Rita M. O’Keefe
The purpose of this unit is to strengthen the middle school physical and natural science programs. It is an effort to generate excitement and enthusiasm toward physical and natural science and provide a foundation for future learning and continued study in both scientific fields. The curriculum unit also promotes the integration of physical science and natural science. The natural resources, minerals and geological environments of Connecticut support some of the major areas of physical science that are currently being taught in middle school curriculums. As students cover these areas they will broaden their applications to include the study of the earth. In this way they will be able to understand the connection between physical science and their natural world. The major areas of physical science that are addressed include the properties of matter, energy, force and motion. These areas will be integrated with topics in earth science such as the earth’s changing surface, the continental crust, volcanic landforms, identification of minerals, land shape and abrasion, crystal structures and wave energy.
General background information is given on each of the physical and earth science topics being explored. Key vocabulary terms are defined for each area of study and investigation. Hands-on activities are provided and directed toward explorations that are appropriate for a class of approximately twenty five students and can be accomplished within a 50 minute time frame. All activities lend themselves toward a cooperative learning setting in which students groups will range from two to four. All activities are presented in a consistent format which includes the topic, objective, materials, procedure, observations, and rationale. This format will provide the framework for identifying problems, gathering information, stating a hypothesis, designing an experiment, making observations, recording data, analyzing data and stating a conclusion.
Thus, the unit focuses on providing a rich and varied menu of inquiry based hands-on student explorations supported by clear and descriptive background information. It provides opportunities for technology to assist and support instruction. Lastly, suggestions for relevant field trips and pertinent resources available in Connecticut are provided.
There are four main sections of the unit. They include the following topics in earth science: 1) Types of Rock 2) Mineral Identification, 3) Crystal Structures, and 4) Movement in the Earth’s Crust. Each of these sections is divided into five subsections. The subsections include: 1) A description of the section topic with main concepts described and explored, 2) Definitions of Key Vocabulary, 3) Physical Science Connections, 4) Connecticut Applications, and 5) Hands-On Experiments.