Middle School Science

Look what's happening in Pathfinder science!

October 10, 2017
by Shane Boland Harrison

The First Month of School

It is hard to believe a full month of school has passed but I guess time flies when you are having fun and learning!

The eighth graders just finished an in-depth look at insects and while a few are ready for a new subject most have developed a greater appreciation for these animals and how they affect humans in both positive and negative ways. We were fortunate to have Dr. Nate Walton, an entomologist from MSU Extension (and a friend), come in with his Hissing Cockroaches – personal pets.  He harnessed the cockroaches and had them pull a wagon of weights. We were then able to extrapolate how much a human would be able to pull if he were a cockroach based on weight. Nate at 150 pounds or 68 kg could pull over 2 tons!!! The students were absolutely engaged and many held these gentle creatures.

The seventh graders have been traveling campus working on a botanical scavenger hunt along with dissecting and drawing flowers. All of them are amazed at the delicate intricacies when viewed under a microscope. I began this unit with the question “How would you find a way to survive and reproduce if your feet were anchored in cement?” We have discovered how plants have coevolved with pollinators to help with reproduction, how plants can communicate with insects to help attack predators that are eating them and the adaptations they have developed to not dry up and to make their own food through the process of photosynthesis. They truly are amazing organisms!

The sixth graders began the year studying owls and their place in the ecosystem. We dissected owl pellets and created some awesome creatures from the bones found in the pellets. We wondered if owls only ate one kind of rodent or several based on our findings. We also discussed where the owl fit in a food chain. Additionally, we are learning about symbiotic relationships and have watched some pretty crazy videos on parasites. We will continue our Ecology unit by exploring our “home” campus and all it has to offer right out the door.

In 5th and 6th grade technology we are learning the ins and outs of using Google Slides by writing a “Choose your Own Adventure Story”. Ask your student about their story creation they are really excited about them!

It has been an exciting month! If you haven’t checked our your student’s blog please do so. You can click on it from this page. Please comment and share his or her site with relatives or friends. It is always fun for them to get a comment on their work.

Please enjoy the video I put together with some of the pictures from this first month!

Thanks and I am looking forward to this next month! Please feel free to contact me with any questions.


September 10, 2017
by Shane Boland Harrison

2017 School Year Begins!

We had a great beginning and the two and a half days exhausted me as well as the students! The energy is so charged when we all come back together, happy to see each other and to be challenged. You will see from the gallery of pictures learning and fun has already begun.

The 8th graders will be starting out the year with an in-depth look at insects. There is a lot required for this assignment.  While much of it can be done in class time management, an executive function, will need to be put in place to complete what is assigned without stress:) You can view the assignment HERE.

The 7th graders will begin studying plants after they thwart an evil dictator who is intent on taking over the school. Collaborating with the 5th grade science students they will build a rocket launch pad and explore different variables to get their rockets launched.

The 6th graders began to think like scientists by coming up with a question involving alka-seltzer, water and a film canister. Their questions revolved around varying the amount of water to put in the canister and whether the temperature of the water would affect the rate of blast off. Ask your student what he or she predicted and what actually happened. It was great to listen to them talking through their thoughts and questions. A favorite phrase I love to hear is “I wonder what would happen if…”

In middle school science all students maintain a science blog. Only the 8th graders had a post due this week but a few 7th graders chose to share their first week thoughts. You can read your student’s blog by clicking on it from this page. Be sure to check out other student blogs and comment often – it really is encouraging for them to know they have an audience. Share their blog site with friends and relatives, as well. The requirements for the blog can be found HERE

All homework will be posted on Edmodo. Ask your student the parent code located on his or her page if you would like to keep up with what is being assigned in his or her classes.

Next week we will be traveling to Leelanau Outdoor Center – Sept. 20 – 22.

If you have any questions please feel free to contact me anytime. I am looking forward to a great year full of deep understanding and kindness!



April 21, 2017
by Shane Boland Harrison
1 Comment

Crazy Fridays with Lots of Learning

The library building on Friday mornings is nothing but controlled chaos! We have in-depth classes for middle school. One set of students is working on individual projects (9). These include creating Dungeon and Dragons stories to sell online, making an international food website complete with recipes, a border collie training guide, crafts to decorate your room, rocket construction, programing a robot, and cooking. The other set of middle school students (12) is working with a parent volunteer to create the school yearbook. The third and fourth grade has library and after picking out books they either read or play cognitive games which promote critical thinking(18). The first grade is in the Birchview room doing drama(14). Fifth grade is in the science room (9). This is a total of 62 students in our small library building actively learning, collaborating and having fun Pathfinder style!


April 17, 2017
by Shane Boland Harrison

Our First Week Back

“If you have a garden and a library you have all you need.”

This week found the 6th and 4th graders replanting the hoop house with salad greens. They read directions for planting depth and spacing and labeled the rows. Maturity for the greens is 30 – 45 days so hopefully we will be able to harvest some for salad bar and to share at Grandparent’s Day. The other picture is of Kiley helping the Kindergarteners pick out books from our wonderful library.

 Mr. Hansen came into sixth grade to “blow things up” as the students put it. As a trained chemist he was able to demonstrate a chemical reaction discussing the reactants and the products and their search for stability:)

The 7th graders are continuing to build their coral reef and finished the boulders. Next is making the coral and then the ocean bubble. Most have written their Romance on the Reef blogs – be sure to check them out!

The 8th graders are working on their rollercoasters. Their vocabulary is increasing daily without their even knowing it!





Next week is Terra Nova testing and more SCIENCE!


