Waverly Middle School Science
At Waverly, our curriculum does not tell students what decisions to make, instead, it provides them with knowledge, skills and understanding that will help them to make their own informed decisions. Our program, now fully designed for the Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS) is innovative in that the curriculum offers a wide variety of inquiry-based instructional strategies that give students experience with scientific processes and natural phenomena. Laboratory activities involve experiments and traditional science equipment. Investigations are hands-on activities that often simulate real-world experiments using specialized or nontraditional materials. Modeling activities explore scientific concepts through simulated or physical models. Readings present scientific information in a format appropriate for individual work or homework, while text-based Talking-It-Over activities are geared to classroom discussion and employ strategies that facilitate discussion. Role Plays encourage students to use oral and expressive approaches to explore concepts and historical information, and View and Reflect activities involve viewing and discussing videos. Project and Problem-Solving activities are less common. Projects require student research and may extend over several days or weeks. Problem-Solving activities engage students in finding a solution to a problem through mathematical approaches or data analysis.
The middle school curriculum at Waverly (Issues and Science 3rd Edition) was developed at the Lawrence Hall of Science at UC Berkeley by SEPUP (Science Education for Public Understanding Program) which creates innovative science curriculum for use in 6-12 education. Issue-oriented science forms the core of SEPUP's curriculum materials. Every unit uses personal and societal issues to provide thematic continuity for student investigations and observations. Relevant issues provide a framework for student work and reflection and a context in which to understand concepts. All students need to develop an understanding of science and technology to make informed personal and community decisions. At Waverly, students learn how to gather and interpret scientific evidence about issues of interest to them and their community. As a result, they begin to appreciate the power of science to understand the natural world. They also begin to recognize that science is much more than a set of answers to be learned, but rather a way of asking questions.
Over the course of two years, the middle school science program covers eight units in both life science and physical science. Classes are mixed age, with 8th grade students mentoring 7th grade students to develop proficiency in the practices of science and engineering. Each spring, 7th grade students complete a survey to help choose the units for their 8th grade year. Descriptions of the units follow:
(All unit descriptions are from the Science Education and Public Understanding Program student book unit introductions.)
What are the relationships between an organism and its environment? What effect do humans have on these relationships? In this unit, you will explore ecology: the study of the relationships between organisms—including humans—and the environment. You will practice some of the methods ecologists (scientists who study ecology) use to study the natural world, and you will develop models to help you understand and explain how ecosystems function. You will collect and analyze data about how changing one component of an ecosystem aff ects another, and you will have the opportunity to explore your own environment. What causes an ecosystem to stay the same or change? What causes some species to do well and others to decline? How do people interact with ecosystems and their components? These are just some of the questions that you will consider over the course of this unit. What are some questions you have about the natural world around you?
How do scientists and engineers decide which material is best to use to make things? What do they need to know about the materials to choose the best one? What are those materials made of and where do they come from? Do the materials react differently in different environments? What happens when the materials are no longer able to be used? To investigate these questions, you will develop and use models to describe the composition of different materials and how those materials respond under various conditions. You will gather and make sense of information about where the materials come from and how scientists and engineers decide which material is best for making a product.
Reproduction (formerly Genetics)
Have you ever wondered why some children look very much like their biological parents, while others look completely different? Why don’t children look like a simple blend of their parents? Why do some siblings look so different from each other? In this unit, you will begin to find answers to these questions by looking at patterns in traits from one generation to another. You will develop and use models to explain those patterns in humans and other organisms. You will explore how organisms get their traits and what causes variation in those traits from one organism to another. You will also analyze and interpret evidence for how certain traits, which can be physical characteristics or behaviors, affect reproduction. You will learn how both genes and the environment can influence traits, and apply what you learn to a human genetic condition.
Have you ever wondered about the variety of organisms on Earth? How did they evolve? How are they related? Scientists investigate these questions by looking at patterns in data, gathering evidence for cause-and-effect relationships, using models, and constructing explanations for such phenomena as the evolution of new species and the extinction of other species. In this unit, you will explore one such explanation that is so universal, it has become a scientifically accepted theory: Charles Darwin's theory of evolution by natural selection. You will learn how populations of organisms change over time and how new species arise while others go extinct. You will learn to interpret the many sources of evidence for the evolution of live on Earth now and in the past. You will also explore how evolution impacts us every day and how we can affect the patterns of evolution.
What are the different systems in your body? How do those systems communicate with each other? How does your body get energy from food? How does that energy get from your stomach to the rest of your body? What happens if one system is not working right because you are sick or injured? To investigate these questions, you will develop and use models to describe how your body turns food into energy that their bodies can use. You will gather and synthesize information about how your bodies send and receive messages to help your bodies function. You will develop explanations of how their body systems work together and what happens when a system is not working properly.
How did scientists discover that microbes could cause and spread disease? What structures and functions do living cells have in common? What is the difference between unicellular and multicellular organisms? How do living organisms obtain and use the matter and energy they need to survive? How can knowledge of cells be used to identify and treat microbial diseases? In this unit, you will investigate how scientists first learned about cells and how this led to new understandings on how infectious diseases are spread. You will gather evidence about the structures and functions of cells, including microbial, animal, and plant cells. You will also develop models of cells and explain how cells in animals and plants get the matter and energy they need to survive and grow.
