Background: We have worked several years to follow Framework guidelines and integrate science instruction within and across grade levels. Each grade will focus on one or two themes from the framework as the unifying principle for units of instruction. Excellents sets of hands on activities and extended lab experiments are continually being adapted form FOSS, GEMS, C-Sin, STEP, and other sources, to provide students with multi-level, fairly authentic simulations of real world phenomena. Assessments are done that strive to be equally authentic, so that student learning is measured as appropriate to the instruction.
The 7th grade science theme is Systems and Interactions. The SPSI interschool weather project begun last year is being expanded this year to include all our 7th graders in regulary activities such as gathering, recording, and graphically analyzing our local weather data, looking for understanding through pattern recognition and inference. They will build conceptual understanding of the many interactions that make up weather systems, and many students will paritcipate in interactive communications with other project schools, also creating a weather database via our electronic bulletin board system.
Proposal: We seek approval and support for a second real science project for all 7th graders. Field studies are fundamental in understanding systems and interactions involving environments and living things. We propose to study water quality from watershed sources for Lake Cachuma, to the river outlet of the Santa Ynez River. The key questions from which other learning will evolve are:
1. What are the effects of the water cycle on our local environment?
*Weather patterns, rainfall, erosion and the effects of runoff on water quality.
*The effects of weather and climate on local vegetative patterns.
The main objective is to provide common
foundational experiences in field study techniques,using water test
kits, written, pictorial, and video records of study site, gathering
accurate and useful data. Much of our study that follows will use
these experiences and data as resources for analysis and as powerful
tools for creating extensions. Ideally every 7th grader will
participate in two all day field studies; one in late fall, and a
return trip in the spring, after the winter rains. We would like the
district to support this by providing bus transportation for those
two trips. Last year Mr. Hoskings and Mrs. Straub made very
successful trips to Oso Flaco for studies using student candy sales
monies, but the fund raising was very distracting from the
professional teaching environment, and confused the rationale for the
activity in students' minds.
We will seek support from businesses such as Primus labs, and Pacific Water if neccessary in order to take additional groups for follow up study trips to water treatment sites, labs, irrigation systems, etc.
It is our observation that 7th graders struggle with relevance of their studies, often with noticeable problems academically and behaviorally. We believe that connecting them to important studies (not just tourist type field trips) and to a wider community of learners both at other valley schools, and Cal Poly and UCSB, will help these students find relevance and focus at a crucial time in their development as learners.
Additionally, the SPSI weather project and BBS provides a model for them to use to be involved in multi year projects, with meaningful work shared for use, both present and future, by others with similar interests. That is the model for science which we want to offer students in Guadalupe. The 8th grade curriculum and student outcomes are being modified to take advantage of this work planned for the 7th grade, with students continuing to examine the effects of systems on environment, and of people on those systems.