Science at Long-View is a dynamic endeavor. Red and Turquoise bands began the year with a study of sound and light waves, and our young scientists could be found with tuning forks, ropes, and flashlights in hand as they created different kinds of waves and observed their motion. In group discussions, learners shared their observations, and debated and iterated their conclusions. Once they understood the fundamentals of waves, the learners designed and executed their own experiments in response to the question, "What happens to sound waves as they move away from their source?" As they designed, carried out, and presented their investigations, these young scientists worked to build skills like procedural design, data analysis, clear writing, mental and physical modeling, and graphing, which will continue to shape their work as they progress through Long-View's science program and beyond.

As they begin their second unit, these young scientists are shifting from experimental studies to observational studies. In their science block, they are learning about space systems, and they will supplement their learning by continuing their work with modeling, and by making detailed observations of the night skies. Furthermore, because we at Long-View believe that academic fields of study are (or should be) interconnected, these learners will also be using some of their literacy block, where they're working on informational reading and writing, to guide their own learning on our solar system, the International Space Station, and space exploration, by finding books and articles that supplement their investigations. Both units of study will culminate with a debate over the future of our space program, with a focus on evidence-based argumentation.  

Here at Long-View, our young scientists learn not only through independent investigation and self-driven research, but also by meeting with working scientists who are doing cutting-edge research in their fields. Ms. Swanson recently connected Red and Turquoise Bands with Henry Hershey, a fish biologist at Auburn University, whose important work involves reintroducing salmon and paddlefish into restored habitats. The kids loved seeing how science can be used to solve problems they care about, like environmental destruction.

Grey Band, too, had a chance to skype with working scientists. Yohan Yee and his team at Toronto's Mouse Imaging Center use mice to research how autism functions in the brain. The scientists called in to talk to Grey Band about their work, and our learners asked some great questions, ranging from the logistical to the conceptual. How do scientists get mice to hold still for MRIs? (Anesthesia.) How can scientists apply what they learn from mice to their research on autism in humans? (Cautiously.)

In fact, conceptual and ethical questions are becoming commonplace in Grey Band. These learners began the year by developing independent investigations that utilized the same skills Red and Turquoise Bands have been working on: developing a hypothesis, designing an experiment, gathering data, and presenting results with clear writing and well-designed graphs. As they worked, these young scientists became increasingly interested in the ethical aspects of scientific investigation. One young scientist's experiments with guppies inspired a lively lunchtime debate about where we should draw the lines when experimenting with animals.

These scientists are continuing to grapple with ethical questions as we move into Unit 2, which covers genetics and evolution, topics our learners have been eagerly anticipating. After some lively interactive lessons, in which we explored how evolution works, Ms. Swanson presented Grey Band with a  hypothetical scenario in which humans have only 80 years to prepare for a world that has been reduced to 3 ecosystems: arctic, desert, and ocean. The only alternative: deep space. Our young scientists have four weeks to design and present a set of adaptations that will allow humans to survive in one of these ecosystems.

As they prepare for this disaster, our learners are discovering some challenges. Natural selection would take more than 80 years, but artificial selection poses some difficult ethical questions. History is rife with examples of artificial selection being unethically used on humans (as we learned in a recent social studies deep dive), and as these learners work to save humanity, they are guided by their developing moral codes and a growing inclination to question and critique existing scientific studies. These learners' discussions are heated and energetic as they begin to discover the differences between well-designed and poorly designed investigations, biased and unbiased experiments, and ethical and unethical applications of scientific principles.

As these young scientists undertake their observations, investigations, and world-saving plans, we are eager to see them grow as investigators, problem solvers, and clear communicators!

 

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