What is happening when substances appear to change? How is mass conserved during a chemical reaction? How can chemical reactions be used to provide energy? What are the wastes from producing circuit boards, and is there anything we can do about them? Chemicals and chemical reactions are used to make and power many products, including the batteries and circuits in electronics. The reactions used to purify metals and produce cell phone parts, such as circuit boards, provide useful products, but they also create waste. How do these chemical reactions work? In this unit, you will analyze and interpret data to determine whether chemical reactions have taken place. You will develop models to describe what happens during a chemical reaction at the molecular scale and use their models to explain your observations of reactions in open and closed systems. You will also apply what you learn about energy and matter in chemical reactions to design, test, and modify a product and to develop methods to clean up chemical waste.
How do engineers use a design process to solve problems? How is energy transferred with a transporter driven by gravity? What determines the amount of gravitational force between objects? What are the properties of magnetic fields? What factors affect the strength of a field? What are the properties of an electric field? Are electric and magnetic fields related? What effect does an electric charge have on the space around it? How do electric and electromagnetic fields work? You will answer these questions in the process of designing a transportation system for a hypothetical future lunar colony. Waverly was chosen by SEPUP/Lab-Aids to field test this new unit, which was published in early 2019. This unit has a heavy focus on the Engineering Design process.
Why do light bulbs produce different amounts of heat? Why does my cell phone break when it falls from my hand while I am walking, but is less likely to break when it falls from my pocket when I am sitting? What is happening when a substance gets warmer or cooler? In this unit, you will learn about the transfer and transformation of energy in our everyday lives. You will plan and carry out investigations, and analyze and interpret data from your experiments to investigate how energy is transferred and transformed. You will engage in engineering challenges to design and test devices to maximize and minimize energy transfer. You will apply your understanding from these investigations and challenges to develop a home energy efficiency plan. You will also explore how all types of scientists apply their understanding of energy to explain phenomena all around us.
What are the properties of the waves, and how do waves transmit sound and light energy? How are sound and light waves similar and different? What happens when waves move from air to another material, such as water, a mirror, or cloth? When are waves harmful? How do scientists and engineers use waves for research and communication? To investigate these questions, you will use mathematics to recognize patterns in the properties of waves. You will use models to compare the properties of various waves and communicate explanations about them. You will integrate scientific and technical information as you investigate advances in communication technologies.
End of the Year Comments from Students
"The curriculum is really fun with so many hands-on experiments; creating your own labs and getting to understand not just the facts but see them and why they are that way. " - Alex N.
"Thank you for two amazing years of science. Every new unit was interesting, challenging and fun. I don't know what I want to do when I grow up, but I know it has to do with science!" - Ali
“I love Science!!!! It's so much fun!!!! You can do activities and do experiments.” - Analuisa
"Before this year many of the concepts we have gone into would have been quite hard for me to comprehend, put into my writing, and further than that explain them. Through homework, explaining what I have learned is something I have majorly improved in this year. This is most definitely one of the most important things I have learned this year. Each different homework assignment we have had has had us give explanations through different concepts. For example, a very common concept we had to explain with was evidence in trade-offs. We would be given a couple of choices on what we thought made the most sense, and we would choose one. After that we would give evidence on why this was the best choice, in our opinions, then explain the trade-off, and the downsides. I am grateful for this year in science with all of the skills I have learned." -Avery
“I have had a lot of fun in science for the past two years and I have learned so much. Toby is an amazing science teacher and I will miss her very much next year. In elementary school, I always liked science, but we never really had a lot of it and when we did, I didn't really learn that much. But in middle school, I have learned about so many different topics and Toby has taught me so much. All of the hands-on activities were fun and interesting and really helped me learn a lot.” - Claire
“The Waverly Middle School Science class has had an amazing school year. I have had a great experience with Toby, who not only teaches science well, but also helps students when needed. I am very thankful to her, as she has been an amazing teacher and guide for these past nine months. Between "critters" and embryos, this year has been a whirlwind of knowledge for me.” - Ellycea
“Science in the Waverly MS was a completely eye-opening experience. It is something I won't ever forget because of all the new concepts and facts I have learned during my two years of Middle School.” - Emmett
"Science this year with Toby was amazing. I couldn't have had a more positive experience. Toby is such a great and wonderful teacher and has such an amazing way of teaching. Toby always knows how to make things fun and interesting!" - Ester
"Science for me has not only been interesting but sometimes plain fun! One of my favorite things is how engaging it can be and how interesting the discoveries in science are. For me, science inspires creativity and innovation. It answers all of those 'how?' and 'why?' questions you may have had as a child. If that was you (like me), science is going to be anything but another pointless class. I look forward to continuing studying science in whatever field I'm interested in at the time. To incoming 7th graders, being passionate about science will not only make your life more interesting, but help with your understanding of it." - Ethan
