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Alternative/creative science ideas for 9th graders?


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I need some creative ideas for what to do with a small group of 9th graders who are accelerated in science but aren't old enough for community college courses where we live.

 

One of the parents used a high school curriculum she taught previously, and these kids have been doing that with her for the last 3 years. They covered biology, chemistry, physics, life science, and earth science. It was incredibly rigorous, they've learned an UNBELIVABLE amount from her, but she's not able to continue with them next year (her daughter is headed to school).

 

They're ready for community college courses, but they're not quite old enough this coming year. There are courses at a homeschool charter near us and at a science center, but they are all too simple now that they've done these 3 years with her.

 

Any creative ideas for what to do with them this coming year? 4 girls, all earnest, hard working, accelerated in math too. One of the dads is an engineering professor and could help out, but he has limited time. The other moms are less science-y, so the kids probably need to take much of the lead.

 

Only idea I've come up with is Science Olympiad. They did Destination Imagination this year and it hasn't been all that rigorous, so maybe something like Science Olympiad would be better.

 

Any other ideas?

Edited by rzberrymom
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How about a project based experimental design course?  If the engineering professor dad could give them some guidance up front, the bulk of the time could be spent on designing experiments, gathering data, interpretation, presenting findings, and so forth.

Edited by EKS
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How about a project based experimental design course? If the engineering professor dad could give them some guidance up front, the bulk of the time could be spent on designing experiments, gathering data, interpretation, presenting findings, and so forth.

Ooh, I like that idea!

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If you have somebody interested in putting it together, you could work through different topics. I do something similar in a seminar that I teach. All of my topics are biology related, but you could be interdisciplinary if you wanted to. We've talked about cancer biology, the microbiome, and neurobiology, for instance. You could work many disciplines into a study of something like cancer - how do carcinogens work? How do chemotherapy, proton therapy, and radiation work? Those would let you add chemistry and physics in addition to biology. Depending on student interest, you could choose subjects that relate to chemistry, math, psychology, etc. You also have the choice of being very technical or focusing more on broad exposure and practical application - my class varies from year to year based on the students.

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If they want to pursue a new science, geology and forensics are two that can be great fun. Forensics in particular can build on knowledge they already have, applying it to a specific use. 

 

Or, I'd look at a year of project-based science, either in one subject or smaller projects in more subjects. 

 

Robotics could be a great choice, 

 

Check into JASON Learning, formerly known as The JASON Project. As per their site: "The only major science curriculum built around real-word phenomenon and guided by practicing scientists." 

 

You could also check with local universities that have research centers, and national or state parks. I know that at least one of our local research centers uses teen volunteers, and they'd probably be thrilled to share knowledge with a small group of teens that could work there regularly. Helping with ongoing projects and scientific observations, along with ongoing discussions with working researchers and scientists,  would probably blow any normal class out of the water.

 

Google "citizen science" and you will find lots of projects they could work on, and potentially base a class around. 

 

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Outschool has some great, short classes that they could combine depending on interests into a whole year of study. Their Forensics class was praised by a friend using it.

 

When my kid and kid's friends were ready for higher levels of science but not yet ready for community college, here's what we did:

  • Bought a great chemistry kit (http://www.thehomescientist.com/kits/CK01/ck01-main.html) and used the Illustrated Guide (All Labs No Lecture series) from the author. We parents took turns supervising labs.
  • We used Kai's idea here to design our own experiments and gather data.
  • We alternated the weeks - spent one meeting per week watching Great Courses and YouTube science videos with an hour or so of discussion afterwards. Based on feedback, we either carried on with the chemistry labs or asked the kids to design/create experiments based on the YouTube video/Great Courses science title that we watched.
  • Employed a mentor to come in for some of the meetings to give the kids answers to inquiry-driven explorations and experiments.

Basically, you will need:

  • Motivated parents and a facilitator
  • A mentor who can be present for as many meetings as you can afford to pay mentor
  • A good kit (MEL Science is another good chemistry kit subscription)
  • Wifi/TV/Large screen computer for YouTube/Great Course streaming
  • A home or meeting place that is safe for use with option to have some downtime afterwards for kids to play board games or just talk and be kids.
  • One rotating volunteer to be note-keeper/lab report compiler (or all the kids based on ability).
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