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Developed by teachers in California

MIDDLE SCHOOL 6–8 PROGRAMS FOR CA NGSS

Our Programs

Each unit has a strong storyline around an anchor phenomenon, an overall 5E structure, and an inquiry project or engineering design project. Assessments include daily formative assessments, unit level assessments, and performance tasks.

Adopted in California!

As current and former California teachers ourselves, we know that educators have been hard at work adjusting to the new standards. Teachers need a curriculum that is flexible enough to adapt to the needs of their students and the programs and projects they already have in place.

We also know that engagement and motivation are the key to student learning. Our units engage students’ curiosity with real-world phenomena, connections to their own experiences, and engineering design challenges that get them talking and thinking.

For a closer look, click on the Sample Curriculum tab. Or, to speak directly with a representative or request a pilot, contact us at info@impactscience.co, or call us at (510) 559-9332.

INTEGRATED AND DISCIPLINE-SPECIFIC PROGRAMS

We offer both Integrated and Discipline-Specific programs. All units are developed around anchor phenomena. Each unit also has an engineering design project or inquiry project, often tied directly to the anchor phenomenon. Click here to view the course outline for your program.

INTEGRATED

DISCIPLINE-SPECIFIC

Impact Science INTEGRATED Middle School Program for CA NGSS

Intro Unit

Anchor Phenomenon: What is dry ice?

Inquiry Project: Ice and dry ice investigations

The beginning of the year is an exciting time—and a critical time to set the tone for a successful year of learning science together! Start the year off right with this Intro unit and inspire students to visualize themselves as future scientists and engineers. Students take part in a getting-to-know-you assignment and a team-building activity. They set up and decorate their science notebooks, then get started with observations of ice and dry ice. The process of planning and carrying out their own investigation is broken down in a series of lessons that take students step by step from asking a testable question to analyzing and interpreting their data. This gives you a chance to assess students’ 3-D knowledge and skills and begin to help students catch up as needed. As with all the units in this curriculum, you can adjust the lessons based on your students’ needs and the materials you have available, or substitute your own beginning-of-the-year activities and investigations.

INSTRUCTIONAL SEGMENT IThermal energy drives weather, climate, and climate change, as radiation from the sun interacts with the Earth and its water, soil, and atmosphere.

Thermal Energy Unit

Anchor Phenomenon: Can you really use energy from the Sun to cook food?

Engineering Design Project: Design a better solar cooker.

Solar cookers are an ideal vehicle to make thermal energy concepts tangible and easier for students to understand. In the context of cooking their own meal or snack, this is an instant hook for students! In the Thermal Energy Unit, every student becomes an engineer and potential wilderness chef. Students start by exploring various basic solar cookers and trying to model how they work. As they learn about radiation, conduction, and convection throughout the unit, students periodically return to their solar cooker design to make improvements. They follow a full design cycle to build, test, and redesign their cookers. Students’ understanding of energy transfer in this unit sets them up to understand weather phenomena, climate, and climate change in the next few units.

Weather Unit

Anchor Phenomenon: What causes different kinds of weather?

Engineering Design Project: Design or improve a weather instrument.

Inquiry Project: What causes extreme weather phenomena?

We experience weather every day, but what causes all these changes? The Weather unit is about understanding and explaining the interactions that cause the weather. Students start out by observing a terrarium in a jar, and brainstorming 101 uses for water. Having investigated phase changes in the Intro unit and thermal energy in the previous unit, students are ready to think about the Sun’s effects on air, water, and soil and how those interactions produce rain, wind, and other weather phenomena. Students make a cloud inside a bottle, observe and model evaporation and condensation, and draw a frame-by-frame cartoon to explain why the wind blows. They finish by researching and explaining an extreme weather phenomenon.

Climate Unit

Anchor Phenomenon: Why do places have such different climates?

Engineering Design Project: Design an ecotourism resort.

What causes places to have such different climates, even within California? And why do some places in the world have such extreme climates? In the Climate unit, students analyze data and look at cause-effect relationships as they explore some of the characteristics of climates. Through their investigations of climates within California and around the world, they construct explanations for the factors that cause such a sheer diversity of climates within California and throughout the globe. Finally, students design an ecotourism resort, matching the construction and activities to the climate for their chosen location.

Climate Change Unit

Anchor Phenomenon: Can we do anything about climate change?

Engineering Design Project: Design a program as a class to lower carbon footprint, gather data to measure its effectiveness.

What are the facts around climate change, and what do they tell us? Students have likely heard the terms global warming, greenhouse gases, carbon footprint, climate change, sea level rise, etc. In the Climate Change unit they have a chance to finally understand what these mean, how they relate to one another, and what they can do to help solve the problem. Concepts from the previous units come together to help them understand global warming and its causes and effects. Students examine the many causes of climate change, both natural and human-made. Using ice core data and a wealth of other information, they argue from evidence about cause-effect relationships. As a way to address the problem, they work together and use their ingenuity and creativity to design a program to reduce carbon footprint.

