Friday, 21 November 2014

Personalized Extensions in Grade 7 and 8 Science

The core skills that science students need to develop are effective scientific inquiry and problem-solving. In Grade 7 and 8 science, we focus on helping students to build those skills. 

To ensure all students push their personal limits, they are challenged through individualized extensions. Opportunities to do so are provided on a variety of scales and embedded into the program to ensure each student is consistently and appropriately challenged.

During labs, students have extension opportunities that expand their critical thinking skills and help them connect the material to other subjects. In our Grade 8 "Systems in Action" unit, students are investigating the mechanical advantage of pulleys. Students have the opportunity to extend their learning by building increasingly complex pulley systems with various mechanical advantages. They may also link their learning to math by creating a graph comparing the actual and ideal mechanical advantages.

In Gr. 8 "Systems in Action," students can extend their learning
through integrated mathematics .
In the classroom, students can challenge themselves when completing practice problems. In the same Grade 8 "Systems in Action" unit, some students are extended by being given more difficult challenge questions to complete when determining the work and mechanical advantage of various systems. The challenge questions are designed to push the students' conceptual understanding and may require more advanced computational skills. The focus of these questions is on different practice, not more practice.

Personalized choice in projects allows students
to communicate their understanding using their
individual strengths
Science is also personalized through a choice in projects. To convey their knowledge of cell organelles and their appearance during the Grade 8 cells unit, students are given the choice to build an edible cell model or write a creative story that incorporates cell organelles. This choice between written and visual expression allows students to communicate their understanding of cell organelles using their individual strengths.

Extension opportunities are also delivered on a larger scale to ensure each student is consistently challenged. Last year, a Grade 7 student demonstrated a keen interest in science and the ability to quickly learn new concepts and scientific skills. To ensure she remained challenged, she was given the opportunity to learn Grade 8 Science that same year. A self-paced program was developed for her, in which she had reduced work for Grade 7 Science to allow her time to focus on the Grade 8 curriculum as well. This individualized approach gave her the opportunity to explore a subject she was passionate about on a deeper level, develop time management skills and foster independent learning skills.

Elysia Jellema
Teacher, Science and Mathematics

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