Within this STEAM Reader Activity Book, the eighth-grade students at Sunny Street Middle School continue their journey with our readers. The following describes key content areas in the book and is meant as a general summary as it is not comprehensive of all subject matter.
In the last year of middle school, we find our students Lia, Riku, and Alejandro exploring chemistry. They discover water as a product of combustion after they light a candle following a power cut. They work on a project using this as their topic and explore the Periodic Table, subatomic particles (protons, neutrons, and electrons), and how the position of an element in the table relates to its chemical identity. They work to balance the equation for combustion that they will use as part of their project and remind themselves of the Law of Conservation of Matter.
We see Lia again following her passion for soccer as she joins her team as they play in very wet and muddy conditions. Their coach gave them guidance on how to handle the soccer ball in these conditions, only Anika was not listening, which led to a missed goal as her ball hit a large puddle. In class, they express their frustration to their science teacher, who explains that they will understand the ball’s behavior after they have studied Newton’s Laws of Motion. They learn about speed, velocity, and acceleration. At the end of this story, the students use their knowledge of Newton’s Laws of Motion to win a basketball game where Anika listening to the lessons learned in class, now uses her knowledge to throw the winning shot!
We find our friends Sarah, Dave, Rosa, and Hamza learning about the Sun and its energy driving weather patterns and how global patterns of atmospheric movement and the oceans influence weather. They study these areas to enter a competition to present the weather at a local News station. They video their entry and at school find out they have won and present the local weather live!
Sarah, Riku, and Alejandro once again volunteer in their local National Park. When they arrive, Alejandro relates to a park ranger visiting from California news that his aunt’s family went through an earthquake in California. Following questions from the students about earthquakes, the park ranger explains how earthquakes occur, describing the history of the movement of the Earth’s crust with the formation and break up of Pangea. He then describes plate tectonics. They re-visit a part of the park where succession followed a fire a while ago and observe a dramatic improvement! The park rangers share topographical maps of the park, which are tools that allow them to observe how the land may be changed by weathering, erosion, and deposition.
Rosa, Louis, Anika, and Dave spend a day at the beach only to discover the tide was in, and they could not sit on the beach. The friends discuss tidal behavior and the seasons as they wait for the tides to go out. At Space Camp, they spend some time with an astronomer in the Planetarium where they learn about the Universe’s characteristics, including how massive it is and how this information came about using models such as the Hertzsprung -Russel diagram. They learn how scientific data is used as evidence to create a scientific theory of the origin of the Universe.
The final story in the Reader Book is during the last week of middle school, where we find our students reminiscing about their middle school experiences. They remember how the raccoons invaded and ate the Koi fish in the pond and how this led to their ecosystems study. Mrs. O’Hara asks them to teach her about their knowledge of the levels of organization of ecosystems, and she then goes ahead to describe symbiosis. They remember how they learned about food webs and chains after a mountain lion entered Mee’s backyard as a predator of squirrels and rabbits. They discuss different disturbances in an ecosystem and how this impacts organisms. When the Sun goes down at their final 8th-grade beach party, they notice a ghostly light in the crashing waves. Elena reminds them that they observed this on Padre Island and explained that it is called the red tide caused by bioluminescent phytoplankton that overgrows due to run-off from fertilizers. In the story’s last moments, Anika remembers the words of their science teacher Mrs. O’Hara, to always be observant of the world around them and seek explanations of the phenomena they observe!