INSTRUCTIONAL SEGMENT IILiving things need certain things to survive; climate change is impacting survival and reproduction for many species.

Cells Unit

Anchor Phenomenon: What makes us sick?

Engineering Design Project: Design a magnifying device; Make a microbe-based food (optional).

Inquiry Project: Cancer

What are we made of? What do we need to stay alive? And what makes us sick? With the Cells unit, students get to investigate the basic building blocks of life on Earth. Students begin their explorations by engineering their own magnifying devices, and in the process, discover how a microscope works. Throughout the unit, students’ first-hand observations drive their learning. They discover the basic parts of a cell through careful observation. They see that a variety of things can make us sick, from bacteria and fungi to viruses to cancer. These are all very different and, in order to understand them, we need to understand different life forms, what they need to live, and different types of cells. (Paradoxically, as students will learn, many bacteria and some fungi also keep us healthy!) This unit is closely linked with the Body Systems unit, in which students see the roles of different types of cells in the tissues, organs, and systems of the body.

Body Systems Unit

Anchor Phenomenon: How does your body work?

Engineering Design Project: Design an organ donation and delivery system.

The Body Systems unit gets students moving and exercising to understand and model how their bodies work! Examples include how muscles and joints work together, why you breathe faster when you exercise, and how different body systems from your nervous system to your skeletomuscular system work together to enable you to catch a ball or perform other actions. In this unit students will model all these phenomena, design and carry out a heart rate investigation, write and perform a doctor-patient role play, and design an organ donation and delivery system. This unit ties in closely with the Cells unit, completing the picture of how cells differentiate to form tissues and organs and how those carry out the functions needed to keep us alive.

Traits & Survival Unit

Anchor Phenomenon: Why are some species endangered?

Inquiry Project: Endangered species research project

In the Traits & Survival unit, students get to explore some of the most fantastical and awe-inspiring traits found in nature. They examine how plants and animals (including humans) inherit their traits, and how those traits help them to survive. Students get to choose an endangered species to research, and apply all their learning to understanding how that species survives, what challenges it faces, and why it might be endangered. The Endangered Species Project frames their learning for the entire unit. Other memorable lessons along the way include Dragon Traits and Mendel’s peas—with students following in Mendel's footsteps to come up with a mathematical model to explain how genes are passed down and expressed. This unit ties together much of what students learned in the Cells and Body Systems units and also sets them up to understand Ecology and Evolution, which they will study in Grades 7 and 8.

Intro Unit

Anchor Phenomenon: Who can be a scientist or engineer?

Inquiry Project: Paper tower challenge

Start the year with an Intro unit that includes resources for launching the school year and setting expectations for teamwork and success! Lessons set the tone for the year and inspire students to visualize themselves as future scientists and engineers. Lessons include a matching game that dispels stereotypes about scientists; an activity in which students learn about different careers in science and engineering; a concept-mapping activity to review what they remember from 6th grade; an engineering and team-building challenge; and setting up a science notebook. As with any unit in this curriculum, you can adjust the lessons to suit your students and your situation, or substitute your favorite beginning-of-the-year activities.

INSTRUCTIONAL SEGMENT IWe live on an Earth that is dynamic and constantly changing; engineering design helps us live more safely despite these changes, which are sometimes sudden and catastrophic, but other times so slow that they are barely noticeable during our lifetime.

EARTH SYSTEMS Unit

Anchor Phenomenon: How did the Grand Canyon form?

Engineering Design Project: Design a building for earthquakes.

Volcanoes, earthquakes, plate tectonics, rock types—are these isolated random phenomena? In the Earth Systems unit, you and your students will investigate a wide range of phenomena that vary in scale and complexity in order to piece together a big picture understanding of the Earth as a system. As students observe and model phenomena on a local scale, they are able to extrapolate changes that happen during their lifetimes to those that happen over hundreds of millions of years and have resulted in some of the most impressive geologic events and landforms on Earth! Analyzing data and their own observations, they can make sense of larger-scale phenomena, such as plate tectonics, the existence of Pangaea, and the overarching mystery of the unit: How did the Grand Canyon form? At the end of the unit, students apply their learning with a team challenge in which they play the role of an engineering company designing a multi-use building that can withstand an earthquake. Taking on different roles, they choose a location and engineer the design by considering soil types, fault lines, and other factors.

INSTRUCTIONAL SEGMENT IIAll the materials around us, with all their unique properties, are made of the same hundred or so elements; the way these are combined (or not combined) changes during chemical reactions, resulting in materials with new properties.

PROPERTIES OF MATTER Unit

Anchor Phenomenon: What killed Blinky the fish?

Engineering Design Project: Design a density toy.

What killed Blinky the fish? In the Properties of Matter unit, students play the role of forensic scientists, using their sleuthing skills to investigate the substances found near the fish tank and unravel the mystery. They start with properties they can easily observe with their senses, then probe more deeply, using acid/base properties, solubility, melting points and boiling points, and density. After solving the mystery and backing up their findings with evidence, they apply their learning through two engineering challenges: designing a floating boat and a density toy.

