Middle School Science

Look what's happening in Pathfinder science!

October 10, 2017
by Shane Boland Harrison
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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.

Shane

September 10, 2017
by Shane Boland Harrison
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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 17, 2017
by Shane Boland Harrison
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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
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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!

Best,

Shane

December 13, 2016
by Shane Boland Harrison
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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!

 

October 10, 2016
by Shane Boland Harrison
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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 18, 2016
by Shane Boland Harrison
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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 1, 2016
by Shane Boland Harrison
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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.

 

 

February 12, 2016
by Shane Boland Harrison
2 Comments

February Science

8th Grade gets a Valentine’s Gift!

Today we were fortunate to have Dr. Mike Howe arrive, by chance, in our classroom. He was touring the school as a perspective parent looking at Pathfinder for his son. The best part was he just happened to be a cardiologist and we just happened to be dissecting a pig’s heart and lungs! Dr. Howe gleefully jumped right in and explained the workings of the heart to the 8th grade. He discussed and dissected the valves, explored the 4 chambers and talked about heart disease and it’s causes. He asked great, challenging questions of the students and they asked many of their own. It was truly awesome and such a great gift to have a passionate professional stop by at the perfect time!

Dr. Mike Howe explaining the anatomy of the heart.

Dr. Mike Howe explaining the anatomy of the heart.

His favorite valve is the aortic valve :)

His favorite valve is the aortic valve 🙂

6th grade Explores Changes of State

The 6th graders are studying matter and how adding (endothermic) energy or taking away (exothermic) energy changes the state of matter. In the name of science we had to make No Bake cookies and a smoke bomb. By visualizing how the molecules move, the concepts of solid to liquid, boiling, melting, condensing, and sublimation were all better understood by these delicious and fun activities.

No Bakes!

No Bakes!

Smoke bomb cooking

Smoke bomb cooking

Smokin!

Smokin!

7th Grade Probiotic Science

The 7th grade made yogurt while studying bacteria. They invited their 5th grade buddies to help. Each group came up with a way to prove the bacteria in the yogurt uses the lactose in milk to form lactic acid and thus yogurt. With the milk yogurt as the control the different groups tried soymilk, almond milk, and heavy cream. Another group chose to add lemon juice because they felt it would stop the bacteria from reproducing. All creations were tried and some considered downright gross! Be sure to read about this experiment more on the individual 7th grade blogs.

Checking the temperature.

rChecking the temperature.

3D Printer First Project

Mr. Matt is planning on taking the 3rd and 4th graders ice fishing with poles they are making. He needed a reel and was going to try to put together something with ball jar lids and thread bobbins. Instead we had the 6th graders come up with a design on TinkerCad a 3D soft ware program. It worked! Check out the pictures.

IMG_6143

IMG_6156 (1)

 

Now all they need is for the weather to warm up from 10 degrees F!

Please be sure to check out the student blogs for their thoughts and musings about SCIENCE!

 

 

 

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