Diversity of Life

From September to December, 7th and 8th grade scholars embark on the
study of Life Science. In the 7th grade unit, Diversity of Life, we
take a close look at what it means to be living and how that is
different from a living organism. We establish that there are in fact
eight characteristics that all living things have in common.
Ask a 7th grader for more details. 
After lively debates about what is living, non-living, dead, or
dormant, we explored seed germination, flower pollination, and flower
anatomy 101. Discussing the flower’s reproductive organs and
functions turns out to also be a great lead-in to sexual reproduction
topics which are very much at the forefront of the budding 7th grade
minds.
We follow this study with a close look at insects and their amazingly
marvelous variations and adaptations. Finally we explored the worlds
of micro organisms, bacteria, fungi, paramecium and more with our new
set of microscopes. It is a joy to see their eyes light up and their
minds turn on to these concepts that most of life which is happening
all around us, we can’t even see.

Meanwhile, our 8th grade scientists took a different path in the life
sciences by studying a unit called Populations and Ecosystems. We
began with a familiar insect, the milkweed bug, and moved through
ideas of how an individual belongs to a population. We expanded our
minds by connecting this population with a community of various
populations. We then discovered the non-living factors like weather,
water, land, and sun and their role in an ecosystem in conjunction
with the living or biotic factors. We talked in depth about food webs
and feeding relationships of various organisms. Students had a chance
to show mastery of these new concepts with a group project on an
ecosystem from around the country. From the Arctic in Alaska to the
Tropical Rain Forest in Puerto Rico, and from Mono Lake California to
the very nearby Deleware Water Gap students took great interest in
learning about the interconnections that occur in each of these
amazing places.
Our unit ends with a close look at the complicated concept of
Adaptations. As an end point to our unit, understanding adaptaions
begs a huge question which is, “how did things end up this way?”
Which in turn is a fabulous lead-in to the study of genetics. It has
been a great pleasure in both 7th and 8th grade to take them through
familiar topics and expand their knowledge base to the amazing world
of life science! Thank you for reading and for your continued support
of the sciences at the Union School. Feel free to email me any time
at unionschoolscience@gmail.com.

Yours, Mark Walter

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