‘Something different’: Seven Hills Middle School adapts without sixth grade science camp | TheUnion.com

‘Something different’: Seven Hills Middle School adapts without sixth grade science camp

Seven Hills sixth grader Tallia Davis participated in an activity which taught the grade about the most effective shapes for bridge-building as a part of a science week earlier this month.
Submitted to The Union
Whitney Parnow was one of over 80 Seven Hills sixth graders who participated in a week of science projects and activities earlier this month as the grade adjusted to not attending the usual yearly science camp.
Submitted to The Union
Seven Hills sixth graders went for a walk in nature during this month’s dedicated science week.
Submitted to The Union

After realizing it would not be able to send sixth graders on their usual yearly science camp trip, Seven Hills Middle School organized a science week closer to home.

For the past 27 years, said Seven Hills Principal Sam Schug, the school’s sixth graders have gone to a science camp in the Marin Headlands, which is now called NatureBridge.

“We started looking into what we could provide for our students, and two of our staff members along with a retired teacher started reaching out to local science groups or environmental groups,” said Schug about the science week which was held April 5 to 9.

According to Seven Hills sixth grade teacher Claire Thibodeau, those involved in the science week included NatureBridge, which provided three virtual lessons about the ocean and ecosystems; Envirolution, a Nevada-based nonprofit which provided activities about energy and bridge-building; and local author Alicia Funk, who taught the students about local plants and food resources.

She added that retired teachers Steve Belch and Stephanie Sacchini also volunteered to help organize the science week activities.

Some of the other activities the students participated in during the week included making scientific observations and inferences, doing a cooking lesson in which they observed yeast over the course of multiple days, and testing local tap and stream water for hardness and various minerals.

Thibodeau said that, while her class is currently learning in a full distance model, and the other two classes are receiving on-campus instruction two days per week, students were sent home with the materials for some of the activities ahead of time or were able to go outside wherever they were located and find them — for example, collecting water from a source nearby them for the water testing activity.

“We kind of scratched the normal, day-to-day stuff that we would normally do, and we just focused on getting the kids outside, even if they’re not on campus,” said Thibodeau.

Schug explained that, while the school plans to return to sending its sixth graders to science camp when this becomes possible again, some aspects of this year’s science week will be kept.

“Yes, (we will) go back because the experience of that week-long science camp is invaluable, but we picked up some awesome tips and tools and ideas along the way,” said Schug.

Thibodeau said she is especially likely to incorporate some of the activities provided by Envirolution, which focused on engineering concepts such as energy sources, in her class’ curriculum going forward.

“I think we would definitely want to incorporate that,” she said, adding that these pair well with an existing solar oven project which her students do each year.

On the impact of the science week activities, she said, “I think the biggest thing was the kids really enjoyed having something different, and having something hands-on.”

Victoria Penate is a staff writer for The Union. She can be reached at vpenate@theunion.com.

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