Science at Blue School
Science at Blue School holds central an inquiry-based, hands-on approach which is integrated into large cross-curricular studies. At all ages the emphasis of the program is to get students to think and act like scientists. To this end, students are supported through the scientific inquiry cycle of asking questions, making claims, and providing evidence. The types of questions, sophistication of claims, and quality of evidence develop and deepen as children grow. In the Primary and Middle School programs, Blue School uses the Key Practices in Science and the Cross-Cutting Concepts in Science from the Next Generation Science Standards as a frame of reference when thinking about specific skills, practices, and broad conceptual understandings.
To foster greater student investment and understanding, the Science curriculum emphasizes depth over breadth of study. In the primary and middle grades the curriculum is organized to ensure that students have experience with different fields of science throughout their time at Blue School. For example, 2nd grade focuses on the Physical and Life Sciences while 3rd grade focuses on Earth Sciences. This is mirrored in Middle School, where there is a strong focus on Biology in 6th grade and Physics and Chemistry in 7th.
One of the defining features of scientific study at Blue School is that it does not occur in isolated pockets. As much as possible, science investigation is integrated into and supported by the other disciplines. Most visibly this takes place in the integration of science and social studies in the year-long classroom studies. This integration is made explicit in Middle School as Science and World History are co-taught in the Integrated Studies course. Science content and practices are also interwoven with literacy, math, and the arts.
In keeping with Blue School’s mission to foster a love of creating a more sustainable world, whenever possible, science studies are connected with a community action or service learning component, either inside the school or in the larger community. For instance, 2nd graders who engage in a Nature in the City study embark on a number of experiences where they can have a positive environmental impact such as picking up trash at Plumb Beach in Jamaica Bay, spreading mulch in Central Park, and raising and releasing trout in the Hudson River watershed through the Trout in the Classroom program. The tenets of stewardship are also seen inside the school. For example, a 1st grade class, inspired by their tree study, educated the rest of the school about the importance of conserving paper towels. A kindergarten studying seeds, flowers, and pollination embarked on establishing a beehive at Blue School. Students’ environmental science studies culminate in their 8th grade Integrated Studies curriculum and Climate Justice Symposium. As a time for community building and service, Blue School has a school-wide Day of Service in the spring when all students work in the school (e.g., rethinking and reorganizing the school recycling program, or planting on the school terrace), work in the surrounding South Street Seaport neighborhood (e.g., building tree pit guards, working with local partners on neighborhood gardening projects, and picking up trash), or work out in greater New York City (e.g., beach clean-ups, and partnering with a Bronx high school to work in a community garden).