ELEMENTS AND COMPOUNDS Unit

Anchor Phenomenon: What is it made of?

Engineering Design Project: Design a crystal growing kit with package and instructions.

What is everything made of? Although there are seemingly endless numbers of materials in the world around us, and new kinds are being developed all the time, students discover that everything is made up of the same 100 or so elements that appear on the periodic table. In the Elements and Compounds unit, students research the properties of different elements, create their own Element Superhero, and construct the periodic table through their own reasoning in a card sorting activity. They explore how elements behave, interact, and bond with one another to build model atoms. Finally students explore the types of bonding that produce polymers and crystals, and design a crystal growing kit complete with instructions and packaging design.

PHYSICAL AND CHEMICAL CHANGES Unit

Anchor Phenomenon: How do hot/cold packs work?

Engineering Design Project: Design a hot or cold pack accessory.

We see chemical and physical changes all around us every day, but without closer investigation, it can be hard to tell what’s really happening. In the Physical and Chemical Changes unit, students explore different kinds of changes. By testing the substances they gather evidence to identify what has happened. Students use their understanding to design an accessory or device. Playing the roles of inventors and product designers, they design a hot or cold pack and an item of clothing or an accessory that would incorporate it for maximum comfort and benefit.

The unit culminates this instructional segment that explores matter and its properties and changes; it also sets up for the next instructional segment, which is all about the chemical processes that all life depends on—as well as those that threaten our planet and its ecosystems.

INSTRUCTIONAL SEGMENT IIISetting up a habitat on Mars is much more complicated than one might think. Earth's ecosystems are actually quite delicate and complex, and their balance depends on many factors; we should consider this as we extract and use Earth's natural resources.

Respiration and Photosynthesis Unit

Anchor Phenomenon: What would you need for a Mars habitat?

Engineering Design Project: Design a sustainable Mars colony.

Inquiry Project: Design an experiment to measure rate of photosynthesis or respiration.

Things we take for granted—such as breathable oxygen, drinkable water, and a food supply—become critical when considering a Mars mission. Through this lens, students explore the chemical reactions that we call respiration and photosynthesis. All life on earth depends on these two processes. Students plan and carry out their own investigations looking at rates of cellular respiration and photosynthesis. Finally, they work in groups to design sustainable Mars colonies, incorporating all that they have learned in order to solve the problem real-life scientists and engineers are still working on. By the end of the Respiration and Photosynthesis unit, students have a strong grasp of the interdependence of life on our planet and an appreciation for many things we often take for granted here on Earth.

ECOLOGY Unit

Anchor Phenomenon: How can we protect/restore ecosystems?

Inquiry Project: Ecosystem study, ecosystem restoration solutions

With the building blocks established in the Respiration and Photosynthesis unit, students take a close look at Earth’s ecosystems. Through simulations, research projects, and a card-matching game, students explore how ecosystems function through interdependent relationships. With a unit-long inquiry project—regularly observing a local ecosystem such as a park or backyard—students learn through first-hand experiences, and see how ecological learning is relevant to all of us, wherever we live. At the end of the Ecology unit, students apply their learning by developing a proposal to restore an abandoned lot and creating a presentation on their findings from the ecosystem they observed.

Natural Resources Unit

Anchor Phenomenon: How do we stop plastics pollution?

Inquiry Project: Recommend a solution to the plastics problem.

Plastics pollution is a well-known problem as it impacts organisms everywhere, but what causes it, and what can be done about it? Natural Resources is the capstone unit of the 7th grade course, bringing together what students have learned about Earth systems and ecology, as well as elements, compounds, and chemical reactions. We now bring everything together in a study of natural resources—our extraction, use, and disposal of natural resources—while also considering the impact on people and the environment. Students make their own milk-based plastics, and learned that most plastics are made from petroleum. At the end of the unit, students study product life cycles and create a plan for how they will use their newfound knowledge to propose a way to stop plastics pollution.

Intro Unit

Anchor Phenomenon: How can we observe things that happen too slowly or quickly?

Engineering Design Project: Make a slow-motion or time lapse video.

Kick off 8th grade science with a bang! Students love time-lapse and slow-motion videos. Many phones and other devices now have the capability to record these, and myriad video clips are readily available online. This is a perfect vehicle for studying phenomena, something students will be doing a lot this year. Setting up to record a time lapse or slow motion video is also an interesting technical challenge; students will need to problem solve—or reverse engineer to figure out how online videos were made. Lessons include a getting-to-know-you activity, an interactive review of 7th grade topics, and students setting up their science notebooks. As with any unit in this curriculum, you can customize it to suit your situation and your students’ needs.

INSTRUCTIONAL SEGMENT IUnderstanding forces and energy can help us bring astronauts safely back to earth, and design equipment to prevent sports injuries.

MOTION AND FORCES Unit

Anchor Phenomenon: How do we get astronauts safely to space and back?

Engineering Design Project: Design a capsule for safe landing.

