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Middle School Science

Rod Allen, with Da Vinci Academy since 2002

Contact
Phone: 847-841-7532 ext 239
Email: rallen@dvacademy.org

Mr. Allen's Degrees Held
Graduate level work in science education, Benedictine University, Lisle, Illinois
M.S. in Geology, Queen's University, Kingston, Ontario
B.A.  in Geology, Beloit College, Beloit, Wisconsin
State certified for teaching middle-school and high-school level science

Professional Associations
National Science Teachers Association since 2002
Illinois Science Teachers Association since 2002
American Geophysical Union since 1988

Other Teaching Experience & Training
For the past five summers, I have been employed by Benedictine University to mentor pre-service teachers who are participating in the alternative certification program for secondary math and science.  I was also employed for five years by the Problem Based Learning group at the Illinois Math and Science Academy to work with other professional teachers and develop problem-based curricula for use with middle school students doing week-long summer camp programs.

Philosophy
I approach science in an adventuresome manner, raising questions as the basis for lab activities, readings, and group discussions.  Lab activities are frequent and encourage cooperation and collaboration through small group-oriented activities, but often require each student to provide a written report or summary of the results. My goals are to provide a solid program that prepares the students for rigorous high school science curriculum. I also allow students to enjoy the process and to discover the fascinating world around them.  I strive to find "the science" in every student.  I enjoy working with the Da Vinci Academy students because of their typically high level of interest and knowledge of science, and their willingness to share it with the fellow students.  

Curriculum
Sixth Grade (principally earth sciences)

In sixth grade, students learn about the properties of minerals, the rock cycle, plate tectonics, oceanography and ocean resources (with an emphasis on the ecology, biology and evolution of squid), and then a climatology unit related to the local watershed.  Skills include classification, maps, scale, models, classification, geological time, animal dissection, and water-quality testing.  Students are assessed through a mineral collection, presentations on the geology of planets & moons, an animation on plate tectonics and Earth's history, and unit tests.  We will take class trips to a local quarry, the Shedd Aquarium and several small trips to collect samples and data regarding the local watershed. 

Seventh Grade (physical science: properties of matter)
Seventh grade science covers chemistry-based topics: the properties of substances, conservation of matter, mixtures, compounds and elements, radioactivity, the electromagnetic spectrum and radon.  Skills include research, journaling, lab safety, lab equipment, experimental methods, the metric system, unit conversions, scientific models, science methods, graphing, predicting outcomes, experimental design, and team work.  Students are assessed through presentations on research topics, lab performance, lab reports, lab tests and unit tests.  Field trips include the Elgin drinking water plant and a behind-the-scenes trip to Fermi lab.

Eighth Grade (Project-Based Learning)
During the fall and winter, eighth graders will do a research-based project and participate in science fair.  For the balance of the year, they will do a variety of multi-disciplinary projects, each designed and implemented under the direction of the middle-school staff.

Assessment
I assess students' learning using a variety of methods, such as projects, collections, reports, presentations, journals, as well as using more conventional quizzes and tests. 

How to Help Your Child Be Successful
Much emphasis is placed on the use of the science journal (bound composition books) for taking notes, making sketches, collecting data, and summarizing results from classroom activities and homework.  Students are required to use their journals.  I typically review and comment on them several times throughout the term.  Each student should also have a pocket folder to hold handouts and graded assessments so they are available for studying later or conferences.

Here are several things students can do to be most successful in science:

  • Come prepared: make sure you have your journal, pencil and homework.
  • Turn your homework in on time and finish it before you come to class: does it have your name?  Did you follow instructions?  For reports and projects: did you or someone else proof read it carefully and make sure it is free of errors? 
  • Help make the classroom a productive and enjoyable place to learn for everyone: be an active participant during class (ask thoughtful questions and provide thoughtful answers), be a good listener, only speak when given permission, and share personal experience only if relevant, short and interesting to all.
  • Keep your journal neat and up-to-date.  Know what's in it and where to find the information.  Don't lose it.
  • Follow instructions:  listen carefully when they are given, and follow them carefully.  If you don't understand something, please ask.