At Chandler, K-8 science is a hands-on affair. Talented teachers kindle students’ curiosity for actually doing science – and when enthusiasm ignites, the sky is the limit. Proving them right, many graduates excel in high school and college science classes, and later enter scientific careers.
Nico Salinas is one such student. He enrolled at Loyola High School after Chandler, pursuing the honors track in math and science. “Chandler’s science labs were comparable to what I saw at Loyola in eleventh grade. My teachers here say I had access to college-level labs. That kind of preparation is invaluable.”
Nico was invited to join Loyola’s Summa Cum Laude Society, for the top 10% of the senior class, took a research internship at UCLA’s engineering school and has been accepted to M.I.T.
Chandler students are building strong foundations for future science study, as well as the confidence to challenge themselves.
In a spacious and well-designed Lower School science lab, science teacher Stephanie Ho helps students explore the world around them. “I excite younger students by showing them how science surrounds our lives,” says Ms. Ho.
“We’re big into observation, testing things. Kids are curious,” explains Ms. Ho. “They want to touch leaves, pick up rocks, handle bones and shells and pellets. We encourage them to ask questions driven by their own wonderment.”
In the lower grades, learning is mostly tactile, with less written work. Students may walk Chandler’s campus to look for sticks or insects, or test paper airplanes on the field to learn about weight, shapes, and materials.
“We discuss topics together,” says Ms. Ho. “It gives students ownership when they can talk about things they’ve seen, even on a family vacation. As they open up, they become comfortable exploring new ideas.”
By fourth and fifth grade, Ms. Ho asks students to follow procedures to conduct a lab, or discuss how an article or video shaped their thinking on a topic. Students in these grades pursue basic science research and share their knowledge with classmates.
“The Catalina trip is an incredible science and leadership experience for fifth graders,” says Ms. Ho. “What better way to study the ocean than to get in the ocean? We snorkel, kayak, and look at shells along the shoreline. Students learn about their state. They realize that they will make a difference in the future choices they make.”
As an independent school, Chandler has freedom in its science curriculum, as well as flexibility to seize teaching moments. “When it rains, we discuss the water cycle or talk about rainbows or puddles,” says Ms. Ho. “We live in an ideal place to talk about nature, weather, climate, plants and animals. There is fascinating science all around us.”
During a typical year, Lower School science classes cover a vast range of topics, such as:
In kindergarten: animals, plants, fruits, seeds, shapes, sizes, weight, the parts of a flower, plant lifecycle, vascular system of plants, pushes and pulls, the human senses, sinking, floating, and gravity.
In second grade: germs, soil, plant and animal lifecycle, exploration of how seeds travel, classification of animals, adaptations, balanced ecosystems, dinosaurs, prehistoric life, fossils, bones, owl pellets, rocks, minerals, solids, liquids and gasses.
In fifth grade: biodiversity, labs with worms, the water cycle, ecosystem causes and effects, space, seasons, astronomy, weather, conservation, ecology, ocean research, and some chemistry such as the study of reactions.
While Ms. Ho taps on-campus resources, she also connects students with local scientists and far-flung experts – using Skype, for example, to link her classroom by video with researchers on a deep-sea research vessel, and to naturalists in a Costa Rica biodiversity preserve.
The Lower School years at Chandler are the perfect time and place to teach students that science is fun, interesting and relevant. As they progress to Middle School, they are eager for specialized instruction.
Middle School Science
Chandler’s Middle School science curriculum covers earth science
in sixth grade, life science in seventh grade, and physical science (chemistry and physics) in eighth grade.
A signature series of advanced genetics electives is available to qualified students in eighth grade, in which students analyze DNA using sophisticated biotechnology equipment.
The science faculty prioritizes hands-on labs and the application of science concepts, which builds students’ understanding, critical thinking and analysis skills.
“We have an engaging, experiential program,” confirms Mr. Calderon. “Excited students will work harder and engage deeper with the material. We set high expectations with the belief that students will reach their potential if they’re given advanced challenges with good support.”
Students start by learning a fairly simple version of the scientific method to conduct labs in sixth grade earth science. By eighth grade, students are asked to determine for themselves whatever sequence of steps will produce optimal results in any lab.
In J.J. Newman’s sixth grade class, students examine the geosphere, atmosphere and hydrosphere, including topics such as rocks, earth’s layers, volcanoes, oceans and natural resources.
“I like to incorporate tangible, interactive activities to make abstract concepts more clear,” explains Newman. “The sixth grade Boojum trip to Joshua Tree is a fantastic chance to see rock formations in the field, so when we talk about geological forces in class, they have clear mental images from that trip.”
Mr. Calderon’s seventh grade life science class covers cell structure and function, molecular biology and genetics (DNA in particular) and a survey of animals from the simple to the complex. The class culminates with human anatomy and physiology, and a fetal pig dissection where students apply the skills they’ve learned from all eight dissections they’ve done.
“We go even further with DNA in the micro-biology electives. Students are using advanced bio-tech equipment to grow bacteria, extract DNA from cells and analyze some of the DNA. Frankly, this is college-level equipment that our students get to use. Chandler is the only middle school I know of that’s teaching this level of genetics to students.”
Chandler’s eighth grade science curriculum covers a broad range of chemistry and physics foundations, and prepares students for success in high school and beyond. Supplementing the core curriculum, Chandler offers innovative electives in topics such as forensics, marine biology, engineering, physical computing and 3D design and printing.
While a lot of science is content-oriented, the multi-disciplinary STEAM projects are process-oriented. Classmates work in teams to engineer a product under deadline pressure. The project demands different talents than a typical science lesson. During STEAM projects, students stretch their interpersonal, leadership, project management, design and engineering skills.
“I love how kids who may not stand out in a typical science class are often the stars during STEAM projects,” notes Mr. Calderon. “We bring in professional engineers and architects to talk about how things get done in the real world - blueprinting, prototyping, iterating in the design process. It exposes students to possible careers and future paths.”
Says Grace Hitchcock ’16, now at Phillips Academy Andover, “Science is incredible at Chandler. Despite the wide range of topics, each class is extremely hands-on, with labs every week. I appreciate the amazing academics but also how the classes were always fun and exciting.”
That sentiment is music to the ears of Chandler’s science faculty. To do science at Chandler truly means students are learning it, and above all, loving it.