How do astronauts get to the International Space Station? How do they come back? How do things move in a seemingly zero-gravity environment? Playing the role of NASA engineers, students get to design, build, and test a space capsule for safe landing. Through this and many other hands-on investigations, they discover motion and force relationships for themselves and create claim-evidence-reasoning presentations to share their learning. Using “force machines” that they design and build themselves, students investigate force, mass, and acceleration relationships. Through this and many other hands-on investigations, they discover the laws of motion for themselves, then read the original text of Isaac Newton’s laws and compare with their own findings. Students also research other feats of physics, mechanics, and engineering in different cultures throughout history.

Kinetic and Potential Energy Unit

Anchor Phenomenon: How do we prevent concussions?

Engineering Design Project: Design and analyze safety equipment.

Energy animates the world around us. In this unit, students learn about kinetic and potential energy, continuing their investigations of motion-related phenomena from the Motion and Forces unit. Students start by observing sports collisions and thinking about how to keep athletes safe. They explore energy concepts by playing “gravity bowling,” building a model roller coaster, and impact testing a variety of materials. Concurrently, students think about how they would design a helmet to reduce the risk of concussions in soccer or other sports.

INSTRUCTIONAL SEGMENT IIElectricity and magnetism are closely related, and can be used for a variety of practical applications, such as electric motors, home electrical systems, and various ways to generate sound and light.

Electricity and Magnetism Unit

Anchor Phenomenon: What is causing the Earth’s magnetic field?

Engineering Design Project: Design an electrical system for a toy house.

Electricity and magnetism are back in the middle school curriculum! And students love all the things they can do with magnets and simple circuits. Starting with small compasses, students explore and model the Earth’s magnetic field. The anchor phenomenon, which relates back to the Earth Systems unit, is What causes the Earth’s magnetic field? In addition to solving this mystery, along the way they also discover many practical applications—building a small motor, experimenting with circuit components, and wiring a toy house.

WAVES Unit

Anchor Phenomenon: What are sound and light? What are they used for?

Engineering Design Project: Design an art installation involving sound and light.

Inquiry Project: What makes a better cup phone?

Students love music, art, and communicating with each other. Cup phones, art installations, and speakers are some of the things that will pique their curiosity as they study waves and their practical applications in the Waves unit. Through hands-on explorations and projects, students model how energy is transferred in both sound and light waves, and explore how these waves can be used for communication and other applications. Students learn by doing, through building speakers (which continues their learning about electricity and magnetism), designing an optics obstacle course, constructing and investigating cup phones, modeling digital transmission and more. Students apply what they learn to creating an art display or practical device of their own design that uses both sound and light.

INSTRUCTIONAL SEGMENT IIIOur place in the universe, and our place on the evolutionary timeline are both pretty special; we should be mindful of our human impact as we live our lives.

Earth’s Place in the Universe Unit

Anchor Phenomenon: Where are we in space? How do we know?

Engineering Design Project: Design an interactive model.

Where are we in space? Why does the Moon’s appearance change? What causes eclipses? These are big questions that have fascinated humans from the beginning of human history, and in this unit students get to investigate and model answers to these questions. Students engage in multiple kinesthetic and visual modelling activities to explain their observations. They apply their learning in two creative STEAM projects, they formulate a model of how the solar system might have been formed through evidence-based reasoning, and complete a culminating engineering project in which they create an interactive model or multimedia presentation that explains the phases of the moon, eclipses, scale, or anything else from the unit. By the end of the unit, students are able to make sense of some of the universe’s greatest mysteries.

Geologic Time Scale Unit

Anchor Phenomenon: Why did the dinosaurs go extinct?

Inquiry Project: Design a presentation on Earth’s timeline, cite evidence.

How long ago did the dinosaurs live? Why did they go extinct? And how do we know if humans were not here to witness these events? In this unit, students take a journey through Earth’s 4.55 billion year history to piece together an explanation for these questions, and put other major events in chronological order. They play the role of scientists, exploring evidence—such as core samples, fossils, and radioactive and relative dating—to construct explanations. By the end of the unit, students are able to explain not only why the dinosaurs went extinct, but how it is possible for scientists to formulate a theory backed by evidence for something that happened so long ago.

EVOLUTION Unit

Anchor Phenomenon: What causes these unusual traits?

Inquiry Project: Should genetic engineering be allowed?

The evidence for evolution is undeniable and visible all around us. In the Evolution unit, students follow in the footsteps of paleontologists and evolutionary biologists, against the backdrop of the geologic time scale which they established in the previous unit. They build on what they learned in the Traits & Survival and Ecology units about survival and population trends, now with the added dimension of time. Through hands-on simulations, close reading of Darwin’s notebooks, and careful examination of fossil evidence, homologous structures, and patterns of embryological development, students can come to their own conclusions about evolution. The unit culminates in a genetics project in which students research and debate the pros and cons of allowing genetic engineering.

HUMAN IMPACT Unit

Anchor Phenomenon: How do our choices affect our planet?

Engineering Design Project: Recommend a solution and present it to decision makers.

