Middle School Science at St. John School
Dear middle school students and families:
Welcome to the 2019-2020 school year! I’m very happy to be working with all of you, and pray that all students and their families will have a happy, productive year, full of personal and academic growth.
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:
- Science and engineering practices (processes and procedures used by scientists)
- Crosscutting concepts (ideas or habits of mind that are useful across all subject areas)
- 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:||7th Grade:||8th Grade:|
|Science and Engineering Practices||Science and Engineering Practices||Science and Engineering Practices|
|Environmental Science||Evolution||Cell Biology|
|Weather and Climate||Engineering Design Process|
Each unit will take between 4-10 weeks to complete, and will include many shorter formative assessments along the way, followed by one or two summative assessments at the end of the unit.
Students will be given a list of performance expectations and a study guide at the beginning of each unit; these documents should be placed in students’ binders (in the science section) and kept until the end of the school year. The standards are organized into units in a section in the side bar of my teacher page. In addition, students should hold on to all of their old quizzes and summative assessments (exams, projects, etc.).
- Be respectful towards others;
- Follow classroom norms for group work and classroom discussions;
- Complete all assigned work and submit it on time;
- Keep the classroom and your personal space clean and tidy.
Here are the norms for classroom discussions:
- Only one person speaks at any one time;
- 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;
- 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”;
- Clean up your area when your task is complete or the class has come to an end.
I do not think that any students will have a hard time meeting these expectations, but if students make a poor choice, I will assist them in choosing a wiser path. Refer to the Behavior Policy guidelines (which you and your parents will need to read and sign; see the link above) for more specific information.
Grades are based on the number of points students earn divided by the total possible points:
Daily homework or classroom assignments: 0.5 points
Weekly checkpoint quizzes: 5 points
Longer quizzes (not common): 20 points
End-of-unit assessments: 100 points
Summative projects: varies depending on 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 learning the skills and content, and developing good learning habits.
You can turn in your assignments in any of three ways:
- Handwritten or typed papers that you personally place in my inbox;
- Email attachment. I prefer that you send any attachments, as a Word Document or PDF, to email@example.com (I will accept Google docs as well, but I won’t be totally thrilled about it.)
- Microsoft 365 shared document.
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. Work that is late without good reason will be accepted, with a reduced score. (Extracurricular activities are not an accepted excuse for late work.)
Work must be of consistently high quality:
- It must include a complete heading which includes the assignment, the learning outcome (LO) and the School-wide Learning Expectation (SLE);
- It must be neatly written, in complete sentences in pencil, blue, or black pen, or written on a laptop or tablet.
- Your written work must provide evidence of deep thought where needed. (i.e., nearly all the time.)
- Work that involves quantitative reasoning (i.e., math) must include a neat description of 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 reflections in your science workbooks. 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. 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. 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. 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 present their findings to me and their classmates. (This is similar to a science fair project, only you’ll be making a presentation to the class instead of attending a fair.) Work on this very important project will begin in early October; you will received more detailed information at that time.
In addition, students are encouraged to participate in the Washington State Science and Engineering Fair, which will take place on March 27-28, 2020, in Bremerton, WA:
Participation in the Washington State Science and Engineering involves a major investment in time and effort on the part of students and their families. Fort this reason, this is your only opportunity to earn “extra credit” in middle school science.
If students need help from me, or would like to discuss academic or other concerns, I’m usually available at these times:
3:10-3:45 Tuesday, Wednesday, and Friday
Please let me know ahead of time that you’re coming to talk to me so I can make sure that I’ll be there.
- Be persistent and strive for accuracy. It’s not always going to be easy, but you’ll be successful if you try.
- 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.
- Communicate with me frequently, even if you know things are going well. If you need help, do not be afraid to ask. (I live for that sort of thing.)
- All of us will have a much better year if we always remember to be respectful towards everyone.
- Please, never show up for class materially unprepared. Always bring your binder, your notebook, a pen or pencil, and your science workbook.
Again, I look forward to working with you this year, and hope you have a nice time in my class.