Syllabus

Table of Contents

1. Trimester One: Units and Measurement

1.1. Blood Cells

In the first two weeks of class, I want to give you time to get used to what science class is like, without hitting you with a lot of math right away. You can think of this as more "training" time - we'll be learning what type of thinking is expected in a science class, and what kind of behavior is allowed. But I also wanted to make this time interesting, so we'll be jumping right into real science with a unit on the different types of cells in blood. The goal of this unit is to get a basic appreciation for the amazing variety of ways in which your body protects you against germs and other threats. This is a topic that I find fascinating, and I'm sure that you will too.

Blood Cells

1.2. Measurement

The goal of this class is to build a strong foundation in science understanding that will serve you for the rest of your life. To that end, we will start out working on one of the most basic skills that a scientist uses all the time: the skill of measuring things. When you are measuring something for a science experiment, you have a lot more to think about than when you are just trying to mix up a batch of cookies.

Measurement

1.3. Units

Science involves a lot of math, but it is different from what you have done in math in the past because all the numbers you will work with refer to things in the real world. When you are measuring real-world things, you have to say what "units" you are using - a height of five feet is quite different from five inches! At first, it will feel like dealing with units gives you an extra annoyance to have to worry about, but eventually you will learn that using numbers with units attached makes it much easier to figure out how to do the math.

Units

1.4. Units in Physics

I promised you in the last section that if you let the units do the work for you, the math part of science class will suddenly become much easier. Now I'm going to prove it to you. If you have older siblings or cousins who are in high school, you probably know that physics class is the most frighteningly mathematical science class in high school. But now that we know units, we can actually learn how to solve almost any physics problem, including some problems that are thought to be "too complicated" even for high schoolers. Better yet, we'll learn all this in just two weeks!

Units in Physics

1.5. Density and Buoyancy

Now it's time to put into practice all our newly acquired measurement skills, and our new ability to work comfortably with units. We will be studying what makes things float and sink. This unit will end with the first trimester engineering project, in which your team will try to build a boat (or maybe a submarine) than can float, sink, and then float again without any intervention from you.

Density and Buoyancy

2. Trimester Two: Energy

2.1. Energy Conversion

In keeping with our goal of building a strong foundation for science learning, we'll spend this entire trimester studying one of the most deep and far-reaching concepts in science: that of "energy." The goal in this first section is to learn to identify different types of energy, to recognize the ways in which energy flows through a system, and to learn some of the history of how the idea of energy was developed.

Energy Conversion

2.2. Energy Conservation

In the last section, we learned that energy can change from one form to another. We learned to identify many of those forms, and to recognize the processes that change the type of energy. We learned how to track the source of energy down a long chain that starts in the sun. Now, we will be doing the same thing, but with the added idea that we can actually measure energy, in its various forms, and use the idea that it has to be conserved to help answer questions.

Energy Conservation

2.3. Energy and Force

In the last section, we learned that when an object's motion is being slowed down by friction, we can model this in terms of energy by saying that friction is stealing some amount of energy for every meter that the object travels. We also saw some situations where the push from, for example, a car's engine, is adding energy as the car moves. In this section, we will put this together with what we know about weight - that a heavier object takes more energy to lift - to come up with a numerical way to model the effect of different "forces" that push an object and thus change its energy.

Energy and Force

2.4. Simple Machines

The law of conservation of energy tells us that, given a job like "bring these books up to the third floor," there is some specific amount of energy required to get that job done. There is no "shortcut" allowed, because no matter how I do that job, the books need to gain a fixed amount of energy. However, we learned in the last section that it is possible to make the job take less force, if I can find a way to exert that force over a greater distance. In this unit, we will study levers, gears, pulleys, and other "simple machines" that can make a job take more or less force by changing the distance.

Simple Machines

2.5. Heat and Temperature

We've decided already that heat is a kind of energy. But how exactly is that energy stored? What is it that makes something hot, and how is that heat produced or transferred? The goal in this unit will be to learn to think about matter on a microscopic scale, which is the key to understanding how heat works.

Heat and Temperature

2.6. Phase Change

Ice, water, and steam are all made up of the same type of particles, but the particles behave differently in these three different "phases", and somehow that difference in behavior is related to heat. In this section, we will expand our understanding of particles to include phase changes, and in doing so, we will solve some mysteries, like why boiling water stays at the same temperature the whole time it is boiling despite having massive amounts of heat added to it.

Phase Change

2.7. Heat and Light

You know from experience that sunlight heats up your skin. In this unit, we will learn what light is and why heat and light are so closely related. We will learn about color, both in terms of what gives a surface a particular color and in terms of how our eyes perceive color. Also, we will learn about some types of light that have no visible color, such as ultraviolet or infrared light.

Heat and Light

2.8. Heat and Pressure

Another thing that you probably know about heat is that when a gas is heated up, it tends to expand. As we will see in this unit, we can learn to understand this by making use of the same old model of matter as being made up of moving particles. Understanding how heat and pressure interact is essential to making sense of a lot of the machines you use every day.

Heat and Pressure

3. Trimester Three: Building Blocks of Life

3.1. Cells

3.2. Molecules