I get asked a lot of questions about how to structure a science program either in private schools, tutorials or in individual homeschools. In the early years, the focus is on exploration. As kids get older, there is a subtle shift from exposure to a connection. By the time your kiddo has reached 6th grade – which is middle school- they need to start going from connection to explanation.
Let me back up and define these terms a bit better.
Kids get a chance to see science in action and get their hands dirty. This might mean that they are doing science experiments with you OR observing nature OR doing a science craftivity type thing -I’m looking at you slime- OR just playing in the mud. Exposure is all about creating the hooks they will hang connections and explanations on later. This is the time to focus on the fun.
Kids begin to see that they are connected to the scientific world. For instance, kids begin to see that just like the frog they are going through a life cycle. This can also be done through a melding of parent-led activities and student exploration. We begin to see leading questions starting (either from the child or parent).
Simple statements that create connection rather than deep scientific explanation are usually best at this stage.
So if a child asks, why flooding happens. You can ask them if they’ve ever overfilled a glass or even the tub and just simply say that the earth is like that – when it can’t absorb or hold anymore it begins to run everywhere. You might even make connections to erosion they’ve seen before.
Some time between 4th and 6th grades kids will usually start wanting real explanations. If they aren’t getting inquisitive by 6th grade, it is your job to start asking those why questions you’ve been getting asked over the last 12 years.
Don’t quiz them! Spend time using leading questions:
- Why do you think that happened?
- I wonder what is happening to cause that?
- Have you ever seen anything like this before?
- What would happen if we did this instead?
Hopefully, you’ve seen that you are setting kids up to understand that you are a lifetime learner and interested in the way the natural world works. This is also a great time to foster the idea that we are responsible for the planet and the human impact on it.
What does that look like as your homeschooler gets to middle school science?
Now that might all seem like it is a great idea, but if you are type A like me you need a little more direction and accountability to feel like you are getting things done. I like a good plan.
With that in mind, I’ve created a checklist for science in 6th, 7th, and 8th grades.
I’ve also created a master list for topics that need to be covered in middle school- for those of us that don’t get too hung up on grades.
Integrated science in middle school is the goal. That means that rather than studying topics in isolation (like in a physics class) kids are working through a variety of science topics and their relationships to one another.
Grade 6 Science: the topics
In 6th-grade science, you will typically focus on energy, ecosystem, and earth’s systems,
Types and properties of energy. Learn about energy transformations. Connect energy and mass. Observe the way energy moves between objects.
The relationship between the environment and communities. The interactions between species in an ecosystem. Work with food webs and food pyramids. Explore the abiotic and biotic factors in the biomes of the earth. Explore the importance of maintaining the vast biodiversity of ecosystems and how humans have impacted that biodiversity.
Currents, tides, and energy transformation in the ocean. The role of different patterns on earth in the climate of regions and weather events. Explore the cycles that maintain the earth and how humans have impacted those cycles. Explore renewable and nonrenewable resources and their impacts on earth’s systems.
Want a little more guidance? Grab this free checklist for your grade 6 science planning.
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