At GMS our girls practice earth science by examining and exploring the interrelated systems and environments of the Earth. We use the Bay area we all share as our workspace. In our yearlong field science program at Filoli the girls observe ecosystems and habitats, collect and analyze data, and propose explanations based on their own observations and evidence. On a larger scale, using scientific inquiry and cutting edge technology, they explore volcanoes, earthquakes, plate tectonics and seafloor vents. Hands-on experiments with ocean currents allow the girls to develop deep understanding of the concept of density and how the Earth’s oceans and atmosphere are interrelated. By the end of 6th grade the girls begin to apply their understanding of Earth systems to the complex topic of climate change.
Units of Study:
Unit 1 – Biomes of the World
Developing an understanding and awareness of the diverse biomes and ecosystems found on our planet builds the framework for our yearlong deeper study and practice of Earth Science. Using GoogleEarth technology we take a Tour of the Biomes, inspiring questions about climate, plants, animals, ecosystems and adaptations. In small groups girls collaborate to conduct research to answer their questions. They demonstrate and communicate their understanding by building models, drawing and labeling scientific diagrams and reporting on the discovery of a “new” organism, perfectly adapted to survive in its biome. Each project and investigation during the year will utilize these important science skills.
Unit 2 – Field Study
In our yearlong Seasonal Plot Studies program at Filoli GMS girls practice field science in our local, diverse ecosystems. Each team of four girls explores and monitors hula-hoop sized plots in two different ecosystems during three seasons. These explorations, supported by Filoli outdoor education docents, field journals, handheld computers and temperature probes, help girls develop observation documentation, quantitative data collection, graphing, and data analysis skills. Students create formal lab reports and scientific posters to communicate their science. The unit culminates in the spring with a scientific poster session open to the GMS community.
Unit 3 – Earth in the Solar System
In this unit students briefly explore current theories surrounding the beginning of the universe and formation of galaxies before focusing in on our solar system, specifically planet Earth. Folk tales and creation myths from around the world provide cross-curricular links to humanities and help to illustrate how human understanding of the Earth’s place in space has changed over time.
Unit 4 -Volcanoes, Earthquakes and Plate Tectonics
Students use GoogleEarth as a tool to gather data, explore and draw conclusions about three types of volcanoes and how they work. This understanding is then the foundation for our investigation of plate tectonic theory and the relationships between plate motion, earthquakes, volcanoes, and mountain building. The Pacific Ring of Fire that includes California is frequently the type locality we use as the girls learn to differentiate between convergent, divergent, and transform plate boundaries and to understand the role that plate tectonics plays in shaping the Earth. A three-day field experience at Marin Headlands gives them a chance to explore the San Andreas Fault at the tectonic boundary between the North American and Pacific plates.
Unit 5 - Ocean Currents
While studying the causes and patterns of ocean currents, the students also explore the relationships between currents and pollution, climate, fisheries, and sailing. Through experimentation girls investigate the role that wind, salinity, and temperature have on the density and motion of bodies of water. In her final, individual project each girl researches specific currents and practices her geography skills by accurately tracing the path of a hypothetical message in a bottle tossed into the world’s one ocean.
Unit 6 -Seafloor Exploration
In this short, technology centered unit, students explore the seafloor along a plate boundary using indirect observation and data collection techniques (remote sensing). Each student asks her own question, develops a hypothesis, collects real data and analyzes it to draw or infer a conclusion that answers her original question. The project focuses on data analysis and drawing a meaningful conclusion. Each girl utilizes all of the scientific skills she has practiced during the year. Students present their work at an in-class scientific meeting.
Unit 7 -Life through Time
Students collect evidence about the changes and stability in life and earth processes through the past 4.6 billion years. Each session encourages students to explore the most common flora and fauna of a particular geologic time period, track the locations of the Earth’s tectonic plates, document major evolutionary events, and visualize the relationships among different organisms in the past and today. Students continue their study of the processes of evolutionary change in seventh grade through genetics and natural selection.