The Berkeley Carroll School


The middle school science curriculum is an inquiry and Project Based Learning (PBL) program that focuses on building 21st century skills, ethical thinking, a passion for science, and a deep understanding of the scientific method. Curriculum is organized around authentic real world questions that lead students to discover answers through innovation, experimentation, and hands-on activities. Each year of middle school science integrates a variety of scientific disciplines around key themes and questions.

Science Courses by Grade

5th Grade

Fifth grade science begins with an investigation into the questions “What makes our planet unique?” and “Why isn’t the surface of the Earth smooth?”. As we delve into plate tectonics and what we know about the interior of the Earth, students come to a deeper understanding of the difference between observation and inference. Students construct models of landforms as they learn to contribute meaningfully as a member of a group working towards a shared goal.

The second unit starts by zooming out to explore our solar system with Earth as our reference point. In this unit we tackle the question “If humans wanted to leave planet Earth, where could we go and what would we need?” Students develop a sense of scale through building models of the massive sizes and distances that exist in the Universe. They then work in teams to research, propose, design, justify and construct large scale models of landscapes, probes, landers and bases on worlds that are the likely next steps in our species’ actual exploration of the solar system. Culminating with a field trip to the Buehler Challenger & Science Center in New Jersey for a simulated mission to the moon, our aim is for students to end this unit not only with an incredibly deep base of content knowledge but, more importantly, a sense of wonder and awe for the history and future of humanity’s place in the cosmos.

Fifth Grade Science ends the year by exploring “How does the human body work and what does it need?” Students investigate the structure and function of the systems of the human body with a series of labs and experiments as well as model building and peer teaching. We include the reproductive system in this unit and continue the sexuality and puberty education that began in 4th grade.

6th Grade


In the fall, we explore the essential question “What is the relationship between humans and green spaces in New York City?”. Students study the kingdoms of living things, how plants are classified, and what types of green spaces exist in our city. Students come to deeply understand the process of photosynthesis as well as the carbon and oxygen cycles, and the difference between biotic and abiotic factors. We take trips to the Brooklyn Botanic Gardens, Prospect Park, and the Brooklyn Grange rooftop farm to deepen our understanding of these topics, and then students design and write informational pamphlets on a particular type of greenspace which we mail to N.Y. city officials.

In the winter, students engage with the question “How can we apply our scientific knowledge of water to solve the world water crisis?” Students are challenged to use their knowledge of the physical and chemical properties of water, the water cycle, and water access worldwide to design, build and present a solution to the world water crisis. Through this exploration, students are asked to innovate, design, and build models of their solutions, as they collaborate on ideas working in small groups. Students also study and analyze their own physical and virtual water use. As we work to build empathy, students research how a lack of access to clean drinking water affects people both in the United States of America and abroad. As students read A Long Walk to Water by Linda Sue Park in Humanities class, students are encouraged to carry gallons of water for a special 6th grade event that we call The Water Walk.

The focus in the spring is “In what unique ways do various organisms reproduce?” Students study the difference between sexual and asexual reproduction and research the unique way that a particular organism reproduces. At the end of the year, an in-depth study of human conception, pregnancy, and birth continues the learning where the fifth grade puberty unit left off.

7th Grade

How did I get here?

As we ponder our place in the universe, seventh graders focus on the following questions: What do we know about the birth of our Universe, and how do we know it? How did the formation of energy drive the transformation of our Universe? What role does energy play in our daily lives? How did matter in our Universe come into existence and what is its connection to energy? How did life arise and evolve into the multitude of diverse and complex organisms that exist on our planet?

This course follows a narrative approach inspired by A Short History of Nearly Everything by Bill Bryson. The vision of the introductory unit is to look at the origin of our universe and the evidence and instruments that scientists use to make those discoveries. It is our intention that the students will not only have the knowledge of content but also garner a deeper understanding of the inquiry process.

Students then explore Einstein’s theory of special relativity, e=mc2, in order to understand how the initial energy present in the beginning of the universe could become matter. Students study the different forms of energy and design their own experiments to research of the interconnected nature of all forms of energy. The design process also allows students to become working scientists by studying energy, energy transfers, and transformations.

Subsequently, after understanding the nature of energy and its origins, we move to the fundamental particles of matter. We examine the periodic table and the intricacies of how Dmitri Mendeleev developed this system of chemical organization. The students learn that simple atoms become larger atoms by studying the life cycle stages of stars, where all natural elements are created. It culminates with a grade-level trip to the Hayden Planetarium at the American Museum of Natural History.