From how we travel to what and how much we consume, our decisions have environmental and human health-related costs. In the Human Impact unit, students have the opportunity to develop solutions to some of the world’s most pressing environmental challenges. Through simulation games, case studies, analyses of real-life emissions data, a hands-on school lunch waste activity, and an engineering challenge in which they build and test a water filtration system, students explore ways that they can more positively impact the environment (or reduce a negative impact). Students apply their learning in a final project in which they prepare a letter or presentation to decision-makers recommending a decision or policy change and articulating how it will help the environment and the community.

 

Impact Science DISCIPLINE-SPECIFIC Middle School Program for CA NGSS

Intro Unit

Anchor Phenomenon: What is dry ice?

Inquiry Project: Ice and dry ice investigations

The beginning of the year is an exciting time—and a critical time to set the tone for a successful year of learning science together! Start the year off right with this Intro unit and inspire students to visualize themselves as future scientists and engineers. Students take part in a getting-to-know-you assignment and a team-building activity. They set up and decorate their science notebooks, then get started with observations of ice and dry ice. The process of planning and carrying out their own investigation is broken down in a series of lessons that take students step by step from asking a testable question to analyzing and interpreting their data. This gives you a chance to assess students’ 3-D knowledge and skills and begin to help students catch up as needed. As with all the units in this curriculum, you can adjust the lessons based on your students’ needs and the materials you have available, or substitute your own beginning-of-the-year activities and investigations.

INSTRUCTIONAL SEGMENT IEnergy from the Sun drives weather, climate, and climate change, as sunlight interacts with the Earth and its water, soil, and atmosphere.

Weather Unit

Anchor Phenomenon: What causes different kinds of weather?

Engineering Design Project: Design or improve a weather instrument.

Inquiry Project: What causes extreme weather phenomena?

We experience weather every day, but what causes all these changes? The Weather unit is about understanding and explaining the interactions that cause the weather. Students start out by observing a terrarium in a jar, and brainstorming 101 uses for water. Having investigated phase changes in the Intro unit, students are ready to think about the Sun’s effects on air, water, and soil and how those interactions produce rain, wind, and other weather phenomena. Students make a cloud inside a bottle, observe and model evaporation and condensation, and draw a frame-by-frame cartoon to explain why the wind blows. They finish by researching and explaining an extreme weather phenomenon.

Climate Unit

Anchor Phenomenon: Why do places have such different climates?

Engineering Design Project: Design an ecotourism resort.

What causes places to have such different climates, even within California? And why do some places in the world have such extreme climates? In the Climate unit, students analyze data and look at cause-effect relationships as they explore some of the characteristics of climates. Through their investigations of climates within California and around the world, they construct explanations for the factors that cause such a sheer diversity of climates within California and throughout the globe. Finally, students design an ecotourism resort, matching the construction and activities to the climate for their chosen location.

Climate Change Unit

Anchor Phenomenon: Can we do anything about climate change?

Engineering Design Project: Design a program as a class to lower carbon footprint, gather data to measure its effectiveness.

What are the facts around climate change, and what do they tell us? Students have likely heard the terms global warming, greenhouse gases, carbon footprint, climate change, sea level rise, etc. In the Climate Change unit they have a chance to finally understand what these mean, how these relate to one another, and what they can do to help solve the problem. Concepts from the previous units come together to help them understand global warming and its causes and effects. Students examine the many causes of climate change, both natural and human-made. Using ice core data and a wealth of other information, they argue from evidence about cause-effect relationships. As a way to address the problem, they work together and use their ingenuity and creativity to design a program to reduce carbon footprint.

INSTRUCTIONAL SEGMENT IIWe live on an Earth that is dynamic; changes are sometimes sudden and catastrophic and need to be planned for, but other times so slow that they are barely noticeable during our lifetime. On the other hand our use of natural resources is changing the Earth in ways that will be hard to reverse or mitigate

EARTH SYSTEMS Unit

Anchor Phenomenon: How did the Grand Canyon form?

Engineering Design Project: Design a building for earthquakes.

Volcanoes, earthquakes, plate tectonics, rock types—are these isolated random phenomena? In the Earth Systems unit, you and your students will investigate a wide range of phenomena that vary in scale and complexity, in order to piece together a big picture understanding of the Earth as a system. As students observe and model phenomena on a local scale, they are able to extrapolate changes that happen during their lifetimes to those that happen over hundreds of millions of years and have resulted in some of the most impressive geologic events and landforms on Earth! Based on data and their own observations, they can make sense of larger-scale phenomena, such as plate tectonics, the evidence for Pangaea, and the overarching mystery of the unit: How did the Grand Canyon form? At the end of the unit, students apply their learning with a team challenge in which they play the role of an engineering company designing a multi-use building that can withstand an earthquake. Taking on different roles, they choose a location and engineer the design by considering soil types, fault lines, and other factors.

Natural Resources Unit

Anchor Phenomenon: How do we stop plastics pollution?

Inquiry Project: Recommend a solution to the plastics problem.

