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Students of all ages have a natural desire to ask questions, investigate the world around them, and seek solutions to problems. At LREI, the study of science maintains a focus on learning through investigation, where students are encouraged to ask scientifically oriented questions, design and conduct experiments, use tools to gather evidence, rely on data to construct explanations, and assimilate scientific knowledge through experiential learning.
Through science, students recognize their interconnectedness with the world around them. Third and seventh graders explore the use of various energy sources (e.g., wind, solar, oil) to generate electricity as they analyze the benefits and drawbacks of each in relation to its impact on the world. In the fifth grade “Operation Manual,” students contemplate the comparison of Earth to a spaceship. They think about what it means to be an inhabitant of a planet that is essentially a closed system. They deduce from the idea “nothing goes in, nothing goes out” that the human species must operate within the natural laws of the planet if it aspires to stand the test of time. Throughout this project, students also find and evaluate current world affairs as a measure of how our species is currently living in relation to the operation manual rules.
Throughout the divisions, scientific inquiry is at the core of students’ learning. In the fourth grade unit on tree frogs, students study how diversity makes life possible by developing questions that they subsequently answer through experimentation, research, or observation. In ninth grade, students learn how to design and perform observational experiments, such as determining the relationship between mass and volume for a set of cylinders of a particular substance. Students are then given the opportunity to carry out their experiments, obtain data to analyze, and discuss their thoughts and ideas with each other. In the eleventh and twelfth grade advanced courses, students pursue their own scientific inquiry. One student wondered if it is possible to use fish to create natural fertilizer. He designed an experiment investigating whether the organisms could convert nitrites into nitrates, which would then be used to successfully fertilize soil. By engaging in these projects, students get to apply what they have learned throughout their school career to a unique situation of their own design.
An essential component of the science program is critical thinking. From thinking as astrophysicists who examine the place of the Earth in relation to the universe to thinking as engineers who re-design New York City for a sustainable future, this skill occupies a significant part of the science experience. In ninth and tenth grade science classes, students are responsible for deciding what makes sense and what must be true. The ability to understand scientific arguments and evaluate scientific claims is an important aspect of students’ work as citizens throughout their lives. Students graduate as scientifically literate citizens capable of making more informed choices in the world beyond.