April 10, 2017
by Shane Boland Harrison

Here We Go!

Spring is here along with the last quarter of the 2017 school year. It is hard to believe we will be saying goodbye to our extraordinary 8th grade in just 8 weeks. These last moments always are filled with chaotic madness, sweet laughter and occasional grumpiness. With the warming Earth distractions can be numerous and learning to embrace the joy in living and learning at Pathfinder daily, and in the moment, is key.

The eighth graders will be designing roller-coasters to study the physics of motion. You can view the lesson HERE. After this unit they will complete the traditional Science Final where they are given disposable cameras and charged with taking pictures all over campus that align with science concepts. These “finals” reappear at high school graduations and are always a hit. Making memories will be the focus these last weeks. Duncan and I will also be hosting a final evening to discuss with these students issues they will be facing in high school.

The seventh graders will be making a coral reef. This will require the creation of a reef animal at home. In class we will be paper macheing boulders and making coral. This is always a huge, fun project that takes more time than I ever can plan for. After this we will dive into fresh water and hopefully end the year studying waves. The students are currently working on group projects involving global water issues. These include the distance women and young girls need to walk for freshwater in developing countries, invasive species, gender benders and plastic pollution. Look for these projects to be posted on the 7th grade blogs. They are impressive!

The sixth grade will be finishing up chemistry and starting cells. We will be creating cell models using our campus and various items to represent organelles. What is always interesting is the discussions the students have about the function of organelles and how they should be represented. They don’t even realize how deep they are learning through analogies and having fun!


I created a video highlighting 3rd quarter and posted it on my BLOG . As always I have so much to say as we do so much I just constantly run out of time! Please look at your student’s blog and other blogs as well to find out just how much we are learning and please comment!

Happy spring and hang on!



April 9, 2017
by Shane Boland Harrison

Busy 3rd Quarter!

We had a busy winter! I created this video of class highlights.  While the Science Expo and Gutter Derby were great successes, to share with the public, what went on everyday in our classroom was just as extraordinary. I am excited to see what spring brings:)

3rd Quarter 2017 on PhotoPeach

April 7, 2017
by Shane Boland Harrison

Gutter Derby Video

Congratulations to all the students who participated in the Gutter Derby! You all did a fabulous job, embracing all aspects of STEAM!

December 17, 2016
by Shane Boland Harrison

We Have a Winner!

Just in Rowan S (7th grader) has won the Think. Create. Design competition sponsored by Newton’s Road 3D. Check out the announcement HERE . Wyatt D (6th grader) and Nettie D (5th grader) received honorable mentions. Be sure to congratulate them for their hard work and creativity!

December 13, 2016
by Shane Boland Harrison

November/December News

On November 11, 2016 my daughter Caitlin (Pathfinder alum) was married in Ireland! I was fortunate enough to attend not only the wedding but to explore her new homeland for two weeks.

Happy Newlyweds!

Happy Newlyweds!


A wedding rainbow

A wedding rainbow



While gone I had two amazing subs, Gwen Davis and Shannon Mahoney, who helped ensure my students stayed on task with the projects I assigned.

In 6th grade we were studying biomes. Each student was assigned a particular biome and followed directions on a website I created. You can view the assignment here. Biome Assignment

When I returned the students presented the websites they created as travel journals to the class along with the dioramas they made. If you would like to see the results, check out the 6th grader’s biome websites on their blogs that are attached to our classroom blog. Here are some of their dioramas.

The 6th graders are now studying the ecosystem of our Great Lakes. They had some questions about how climate change is affecting the Great Lakes along with invasive species, pollution, water withdrawal and over fishing. We decided to call the Inland Seas and talk to a scientist. We wrote down our questions then Skyped with Jeanie Williams, lead scientist and education coordinator. She was awesome and we learned a lot!


In 7th grade the students took on the persona of a bacteria or virus. They were to brag or whine about their job of infecting humans. It is kind of a twisted assignment but the students really get into it! You can view their presentations on their blogs. This is the website that the students used as a rubric.

The Good, the Bad and the Ugly

An example of student work by Ellie Herman –  The Life of Diphtheria

In addition to making yogurt the students learned about the evils of hand sanitizer and how the overuse of it and antibiotics are creating “super bugs” which are bacteria that are resistant to more common antibiotics. Using marshmallows and M&M’s the students imagined how all of the bacteria “candy” would be washed away using normal soap and a lengthy wash time. Toothpicks were then handed out to simulate hand sanitizer. The students could easily pick up the marshmallows but left the M&M’s behind. These M&M’s represented resistant bacteria left behind to reproduce. They also learned that hand sanitizers do not kill viruses so washing your hands thoroughly protects you more from the flu than hand sanitizers.


In 8th grade the students took a vacation traveling down a digestive track. They wrote a postcard describing what was happening at each organ stop along the way. They began their travels in a  protein capsule and were surrounded with Thanksgiving dinner items. You can read the assignment here

My Digestive Journey

Mollie Baker chose to travel through Gwen’s Digestive Tract – check it out! Gwen’s Digestive System

Sonny Haworth chose to travel through Duncan’s Digestive Tract – check it out! Duncan’s Digestive Tract

The 8th graders also did a calorimeter experiment where they burned different food items to determine the amount of potential energy stored. The students were surprised to see how hot walnuts burned raising the temperature of water to boiling.

It has been a wonderful year and I feel so blessed to work in such a place with such amazing students and friends. I wish everyone a very joyous Holiday break and look forward to 2017!



Follow this blog

Get every new post delivered right to your inbox.

Skip to toolbar