The Lower School science program seeks to create an awareness of the importance of science in all aspects of life through active exploration. The curriculum correlates with the developmental stages of young children. Science concepts, skills and approaches are taught to students through active involvement and guided discovery. An exciting process of inquiry is also used to promote independent thinking and problem solving. Basic primary scientific skills are introduced: observing, communicating, comparing and contrasting, classifying, measuring and predicting. The scientific process of conducting an experiment is introduced to older students who develop a question, set up tests, record results and draw conclusions. Students are encouraged to think critically and creatively. Engineering design is introduced through open-ended challenges using simple machines and vehicle design. Students learn the important roles that note-taking, drawing and labeling diagrams play in science by keeping journals throughout the year. The enjoyment of science is emphasized throughout the curriculum. Field trips to Black Rock Forest, science museums and Central Park bring the experiences of the classroom to life. The Lower School Science Exhibition for Grades Two and Three is an exciting occasion for students to display their original scientific explorations.
In Kindergarten, students learn about the five senses and their importance in making observations about the world. Students learn about color and light through investigations of rainbows, white light, shadows and transparency. They develop their understanding of the natural world with explorations of seasons, weather, animals and animal adaptations, plant structure and life cycles. Students also exercise their scientific skills during experiments with sinking and floating, forces and motion, and creative engineering challenges with simple machines.
In Grade One, the fives senses are re-emphasized as important tools to observe the world. Students learn about the human body and its biological systems through the construction of models, role-play and experiments. The human body unit is supplemented with a study of health and nutrition. Students explore the diversity of animal life through examinations of various animal communities, including live animals in the classroom. Students investigate dinosaur diversity and replicate fossils. A study of space introduces the understandings of the relationships among Earth, the Moon and the Sun, and space exploration concludes the unit.
In Grade Two, students learn about measurement and the use of the metric system in scientific investigation. Students study the role of decomposers in the environment, growing mold, studying worms and investigating fungi and beetles in Central Park. An extensive bridge design unit explores different styles of bridge construction, culminating with original bridge building challenges. Students investigate the production of static electricity, electrical currents and magnetism. Work on individual science experiments culminates with the Lower School Science Exhibition. Pollution and recycling studies round out the environmental unit. Links with the Grade Two New York Social Studies curriculum are made frequently.
In Grade Three, students begin the year by applying the scientific method in a creative engineering project. Students study insects and spiders, focusing on biodiversity and the diverse adaptations that have enabled these organisms to survive in a wide range of environments, and make observations of live specimens in the classroom. Students visit Black Rock Forest to observe insects and spiders in their natural environment. Students explore space, study the planets of our solar system and investigate energy by constructing solar ovens. Students learn about geology with an in-depth exploration of Earth’s layers, tectonic plates, earthquakes and volcanoes. Grade Three students also design their own experiments for the Lower School Science Exhibition.
In Grade Four, students study the characteristics and classification of living things. The focus then expands to the study of the interactions between living things at different scales, from population size to continent spanning biomes. Sustainability and conservation issues are explored through an ecosystem based project. The focus shifts to the base of the food chain, the plant kingdom, where students track the seed-to-seed cycle of Brassica rapa and examine traditional medicinal uses of plants. Students round off the year by diving into physics through the study of electricity, light and magnetism.