Middle School Physical Science

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This year our focus is on the Physical Sciences, specifically:

  • Newtonian Force and Motion
  • Simple Machines
  • Energy
  • Matter: Atoms, Molecules and Physical Chemistry
  • Electromagnetic Force
  • Waves
  • Fossil fuels and other sources of Energy
  • Energy in your home

Course Design and Assessment: This class will be based primarily around individual and group projects, as well as pop quizzes and quarterly tests.

  • Pop quizzes are intended to determine if students are following and understanding the work (formative assessment). As such, they will be graded generously.
  • Quarterly tests will be used to assess individual, cumulative learning as the subject matter will compound over the course of the year. Students will have the opportunity to retake tests as our primary purpose is having students master the subject matter.
  • Group projects are intended to develop students' ability to work effectively in teams to produce good work, and to leverage the opportunities for peer-teaching and peer-learning we have by virtue of our mixed age (7th and 8th grade) classroom.
    • Students will present their work as lab reports (some will be individual while others will be group reports) and presentations to the class.
      • For many of the topics we cover, the different groups will be asked to specialize in different areas so students can gain in-depth knowledge.
      • Sharing their work via presentations allows the groups a focus for their work, the opportunity to integrate and interpret what they've learned, while allowing the entire class a broader overview of the topics we cover.
    • The quality of the work submitted is expected to improve over the course of the year. The projects will become more integrative of the previous work over time as well.


  • Projects: 60%
  • Exams: 30%
  • Pop-quizzes: 10%

Key References


Orientation: The Scientific Method

The scientific method is an approach that tries to build models of the world through methodical testing and reevaluation. A model is something that can be used to predict what we see in real life; they are often in the form of equations. For example, through observation we can deduce that if we throw a ball straight up into the air, the maximum height of the ball will depend on how fast you throw the ball. If do several experiments throwing the ball at different speeds, take careful measurements, and compare our results, we could find that the height of the ball is given by the equation: h = -4.9t2+v0t where t is the time after the ball is thrown, and v0 is the velocity at which you threw the ball.

We'll start with a science project.

Science Project: Can goats control invasive species

Problem: The Shaw Nature Reserve has a problem with invasive plants like Sericea lespedeza. They need to get rid of them and one option they are considering is to get goats. But, will the goats actually eat the invasive species, or will they just destroy the native plants?

Research: Can we do some background research to find out what goats eat?

Experiment: Fortunately, TFS is acquiring two goats to put in an area with lots of invasive plants similar to the ones at the nature reserve. So, we can do a study to determine what the goats will eat.

Procedure: How do we do this experiment? What should we measure? How should we take the measurements to have the best chance of the experiment being successful. Hypothesis: what do we think will happen?

Results: What did we find? What were our measurements?

Analysis: What do our measurements tell us. Do they support our hypothesis? Why or why not?

Discussion: Is our study definitive (usually not)? What could we have done differently to get better results? What questions did our experiment raise? What follow-up studies could we do to answer the new questions?

Conclusion: What do we think in the end?


Write a scientific report to share our results with the Shaw Nature Reserve and anyone else who has the same questions we did.

Unit 1: Force and Motion

Unit 2: Matter

Unit 3: Thermal Energy


Unit 5: Electricity and Magnetism

Topic 1: Electricity

Topic 2: Magnetism


Final Exam Notes

Velocity and motion:

  • To find speed = distance over time = d/t
  • To find the spin rate = angle over time= angle/time
  • To find Mechanical Advantage = distance in over distance out= din / dout = Forceout/Forcein

Rotational Motion: Artificial Gravity

  • Centripetal Force= force acting in
  • Centrifugal Force= force acting out
  • Centrifugal Force = mass x velocity2 / radius = m v2/r
  • Centrifugal Acceleration = v2/r
  • Force due to gravity on the Earth = Fg = m g
  • Gravitational acceleration on the Surface of the Earth = g = 9.8 m/s2
  • Artificial gravitational acceleration = v2/r


  • thermister= measures the change in temperature
  • V= IR
  • Tc = (v-0.5) 100 (For Max only)
  • Tf = 1.8 Toc + 32
  • potentiometer - a resistor where you can change the resistance using the Knob
  • Arduino = micro controller, a device that can store and control other devices
  • MA = din/dout
  • Hertz = The vibrations used in frequency; e.g. vibrations per second: 261 vibrations per second make the sound of C.
  • frequency = measured in vibrations per second- Hurts, 261 hurts is C
  • Every one needs to know how to make a generator
  • To solder = when you heat up metal and join them together (using a metallic alloy with a relatively low melting point (the solder))
  • induction= The creation of a current by a moving magnetic field.


  • Calorie= The amount of energy required to raise the temperature of 1g of water by 1 degree Celsius.

Atoms and molecules:

  • Draw atoms
  • Figure out number of protons, neutrons and electrons in an atom (e.g. 14C)
  • Figure out the number of valence electrons
  • Write simple ionic equations


  • V = IR
  • Calculating Resistance
    • series: R = R1 + R2
    • parallel: 1/R = 1/R1 + 1/R2

Force and Motion:

  • g = 9.8 m/s2
  • F = ma (Newtons)
  • P.E. = mgh (Joules)
  • K.E. = 0.5 mv2
  • W = Fd (Joules)
  • P = W/t (Watts)


  • Energy
  • Mass
  • E = mc2
  • Bonus
    • Solve circuits using the Kirchoff Laws
  • Bonus (maybe)
    • What is the plant from Horton Hears a Who?


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