Plastics pollution is a well-known problem as it impacts organisms everywhere, but what causes it, and what can be done about it? Extending the study of Earth systems, we now look at the effects of our extraction, use, and disposal of Earth’s natural resources—while also considering the impact on people and the environment. Students make their own milk-based plastics, and learned that most plastics are made from petroleum. The formation of those petroleum deposits relates to the Earth’s past and tectonic plate motion, which they just investigated in the Earth Systems unit. At the end of the Natural Resources unit, students study product life cycles and create a plan for how they will use their newfound knowledge to propose a way to stop plastics pollution.

INSTRUCTIONAL SEGMENT IIIOur place in the universe and our place on Earth's timeline are both pretty special; we should be mindful of our human impact as we live our lives.

Earth’s Place in the Universe Unit

Anchor Phenomenon: Where are we in space? How do we know?

Engineering Design Project: Design an interactive model.

Where are we in space? Why does the Moon’s appearance change? What causes eclipses? These are big questions that have fascinated humans from the beginning of human history, and in this unit students get to investigate and model answers to these questions. Students engage in multiple kinesthetic and visual modelling activities to explain their observations. They apply their learning in two creative STEAM projects; they formulate a model of how the solar system might have been formed, through evidence-based reasoning; and complete a culminating engineering project in which they create an interactive model or multimedia presentation that explains the phases of the moon, eclipses, scale, or anything else from the unit. By the end of the unit, students are able to make sense of some of the universe’s greatest mysteries.

Geologic Time Scale Unit

Anchor Phenomenon: Why did the dinosaurs go extinct?

Inquiry Project: Design a presentation on Earth’s timeline, cite evidence.

How long ago did the dinosaurs live? Why did they go extinct? And how do we know if humans were not here to witness these events? In this unit, students take a journey through Earth’s 4.55 billion year history to piece together an explanation for these questions, and put other major events in chronological order. They play the role of scientists, exploring evidence—such as core samples, fossils, and radioactive and relative dating—to construct explanations. By the end of the unit, students are able to explain not only why the dinosaurs went extinct, but how it is possible for scientists to formulate a theory backed by evidence for something that happened so long ago.

HUMAN IMPACT Unit

Anchor Phenomenon: How do our choices affect our planet?

Engineering Design Project: Recommend a solution and present it to decision makers.

From how we travel to what and how much we consume, our decisions have environmental and human health-related costs. In the Human Impact unit, students have the opportunity to develop solutions to some of the world’s most pressing environmental challenges. Through simulation games, case studies, analyses of real-life emissions data, a hands-on school lunch waste activity, and an engineering challenge in which they build and test a water filtration system, students explore ways that they can more positively impact the environment (or reduce a negative impact). This unit ties together all the instructional segments from this grade, from climate change and what we can do about it, to our use of natural resources, to our place on the geologic time scale here on planet Earth. Students apply their learning in a final project in which they prepare a letter or presentation to decision-makers recommending a decision or policy change and articulating how it will help the environment and the community.

Intro Unit

Anchor Phenomenon: Who can be a scientist or engineer?

Inquiry Project: Paper tower challenge

Start the year with an Intro unit that includes resources for launching the school year and setting expectations for teamwork and success! Lessons set the tone for the year and inspire students to visualize themselves as future scientists and engineers. Lessons include a matching game that dispels stereotypes about scientists; an activity in which students learn about different careers in science and engineering; a concept-mapping activity to review what they remember from 6th grade; an engineering and team-building challenge; and setting up a science notebook. As with any unit in this curriculum, you can adjust the lessons to suit your students and your situation, and you can substitute your favorite beginning-of-the-year activities.

INSTRUCTIONAL SEGMENT ILiving things need certain things to survive and reproduce; human impacts are negatively affecting survival and reproduction for many species

Cells Unit

Anchor Phenomenon: What makes us sick?

Engineering Design Project: Design a magnifying device; Make a microbe-based food (optional).

Inquiry Project: Cancer

What are we made of? What do we need to stay alive? And what makes us sick? With the Cells unit, students get to investigate the basic building blocks of life on Earth. Students begin their explorations by engineering their own magnifying devices, and in the process, discover how a microscope works. Throughout the unit, students’ first-hand observations drive their learning. They discover the basic parts of a cell through careful observation. They see that a variety of things can make us sick, from bacteria and fungi to viruses to cancer. These are all very different and, in order to understand them, we need to understand different life forms, what they need to live, and different types of cells. (Paradoxically, as students will learn, many bacteria and some fungi also keep us healthy!) This unit is closely linked with the Body Systems unit, in which students see the roles of different types of cells in the tissues, organs, and systems of the body.

Body Systems Unit

Anchor Phenomenon: How does your body work?

Engineering Design Project: Design an organ donation and delivery system.

The Body Systems unit gets students moving and exercising to understand and model how their bodies work! Examples include how muscles and joints work together, why you breathe faster when you exercise, and how different body systems from your nervous system to your skeletomuscular system work together to enable you to catch a ball or perform other actions. In this unit students will model all these phenomena, design and carry out a heart rate investigation, write and perform a doctor-patient role play, and design an organ donation and delivery system. This unit ties in closely with the Cells unit, completing the picture of how cells differentiate to form tissues and organs and how those carry out the functions needed to keep us alive.

