Integrated Science in the Middle School Years
Middle school is a place for growth, change and opportunity. Students in middle school start asking bigger questions, challenging their past understanding, and thinking more deeply and critically about the world around them. It is the perfect time to start trying new things, and exploring new interests, as students grow into their unique, individual selves.
For me, middle school was where my passion for the sciences was ignited. I was lucky to have been exposed to an approach to learning that emphasized the interconnectedness of all sciences, providing me with a well-rounded way of applying my understanding in the real world.
At Silicon Valley International School, through the International Baccalaureate (IB) Middle Years Programme (MYP) framework, our approach to teaching the sciences is integrated. Students are encouraged to investigate science by formulating their own questions, and finding answers to those questions through the lens of multiple scientific fields: biology, chemistry, physics and earth sciences. This is done through research and experimentation, enabling students to develop skills and a way of thinking that they can use to make practical connections between their studies and the world in which they live.
For example, in one of our middle school classes this year, the students engaged in a structured inquiry focused on the elements of biology, chemistry and physics that power the process of breathing. From learning about gas properties (relationship between pressure, volume and temperature) and concentration gradients, to the structures and their function within the respiratory system, students were able to develop research questions that allowed them to apply their conceptual understanding. Through their interdisciplinary inquiry, they deepened their understanding of the breathing process that we so often take for granted, yet without which we would cease to exist.
In a world filled with complex challenges, such as COVID-19 and climate change, it is incumbent upon us to tackle these multifaceted issues from a variety of perspectives. Through an integrated approach, we can deepen our understanding and discuss potential solutions to these complex challenges. Through structured inquiry, students can explore questions such as:
- What is a virus?
- What is a vaccine?
- How is it developed?
- Who has access to it?
In arriving at their answers, students are encouraged to appreciate and respect the ideas of others, apply ethical-reasoning skills, and consider their responsibility as local and global community members.
As an educator, I am passionate about the integrated approach to scientific inquiry we begin in the middle school years, as I know we are helping students cultivate the skills that will help them solve the many problems facing the world today, and into the future.