Middle School Science

Look what's happening in Pathfinder science!

January 15, 2016
by Shane Boland Harrison
1 Comment

January News

8th Grade

The 8th graders are continuing to study the human body. Right before holiday break they were challenged to create a rap describing a piece of food as it travels through the digestive system. While they are sometimes hard to understand in the following videos, they truly had a deep understanding of the digestive system by the time they finished. During their exam I could hear them referring back to the rap as they illustrated and then wrote about the journey of a piece of food.

We have now moved on to the Nervous and Endocrine systems. Check out the 8th grade blogs to learn about why we stuck pins in each other and fought with a door jam! Additionally, each student has chosen a street drug to research and will be reporting their findings to the class. As these students move on to high school this information will be more relevant and important to know.

7th Grade

The 7th graders are studying bacteria and viruses. The first activity I did was to have a Virus Party. Before class, I put plain water in 10 test tubes and a dilute base solution in one. Each student chose a test tube not knowing which was the “vector”. With a pipette and test tube in hand the students mingled at the “party” while I played music. When I turned off the music they exchanged the fluid in the test tube with one other person. I repeated this four times and they exchanged with three other people . I then went around and added phenolphthalein, an indicator solution used  to detect a base.

Virus Party!

Virus Party!


What followed was a  honest discussion about how easily infectious diseases  are spread including sexually transmitted diseases. Please read the 7th grader’s blogs to see what they learned from this activity.


6th Grade

The 6th graders are studying matter. We started with the concepts of mass, volume and density. This last week they performed a truly gross, yet fun experiment. The students were placed in groups of two and one volunteered to be the “chewer”. The question posed was “Will the mass of bubblegum increase or decrease over time while being chewed?” Most students predicted that it would increase. What do you think? Read the 6th graders blog’s to find the answer!

Volume displacement of chewed gum.

Volume displacement of chewed gum.


Our 3D printer has arrived and is all set up. Time to put our thinking caps on and design some cool stuff! Special thanks to RJG, Inc. a local  manufacturing company along with the TBAISD career tech center and Drea Weiner for all of their support!

Check out the great things happening in the Grand Traverse area with 3 D printers in the classroom. 3D Printing PLC News

If you haven’t set up your student’s Tinkercad account please do so!

October 27, 2015
by Shane Boland Harrison

The 8th Grade Girls

Each year the 8th grade class is responsible for the care of the Peace Garden. Today, being the last mild day in the foreseeable future, found us raking leaves and planting tulip bulbs. In the spring these tulips will hopefully bring joy and relief from a long winter. We also watered the greens we planted in the hoop house. These will continue to grow through November then go dormant until February when we will be able to use them in the salad bar. After our labor we took a hike to the lake to see the colors. I took this picture of our all girl class. We will be missing Jolie when she moves after Thanksgiving to Arizona. We are so fortunate to have such strong young women as role models for the younger students. They rock!

The 8th grade class

The 8th grade class

October 26, 2015
by Shane Boland Harrison

It May be Gross but they are Learning!

In the last few years I have acquired or found dead animals. There have been two pig’s heads, a big salmon, a headless rabbit and this year a chicken. We hang these bodies in a tree down near the beach. Some students are disturbed by this but most are fascinated. Last year, students found a headless rabbit and we learned that some owls decapitate their prey and feast only on the brain! The bodies then go through the process of decomposition. Flies land and lay eggs that hatch into maggots, which feed on the body. Insects can be seen crawling all over and the smell of bacteria off gassing is evident. This is the natural nutrient cycle. It is difficult for students to understand how all of the elements found in them have been here since the beginning of time and are merely recycled. When we went to hang the chicken I had one student ask “What happened to the rabbit?” Such a great question to start a great conversation!

The chicken pictured here was donated by Mr. Matt who is growing meat chickens and had one die. This is a good science experiment from which many students will learn a lot about decomposition and the nature of nutrient recycling. And besides it is Halloween!

Chicken decomposition!

Chicken decomposition!

May 10, 2015
by Shane Boland Harrison

Pathfinder April 2015

I have been a bit out of commission due to a fractured knee. I want to thank all of my students and colleagues for their kindness and patience as I work to negotiate my way around on crutches.

I am embedding a video of pictures from April using PhotoPeach. I apologize to the mobile users who may not be able to view it.


