Harlem Academy’s middle school science program was designed to (1) build the skills students need as they progress in the sciences, (2) offer rigorous and engaging academic content for adolescents, and (3) make connections between science concepts and future career paths.
Students hone the skills of scientists through scientific inquiry, analysis, and validation of experimental information and data. Each year, students focus on eight core scientific practices aligned with the Next Generation Science Standards developed by the National Academy of Science. Practices, for example, include “planning and carrying out investigations,” “constructing explanations and designing solutions,” and “engaging in argument from evidence.” Teachers place particular emphasis on three practices per grade level, intentionally incorporating them into lessons 8-10 times per year using tools and rubrics provided with the curriculum.
In addition to science-specific skills, the curriculum strongly emphasizes non-fiction reading and writing. Students receive explicit instruction on reading challenging scientific texts, and they practice strategies for identifying important terms and summarizing shorter sections. Rubrics are used to evaluate paragraph writing as well as lab reports, ensuring students understand expectations and receive consistent feedback. The curriculum aligns with the Common Core State Standards for literacy in science. By introducing these skills explicitly, in a logical sequence, and with ample opportunity for practice, the program prepares students not just for high school science, but also to read, write, and think like a scientist.
Trips to museums, other educational institutions, and outdoor spaces are integral to our work. Each spring students participate in a school-wide science fair, designing and conducting independent investigations to address a scientific question. A highlight each year is a three-day trip to study in the classrooms and laboratories at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute.
Much of our science curriculum was developed at Harlem Academy by Allison Duarte. Some units use Full Option Science System (FOSS) and Delta Science inquiry-based modules as a foundation.