There are two complementary and equally important components in the Upper School science program at Burke’s. The first is that scientific concepts, relevant to the students’ own curiosity about the world, are presented in a hands-on, thought-provoking way. The second is that throughout the presentation of scientific concepts is woven an underpinning of learning skills to support individual progress towards becoming a more effective, active and organized student.

List of 4 items.

  • Fifth Grade

    "Zooming In On Life": Systems are everywhere from the cell to the human body to the universe. With a focus on model building, inquiry, experimentation, and real-world connections, students engage in a rich and challenging study of life science through the lens of systems. They hone their observation, data collection and evaluation skills and expand their laboratory and microscope skills. 
     
    Students naturally wonder about themselves and their place in the world. With this in mind, the fifth graders study life science from the perspective of exploring the self.  In fifth-grade science, they develop an understanding of health and wellness that includes knowledge of how individual body systems interact and function together.
     
    The fifth graders begin the year with an introduction to scientific process skills and lab safety. They explore how linkages and interactions of parts make up a system in general so that they can identify how and why, for instance, cells serve as the basic unit of structure and function in all living things. Topics like atoms, chemistry, cells, DNA are woven into the exploration of the body systems. 
     
    As the girls broaden and deepen their understanding of the world within, they will also be learning and applying essential skills that guide scientific inquiry. These process skills include:
     
    • Designing and conducting controlled experiments
    • Observing and collecting data using both measurement tools and technology
    • Analyzing data, drawing conclusions, and communicating these results
    Special projects and current events throughout the year will support these learning goals. Students are encouraged to ask questions and make observations about the world around them and to be aware of current science events. Investigations such as developing experiments to test feedback loops, observing digestive enzyme results, and modeling and improving on rudimentary eye designs by building pinhole cameras will emphasize observation, data collection, and questioning skills.
     
    Assessments will include class work, labs, quizzes and projects.
  • Sixth Grade

    "Engineering for a Dynamic Planet": We use inquiry and design engineering to explore how climate change affects Earth systems — from building sensors for detecting air pollution to exploring the special properties of water that make it so important for the survival of all life on the planet. Students use problem solving skills to explore how technologies can meet evolving human needs. The sixth-grade science curriculum engages students in hands-on, in-depth, and interdisciplinary learning. With a focus on inquiry and real-world connections, students will engage in a rich and challenging study of science and engineering. 
     
    After a review of lab safety and scientific process skills, we briefly explore and review some basic principles of chemistry and physics, including properties of matter, heat transfer, and density. Our understanding of these concepts informs our study of Earth systems (air, water, and land) through the lens of climate change. Topics like air pollution, drought, and deforestation are covered. 
     
    Students also study geological evolution, the history of our planet and the geological processes that continue to shape its surface. From building earthquake-proof structures to exploring how processes such as weathering and erosion have affected California’s topography, we study the connections between geology and our lives here in The Bay Area.
     
    Next, students study biological evolution and Darwin’s Theory of Evolution by Natural Selection, looking at the connections between the environment and how unique adaptations help organisms carry out life processes and contribute to the biodiversity across our planet. 
     
    A major highlight of sixth-grade science is the ExploraVision project. During this long-term endeavor, students will work in small groups to research the history of a particular technology and then envision how the technology might evolve 25 years into the future to solve an ongoing problem. They consider the pros and cons of their technologies, along with the scientific breakthroughs that would need to occur for their inventions to become reality. As part of this project, students learn about design thinking processes, prototyping, fabrication, and website design.
     
    As the girls broaden and deepen their understanding of the world around them, they also learn and apply essential skills that guide scientific inquiry. These process skills include:
     
    • Designing and conducting controlled experiments
    • Observing and collecting data using both measurement tools and technology
    • Analyzing data, drawing conclusions, and communicating these results
    Special projects and current events throughout the year will support these learning goals. Students are encouraged to ask questions, make observations about the world around them, and be aware of current science events. Investigations such as collecting real-time data on air pollution and observing the behavior of the magic tube will emphasize observation, data collection and questioning skills.
     
    Assessments will include class work, labs, homework, quizzes, and projects.
  • Seventh Grade

    In seventh grade, students continue their hands-on study of science. They start the year by learning the safe and effective use of the equipment in the lab. Frequent lab experiments provide opportunities for instruction on the scientific method, hypothesizing, experimental design, collecting and interpreting individual and grade-wide data, graphing, and drawing conclusions based on experimental results. Students learn to make measurements at the level of precision that their tool allows and to report findings to the appropriate number of significant digits.
     
    Major Units: Volume and Mass, Mass Changes in Closed Systems, Characteristic Properties, Solubility, The Separation of Mixtures, Compounds and Elements, The Atomic Model of Matter, Sizes and Masses of Molecules and Atoms, The Classification of Elements (The Periodic Table); Health and Nutrition.

    Coursework: Lab experiments, model-building, reading comprehension exercises, quizzes, lab practicals and chapter tests. Students will take a midterm exam and a final exam.

    Assessment: Grades will be determined based on a system in which homework points, lab points, and quiz/test points all count toward the grade. By standing on a foundation of their strengths, students can risk growth in areas of relative weakness.
  • Eighth Grade

    Eighth-grade science focuses on careful investigation of the physical world as seen through the lens  of Newtonian mechanics. Students design and perform experiments and tackle engineering challenges. Particular emphasis is placed on critical thinking and problem-solving skills. Students are expected to carry forward their effective and safe use of lab equipment and experimental design from seventh grade.

    Major Units: Gravitational, Magnetic, and Frictional Forces; Forces Acting in Different Directions; Distance, Time, and Speed; Pressure; Potential Energy and Kinetic Energy; and Abstinence-Based Reproductive Health: anatomy, sexually-transmitted diseases, sexual decision-making, and birth control.
     
    Coursework: lab activities, model-building, engineering challenges, reading comprehension exercises, quizzes, lab practical test, and chapter tests. The students will take a midterm exam.
     
    Assessment: Grades will be determined based on a system in which homework points, lab points, and quiz/test points all count toward the grade. By standing on a foundation of their strengths, students can risk growth in areas of relative weakness.

Department Faculty

List of 2 members.

  • Tone Rawlings 

    Fifth-/Sixth-Grade Science; Sixth-Grade Advisor
    415.751.0187, ext. 352
    Cornell University - B.A.
    University of Maryland, College Park - Ph.D.
  • Ian Van Wert 

    Seventh- & Eighth-Grade Science Teacher
    415.751.0187, ext. 309
    University of Pennsylvania - B.A.
    University of Queensland - M.A.
Burke's mission is to educate, encourage and empower girls. Our school combines academic excellence with an appreciation for childhood so that students thrive as learners, develop a strong sense of self, contribute to community, and fulfill their potential, now and throughout life.

Katherine Delmar Burke School

An independent K–8 school for girls
7070 California Street, San Francisco, CA 94121
Phone: 415.751.0177 Fax: 415.666.0535
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