Physiology and Earth and Space Science are courses made available to Grade 11 students, so they may include a mix of both Grade 11 and 12 students.
List of 9 members.
Chair, Science Department; Senior School Science Teacher
University of Virginia - B.A. University of Wisconsin, Madison - M.S. Slippery Rock University - M.Ed.