Middle School Science

Check out what's happening in Pathfinder science!

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!

September 18, 2016
by Shane Boland Harrison

2016 Here we Come!

2016 has Begun! on PhotoPeach

As usual we started the year with a BANG! I put together the video using PhotoPeach unfortunately it doesn’t always work on phones and tablets – Sorry.

In 6th grade we worked with the 4th graders and thought about questions and how a scientist approaches a problem. We explored variables and what they meant while blowing up Alka-seltzer rockets. Students chose to vary the amount of water used, the temperature of the water or the amount of Alka- seltzer. Trials were repeated, averaged and recorded in data tables created by the students. This was a student driven project meaning there was no “lab recipe” to follow. The students were challenged to  think hard about what they were asking, make predictions and then conclude if they were right by analyzing data – all while having fun!

The 7th grade worked with the 5th graders to build a rocket launch pad and a love potion rocket to shower an imperialist ruler who was threatening to take over the school and ban recess, summer vacation and enforce the wearing of pink tutus as a uniform :). Measuring, sawing, drilling, calculating angles were all a part of this activity. Many life skills were embraced along with lot of laughter!

The 8th grade has begun a unit on insects. They will maintain a social insect “Facebook” board posting their daily activities while being an insect. They are collecting 25 insects, learning the order to which they belong, their habitat and place in the food chain. They are also responsible for 3 detailed drawings and a project about an insect and an environmental issue it may be facing. Interest in the Zika virus and the mosquito, also known as the worlds most deadly animal, is high!

The middle school will be at Leelanau Outdoor Center this Wednesday through Friday. When we return the 7th grade will start a unit on plants, the 6th grade will start exploring the ecology of our Pathfinder campus and the 8th graders will continue working on their insect unit. The Earth connection MIAD will be making cheese, planting the pollinator garden, canning pickles and making pesto! We are busy living, loving and learning! 

September 12, 2016
by Shane Boland Harrison

Blitz The Bear!

Dear Families,

This coming Friday, September 16th, the 6-8 graders will be traveling to Sleeping Bear Dunes to participate in a bioblitz sponsored by the Cerulean Center. Our students will become citizen scientists for the day, working side-by-side with scientists and naturalists to find and record as many plants, animals, insects and other organisms as possible! The data collected will help inventory the biodiversity in the Great Lakes Region.


  • A signed permission slip which is located in your family mailbox. Please turn into the front desk after signing.
  • A disposable sack lunch and water bottle.
  • Cloths that can get wet. Students will take part in an aquatic excursion.
  • Sturdy footwear, sunscreen, hat and or sunglasses
  • Rain gear (if needed) – We’ll be active, rain or shine

Participants will be using the iNaturalist app to record observations. IF your student has a smartphone and IF you give permission for him or her to bring it for use, please download the app. It is not necessary for your student to have a phone to participate. They may also bring a digital camera if they have one.

If you, as a parent, would like to participate you are more than welcome! They are looking for as many volunteers as possible. Information on how to sign up is on the flyer attached to the permission slip you are to sign for your student. Go to the Cerulean Website for more information. I have park passes so you do not have to pay to participate. Unfortunately, there is limited space on the school bus so you will have to meet us out there if you choose to come. The itinerary is also in your mailbox.

This is a really exciting event and is just one of many BioBlitzes happening across the country, many in National Parks to help celebrate the centennial.

If you have any questions please feel free to call, text or email.



September 8, 2016
by Shane Boland Harrison

Wonderful Summer Projects!

A collaborative science and LA/SS summer reading assignment for the Pathfinder 8th graders consisted of reading The Old Man and the Sea by Ernest Hemingway and creating a journal using the voice of the character of the boy in the story. The 7th graders were charged with reading The Man Who Planted Trees by Jean Giono and making a project that reflected conservation and stewardship. Today the students came together and in groups discussed the common threads that ran through both books. Dynamic conversations were heard which included words such as: patience, perseverance, goals, sustainability, compassion, observations – all traits we hope to see in our students! It was a wonderful way to start the first full day of school thinking deeply, sharing and of course laughing!

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September 6, 2016
by Shane Boland Harrison

Creative Writing Opportunity for Middle Schoolers

Dear Middle School Parents,

Here is an exciting opportunity being sponsored by the National Writers Series

Are you a middle school student with many great stories to tell but are not sure where to get started? Our own Duncan Moran will be teaching a long-fiction writing class this fall at Northwestern Michigan College.  Here are the details:


Tuesdays from September 20 – December 6, 2016, 7-8:30 pm
Northwestern Michigan College, Scholars Hall, Room 205
Instructor: Duncan Moran
Cost: $299
Registration Code CRN 4279
Sponsored by the National Writers Series

For  middle school students with a passion for reading and writing, this course will provide the inspiration, structure and critical advice needed to write a piece of fiction at least fifty pages long. The class will examine characterization, the interplay between setting, plot, and character, dramatic plotting, and the craft of writing. The class is ideal for young people who love writing and don’t quite know how to give their stories the form necessary to make it work.

About the instructor: With a BA in Literature and History and an MFA in Creative Writing, Duncan Moran has been a writer-in-residence in the Leelanau County Public Schools, taught as an adjunct professor of English at NMC, and taught middle school at the Pathfinder School. With published poems, essays, and short stories, he has also been a recipient of an Individual Artist Award from the Michigan Council for the Arts and Cultural Affairs.

To Register:

Call (231) 995-1700 or Click here to register

September 1, 2016
by Shane Boland Harrison

Welcome Back – First Day Plan

Welcome back fellow scientists! I am really looking forward to an exciting year of asking questions, exploring new ideas and experiencing hands-on science. I thought I would let you know what we will be doing on Wednesday your first day back! We will begin at 8:15. All 5th – 8th graders should report to the North Portable (Duncan and Shannon’s classroom) at 8:15. We will have a chance to meet and greet each other, hear from Coach Belanger about sports, and Ms. Tobin about the music program. The Bell Ringing ceremony will begin at 9:00am. After this you will return to the portable to get your locker assignments, schedules, and do some team building activities. At 11:15 we will go to the Memorial Garden to help set up for the picnic. School is OVER at 11:30. You are then the responsibility of your parents. Remember no one is allowed at the Beach without adult supervision.

I am super pumped about this year and can’t wait to see all of your wonderful faces!!! Please contact me sharrison@thepathfinderschool.org or text / call 231-883-8426 with any questions.



July 28, 2016
by Shane Boland Harrison

7th and 8th Grade Summer Homework

We are sure you are bored with summer fun by now and anxious to get your brains working again (well sort of anyway!). Here is the collaborative homework assignment from me and Duncan that was sent to your parent’s email. If you have any questions please feel free to email, phone or text either one of us. Enjoy these last days!

For Eighth  Grade

Old Man and the Sea 8th – Google Docs

For Seventh Grade

The Man Who Planted Trees – Summer Homework – Google Docs



June 8, 2016
by Shane Boland Harrison
1 Comment

2016 Stepping Stone

The last days of school are always bittersweet for our 8th grade class. One final tradition is to make a stepping stone, which represents a piece of each student, forever to stay on our campus as they take their next step to high school.

A lasting memory from the class of 2016

A lasting memory from the class of 2016


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