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SM- grade level

The Chester School District curriculum places particular emphasis on not just understanding, but being able to apply the Scientific Method across all science disciplines. 
We want students to approach science with a mindset of inquiry.  Our youngest scientists (Kindergarten through Grade 2) are encouraged to explore scientific representations and experiments without worrying about applying the Scientific Method.  Elements of the Scientific Method are introduced in 3rd grade and learned and applied, with increased rigor, through 8th grade, where our students are expected to have mastered its 11 elements.  

 Beginning in 6th grade our Scientific Method work also integrates mathematics, as all students must master applying the Scientific Method to experiments that produce numeric data that can be analyzed for meaning.  Students are expected to be able to use proper scientific method vocabulary to defend their experiment, and scientific vocabulary to explain what happened.  Our science project integrates math and science to have students practice and apply the principles of scientific inquiry.  Science projects further integrate technology, and art and speaking presentation skills. 

The production of a science project is voluntary in grades K – 5 but all 6th and 7th graders must produce a science project for class presentation.  All students in grades K through 8 are encouraged to enter their project in the Chester Science Fair where they will present and defend their work to science professionals. 

 Third graders learn the concepts of a research question and hypothesis.  They learn to think ahead and decide what materials will be needed to do their experiment and write a procedure as to how they will test their research question.  They develop data tables that can show their results, and learn how to read that table to draw conclusions.  An experiment always ends with reflection: what did we learn and what could we do differently next time.  Fourth graders continue to explore these elements in order to advance to the next stage of mastery in fifth grade.

 Fifth graders continue to develop a proper research question and use data tables to draw conclusions, and also should have mastered the development of a hypothesis and a listing of materials.  Their procedure should have increasing completeness, as should their reflection.  At this grade students are learning how to take data and not only present it on a data table, but to visually represent it on a graph.  That graph then can be used to draw conclusions.  The concept of constants and controls are introduced in Fifth Grade in order to better produce fair tests and determine how you’ll really know what happened in your experiment.

 Sixth graders, having mastered the hypothesis, materials list, procedure and reflection, continue to hone their research question to focus in more detail on exactly what they’re testing and measuring.  They continue to develop constants to assure a fair test, and determine what constant should be used to know what their data actually shows.  Students should be able to produce and read data tables and graphs of increasing complexity in order to draw conclusions about what they did and found.  The project must have a well-organized display board and in the middle school, an oral class presentation.   

 Seventh grade students are required to take the Scientific Method elements that they have already learned and take several to the next level of usage.  The concept of determining the change in values is introduced, as is the addition of an ‘if…then…’ element to their hypothesis.  They should be able to produce a titled, completely labeled graph that should be able to stand alone in explaining what happened in their experiment and whether or not their hypothesis was supported.  From this point on, only metric units are allowed for any scientific work.

 Our oldest students then have not only learned the Scientific Method in terms of producing a Science Project, but now can apply its elements routinely in their chemistry and physics curriculum.  They are able to following the New Jersey State Core Curriculum Standards for the Scientific Method of Inquiry.  They can develop a research question to test an independent variable. They develop a properly stated hypothesis that leads to a procedure for testing.  A control is determined and a complete list of constants is presented.  All tests produce measurable results that can be expressed in numeric form that can be represented on a data table AND in a graph.  Students can analyze their results and draw conclusions from what DID happen.  To complete this activity they reflect on what you learned, why it MAY have happened, and propose what could be done another time.