Pathfinder April 2015 on PhotoPeach  

April 21, 2015
by Shane Boland Harrison

Newton’s 2nd Law as Demonstrated by an Ordinary Citizen:)

After a minor disaster, where the videos Marlee and Lillian had compiled were accidentally deleted, the girls spent time after school to complete their assignment. Their creative, extra effort produced this excellent video on Newton’s 2nd Law. A special thanks goes out to their parents who helped make it happen and willingly participated in the process. Great job girls!



March 15, 2015
by Shane Boland Harrison

Human Body Organ Defense :)

150 Send me adrift. via Compfight

Our 8th grade students just finished up a huge unit on the human body. We explored, in-depth, each system, noting not only what organs are involved but the diseases associated within each system. As part of their final exam the students were tasked to defend their position as an organ in the human body. This is a copy of the assignment and two examples of the letters submitted. My students ROCK! I have deleted the author’s names as requested….

You are an organ working for the Human Body Corporation. You have just learned that upper management (the brain and central nervous system) is looking to make some cuts and is considering eliminating your position. Write a letter to the CEO (brain) defending your job. Be sure to discuss your position within the system and why the company can’t do without you. This essay should be well thought out. Consider everything we have learned since October. How does our body maintain homeostasis? This essay should be no fewer than 250 words.


Dear G.O.A.D.,

I have heard, through the proteins, that you and your colleagues are currently evaluating each department and their daily functions’ effect on this company in an effort to eliminate excess energy drainage. I, director of skin function and productionary efforts, have written the following statement to inform you of my department’s preponderance towards any others’ function.

The skin makes up about ten percent of an average adult human’s body weight, and with good cause. It maintains an averaged area of about twenty square feet and ranges from half of a millimeter to more than four millimeters thick! Not only does skin maintain a consistent appearance for partnering corporations to recognize but it is a crucial element in the maintaining of homeostasis. My department is made up of three layers which each serve a unique, essential function, and come together to make up a shield. This is against threatening bacteria, infections, and possibly invading substances or elements. We are here for more than keeping in body heat and vital organs, although this is our broadly spread description. We work to defend the wealthy borders of the body against hungry bacteria, infections, and even other corporations! If our forces are not able to hold up guard, we always arrive at a compromised site to barricade and repair any damage to the furthest of our abilities. Our exterior deputy force, often referred to as the epidermis, is responsible for exposing our home-grown hairs to the outer environment. This includes raising these hairs in an effort to warm the body, evaporate the underlying forces’ perspiration, or sensing any possible threats when they are near(as well as any threatening temperatures). The skin houses nerve endings for your sub-specialized company founders and holds in and protects every other department so that they can complete their duties. We continuously look out for changing conditions on the outside that might affect production on the inside and are constantly bumped, bruised, scratched, and scraped(issues we are left with repairing ourselves). If you, upstairs, have experienced the pain of an absent minded laceration or barely brazed splinter, I challenge you to maintain quality corporate production while completely exposed to unfamiliar conditions such are wind, sun, or even simple air conditioning or a home hearth. We stand here, not to ask for praise or even higher acknowledgment, but for respect and consideration. We have been distributed, replaced, disgraced, and ripped apart. We wish, now, only to remain as we are, day by day, for the years to come.

Sincerely and with hopeful dignity,

Lillian W.

Director of Function and Productionary Efforts Department of Security and Kick-a(butt)s, directed towards Inferior systems’ Neglect. Otherwise known,  S.K.I.N

Another example:

Kidney’s Job

 I am the Kidneys, and am a very important part of the excretory system. Even though you only need one of me, two can be very helpful and most normal. I filter 180 liters of blood per day, and I remove waste from the bloodstream. When I am done I filter out of the body as urine. I have over a million nephrons in one of me. Nephrons have a filter unit called glomerulus, which blood passes through and waste comes out. I also put in three chemicals to help out the body. Erythropoietin maximizes the speed of red blood cell production. Calcitriol keeps bones strong with a Vitamin D like chemical. Also Renin that helps with blood pressure control.

Even though things can also go wrong with me like Kidneys Stones which block the waste from entering the ureter. Diabetic Kidneys which nephrons get damaged because of continued sugar in your blood. Or Kidney Cancer that forms in the lining of the kidney tubes. That does not mean I am not as important as the heart or lungs. Completely eliminating me would shut down a person’s body because of infection in the blood. It’s ok to only get rid of one of me, many people live on only one kidney. Some people even donate one of their kidneys to people who need them and don’t have a working one. But if you only have one kidney and that one starts to fail then you might need someone to donate theirs for you. Also, there are dialysis machines which do the job that a kidney would.

by Noah S.


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