Pathfinder School Science

Look what is happening in science!

August 30, 2020
by Shane Boland Harrison

8/31/2020 Welcome to Science

Dear Families,

WOW, what a beginning. Some of you may not have been aware but last week I was on my annual family vacation. With school starting early I chose to come to school the first day but then spent time with my family. I have to say that it was great to see my students on Wednesday and it looked like everyone 6-8 had a “dam” good time at the beach and with the LOC staff. 

We are officially back to school and learning full time on Monday. I am in my classroom now gathering what I will need to teach outside, editing previous lessons that have always begun in the classroom, and stressing over what I will forget upstairs and how I will handle not being in my comfort zone. I realize this is a learning process for all of us teachers, administrators, and students and we all will have to adapt. 

All 6-8 graders have been assigned a Chromebook. This is the school’s property and your student may bring it home and use it as needed. We ask that they have it at school each day all charged and ready to go. IF your student has a laptop or tablet with a keyboard they are welcome to bring it and not use the one provided by the school. This is with the understanding that he or she is responsible for its care and that he or she will abide by the rules of the school and not text or use any social media that is loaded on the personal device while at school. 

The 7th and 8th graders will start the year studying insects. I have created a website that outlines the project and expectations in-depth. Insects are Awesome. I was also able to secure a donation from Northern Building Supply for plywood. This will enable your student to create their own personal chair. Look for a loud “All Hands on Deck” for parent volunteers. It will not be this week! 

The 6th graders will be working on experimental design this first week then will dive deep into our local ecology and then the global environment. Each student will be doing a project on an assigned owl. Stop the Uppity Resort. I will assign owls early this week or next.

The 6th grade (and new students in 7&8)  will be responsible for writing a blog due each Sunday night. I will go over this in detail in class and help to set them up. If you DO NOT want your student to have a public blog I can make it private. 

Finally, I would like to ask that you speak to your student about how we really are in school despite being outside and despite how warm it is and how it still feels like vacation. I am so happy to be back but the new mask protocols, the way we can and can not gather, how we travel on campus and so much more is stressful for all! I really want to stay together and not go back to ZOOM!!! The following are some Classroom Standards of Behavior that students created a few years ago. If you could please go over them with your student it would be appreciated.

As always please feel free to reach out with any questions or concerns. 





Classroom Standards of Behavior


Learning is an activity that demands focus and attention.


Come to class always ready to participate fully in assignments. 


Bring all papers and pencils to class.




Use mature, deliberate voices with appropriate tone. 


Don’t doodle unless there is a drawing assignment or your doodles pertain to the lecture.


Listen attentively and be prepared to answer and participate.


Don’t eat in class unless given permission.


Practice note-taking and study skills.


Take ownership of your own learning.


Recognize that thinking critically takes focus and practice.


January 5, 2020
by Shane Boland Harrison

Renaissance Continues!

Dear Families,

I hope you had a wonderful, fun-filled holiday full of laughter, love, and great food! As we come back together I would like to remind our students that we will be finishing up our multi-age unit on the Renaissance. When they come to school tomorrow they are to go to their “virtual” grade.

As I sit in my classroom, preparing for the week, I can’t help but feel grateful for all that happens in this crazy classroom. The students have embraced the Renaissance projects and have worked collaboratively with those outside their normal class or peer group. I can’t wait for you to see their creations at our culminating event soon to be announced:) For now please enjoy the photos.

October 18, 2018
by Shane Boland Harrison
1 Comment

October Science News

The 8th graders went to Pigeon River country, near Gaylord, to view Elk in the wild. After cruising many dirt roads we were fortunate to see one elk, which was an accomplishment as we often don’t see any! We stayed in a cabin The Little Traverse Conservancy lets out to non-profit groups. The weather was not in our favor so the wood stove was welcomed as was the laughter, dancing, magic tricks, and card playing!

The 7&8 graders finished up their insect unit and are now studying the human body beginning with the Muscular and Skeletal Systems. They will learn 20 bones and 10 muscle groups by dressing up and labeling skeletons. By studying how ligaments connect bones to bones and tendons connect bones to muscle we will explore movement. They have a research paper due Monday, October 22.

In sixth grade, we have been studying Ecology and the interactions that occur in ecosystems. Symbiotic relationships; mutualism, commensalism, and parasitism have been explored. The students have researched owls and their place in the food chain, as well. After a detailed review, the students will be taking a test this Thursday, October 18th. Taking tests requires practice and that is half the reason I will be giving this to the students. I don’t want them to freak out but tests are in their high school future and beyond.

Enjoy the photos of 6th grade’s creative owl pellet sculptures they made after dissecting some owl puke!