Traits & Survival Unit

Anchor Phenomenon: Why are some species endangered?

Inquiry Project: Endangered species research project

In the Traits & Survival unit, students get to explore some of the most fantastical and awe-inspiring traits found in nature. They examine how plants and animals (including humans) inherit their traits, and how those traits help them to survive. Students get to choose an endangered species to research, and apply all their learning to understanding how that species survives, what challenges it faces, and why it might be endangered. The Endangered Species Project frames their learning for the entire unit. Other memorable lessons include Dragon Traits and Mendel’s peas—with students following in Mendel's footsteps to come up with a mathematical model to explain how genes are passed down and expressed. This unit ties together much of what students learned in the Cells and Body Systems units and also sets them up to understand ecology and evolution, which they will study next.

INSTRUCTIONAL SEGMENT IISetting up a habitat on Mars is much more complicated than one might think. Earth's ecosystems are actually quite delicate and complex, and their balance depends on many factors, including how various organisms have evolved over many generations.

Respiration and Photosynthesis Unit

Anchor Phenomenon: What would you need for a Mars habitat?

Engineering Design Project: Design a sustainable Mars colony.

Inquiry Project: Design an experiment to measure rate of photosynthesis or respiration.

Things we take for granted—such as breathable oxygen, drinkable water, and a food supply—become critical when considering a Mars mission. Through this lens, students explore the chemical reactions underlying respiration and photosynthesis. All life on Earth depends on these two processes. Students plan and carry out their own investigations looking at rates of cellular respiration and photosynthesis. Finally, they work in groups to design sustainable Mars colonies, incorporating all that they have learned in order to solve the problem real-life scientists and engineers are still working on. By the end of the Respiration and Photosynthesis unit, students have a strong grasp of the interdependence of life on our planet and an appreciation for many things we often take for granted here on Earth.

ECOLOGY Unit

Anchor Phenomenon: How can we protect/restore ecosystems?

Inquiry Project: Ecosystem study, ecosystem restoration solutions

With the building blocks established in the Respiration and Photosynthesis unit, students take a close look at Earth’s ecosystems. Through simulations, research projects, and a card-matching game, students explore how ecosystems function through interdependent relationships. With a unit-long inquiry project—regularly observing a local ecosystem such as a park or backyard—students learn through first-hand experiences, and see how ecological learning is relevant to all of us, wherever we live. At the end of the Ecology unit, students apply their learning by developing a proposal to restore an abandoned lot and creating a presentation on their findings from the ecosystem they observed.

EVOLUTION Unit

Anchor Phenomenon: What causes these unusual traits?

Inquiry Project: Should genetic engineering be allowed?

The evidence for evolution is undeniable and visible all around us. In the Evolution unit, students follow in the footsteps of paleontologists and evolutionary biologists, against the backdrop of the geologic time scale which they established in the previous grade. They build on what they learned earlier in the year in the Traits & Survival and Ecology units about survival, inherited traits, and population trends, now with the added dimension of time. Through hands-on simulations, a close reading of Darwin’s notebooks, and careful examination of fossil evidence, homologous structures, and patterns of embryological development, students can come to their own conclusions about evolution. The unit serves as a capstone for the course and culminates in a genetics project in which students research and debate the pros and cons of allowing genetic engineering.

Intro Unit

Anchor Phenomenon: How can we observe things that happen too slowly or quickly?

Engineering Design Project: Make a slow-motion or time lapse video.

Kick off 8th grade science with a bang! Students love time-lapse and slow-motion videos. Many phones and other devices now have the capability to record these, and myriad video clips are readily available online. This is a perfect vehicle for studying phenomena, something students will be doing a lot this year. Setting up to record a time lapse or slow motion video is also an interesting technical challenge; students will need to problem solve—or reverse engineer to figure out how online videos were made. Lessons include a getting-to-know-you activity, an interactive review of 7th grade topics, and students setting up their science notebooks. As with any unit in this curriculum, you can customize it to suit your situation and your students’ needs.

INSTRUCTIONAL SEGMENT IThermal energy transfer happens all around us, starting with energy from the Sun; understanding different types of thermal energy transfer can help us with everything from insulating our houses to refrigerating and cooking food.

THERMAL ENERGY UNIT

Anchor Phenomenon: Can you really use energy from the Sun to cook food?

Engineering Design Project: Design a better solar cooker.

Solar cookers are an ideal vehicle to make thermal energy concepts tangible and easier for students to understand. In the context of cooking their own meal or snack, this is an instant hook for students! In the Thermal Energy Unit, every student becomes an engineer and potential wilderness chef. Students start by exploring various basic solar cookers and trying to model how they work. As they learn about radiation, conduction, and convection throughout the unit, students periodically return to their solar cooker design to make improvements. They follow a full design cycle to build, test, and redesign their cookers. Students’ understanding of energy transfer in this unit sets them up to understand energy exchanges in a variety of contexts in the rest of the course.

