Curriculum Spotlight: Inquiry-Based Approach to MS Science

Carl Rapisarda Vallely, Head of Middle School
I am incredibly proud of the curriculum we offer across disciplines in the Middle School at Brimmer. I want to share a snapshot of one of our classes, Science 7, that highlights the project and inquiry-based approach that we believe leads to a vibrant learning environment for our students.   

How will we meet food production challenges as the world population grows? Students anchor themselves with this question as they dive into the study of plants. Working collaboratively, students design scientific experiments to compare traditional soil gardening to hydroponic gardening. This unit literally comes to life with our Tower Gardens, which are located in the Library/Learning Commons and the Lower School Lobby and were purchased through our Faculty Innovation Grant. Students watch and monitor as the seeds they plant develop and mature into herbs and vegetables to share with our kitchen and, in turn, the Brimmer community. 

7th graders also spend time exploring climate change and its effects, both short and long term, on our planet and, specifically, the city of Boston. They then explore biomimicry, an approach to innovation that seeks solutions by exploring nature’s time-tested systems, structures, and materials, and participate in The Biomimicry Youth Design Challenge. Using the design thinking process, students are asked to design a nature-inspired solution that addresses climate change by either helping communities adapt to climate change impacts or slowing climate change itself. They can tackle problems from the increased CO-2 levels that are making the ocean more acidic to the rising sea levels that will lead to flooding at Logan Airport. For the latter, a group last year developed a plan that used the honeycomb as a model for runways that would combat flood waters. The final designs are presented at an exhibition. 
Thanks to a generous donation at the School’s auction several years ago, the Science Department had the opportunity to outfit its lab with a classroom set of Lego Mindstorms EV3 robotics sets. For this unit, students are grouped into teams and spend much of fourth quarter of the year working with these kits, which help teach the principles of design, engineering, coding, and programming. After learning the basics of crafting and programming simple functional robots, the teams each select a problem to solve. Problems range from picking up and moving objects to autonomously navigating trails. Students are asked to present their final products in front of their peers and respond to questions about the design process.  

These are examples of how we develop thinkers, doers, and innovators who are ethically minded and prepared to succeed in the Upper School and beyond. I look forward to sharing more curriculum spotlights in the coming months.
As an inclusive private school community, Brimmer welcomes students who will increase the diversity of our school. We do not discriminate on the basis of race, religion, sex, gender, gender identity and expression, disability, sexual orientation, national origin, ancestry, or any other characteristic protected from discrimination under state or federal law, in the administration of our educational policies, admissions practices, financial aid decisions, and athletic and other school-administered programs.