The middle school years, grades 5 through 9, are a time of tremendous physical, emotional, and cognitive changes for students. It also is a pivotal time in their understanding of and enthusiasm for science.
While science is my favorite subject to teach, I realize that not everyone feels the same. I know it can be a struggle – especially if you aren’t comfortable with the subject yourself.
I have thereby compiled advice from homeschool experts – homeschool parents just like you and I – who have been teaching our own children for a number of years.
How I Teach Middle School Science
Middle level students should have multiple opportunities every week to explore hands-on labs. This provides students with experience with calibrating equipment as well as troubleshooting when issues may arise. Additionally, students learn measurement error and have the skills to aggregate, interpret, and present their data.
Inquiry-based laboratory investigations at every level should be at the core of the science program and should be woven into every lesson and concept strand. As students move through the grades, the level of complexity of laboratory investigations should increase.
For more information about inquiry-based science, see my post What is Science? Transitioning to Inquiry Based Instruction. I also contributed a chapter to The Big Book of Homeschool Ideas titled, Inquiry Science with Middle School Students.
To engage middle school students in science it is important to:
- Nurture curiosity about the natural world and include “hands-on, minds-on” inquiry-based science instruction.
- Engage students in laboratory investigations rather than on vocabulary based worksheets and comprehension activities.
- Incorporate independent and cooperative group learning experiences. See my post on science co-ops to learn how to get started.
- Encourage informal learning experiences to support the curriculum. For example, see how a visit to a university allowed us to learn more about The Periodic Table of Elements.
- Integrate science with other curriculum subjects in a multidisciplinary approach, such as through theme-based learning.
- Applying content and skills learned in science class to students’ own experiences. I go in more detail in my post, Learning Science While Exploring Interests.
- Connecting the classroom to the community through field trips, speakers, and local partnerships.
- Providing students with real-life experiences, such as mentoring and apprenticeships, that enable them to develop an awareness of science-based careers and an understanding of how science is relevant to their lives. See my post Collaborating with Resource Specialists for examples.
- Provide opportunities for decision-making activities and for involvement in community-based problems. Consider Service Learning with Roots & Shoots.
Advice from Homeschool Experts
Tonia @ The Sunny Patch
“Middle school is a great time to start handing over a little more responsibility to kids so interest-led science is a natural fit. Give them guidelines and a basic framework but let them choose their topics and experiments. They will be more invested in their learning if it’s something that interests them.”
- Interest Led Learning: Nature Study
- Interest Led Science: Tips & Ideas for Interest Independent Learning
Tina @ Tina’s Dynamic Homeschool Plus
“Don’t give up valuable hands-on activities because you hit the middle school grades. Though it’s true you want to teach your middle school kids to learn to document what they are learning, don’t substitute just book learning and note writing for valuable interactive learning. Even if they don’t choose a science related career, science has improved the lives of millions and our children need to respect that.”
- Middle School Homeschool Science 50 Spring Activities
- Metamorphic Edible Rocks & Free Notebooking Pages
Megan & Susan @ Education Possible
“At home we make sure our middle school science lessons include a lot of hands-on activities. This is a great age for starting to understand cause and effect so often I gather the supplies and offer a general overview, and then allow the kids to create a hypothesis and test out their ideas. We also include as many field trips as possible – nature walks, science centers, planetariums, zoo & aquariums, etc. offer opportunities to talk to experts and learn about subjects in more detail.” ~ Susan
Michelle @ The Heart of Michelle
“Middle school can seem overwhelming. Not only are you teaching science, but you may feel that you have to bump up your game now that your child is preparing for high school. This is one of the points when parents may become fearful of continuing forward in the homeschool journey. Online classes and nature studies are two ways to make teaching homeschool science to middle school kids easier.”
Annie @ Annie and Everything
“We have always used Apologia, starting with Exploring Creation with General Science in seventh grade. These are great for beginning to teach the student how to study for a test that is not just multiple choice — where they have to study the chapter and remember key points to answer application questions. We work up to that slowly through the chapters of the book, starting in chapter one with an open-book test and progressing with more and more accountability as the chapters go by. This year we have started using the Notebooking Journal to go along with the text. This has been a WONDERFUL hands-on resource — I wish it had been around for my older kids!”
Marcie @ The Homeschool Scientist
“Middle school is a great time to get hands-on and really test all that science knowledge acquired throughout elementary school. This is when it all starts coming together. Experiments, videos, and field trips are all great to spark interest and achieve understanding. Don’t forget to keep lab notebooks for experiments and to write about various science topics. These really help students understand what they are studying.”