INSTRUCTIONAL SEGMENT IIAll the materials around us, with all their unique properties, are made of the same hundred or so elements; the way these are combined (or not combined) changes during chemical reactions, resulting in materials with new properties.

PROPERTIES OF MATTER Unit

Anchor Phenomenon: What killed Blinky the fish?

Engineering Design Project: Design a density toy.

What killed Blinky the fish? In the Properties of Matter unit, students play the role of forensic scientists, using their sleuthing skills to investigate the substances found near the fish tank and unravel the mystery. They start with properties they can easily observe with their senses, then probe more deeply, using acid/base properties, solubility, melting points and boiling points, and density. After solving the mystery and backing up their findings with evidence, they apply their learning through two engineering design challenges: a floating foil boat and a density toy.

ELEMENTS AND COMPOUNDS Unit

Anchor Phenomenon: What is it made of?

Engineering Design Project: Design a crystal growing kit with package and instructions.

What is everything made of? Although there are seemingly endless numbers of materials in the world around us and new kinds are being developed all the time, students discover that everything is made up of the same 100 or so elements that appear on the periodic table. In the Elements and Compounds unit, students research the properties of different elements, create their own Element Superhero, and construct the periodic table through their own reasoning in a card sorting activity. They explore how elements behave, interact, and bond with one another to build model atoms. Finally students explore the types of bonding that produce polymers and crystals, and design a crystal growing kit complete with instructions and packaging design.

PHYSICAL AND CHEMICAL CHANGES Unit

Anchor Phenomenon: How do hot/cold packs work?

Engineering Design Project: Design a hot or cold pack accessory.

We see chemical and physical changes all around us every day, but without closer investigation, it can be hard to tell what’s really happening. In the Physical and Chemical Changes unit, students explore different kinds of changes. By testing the substances they gather evidence to identify what has happened. Students use their understanding to design an accessory or device. Playing the roles of inventors and product designers, they design a hot or cold pack and an item of clothing or an accessory that would incorporate it for maximum comfort and benefit.

By the end of this instructional segment students will have a solid understanding of matter and its properties and changes.

INSTRUCTIONAL SEGMENT IIIUnderstanding forces and energy can help us bring astronauts safely back to earth and design equipment to prevent sports injuries.

MOTION AND FORCES Unit

Anchor Phenomenon: How do we get astronauts safely to space and back?

Engineering Design Project: Design a capsule for safe landing.

How do astronauts get to the International Space Station? How do they come back? How do things move in a seemingly zero-gravity environment? Playing the role of NASA engineers, students get to design, build, and test a space capsule for safe landing. Through this and many other hands-on investigations, they discover motion and force relationships for themselves and create claim-evidence-reasoning presentations to share their learning. Using “force machines” that they design and build themselves, students investigate force, mass, and acceleration relationships. Through this and many other hands-on investigations, they discover the laws of motion for themselves, then read the original text of Isaac Newton’s laws and compare with their own findings. Students also research other feats of physics, mechanics, and engineering in different cultures throughout history.

Kinetic and Potential Energy Unit

Anchor Phenomenon: How do we prevent concussions?

Engineering Design Project: Design and analyze safety equipment.

Energy animates the world around us. In this unit, students learn about kinetic and potential energy, continuing their investigations of motion-related phenomena from the Motion and Forces unit. Students start by observing sports collisions and thinking about how to keep athletes safe. They explore energy concepts by playing “gravity bowling,” building a model roller coaster, and impact testing a variety of materials. Concurrently, students think about how they would design a helmet to reduce the risk of concussions in soccer or other sports.

INSTRUCTIONAL SEGMENT IVElectricity and magnetism are closely related, and can be used for a variety of practical applications, such as electric motors, home electrical systems, and various ways to generate sound and light.

Electricity and Magnetism Unit

Anchor Phenomenon: What is causing the Earth’s magnetic field?

Engineering Design Project: Design an electrical system for a toy house.

Electricity and magnetism are back in the middle school curriculum! And students love all the things they can do with magnets and simple circuits. Starting with small compasses, students explore and model the Earth’s magnetic field. The anchor phenomenon, which relates to Earth systems, is “What causes the Earth’s magnetic field?” In addition to solving this mystery, along the way they also discover many practical applications—building a small motor, experimenting with circuit components, and wiring a toy house.

WAVES Unit

Anchor Phenomenon: What are sound and light? What are they used for?

Engineering Design Project: Design an art installation involving sound and light.

Inquiry Project: What makes a better cup phone?

Students love music, art, and communicating with each other. Cup phones, art installations, and speakers are some of the things that will pique their curiosity as they study waves and their practical applications in the Waves unit. Through hands-on explorations and projects, students model how energy is transferred in both sound and light waves, and explore how these waves can be used for communication and other applications. Students learn by doing, through building speakers (which continues their learning about electricity and magnetism), designing an optics obstacle course, constructing and investigating cup phones, modeling digital transmission and more. Students apply what they learn to designing and creating an art display or practical device that uses both sound and light.

 

 

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