I teach introductory integrated science in four distinct classrooms of 9th grade students. The classrooms are heterogeneously grouped so that there is a broad mixture of students as they enter high school and include a number of students who are identified as 'inclusion' students. 'Inclusion' students are students who were previously enrolled in full time special education programs that are now participating in regular education classes as part of their IEP (individualized education plans). The class sizes are small (usually 15 to 20 students) with the room organized around bench tables. This allows laboratory work to be done while also making cooperative work possible-which is what we do most of the time. A mobile laptop computer unit with the unit connected to internet via wireless is available for the class. The unit will take advantage of that and include some integration of technology.
Every year we begin our study of the scientific method by having students explore 'inquiry labs'. 'Inquiry labs' are designed differently than the traditional cook book lab where the students follow directions to get to a predetermined endpoint. An inquiry lab is one that is set up so that the students acquire their own knowledge and are not only finding the answers, but are, in fact, asking the questions as well. This is important as inquiry based learning is becoming the standard, and the students are expected to perform such tasks when they are tested by the CAPT (Connecticut Academic Performance Task) in their 10th grade year. An traditional lab is converted into an inquiry based lab activity at the end of this unit.
We move through a lot of content as the year goes on. We first cover basic chemistry and chemical reactions, then move into physical sciences and energy. Finally, the year closes with an exploration of the universe, and most specifically our solar system. This exploratory science course moves quickly -- the rationale is to expose the students to concepts and theories, calculations and vocabularies, skills and techniques that will provide a background for the rest of their high school science curriculum. Students in New Haven study at least three years of science during high school, and this introductory course is aimed at reinforcing, or perhaps implementing, the foundation students need. Emphasis on using the scientific method to design and conduct research, organize and report results, and show understanding of real world connections is paramount to this course. This unit is designed with those goals in mind.
The overarching goal of the science curriculum at New Haven Academy is to develop thoughtful, responsible, and active citizens who are able to acquire information to consider multiple perspectives and to make reasoned conclusions. This curriculum provides students with opportunities to critically reflect upon information and issues in order to examine the present, make connections with the past, and consider the future.
We are an interdistrict magnet school co-founded by Gregory Baldwin and Meredith Gavrin in September 2003. By definition, an interdistrict magnet school is a public school of choice designed to reduce racial, ethnic and economic isolation. It is our mission to provide a rigorous education that prepares all students to succeed in college and become active citizens able to make informed decisions about their lives and their communities. It is our goal to keep class sizes small in order to give students more personal attention. Asking the students to demonstrate their knowledge in writing, orally and through displays and projects is one of our central philosophies, and all students are required to complete and present projects in each of the classes at all grade levels. This unit will include a final project that asks students to demonstrate their ability to use scientific evidence to argue a particular debate topic with their classmates , and then present that information visually for a larger audience.
We are a member of the Coalition of Essential Schools, an organization whose mission it is to create and sustain equitable, intellectually vibrant, personalized schools and to make such schools the norm of American public education. Greg Baldwin, while at Brown University, studied under Ted Sizer, who is one of the leading reformers in education and founded the Coalition of Essential Schools in 1984. While following district guidelines, it is our goal to personalize our instruction for our students. Our school is our personal construction based upon teacher, student, parent and administrator expertise and input. We operate under five habits of mind, asking student to ask the following questions for any piece of information they encounter:
1. What is the evidence?
2. From who's perspective is it?
3. What are the connections and patterns?
4. How might things be different?
5. Why does this matter? Who cares?
New Haven Academy is in its second year of operation. Our classrooms consist of a variety of students, including fully included special education students. This necessitates differentiation of instruction such that you keep the top level interested while not losing those students at the lower end. Another challenge in managing the classroom at New Haven Academy is that we meet in 85 minute blocks. Many times it is necessary to have that amount of time if we are to really delve into and complete an activity. However, this also requires careful lesson planning and thought given to exactly how the time will be divided between direct instruction, hands-on activities and assessment. It is my goal to have the student-as-worker and the teacher-as-guide for as much of the class as possible.
To help students learn to think critically and understand the complexity of natural phenomenon, I have developed this unit combining a theoretical understanding of a phenomenon with concrete evidence. The unit
The Greenhouse Effect and Me: How Do We Affect Each Other
focuses on how the greenhouse effect -- specifically as enhanced through the introduction of greenhouse gases by humans-- has affected Earth in the past, and what that effect will be in the future. In the unit, approximately sixty students will explore the impact that humans have had on our planet and what, if anything might happen in the future, depending on the decisions we all make. Students will connect the concept of energy to its favorable and detrimental effects on the environment and on patterns of political influence that could change those effects. In so doing, students will understand and apply concepts from their study of chemistry and physics to answer a specific 'essential question' (see below) about their impact on their environment, using evidence from their study of the greenhouse effect and using empirical evidence and pertinent information from their research to support their point of view. In the unit, the students will focus on the reasons that the earth has warmed due to the phenomenon referred to as the greenhouse effect. They will speculate how the Earth might be different without it this atmospheric phenomenon in place. Students will review their 9th grade science curriculum when we discuss the meaning of energy, heat, and chemical reactions; they will have the opportunity to make their own greenhouse; students will think about anthropomorphic causes that may change the environment; and finally students will research, digest and react to their gathered information to defend their position on an environmental topic in a political debate forum. In this way that can demonstrate what they are thinking and what they have learned.