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Eighth-Graders Get a Jump on Earning High School Science Credit

Eighth-grade students work together on a project in their advanced Earth & Space Science course.Eighth-graders at both Hoech and Ritenour middle schools now have the opportunity to get a jump on earning a high school science credit this school year. During its inaugural year, 133 eighth-graders are enrolled in the advanced Earth & Space Science course that provides high school rigor in their coursework.

Learning about the life cycles of stars and their ultimate fate as smoldering white dwarves, black holes or the dramatic supernovae caught the attention of these eighth graders in September. The advanced course not only is incorporating the Missouri learning standards for eighth grade science but also adding additional rigor to meet the state’s high school earth science standards.

Ritenour science teachers are developing the curriculum collaboratively with Washington University Institute for School Partnership through mySci thanks to a grant from the Bayer Fund.

“The students in this advanced course dive deeper into the understanding of the content and must focus on higher levels of thinking as opposed to mere recall,” said Matt Struble, who is one of two teachers leading the advanced course at Ritenour Middle School. “

In addition to lab work in this course, students are doing many more online simulations. All eighth grade science has moved away from traditional textbooks and worksheets and are discovering, learning and experiencing science with student-created science journals, which simulate scientists’ notebooks. Students arrive in class each day ready to experience science rather than read from a text book or take notes.

“Students keep all their work in a journal (their science notebook), which consists of their own writings, drawings, tables, diagrams and other information,” said Struble. “Like ‘real’ scientists, students are making their own records of their lab experiences and other activities in our class. The journals provide a single source to reflect students’ work and learning.

Amanda Kowalczyk, who teaches the high-school credit course at Hoech Middle School, said her students are highly motivated to do well because they are excited they are learning what older students are learning in science.

“They feel such a level of pride knowing they are taking a course that is offered to 10th- to 12th-graders at the high school,” said Kowalczyk. “They are very driven to do well, knowing they are getting a head start on high school credit.

By earning a high school science credit while in middle school gives students the opportunity to take more college-level science courses once they are in high school or choose other courses that interest them, said Dr. Mike LaChance, assistant superintendent of curriculum and instruction.

“This is just another way Ritenour is helping students achieve their learning goals,” said LaChance. “It’s giving them additional options to pursue courses that interest them as they prepare for graduation and the path they want to take afterward in college, the workforce or the military.”