Lower School Science Highlights
In the Fourth Grade last winter, students took on an especially challenging unit focusing on the fundamentals of energy, exploring energy conversion and the differences between renewable and non-renewable energy sources. Students learned how motion is converted into energy through turbines and generators and even built their own solar ovens. Dr. Alissa Park, the Co-Director of Columbia University’s Center for Sustainable Energy, visited the class and led the students through a complex experiment demonstrating the process of capturing CO2 by limestone.
Fifth Grade students completed an introduction to Neuroscience, in a special unit that was designed with input from Dr. Tom Root, Middlebury College’s Neuroscience Program Director. Using case studies involving “split brain” patients, students gained an understanding of specialized brain functions. After exploring and memorizing the parts of the brain using three-dimensional imaging applications on iPads, the students conducted several experiments of their own. The highlight of the unit was an actual sheep’s brain dissection, with students working in small groups to dissect, observe, and correctly identify parts of the sheep’s brain.
The students’ competence during the dissection and unanimous enthusiasm for the Neuroscience unit is an indication that the Fifth Grade is ready for even more time in the lab. In 2013-14, Fifth Grade students will have a weekly 75-minute lab period to allow for even more hands-on learning—in Neuroscience as well as other disciplines. The entire Lower School will take on a recycling project, with next year’s Fourth Grade leading the way as they continue to study energy sources and sustainability, both within BWL and in the larger community.
Middle and Upper School Science Highlights
As we strive to enhance our competitive curriculum in today’s interconnected world, we have already established several programs which foster critical thinking and an understanding of the scientific method: the Science Round Table course in Middle School, the Women in Science Education (WISE) seminars, and our Accelerated Research in Science Education (ARISE) program for Upper School students performing university level research. Highlights from the past year included a fossil dig in the Sixth Grade with renowned paleontologist Carl Mehling, and a trip with the AP Biology class to the DNA Learning Center in Cold Spring Harbor, where Dr. Watson (of the Watson and Crick team) served as director.
A key focus of the upcoming year will be cross-curricular learning, with younger students observing the work of their older peers. As a K through 12 school located in one building, BWL is ideally suited to implement this objective. Last year, for example, Middle School students in the Science Round Table course took a virtual field trip to the Hubble Planetarium; after conducting independent research, they shared their original “infographics” on atoms and the Big Bang with Third Grade students.
Other cross-curricular units in the works for 2013-24 include the study of the breeding and behavior of fish through the new AP Biology curriculum, and a plan to launch and retrieve a weather balloon, using a GPS system that would allow Middle and Upper School students to work together and track data remotely. We will offer both AP Chemistry and AP Biology to meet the demands of our students, and will continue to expand our experiences outside the classroom, with plans to visit the Hayden Planetarium as well as a ten-day science-based spring break trip. Upper School students are already fine-tuning proposals for their upcoming Accelerated Research in Science Education projects, allowing them to pursue college level inquiry-based individual research.
These developments reaffirm and enhance BWL’s mission as a rigorous traditional school, while alerting us to every current in our changing world. Enjoy the remaining days of summer. I look forward to greeting you personally soon.
Frank J. Carnabuci III