In 2011, Hillel Academy adopted the Asset Curriculum to increase hands-on science learning in the elementary and middle school classrooms. The curriculum consists of self-contained modules on a range of topics that are accompanied by professional development for the individual teachers on their modules. The grade-specific modules provide all of the equipment, supplies and references to teach the particular subject in a very dynamic way.
A very powerful part of the program is the inclusion of a note-booking component that teaches students how to keep a real science notebook. That component is reinforced in every grade and is a strong unifying tool.
In the middle school, the Asset modules are coordinated to fit with more intensive science classes, as students partake in a survey of science topics in fifth through eighth grades.
Insects - The Insects module provides experiences that heighten students’ awareness of the diversity of animal forms. They come to know firsthand the life sequences of a number of insects. In each investigation an insect is introduced, and students observe structures and behaviors, discuss their findings, and ask questions. Students observe life cycles of insects and compare the stages of metamorphosis exhibited by each species. Students will:
Develop a curiosity and interest in insects and a respect for them as living things.
Experience some of the great diversity of forms in the animal kingdom.
Become familiar with some of the life sequences that different types of insects exhibit (simple and complete metamorphosis).
Observe the similarities and differences in the larvae, pupae, and adults of insects that go through complete metamorphosis.
Observe the behaviors of insects at different stages of their life cycle.
Provide for the needs of insects (air, water, food, and space).
Acquire the vocabulary associated with insect life.
Solids and Liquids - In Solids and Liquids, students get to shake, rattle, and roll (not to mention drip, squish, and stir) an assortment of objects and materials while engaging in science explorations clearly linked to their everyday lives. Students deepen their understanding of the characteristics and behavior of solids and liquids.
Weather Watching - Students learn how to observe, describe, and measure aspects of weather using key science vocabulary, weather instruments, and scientific understanding. After brainstorming what weather is and why weather changes from day to day, season to season, and place to place, students investigate temperature and wind strength. They read about the water cycle and various weather tools, such as the thermometer, barometer, wind vane and rain gauges. Tornadoes, hurricanes, volcanoes, blizzards, thunderstorms, and snow storms are discussed. They also learn about the job of the meteorologist.
Health and Nutrition - Students learn how to be healthy: exercising, getting enough sleep, going to the doctor, and eating the right foods. Students explore the food groups, vitamins, minerals, and amount of servings from each food group. Students have healthy food snack days and make vegetable salads and fruit salads.
Butterflies - Students learn the life cycle of a butterfly: the egg, caterpillar, chrysalis, and butterfly. Students observe and record the stages of the butterfly.
Structures of Life - This module consists of four sequential investigations dealing with observable characteristics of organisms. Students observe, compare, categorize, and care for a selection of organisms, and in so doing they learn to identify properties of plants and animals and to sort and group organisms on the basis of observable properties. Students investigate structures of the organisms and learn how some of the structures function in growth and survival.
Sound - Students learn characteristics of sound, variables that affect it, and how it is transmitted and received. The concept that sounds are vibrations and that vibrations cause sounds is reinforced through activities as students investigate pitch and loudness, observe transmission of sound through different materials, and examine how distance affects sound.
Animal Studies - By caring for and observing three animals from different habitats—the dwarf African frog, the fiddler crab, and the millipede—students learn about what animals need to survive, the primary parts of their anatomical structure, and the ways in which they are suited for life in a particular environment. Students create and maintain individual logs in which they record their observations of each animal over time. These observations focus on animal behavior, including methods for food getting, movement, and protection. Toward the end of the unit, students apply what they have learned about structure, habitat, survival needs, and behavior to study a fourth classroom animal: the human. They also conduct an animal research project and decide how they will present their findings to the class.
Measurement – Measurement, the process of quantifying observations, is one of the cornerstones of science. Measurement compares nature—the unknown—to a standard unit—the known. Through such comparison, the organization of the world becomes more comprehensive. The FOSS Measurement module consists of four investigations, each designed to emphasize a particular type of metric measurement—length, mass, temperature, and volume. Students will:
Understand the necessity for standard units of measurement.
Develop an understanding and intuitive feel for the metric system.
Measure length and distance in meters and centimeters with a meter tape.
Measure mass in grams with a balance and mass pieces.
Measure liquid volume and capacity of containers in liters and milliliters with 50-ml syringes and graduated cylinders.
Measure temperature of liquids and air in degrees Celsius with a thermometer.
Acquire the vocabulary associated with metric measurement.
Exercise language and math skills in the context of metric measurement.
Apply appropriate measuring skills in everyday situations.
Develop and refine the manipulative skills required for making and using measuring tools.
Use scientific thinking processes to conduct investigations and build explanations: observing, communicating, comparing, and organizing.
Middle school students are introduced to a variety of science disciplines, following a survey format in which students experience several 9 to 12 week units in alternating areas of science over four years. The class includes an introduction to Life Science, Earth Science, Physical Science, Health and Nutrition, Geography, and Asset Curriculum Modules Food and Nutrition, Digestion and Motion, Microworlds, Environments and Landforms.
Physical Science is an introduction to the foundational concepts for both chemistry and physics. Topics covered include the metric system, motion, gravity, energy, heat, sound, light, electricity, matter, the Periodic Table, chemical families, and chemical reactions.
Life Science is an introduction to the foundational concepts of Biology and Environmental Science. Topics covered include lab safety and procedures, characteristics of life, classification, kingdoms of life, cells, ecology, and the Asset Modules “Our Genes, Our Selves” and “Diversity of Life.”
Middle school science courses use a combination of lecture, demonstrations, hands-on activities and formal labs. Special emphasis is placed on developing the science process skills necessary for success in later science study.