“I really enjoyed science this year. It was much better in person. I loved the hands-on experience I got in every lesson. It was a really great environment to be learning in. And this whole year has just been so great. It was nice to be in the classroom, using materials, doing experiments, and creating things. I had a really good time in science.” - Francesca
"I always loved science, but Toby really helped me understand it. When I go to a new school next year, I will miss the science curriculum and especially Toby so much! I learned so much information from force and motion to what an animal cell looks like, and I feel super confident about my science knowledge. Thank you so much for an astounding two years of great and interesting science. I will miss everything so much." - Frankie
"I loved science this year. Toby is a great teacher and I really liked all the units we did. " - Georgia
"Toby's science class isn't just a class to learn about biology or chemistry, you learn how to write professionally and explain yourself with evidence or how to thoroughly write a procedure. It is a class that teaches you a little of all the others. " - Hazel
"Science with Toby is amazing. It's great to learn about so many interesting things in one year, yet it is taught in a phenomenal way so you remember the knowledge, and what you were taught, but you also have fun learning. " - Jackie
"I really enjoyed science this year. It was very informative and fun. " - Jules
“Science + Fun = Good times” - Jude
“I loved science this year! Coming from a year of isolation, getting back to hands-on learning in a classroom with my friends was sooooo refreshing. I feel so lucky that I had such an understanding and supportive teacher that explained everything so well. I'm so disappointed this is my last year at Waverly, but I'm glad that I learned so much during my time here!” - Juno
“In Toby's class, you will learn much more than science.” - Kayla
“In science we learned many things, from waves, to ecology, to reproduction, and evolution. We did many labs, and they were a fun experience for me. We also wrote procedures, conducted arguments, answered analysis, made tables, and graphs. Science with Toby is not only a class, but an experience.” - Kiera
"Science this year has been super fun. I loved how we did an experiment almost every day. That made it so much fun learning instead of a boring old textbook. This year, I think I have learned more that my last 7 years in elementary school combined!" - Lyla
"I always look forward to science because the lessons are always interesting and fun, and I always learn a lot! " - Margi
“Science has been great this year. Lots of fun and learning.” - Max D.
"Every day when I go to school, I'm always looking forward to science class and what Toby has waiting for us." - Millie W.
"This has been the best science class I ever took. Almost everything we do is hands-on, which helps me learn so much better. Toby is one of my favorite teachers and I cannot wait for next year." - Nolan
"Before Waverly 7th grade science, I thought only math geniuses could become scientists or do amazing labs. Then in 7th grade I was proved wrong. I got to do amazing labs, find out what causes what, and learn how to organize data. I got to discover what science was, and it is all thanks to Toby. Never stop teaching us! Thx!" - Nora
“I do feel I have grown as a person in science, and I owe that to having Toby as such a loving and engaged teacher.” - Olivia
"Science with Toby is really fun! Tons of hands-on experiments make for a fun and engaging class, and I'm really happy I had Toby as my teacher!" - Raiden L.
“This year's science class was challenging, but I think everyone did really well and if you are in seventh grade now you have all this experience to help you be an even better student next year!” - Rose
"Science has been a wonderful experience for me. I enjoyed the exciting labs, the interesting assignments and the various activities done in this class. My favorite activity was probably the critter activity in the genetics unit that I had in 7th grade." - Rui
"At first I didn't really know that Science could be so much more than learning about new things which were very hard and important. Although we had Science in my Waverly elementary and my old elementary, it was not something we really did as much as the other subjects, but it was still a subject. When I first experienced science, I was expecting Science to be very hard and more on the hard side, but then I realized that it didn't have to be hard if you didn't want it to be. It was so much fun, learning about all the things we did, it became my favorite class. Not only was the class really interesting, but Toby the teacher was very very nice, patient, very interactive with the students, and more things I can't put into words. This has been a amazing school year in the class of science with all the experiments, projects, classmates, and the teacher. " - Sachi
“I loved science so much this year. It was interesting, challenging, fun, and a great opportunity for growth. I'm very sad to be leaving Toby's class behind when I go to the Waverly high school, but I'm glad I got to experience it. ” - Sadie
"Science is great and fun and wonderful !" - Sandino
"I am sad that I don't get to be taught by Toby next year." - Satchel D.
"This has been the best learning experience I have ever had in science, actually in the whole school. Not only this semester or unit but these past two years. I have gained so much knowledge that I was just dying to find. And thanks to Toby, I think I'm well-prepared for the years ahead of me. This class has also made me want to pursue something in science or health for my carrier. I have never been so determined to do well in science, and I learned to reach for my goals. " - Seth
"This class has shown me that science can be fun. Last year I wasn't as into science, but I think this year I've really gotten to a point where I enjoy it. Toby gets it, she gets that everyone processes things in a different way, and that means a lot. This class is exciting, hilarious, and interesting, and I look forward to this class every day. Moving on to a different class in the high school makes me sad, as I'll miss this class, but I know for a fact that Toby's class has prepared me for science going forward. " - Sully
"I liked the science class. I found it informative and interesting. " - Will A.
"Epic !" - Wyatt