Fifth graders are studying the beauty and significance of trees in our lives. On a cold and rainy morning, we watched a beautifully animated film by Frederic Back, 1987, The Man Who Planted Trees

“When I think that one man, one body, and one spirit was enough to turn a desert into the land of Canaan, I find after all that a man’s destiny can be truly wonderful. But when I consider the passionate determination, the unfailing generosity of spirit it took to achieve this end, I’m filled with admiration for this old, unlearned peasant, who was able to complete a task worthy of God.”

The students were enamored and highly recommend this film! We are continuing to work on our leaf collections.

Traveling the evolutionary timeline, fourth grade has progressed to studying more complex invertebrates. I brought in some lovely tapeworms and roundworms from our veterinary practice and we shared our snack while looking at them 😝


Using slugs we found while on an invertebrate walk, we held some races. It was fascinating to watch the slime trails and eyestalks on these cool animals. Additionally, we set up an experiment and predicted whether worm castings or regular garden soil will grow better beans. A worm box was set up for Ms. Ivy’s fish tank in the Art Room.


Thank you for all your support especially the B.E.A.R Day books our classroom received!

If you have any questions please feel free to contact me. It has been an amazing Fall! Shane

January 6, 2018
by Shane Boland Harrison

Welcome to 2018

Happy 2018!

Science News and Projects

8th Grade

The 8th grade begins 2018 studying the Nervous and Endocrine systems. Have you ever heard yourself exclaim to your adolescent “What were you thinking?”  Well, chances are they weren’t! As I have explained to our students the frontal lobe of their brain which is the thinking center, or CEO of the brain, is the last to develop. This area of the brain controls decision making, problem-solving, judgment, and self-control. Research currently shows the brain may not be fully developed until age 25. Early adolescents often go out of their way to engage in irrational risky behaviors and thrills without weighing the negative consequences.  Additionally, because this part of the brain is not fully mature young people are much more likely to try drugs and alcohol during their teenage years.  So in addition to studying the anatomy of the brain, your student will be researching the effects of a certain drug of their choosing. This classroom-based project can be reviewed here Drug Research Assignment

Having family members with addictions and having known young people who have died of heroin overdoses I cannot stress enough that keeping an open dialogue with your student is crucial.

7th Grade

Seventh-grade students will be studying genetics. In addition to Mendel’s peas and the study of heredity, the students will look at ethical issues surrounding new genetic technologies. In teams, the students will choose a topic and prepare a debate. To learn about the topics and plan click here Genetics Debate

6th Grade

Sixth grade begins the year studying chemistry. Chemistry helps us to understand the world. How matter interacts helps explain why leaves turn color, how baked goods are made and may give you a better understanding of why products work or don’t! This is a picture of my notes depicting all the demos, projects and experiments we do for this unit. It is a lot of prep for me but the students love the hands-on learning!



Science Expo February 22, 2018, from 6:00 – 7:30 pm

The sixth and seventh graders have been given the assignment for the upcoming Science Expo.

Sixth Grade Rubric click here

Seventh Grade Rubric click here

Finally, I am including two articles regarding Social Media and Teen Anxiety – Harvard and a blog I stumbled upon about having conversations about Smartphone Use. 

I would like to thank everyone for their kind thoughts, prayers, patience and above all HELP during my shoulder surgery recovery. Every meal made, door opened and shoe tied was appreciated. My sling is off and I continue to heal!

Thanks for reading my blog and please feel free to contact me if you have any questions or concerns.


November 13, 2017
by Shane Boland Harrison

Shoulder Surgery Blues….

Dear Families,

This Wednesday I am having shoulder surgery and will be gone until Tuesday, November 28th. Peter Galopin, our favorite sub, will be filling in during my absence. I have assigned projects for each class.  Please check in with your student to make sure they are using their time wisely and have all they need to complete the work. Each class has a vocabulary sheet for homework, due when I return. 

The sixth grade is studying biomes. They will be building a website advertising their region which will highlight two animals, two plants, and environmental issues.  They will also be building a diorama depicting their biome. I have supplied shoeboxes and a few supplies but they are excited and want to bring some things in from home which would be great!

You may view the website and assignment here  – Biome Assignment

The seventh grade is developing a presentation about a virus or bacteria of their choosing. They are to become the pathogen and either brag or whine about their life. It is kind of twisted but the students are really into it. They will also make a “Wanted Poster” describing the bacteria or virus they have chosen to be turned in preferably DEAD! 

You may view the website and assignment here – Bacteria / Virus Assignment

The eighth graders are taking a vacation through the digestive system writing postcards back from the organs they travel through. They also have a research paper due concerning a digestive or urinary disorder.

You may view the website and assignment here – Digestive Journey

I put together the following video of photos taken during science. I am truly blessed to work at such an amazing school with such incredible learners!

Thank you for your understanding and if you have any questions please feel free to contact me. I will be reduced to using my left hand so it may take me awhile!

Here is a video of a play the 6th grade did about the Trial of Freddie Fungus. Enjoy!





October 10, 2017
by Shane Boland Harrison

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.


September 10, 2017
by Shane Boland Harrison

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

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!



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