Princeton Day School's Middle School Science program has long incorporated into the curriculum the many unique natural resources across our 100+-acre campus. This fall, 5th and 6th Grade on-campus science classes have enjoyed several plant unit studies outdoors in the School's renowned organic garden, Kristy's wildflower meadow and our bamboo forest.
MS Science teachers Allison Treese, Annemarie Strange and Jessica Clingman have designed lessons that start inside with the topic introduction and assignment, followed by heading outside to apply and extend their learning. For example, one assignment tasked students to choose any type of plant and to draw it with as much detail as possible, labeling all key structures before making three quantitative and three qualitative observations about the plant. Another lesson focused on invasive species, during which Ms. Treese and her class explored the bamboo forest to observe the consequences of this invasive plant's introduction into our native central Jersey plant environment.
Program Design Incorporates Remote Learners
The plant lessons are also designed to engage both on-campus and remote learners. Ms. Strange shared, "Remote 6th graders are currently running their own plant observations and experiments from home. Adding examples from a variety of locations ultimately broadens the variety of wildlife that our students can study and also encourages them to explore nature, whether at home or on campus." The contributions of at-home learners have expanded the classroom discussions as students share their observations and questions.
The MS fall science curriculum has taken full advantage of the resources at hand during the opening months of school, including the excellent weather. Responsibly incorporating the outdoors not only allows students to spread out and enjoy fresh air during the school day whether on-campus or remote; it offers year-round opportunities to observe diverse weather effects and weather conditions, the first-hand experience of which we are all too often "fair weather friends."
Photos (from top): 6th Grade student studying plants in the garden; 6th grader studying a plant in the wildflower meadow; Ms. Treese's 6th Grade class exploring the bamboo forest; more MS students observing plants on campus.