The science curriculum at The School in Rose Valley meets or exceeds national standards for science education. Weekly science classes for children from 5-Day Preschool and up combine teacher-led lessons, activities and experiences, and projects inspired by the children's interests and questions. Environmental science is a school-wide focus, including work undertaken in our greenhouse and organic garden, recycling and composting programs, animal care, and stewardship of the neighboring creek and other parks and preserves.
The nature of science is that there is no set core of scientific knowledge – it is a dynamic process of discovery, experimentation, and the revision of ideas. Current educational research and the national standards for science education emphasize that process is more important than content in elementary science curricula. Learning some facts is important, but learning how to think creatively and solve problems is paramount. The science curriculum at The School in Rose Valley does both.
Students at all age levels engage in investigations in biology, chemistry, earth sciences, physics, and environmental science, gaining a sense not only of the great diversity of scientific study, but learning to view their own scientific explorations as ongoing processes. Students make observations, ask questions, form hypotheses, test them, and draw conclusions. These scientific processes and skills are practiced during four kinds of experiences in science class at all age levels: exposure to and exploration of the natural world, experimentation, working on extended projects, and choice.
Preschool – The youngest scientists at SRV are interested in exploring the world around them. They engage in exploration using all of their senses, delighting in getting messy with magical experiments or using their ears to guess what is in a box. Nature hikes to look for fox tracks in the snow or the first signs of spring inspire them to ask questions and hypothesize answers; how are these tracks different from mine, and what else walks like that? Children of this age love to peer into what is hidden, from the puddles outside the door to the mysterious realm under a rock. They often find themselves looking at objects more closely, and are thrilled to be introduced to microscopes and magnifying glasses. Preschoolers are also natural collectors. They consistently bring in wonderful objects they find around school – birds’ nests, bugs and pieces of bark. Observing attributes, classifying and sorting objects intrigue and engage them.
Kindergarten – Kindergartners are ready to actively experiment with what they see. Seeds found on the nature hike get planted, and the caterpillars they collect are placed in a habitat so that the children can watch them make their cocoons. The science curriculum for this age provides ample opportunity for the children to engage with what they are learning. Experiments, games and guided explorations help them develop skills and strategies. The curriculum for students in kindergarten and up also includes choice. During some classes the students may choose individually what to work or play with, and during other classes the course of study for the whole group is determined by the students’ interests or questions. This process of self-guided discovery based on authentic interest encourages the students to be curious, inquisitive and to take ownership of their skills and learning.
Primary Years – First and second graders really begin to understand what it means to be a scientist. When solving a problem or answering a question, they learn to observe, make guesses, experiment and test their ideas. They also begin to manipulate variables in their experiments. They plant the seeds they find in different places and give them different kinds or degrees of care, then watch what happens. Students of this age begin to be able to engage in more extended projects and are better able to handle the frustrations and do-overs that are inevitable in scientific endeavors. As they engage in the scientific process the students learn to use more tools and strategies for thinking and problem solving as they construct and process knowledge. Choice continues to play an important role in the science curriculum for these students. In teacher-lead activities, there is often an emphasis on natural science. They love to walk through the woods and learning the names of plants and the colors and calls of birds.
Middle Years – Third and fourth graders begin to apply the tools they have been developing together and to build upon knowledge they have acquired before. Their thinking continues to be concrete, but they are increasingly invested in and able to work over extended periods of time on inquiries and projects that interest them. Choice is scheduled less frequently, and when it is held, many of the students choose to work on their “regular” projects. Students of this age are thrilled to be able to be real scientists, actively constructing, experimenting with and manipulating variables in their projects. Learning about heat speeding up the movement of molecules may lead to building and launching hot air balloons. Observation of what works and what does not inspires them to revise their designs and try again.
Older Years – In the fifth and sixth grades, science becomes a more intensive endeavor. Students of this age can engage in more abstract thinking. They read and research a great deal, and use their knowledge to look at issues from all angles and to debate current topics in science. The older students tend to become excited about topics that have "real world" significance. From human physiology to environmental issues to nuclear physics and the theory of time travel, they want to know how things work and what they can do to help with the problems they learn about. Fifth and sixth graders have abundant skills and are willing to stretch to learn new ones. Exploration of the local watershed can happen on field trips, and combustion and aerodynamics can be studied by building and shooting rockets. They begin to apply their knowledge and skills to design experiments, explore their interests, and dream of a better planet.