Middle School Science

Look what's happening in Pathfinder science!

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!

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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