Unit Summaries

  • Lab Skills and Safety

    The Lab Skills and Safety Unit is an introductory unit that includes many of the important concepts learned in previous grades.  Concepts that are focused upon are mass, volume, displacement, density, length, lab safety, the scientific method and math skills, such as rounding and averaging.  Students will practice using the triple beam balance, graduated cylinder, meter stick and metric ruler.  Along with measurement, safety rules and equipment are emphasized as an important part of a lab.  This unit provides the foundation for many labs conducted throughout the year. 


    Forces and Motion

    During this unit, students will learn how to determine if something is moving, and will study Newton’s Three Laws of Motion.  They will learn that inertia is the tendency of an object to resist changes in its velocity, and that for every action there is an equal and opposite reaction.  Students will learn that a force is a push or a pull, and will learn how to determine if a force is present.  Students will complete several hands on lab activities during class to help them make sense of these new concepts, and will continue to practice incorporating math in science as they use the formula for calculating force (force = mass x acceleration).  

    Students will learn about the major difference between mass and weight.  Mass is not affected by gravity.  Weight, on the other hand, changes based on gravitational pull.  Students will move on to specifically study the forces of weight, gravity and friction as they conduct several lab activities.  Once students are able to describe forces that may act on an object, they will learn how to draw and interpret vector diagrams of balanced and unbalanced forces.  A great deal of new vocabulary will be covered.                                                                    


    Work and Simple Machines

    The Work and Simple Machines unit starts off with a discussion of work and students are presented with numerous examples of how to calculate the amount of work.  We continue with an exploration of the six simple machines where students get hands on experience using levers, pulleys, inclined planes (ramps), screws, wedges, wheel and axles.  In most of these labs, students will apply the formula for work (work = force x distance) to each simple machine.  When using any machine, we can reduce force by increasing distance, and the work stays the same.  This will remain a common theme throughout the unit.  Also, compound (complex) machines are introduced, and students will identify the simple machines that make up compound machines and describe the how this is useful.



    During this unit, students will learn that energy is the ability to do work.  Students will study potential energy (stored energy or energy of position) and kinetic energy (energy of motion), and will briefly study the various forms of energy including sound, light, thermal, chemical, electric, and nuclear.  Students will learn about the Law of Conservation of Energy, which states that energy cannot be created or destroyed, but can change forms.  Students will learn that energy changes from one form to another as work is done, and that some heat energy is always given off during energy transformations. 

    Students will then move on to learn that all moving objects have momentum, and that the more momentum an object has, the more difficult it is to stop.  Students will learn that the two factors that affect momentum are the mass and the velocity of an object, and will use the formula for calculating momentum to complete several problems during class. 

    Once again, students will complete lab activities during class to tie prior knowledge and new concepts together, thus allowing them to better understand the concepts of energy and momentum.


    Electricity, Magnetism, Sound, and Light

    In the unit Electricity, Magnetism, Sound and Light, students will complete a static electricity lab where they will perform activities involving charging a rod or charging strip by friction and then charge other objects by either conduction or induction. After static electricity, the characteristics of current electricity will be discovered where students build series and parallel circuits. Next sound and light will be discussed. Sound is caused by vibrating objects. Students will hear a “screaming rod” and learn about how the speed and intensity of the vibration effect pitch and volume of sound. Students will perform a lab using dominoes to discover the speed of sound through solids, liquids, and gases. Finally, to discover the properties of light, light will be passed through various lenses, mirrors, and filters. The concepts of reflection and refraction of light will also be investigated.

    What can you do at home?
    You can talk with your child about how to be safe with electricity. Please encourage your child to review their notes and vocabulary regularly. Check your child’s agenda for homework and labs.


    Plants and Ecosystems

    During the first half of this unit students will be studying the basic structure of plants, and will look at the functions of the roots, stems, and leaves of plants.  Students will then move on to specifically study the flower, which is the reproductive organ of flowering plants.  Students will review the processes of photosynthesis, pollination and fertilization, seed dispersal, and germination.

    During the second half of the unit, students will review ecosystems by discussing communities, such as boundary communities and discussing how populations within those communities might change.  We will review concepts like competition, territory, and other limiting factors for population growth.  We will also discuss how natural environmental cycles such as the water, carbon, and nitrogen cycles work to sustain life on earth.   



    What is conservation? Why should we conserve? In this unit students will learn about soil conservation methods, air quality, and water conservation.  Students will learn the difference between a renewable and a nonrenewable resource. Students will learn about the amount of water that is useable and safe for humans and track the amount of water they use in one day.  The current status of the Hudson River and PCBs will be studied. The parts of the water cycle will be identified. In addition energy alternatives to fossil fuels such as solar, wind, geothermal, nuclear, and hydroelectric power will be discussed.  What can parents do at home? These are topics in the news, so your child can read about science at home. Talk to your child about recycling, pollution, and conserving resources.


    Geology and Earth's History

    How have the positions of the continents changed over time? What has caused those changes? What is the age of the Earth? Student will find out! Students will learn about how scientists use radioactive dating methods and relative dating methods to determine the age of rocks as well as the age of the earth. The layers and composition of the earth will be studied and the types of rocks as well as how are they formed. The different kinds of plate boundaries (convergent, divergent, transform) will also be identified. Students will also learn about Alfred Wegner and the evidence for continental drift and plate tectonics. Earthquake and volcano locations will be plotted using latitude and longitude in order for students to discover for themselves the plate boundaries of the earth. In the lab “What Shaken Dude” students will work together in a field exercise to gather data about P and S waves to better understand the meaning behind earthquake wave data. Throughout this unit of study your child will use skills such as sequencing, organizing and interpreting data.