Middle School Science

Check out what's happening in Pathfinder science!

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!


December 2, 2016
by Shane Boland Harrison
1 Comment

Think, Create, Design 3D Competion

Super proud of the 6 students from 5th, 6th and 7th grade that chose to participate in the Think, Create, Design 3D printer competition. They were up against the clock with my leaving for Ireland, and I have to give special thanks to Caroline for doing some of the videos. Many local schools were invited to compete. Out of 9 projects submitted – 6 – yes 6!!!!! were from Pathfinder! And they even extended the deadline. I think this speaks to the flexibility of our curriculum. Please check out the videos and vote with a like (really stupid way to run a competition!) on all the videos :)! And if you are missing a tape core for your tape dispenser see Rowan! He discovered he can make them for .27 cents versus ordering them online for $4.99.

Thanks to everyone who helped these students succeed!

October 10, 2016
by Shane Boland Harrison

Big Week in and out of the Classroom!

So much happens every week both inside and outside our classroom. This last week began with the passing of my beloved dog and Pathfinder mascot – Roz. For years Roz accompanied me to school once or twice a week. She was a dog that read emotions and always seemed to seek out the student that needed a dog head in their lap. It was a hard goodbye for me but the love and hugs I receive continue to help me through the empty grief I feel with her loss. Thank you to all for your support – we truly are a family at Pathfinder.

The sixth graders finished up the dissection of their owl pellets and thought hard about the complexity of food chains and how they connect in the ecology of Pathfinder. Each student created a Google slide presentation about an owl the resides in North America. Symbiotic relationships among species that  include – mutualism (where both species benefit), commensalism (where one species benefits and the other isn’t harmed), and parasitism (where one species benefits and the other is harmed), were discussed. In a thoughtful discussion the students wondered if the relationships could change over time. This idea of relationships evolving, from the students blew me away, and lo and behold relationships have been known to change! The next few weeks will find us looking for more connections on campus as we embrace the fall weather.

The seventh grade continued to explore our dependance on plants and how they enable us to harness or eat (as one student put it) sunshine. Students have been getting up close and personal with mosses, ferns and seeds by using dissecting microscopes to explore and then draw the adaptations these plants have acquired to evolve and survive. To engage students I asked them to imagine being an organism stuck in cement, unable to move. What would they need to do to ensure their survival and the ability to reproduce and survive?

In keeping with our plant unit we also harvested the basil from the school garden and made pesto. Pickles and applesauce were also canned with the 5th graders help.

The eighth graders finished up their insect project and I feel they have a new respect for these animals that truly rule the world! This is huge project that demands students manage their time wisely. Most students seem to think 3 weeks is a long time to finish all the projects assigned, but I often find students panicking trying to find an insect in a dusty corner in order to finish their collection!

Outside of class Pathfinder  held a huge cross country race inviting teams from all over the Grand Traverse Region. To say it rained would be an understatement but smiles prevailed and everyone had a great time. The 8th grade class traveled to Pigeon River State Forest to hear Elk bugle on Thursday. This is an annual overnight trip with lots of laughter and deep conversations!!!

This next week will find us enjoying the beautiful fall colors and weather outside as much as possible! Please be sure to check out the student blogs connected to this blog. Also, enjoy the pictures, but know they barely capture the excitement that goes along with learning.



September 30, 2016
by Shane Boland Harrison

Elk Bugling with 8th Graders!

The 8th graders  will be traveling to Pigeon River State Forest this coming Thursday and Friday, October 6 and 7. We will leave after lunch on Thursday and return on Friday in time for Pizza lunch. The following is the suggested gear list and the students have been charged with creating a menu. This is an annual trip with no two the same but equally full of joy and laughter! Here is a video of what we saw and heard last year.

The supply list is as follows:

  • Sleeping bag (and pad if you have it)
  • Flashlight
  • Rain gear
  • Long underwear
  • Drinking cup that can hold hot liquids
  • WARM clothes / coats – it will be cold when we are out looking for elk
  • Warm hat and gloves
  • Water bottle
  • Toiletries (there are no showers or running water so a toothbrush is really all that is needed)
  • Camera
  • Camp chair for sitting around the campfire if you have one.
  • Binoculars if you have them

Please call, write or text with questions!


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