Science Program Overview


Middle School Science at St. John School


Mr. Tice

Dear middle school students and families:

Welcome back! I look forward to working with you this year! Here are some things you should know before we get started:

General Information: 

 All science instruction at St. John School is based on the Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS), the national science standards for grades k-12, which were adopted by the state of Washington. (You can find an explanation of the NGSS, along with a detailed list of all of the individual standards in grades k-12, here.)

Like the NGSS, the science curriculum at St. John is organized around three major strands:

  1. Science and engineering practices (processes and procedures used by scientists)
  2. Crosscutting concepts (ideas or habits of mind that are useful across all subject areas)
  3. Disciplinary core ideas (content: life science, physical science, etc.)

The science/engineering practices and the crosscutting concepts are included in all science instruction throughout the year, while the disciplinary core ideas are divided into these units:

6th Grade (with Mrs. Mansfield): 7th Grade (with Mr. Tice): 8th Grade (with Mr. Tice):
Science and Engineering Practices Science and Engineering Practices Science and Engineering Practices
Microorganisms Newtonian Physics Matter
Earth Science Astronomy Energy
Environmental Science Evolution Cell Biology
Engineering Design Process Weather and Climate

Each unit will take between 4-10 weeks to complete and will include many short formative assessments along the way, followed by one or two summative assessments (tests and/or projects) at the end of the unit.

Performance and learning expectations, along with the NGSS standards, are provided in a link on the sidebar to the left.

Behavior Expectations:

  • Be respectful towards others;
  • Follow classroom norms for group work and classroom discussions;
  • Complete all assigned work and submit it on time;
  • Keep your workspace clean and organized;
  • During whole group discussions, only one person should talk at one time; when you’re not the one talking, you should be listening to the speaker;
  • When a teacher asks you to do something, or to stop doing something, please cooperate;
  • Chat with classmates at appropriate times (during group work), and try to limit your topics to the task at hand;

Here are the norms for classroom discussions:

  • Only one person speaks at any one time;
  • Raise your hand if you’d like to contribute to the discussion;
  • Every student (and teacher) carefully listens to every speaker;
  • Respect others’ ideas and feelings;
  • Provide evidence for your ideas;
  • Be prepared to ask and to answer questions, even if you didn’t raise your hand;
  • Stay on topic.

Here are the norms for small-group work:

  • Everyone participates;
  • Everyone stays on task until the assignment/project is complete;
  • Respect others’ ideas and feelings;
  • Remain with your group at all times during the activity;
  • Use “inside voices”;
  • If you’ve been absent and need to make up work, either see me upon your return or look up what you’ve missed in Google Classroom (I suggest doing both.)

Academic Success:

Grades are based on the number of points students earn divided by the total possible points:

Daily classroom assignments: 1 point

Weekly checkpoint quizzes: 5 points

Longer quizzes (not common): 20 points

End-of-unit assessments: 100 points

Projects: varies depending on the nature of the project (20-300 points)

Families and students, please note: while it’s important to strive for good grades, it’s more important to keep them in perspective.  Anything above 79% on any task is evidence of success. In the context of a student’s entire academic career, no one is going to remember or care what your grades were in middle school. It’s far more important, and much less stressful, if students and families focus on acquiring skills, learning content, and developing good study habits.  

All assignments can be turned in via Google Classroom or on paper. If you struggle with handwriting, consider typing all of your work. A turn-in basket is next to my desk.

You are expected to turn in all work on time. I will give you more time with no penalty if you’ve been absent from school due to illness or family emergency.  Late work will be accepted but this is obviously something that should be avoided. Work that is more than two weeks late will not be accepted unless there are very good reasons for this (family emergency, mental health issues, etc.). If you do submit late work, please email me and let me know, or post a notice on Google.

Work must be of consistently high quality:

  1. It must include a complete heading which includes the assignment, the  learning outcome (LO) and the School-wide Learning Expectation (SLE);
  2. Work should be typed if possible, or written neatly on lined paper. If you write by hand, use a pencil or blue or black ink.
  3. Your written work must provide evidence of deep thought where needed. (i.e., nearly all the time.)
  4. Work that involves quantitative reasoning (i.e., math) must include a neat description of how you solved the problem (Show how you solved the problem).

If your work does not meet grade-level standards, I will return it to you and ask you to do it again. When it is re-submitted to me and it meets standards, you will receive full credit.

Scores/grades for the work you turn in to me will be posted on PowerSchool. I strongly suggest that both you and your parents check PowerSchool at least once a week.

Much of the work that you do outside of class will involve reading/watching content information, taking notes, or completing short written assignments. This work is not always a product that you will need to physically turn in to me. However, I fully expect you to do it; if you do, you will learn much more than if you don’t.

You will have a 5-point checkpoint quiz at the end of most full weeks of school, usually on Fridays. These quizzes help me to see how much you’ve actually learned that week, and whether or not I need to revisit a particular idea or concept with the entire class.  If you score a 4/5 or better on a given quiz, I will conclude that you’ve mastered the ideas we discussed that week. If you score below 4/5, it’s your responsibility to find out what went wrong and address that problem. If you need help with this matter, I will be very happy to assist you. 

The vast majority of your grade for a trimester will be determined by your performance on summative assessments (unit exams and projects). This is where you show me what you’ve learned by the end of a unit. If you stumble on a unit exam, you will have an opportunity to re-take the exam, after you’ve developed and carried out an action plan with your family’s assistance. Other types of summative assessments, like projects or essays, are not re-doable.

Science Inquiry Projects: 

All 7th and 8th graders are expected to submit a science or engineering project to me by the end of April/beginning of May. In addition to designing a line of inquiry and carrying out the project, students will need to complete a background research paper, a complete, detailed lab report, and formally present their findings to me and their classmates. (This is similar to a book talk, only about your experiment or engineering design project.) Work on this project will begin in early October; you will receive more detailed information at that time.

Office Hours (Help Desk): 

If students need help from me, or would like to discuss academic or other concerns, I’m usually available at these times:

  • 3:00-3:30 every school day (in person)
  • Every day at lunch recess (let me know ahead of time that you’ll be stopping by).

If you would like to talk with me outside of help desk hours, please contact me ahead of time and we’ll make an appointment.

Final Thoughts:

  1. Be persistent and strive for accuracy. It’s not always going to be easy, but you’ll be successful if you try.
  2. It’s OK to stumble and/or fail. We all do it sometimes. Failing at something doesn’t mean you’re a failure; it just means you have to get back on your feet and try again. (In other words, cultivate a growth mindset.)
  3. Communicate with me frequently, even if you know things are going well. If you need help, do not be afraid to ask. You’re the reason we’re all here.
  4. All of us will have a much better year if we always remember to be respectful towards everyone.
  5. Please, never show up for class materially unprepared. Always have your binder, your notebook, a pen or pencil, and a Chromebook.

Again, I very much look forward to working with you this year, and I pray that your experience in my class is a happy and productive one.