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Metric Moments at Bennet

Knowing the metric system is key for scientific work, and the Royal 7's spend several classes weighing, measuring, and displacing. Math joins with science as they prepare for projects and labs. Included: Examples of a science lesson.

Seventh grade science is a mix of elements. While the focus is on life sciences to prepare students for high school biology, to ensure they have the skills for projects and labs, students spend time reviewing general principles of science, the scientific method, measurement, and measuring using the metric system.

Science classes are heterogeneously grouped, and working with students with so many ability levels can be challenging, teacher David Sutherland says. "The [ability] range is hard I do expect more from the kids who get it," he says. "Sometimes they ask for extra work.

Mr. Sutherland modifies some of his worksheets and assessments to accommodate the different ability levels. "Sometimes, I give two different tests in the same class. It's the same material, just presented in a different way.

"I haven't had in-class special ed help in a while, and that would help some students stay on task and help with behavior."


On this particular day, metric units of measurement are under review. Students show containers for products whose quantities are measured in metric units.

"For some reason, we don't use the metric system in the U.S.," Mr. Sutherland says to his first period class.

"Wouldn't it be expensive to switch to the metric system in this country?" Maggie wondered.

Students practice looking at the curve that forms at the top of a cylinder of liquid -- the meniscus -- and Mr. Sutherland reminds them, as cylinders circulate, that students must put the cylinder on a level surface and peer at it at eye level to get an accurate reading. (In third period, water disappears from a cylinder, thanks to a thirsty student.)

Mr. Sutherland also reviews the formula for volume with first period, which is length X width X height.

"Why are we doing math?" someone asks.

"Because math and science are linked," Mr. Sutherland continues. "Mr. Tracey says science and social studies are linked," Emma notes.

"They are all linked," Mr. Sutherland says. "When you do reports on animals, you will research where they live, write about that and present it to the class, so you will use your language skills as well."


Later in the day, Mr. Sutherland explains the concept of displacement, and how students can measure the volume of an object by first measuring a container of water, putting an object in it, and then re-measuring the water to determine the change in volume. He encourages students to look up information about the mathematician Archimedes, who discovered the idea of displacement while taking a bath.

He challenges student to find the volume of solid objects, such as a deer vertebra, a seashell, and possum skull using displacement.

During another class period, students are measuring salt by first weighing a piece of paper, and then weighing the paper with salt on it. Glass and seventh graders don't always mix, though, and two glass beakers are broken during class.

Other science-related discussions are in progress during the day. Emma tells first-period classmates she is "going vegetarian" and is reading a book about it.

"And your parents approve of that?" Kevin asks.


"You'll be as skinny as a twig," he states.

Education World Goes Back to School

Education World news editor Ellen R. Delisio is spending several days a month this school year with the Royal 7's, a seventh grade team at Bennet Middle School, a grade 6 to 8 school in Manchester, Connecticut. She is observing and participating in students' learning, and talking with staff about their strategies and perspectives on improving student performance. She is a graduate of W. Tresper Clarke Junior-Senior High School in Westbury, N.Y.

(Editor's Note: All students' names have been changed) 

Article by Ellen R. Delisio
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