In addition to many amazing opportunities on trips and through big events, our 7th and 8th grade AALI Science students also experience a variety of opportunities daily in class here at Longsjo!
In September, we started out the year working on spatial reasoning skills. Research shows that spatial skills are linked to success in mathematics classes and can predict those students who will pursue and find success in STEM fields. Discussion around this topic has specifically focused on working to close the gender gap in STEM. Some research has suggested that there is nothing genetic about the differences in spatial skills between genders and everybody seems to agree that spatial skills can be learned and with that learning, the gender gap is closed. So that's what we set out to do!
In October, we moved on to focus on some of the 8th grade science standards related to heredity and students finished off the unit with a persuasive essay stating their thoughts on whether the United States should ban genetic engineering. The thoughtful, well-researched essays discussed genetic engineering for crops, cloning endangered animals, stem cell research, a large variety of moral and ethical concerns and more!
In early November, we followed up on our visit to Northeastern by using our new lab to build circuits and test solar cells.
Later in November, we started to apply our understanding of heredity and genetics to learning about evolution. The bulk of this unit was spent taking part in the Evolution Lab which introduces students to the tree of life and lets them interact with it, finding connections and following the path of evolution. We even created our own "tree of interests" so that students could see just a fraction of how complicated and frustrating it can be to classify and connect items especially when you have so many and millions of years of history with only limited information to make those connections. Students were working toward our trip to the New England Aquarium where they saw many of the adaptations we had been talking about come to life.
In December, we began to plan for the STEM Morning that AALI Students were excited about running for Longsjo 6th graders. There were so many great ideas being proposed but first, AALI Students had to be experts at using all of our new science lab equipment. Below, you can see them working on mapping magnetic fields using our LabQuest Probeware and new science lab laptops.
As STEM Morning approached, the groups were formed and activities planned. AALI students worked to test out their experiments and anticipate any issues and questions that may come up.
In January we spent time learning about body systems as a follow up to the college-level Biology class that AALI students took last year. During this time we also prepared to dissect frogs and discussed similarities and differences between human and frog body systems with connections to evolution and adaptations. Then, on January 9th, Longsjo AALI Student participated in a frog dissection lab!
In February, we started reading the book The Sixth Extinction by Elizabeth Kolbert. Not only is this an important book for citizen of our world today, it also has countless connections to many of the middle school science standards. By reading about the real world context of these standards, students gained an understanding that would have been impossible to achieve learning each standard in isolation. The reading of this book was set up as a blended learning unit with an online book study and related lab work.
In Early March, when we started reading about ocean acidification and it's connection to climate change, students completed several lab experiments relating to pH and ocean acidification. Then, they were able to participate in a virtual reality experience to see coral the effects of coral bleaching.
Later in March, as we continued our book study and started to reflect on how the earth has evolved over time, students spent some time learning about tectonic plates. The completed several activities in the lab working on creating models and concept maps related to tectonic plates and the changes that have occurred on earth over geologic time.