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Seventh Grade Science: The Science of Life

Seventh-grade science at Presidio Hill School is oriented toward laboratory and fieldwork, with maximum opportunity for students to “do” science and take advantage of the incredible resources available in the Bay Area.

Use of Presidio National Park as an outdoor living laboratory supplements and enhances each unit when possible; guest speakers are invited to share their insights with us; and current events discussions are a regular part of the curriculum. Block scheduling allows us to conduct experiments and write lab reports, and affords ample opportunities for interpreting data and presenting, sharing and reflecting on the learning process.

Life Science

Seventh-grade science concentrates students’ investigations on life sciences, with an emphasis on environmental science, critical ecosystems, human biology, botany and global climate change. We take a systems approach to the subjects, constantly looking for relationships and interactions between systems.

Fire Ecology

In preparation for our week-long trip to Yosemite in the fall, students investigate the role fire plays in an ecosystem. We analyze the “Pacific Rim Fire” of 2013 as a case study to help us understand how forest fires behave, forest management practices, and the relationship between weather, topography and fire intensity. Students learn about the interconnected role fire plays in the nutrient cycle and natural regeneration of healthy forests. In the lab, students build model forests and compare modern and historic stand densities and fuel build-up. Through controlled burn tests, lab teams observe and record survival rates and slope percentages, and observe surface, ladder and crown fuels looking for clues that contribute to high intensity fires. In the field, students visit our local redwood forest in the Presidio to identify real fire scars and compare density rates and fuel build-up. This outdoor classroom enables us to discover adaptations of redwood trees and experience these magnificent species that have survived thousands of years of natural forest fires.

Critical Ecosystems and Habitats

The highlight of our critical ecosystems and habitats unit is the monitoring program established for many years with the Presidio National Park. Mountain Lake, a 20-minute walk from the Presidio Hill campus, is the only natural lake in the Golden Gate National Recreation Area. As the lake has been restored over the last 15 years, Presidio Hill's seventh-grade science students have been monitoring the progress. Ongoing throughout the year, students visit, observe and collect data on the different stages of the restoration process. Past projects have included the dredging of harmful sediments, native plant shoreline restoration, eradication of invasive species, introduction of native species, macro-invertebrate sampling, and public awareness campaigns. These ever-changing dynamic stages and principles of ecosystem restoration are rare opportunities for our students to engage in, and are unique to Presidio Hill’s environmental science program. The establishment of this ongoing partnership with the Presidio Trust and Mountain Lake Park is extremely valuable. The opportunity to do "real world" science and participate in a pioneering urban ecology project helps our students better understand the systems approach to recovery.

Global Climate Change

Collaboration with field biologists, nonprofits, volunteers and other community organizations has helped engender a culture of activism, stewardship and sophisticated scientific thinking at our school. An example of our solutions-based emphasis is our Climate Change Committee. Run by a team of seventh graders, the committee has initiated a carbon neutral energy campaign, presented green design ideas to the school’s board, developed awareness activities for younger grades, and designed a global warming resource web page. Students are gaining experience, conducting classroom energy audits, and working together as empowered, engaged members of our school and the community at large.