The elective program at the Richmond Middle School allows students to explore a variety of subjects beyond their core academic classes and to delve into one or more that they feel passionate about.
In addition to some required foundation classes in physical education and the arts. students can sign up for new electives each quarter during an arena scheduling session. During this session, students identify free periods in their schedules and consider how they would like to use and balance their time.
The scheduling of our elective program empowers our students. The act of making a choice even when it is between two less favorite options still gives the student a sense of control. The scheduling process also shows students they may not always get what they want or cannot fit everything in.
Language is powerful and distinctively human. Skill with language enables individuals to communicate, attain higher goals, and benefit the community. Students will develop language skills in a challenging and supportive environment. The English department will encourage creativity and recognize the unique abilities of each student.
The Richmond School science department focuses on basic concepts and skills in the physical, life, and earth sciences with a primary goal of fostering interest and excitement in science. Through a variety of teaching techniques, students are actively involved in developing and understanding the interrelationship among the sciences and between science and other disciplines. An underlying goal is to encourage students to recognize their responsibility in science, technology, and society.
In the sixth grade, students experience science as an exciting process of inquiry and discovery. Students develop their skills and habits of mind in the classroom with laboratory activities, technology, and media center research. They learn to think as scientists and to appreciate how scientific knowledge relates to their own lives and the important role of collaboration and communication in the learning community. Perhaps even more importantly, students learn that science can include a wide range of experiences: active and quiet, fun and frustrating, easy and challenging. The Design Process (identify the problem, brainstorm, design, build, test and evaluate, share solution and redesign) is integrated in each unit. The content of sixth grade science is a mixture of physical and some life sciences, showing how these two disciplines are interrelated.
7th Grade Science has a major focus on ecology and helping students to understand some of the major ecological concepts about how our planet functions. These concepts include energy flow, cycling of matter (water and carbon especially), biodiversity, change (including natural selection), interrelationships, and adaptation. Connections to students’ lives and the world are woven throughout the curriculum. Real problems such as global warming, toxins in groundwater, and plastics in the ocean tie into the curriculum as do solutions such as biomimicry, green-engineering, and world climate summits. In addition, the science course ties into the 7th grade Civil War unit and delves into Civil War medicine through research and experimentation as well as infectious disease (then and now).
Hands-on activities are numerous and range from experiments, simulations, using models, field studies, engineering design challenges, the scientific method, and more. Skills are developed in observing, experimenting, data analysis, graphing, seeing from others’ perspectives, rapid prototyping, and systems thinking (or you could put critical thinking). Art, writing, and science reading are woven throughout the year. Science classes are busy places full of investigation and learning.
The eighth grade science curriculum focuses on topics in earth science, and the acquisition of key skills and concepts. Topics covered include astronomy, chemistry, rocks and minerals, plate tectonics, earth history, map reading, natural resources, and other areas of current interest.
In class, students will use a variety of activities to develop key skills and concepts essential to effective problem solving. Active participation, data collection, organizing, and making reasonable conclusions are all emphasized. Effective display of data, and written and oral communication skills are practiced as students share ideas, take notes, draw diagrams, make graphs, write reports, and make formal presentations to their classmates. Independent effort is also important, and several long-term assignments are carried out at home as well as in class. Research skills, projects, and lab write-ups are all integral parts of the eighth grade year in science. Finally, an understanding of our planet and an awareness of the relationships between people and their environments will be studied. Thoughtful consideration of current environmental issues and other issues related to science and technology, and the creation of possible visions for the future of people and our planet help students to relate science to their own lives.
As part of our 7th-grade science remote learning unit our students and a good number of our staff participated in a Bioblitz. A Bioblitz is a challenge to find as many different living things as you can in a specific amount of time. For this Bioblitz we surveyed as many different species as we could from home and nearby areas in May. We used an application called iNaturalist, a Citizen Science project, to collect observations and assign identifications. During the project participants cataloged more than 3000 observations of over 600 species. Numerous observations have reached “research-grade,” which is exciting and can be used for scientific research. This project was paired with virtual class sessions, assignments, and resources. We were fortunate to partner with Nathaniel Sharp from the Vermont Center for Ecostudies, who set up the project, and he is lent his expertise in Bioblitzing, iNaturalist, natural history, and field techniques to the experience.