So, how did we get here? The final unit of the year focuses on Earth and how our planet has changed in the last several billion years to become what it is today. Students consider the genesis of life on our planet and the evolution of single-celled ancestors through the process of natural selection. We explore the seven kingdoms of life, and more specifically human genetics; the culminating activity is a trip to Cold Spring Harbor DNA lab.

8th Grade

Science and Our Community

The essential question for 8th grade science is: How can I, as an 8th Grader at Berkeley Carroll, participate in and influence my local and global communities through an understanding of science?

Unit 1: How can I, as a citizen scientist, contribute to the awareness and understanding of the changing climate within my community? Students use phenology as the lens through which they explore the impact of climate change on their community. Phenology is the study of changes in behavior, location, and appearance in living organisms that occur as a result of seasonal variations. In terms of content, the complex interactions that occur between the parts of an ecosystem and the anthropogenic and natural causes for climate change are studied and the resulting impacts identified. Established phenology trails at the New York Botanical Gardens and the Jamaica Bay Wildlife Refuge are used to inform the creation of student developed phenology trails in Park Slope. At the end of this unit, students create a proposal for a phenology trail in our school’s neighborhood and they work over the course of the school year to bring the trail to fruition. The phenology trails are ready for data collection by the community at large in the Spring. The data that is collected is made available to the scientific community through the Nature’s Notebook app. Additionally, the fall trip to the Grand Tetons is integrated into the study of ecosystems, climate change, and citizen science.

Unit 2: How do my food choices impact my health, my community and my environment? The biological, ethical, environmental, and social impact of food is the focus of this unit. Students approach this unit as documentary filmmakers and in their investigative reporting of specific food groupings conduct an original experiment in order to learn more about some aspect of the food. Next, they create a stop motion animation that demonstrates the interaction between food and the body, followed by extensive research on various impacts of food on individual health and the world at large. Finally, students cook a “healthy” dish. In addition to creating a film that is shared with their community, students also write a research paper to report their findings on the impact of food on society, the environment, ethics, or biochemistry.

Unit 3: How has knowledge of physics, engineering and design shaped the cityscape that I inhabit? Newton's Laws of Motion are examples of important scientific concepts that need to be considered when planning and building cities. From subways, to skyscrapers, to elevators, understanding of forces and moving objects is critical when it comes to making cities work efficiently. New York City is the lens through which the class explores the physics of forces and Newton's Laws of Motion. Particular focus is given to skyscrapers, bridges, and transportation in urban environments. Learning is shared in a “Pop Up Museum” where students act as both engineers and designers and teach the Berkeley Carroll community about Newton's Laws and how they connect to the workings of our city.

Class meetings:

In grades 5-7, science meets 7 periods in an 8-day cycle; we meet approximately every other day in three one-hundred-minute blocks and one 50-minute block.

Grade 8 science meets 8 periods in an 8 day cycle with 3 doubles and two singles.

Additional Information:
  • Health and Human Sexuality—starts in science for 5th where the focus is on puberty, hygiene, and external reproductive anatomy, then followed up in 6th grade science where the focus is on internal reproductive anatomy, conception, pregnancy and birth. Students are taught about the continuum that exists for gender, gender identity, gender expression, and sexual orientation.Separate Health courses continue in grades 7/8 with Nurse Nancy while in science numerous health-related topics continue to be addressed.
  • The 8th grade visits The Teton Science School in Jackson Hole Wyoming. Our students immerse themselves in one of the most magnificent environments of the American West: Grand Tetons National Park. They study its geological and natural history, learn about its present ecosystems, and sharpen their awareness of the delicate balance that sustains it. The students engage in service-oriented activities that allowed them to participate personally in the park's stewardship. In additional, as citizen scientists, they collect data in both a pika and elk bugling project and this data is used by scientists.
  • The Rabbit Vet Tech club is a middle school wide project to teach students how to care for animals, give them an opportunity to spend time with animals, and to practice recording medical data about the rabbits. Students form teams of 3 to 5 students and each team is responsible for all of the care related to the rabbits for two separate weeks over the course of the school year. In addition, anyone in the middle school is able to take home the rabbits over any school holiday or weekend with parent permission.
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