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Blinding Them With Science

It’s a vast expanse and a long journey from the Preschool 3s to being a senior in Upper School. Or is it? When it comes to the science curriculum at Brooklyn Friends School science is science, and although the topics change from year to year, and are of course age-appropriate, whether it is the children in the Yellow Room looking at a silk worm they found under a microscope, or the young men and women in 12th grade taking part in the monitoring of oysters in the Billion Oyster Project, BFS students stand at the forefront as young scientists. And they get started early.

“We have had many conversations about Autumn and all of the changes that happen during this season,” said Head of Preschool Maura Eden about BFS’ 3-year-olds. “Our science table is chock full of all different kinds of acorns, tree branches, magnifying glasses, and books about trees and leaves. We added a bird’s nest on the science table.After observing some of the items on the table, one of the students asked what the bird’s nest was and where we got it from. That launched into a whole conversation about how birds build their nests.”

Whether discussing nature and habitats, or cooking up some playdough in the kitchen, Brooklyn Friends’ Preschool students certainly get the most out of their science time. It’s the start of what will be years of informative science education the students will enjoy at BFS. 

Several flights upstairs, the younger Lower School students continue to explore the world of science by learning all about the weather, including learning how to read thermometers that measure temperatures, hot or cold. Students also worked on experiments where they made it “rain” in their classroom and didn’t even need umbrellas!

Our fourth graders have been learning all about our brains, including the fact that the left side of the brain controls the right side of the body and the right side of the brain controls the left side of our body. They learned that the brain is our body’s boss and that many messages are sent from the brain to the rest of the body. 

In the Middle School, students are experiencing a wide-variety of science topics. Fifth graders explore a general science course, with a focus on Life Science. Students complete hands-on projects, labs, and dissections exploring the difference between living and nonliving things and the evolutionary process. In the sixth grade, BFS students engage in a Physical Sciences course, which focuses on energy, matter, forces, motion, and the periodic table of elements. Students engage in authentic scientific practices and learn the seven crosscutting concepts identified in the Next Generation of Science Standards (NGSS).

Seventh graders focus on biology and how life is sustained in all its forms. Topics include microbiology, biochemistry, genetics, evolution, human physiology, and DNA with a specific collaboration with The Innocence Project and how DNA has served an imbalance of power and perpetuated oppression in the United States judicial system. In the eighth grade science classes, students learn about Earth & Environmental Science, focusing on topics such as astronomy, geology, environmental science and an in-depth study of a particular environment: The Northeast Coastline. Students study the formation of the Earth, the Sun, the Moon and other members of our solar system.

While the entire Upper School has many different science classes and a robust, comprehensive curriculum, in IB Environmental Systems & Societies, students have been trying to get in some field work this fall before it gets too cold. To support learning about ecosystem dynamics involving energy flow and nutrient cycling, 11th graders participated in the state-wide “Day in the Life of the Hudson River” by measuring aspects of the river ecosystem including Chemical, Physical and Biotic properties. 

“The result was lots of life,” said Bill Livingston, Upper School Science Teacher. “We found 12 species of organisms and good water quality, about what we expected at Brooklyn Bridge Park. This investigation overlaps with our ongoing monitoring of an Oyster Research Station for the Billion Oyster Project.” 

Seniors, meanwhile, have been studying soil and terrestrial food production systems around the world, as well as developing plans for their own independent investigations as part of their final IB Assessment. Of course, there is a lot more going on in the science classrooms of the Upper School.

In Upper School IB Biology, students earlier this year studied the heart and blood pressure and completed lab work to support their studies. They are now studying basic immunology and learning about the challenges our body faces when exposed to a number of different pathogens. In addition, the seniors are beginning work on their IB Internal Assessment research project, which can either be a hands-on series of experiments or an analysis of secondary data in a new and novel way. 

First year biology students have studied cell organelle structure and function, with a focus on cellular specialization, the differences in the number and densities of stomates, the tiny structures on the underside of leaves, and have explored cell membrane dynamics to try to infer how various pharmaceuticals can enter cells. 

These science classes throughout all of the BFS divisions represent just a portion of the overall science curriculum. One thing is for certain, however, there is no shortage of interesting science topics—and plenty of young BFS minds to achieve new discoveries. 

A special thank you to all of our BFS Science Colleagues, who contributed to this story and took some of these great photos.

This article appears in our print magazine The Life for Fall/Winter 2021.

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