8th Grade AALI Science

In 8th Grade AALI Science, we started out the year with a Science of Locations project. Students picked a location and researched a large variety of topics including the geological and biological history, the current ecosystem, potential threats to the organisms, and much more. This is a project that students complete each year in AALI Science. By researching a different location each year, students can show and reflect on their learning over the past year as well as make connections between the locations they learn about. This year our Science of Locations project had an exciting twist as students used Google Tour Creator to make their on virtual reality tours for their locations.

In October, 8th graders investigated the question, "How do rising global temperatures impact hurricane intensity and risk?" Working with the Concord Consortium's new GeoHazard unit, students explored hurricane simulations to learn how hurricanes move and intensify due to sea surface temperature and pressure systems. Connecting to our trip to Northeastern University, students also explored the impacts of hurricanes on the people living in a variety of situations.

In November, 8th graders started reading The Serengeti Rules by Sean B. Carroll. This book is part of our AALI Science book study program in which we read a nonfiction book connected to our middle school standards each year. The Serengeti Rules takes a look at the rules that regulate everything from cells and microbiology to our body systems to whole ecosystems. Through reading this book, students learn that when these rules are broken, systems fail but if we understand how the rules were broken we may be able to repair the damage. Our reading and discussion focuses around the driving question, "How can an understanding of regulation help us solve problems at all levels of biology?"

During the book study, students also work toward a better understanding of regulation and disruptions through a variety of hands-on activities.

As 8th graders prepare for their Science, Technology, and Engineering MCAS test in the spring, they are reviewing what they have been learning over the past 3 years. AALI 8th graders are participating in practice tests throughout the year and reflecting on results after each practice. The last time this group took an STE MCAS test they were 5th graders and the test was on paper. Since then, Massachusetts has transitioned to a new set of standards and has begun to implement computer testing. These practice tests are a chance to review material, identify individual and class gaps in knowledge, and get used to the types of questions they can expect to see in the spring.

In December, 8th graders continued their work around The Serengeti Rules and started applying the general concepts they had learned about regulation at the cellular and body system level to ecosystems.

Students also spent 1 day a week throughout December on exploring how micro-plastics are entering and impacting ecosystems around the world. Upon returning to school in January, they put this learning to the test as they designed and built prototypes of solutions to remove micro-plastics from bodies of water. During this work, students used a decision matrix focused on criteria and constraints while they tested and improved their prototype.

In January, we finished our book study on The Serengeti Rules. As the book ended, we applied the rules we had been learning about to ecosystems that have been broken in the past. Using the wolves of Yellowstone as an example, students found and used relationships between organisms in the ecosystem to predict how populations would change when wolves were reintroduced. Then they found evidence to support or challenge their predictions.

In February, 8th graders created stop-motion animation related to astronomy concepts. Using a variety of mediums, they created short videos to teach each other about lunar phases, lunar and solar eclipses, seasons, and gravity. Groups of students presented their work to the class at the end of the project.

Later in February, 8th graders started learning about cells and organelles. They started by gaining an understanding of the functions of organelles within cells and used microscopes to examine plant and animals cells with a focus on cell walls, cell membranes, and the nucleus. They commented on how much variety is seen between cells and especially enjoyed taking samples of their own cheek cells to examine.