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Middle School Expansion – Teachers

Middle School Expansion – Teachers 2022-04-26T00:08:24-06:00

This page contains information for middle school teachers participating in the New Mexico OpenSciEd Middle School Expansion initiative.

OpenSciEd Unit Implementation Schedule:

Grade LevelYear 1Year 2Year 3
Semester 1Semester 2Semester 1Semester 2Semester 1Semester 2


Currently Implementing
Upcoming Unit

To access the OpenSciEd materials, utilize this link: All the OpenSciEd materials (student-facing and teacher-facing) are freely available for download from their site. You will need to create a free account on the site. This scope and sequence is also available which shows the standards addressed in each unit, aligned to the Recommended Integrated Middle School Course Map.

Next semester, your facilitators will train you to implement Unit 6.2.

Here is a preview of Unit 6.2:

6.2 Unit: How can containers keeps stuff from warming up or cooling down?

Unit Overview:

What keeps different cups or containers from warming up or cooling down? Students begin this 6th grade science unit by experimenting whether a new plastic cup sold by a store keeps a drink colder for longer than the regular plastic cup that comes free with the drink. Students find that the drink in the regular cup warms up more than the drink in the special cup. This prompts students to identify features of the cups that are different, such as the lid, walls, and hole for the straw, that might explain why one drink warms up more than the other.

In this 6th grade science unit, students investigate the different cup features they conjecture to explain the phenomenon, starting with the lid. They model how matter can enter or exit the cup via evaporation. However, they find that in a completely closed system, the liquid inside the cup still changes temperature. This motivates the need to trace the transfer of energy into the drink as it warms up. Through a series of lab investigations and simulations, students find two ways to transfer energy into the drink: (1) the absorption of light and (2) thermal energy from the warmer air around the drink. They are then challenged to design their own drink container that can perform as well as the store-bought container, following a set of design criteria and constraints.

The prerequisite math concepts for this unit are:

Beginning in Lesson 4 and throughout the unit, students focus on pooling and then averaging test results and building an understanding of temperature as a measure of average particle movement. They take measurements in the tenth or hundredth in decimal points, and must consider negative and positive numbers as they mass systems. Prerequisite math concepts that may be helpful include:

  • CCSS.Math.Content.5.NBT.A.3 Read, write, and compare decimals to thousandths.
  • CCSS.Math.Content.5.NBT.A.4 Use place value understanding to round decimals to any place.
  • CCSS.Math.Content.6.SP.A.3 Recognize that a measure of center for a numerical data set summarizes all of its values with a single number, while a measure of variation describes how its values vary with a single number.
  • CCSS.MATH.CONTENT.6.NS.C.5 Understand that positive and negative numbers are used together to describe quantities having opposite directions or values (e.g., temperature above/below zero, elevation above/below sea level, debits/credits, positive/negative electric charge); use positive and negative numbers to represent quantities in real-world contexts, explaining the meaning of 0 in each situation.

Calculating a mean of a data set is a target idea in 6th-grade CCMS. Prior to Lesson 4 in this unit, talk to your grade’s math teacher to find out when students will learn how to calculate the mean of a numerical data set in math class this year. If they have worked on this already, ask the math teacher for an example data set they worked with and any suggested modification to your anchor chart for calculating a mean. If students haven’t yet worked through any examples in their math classes, then the pooled temperature data in this lesson will be an example you save to refer to in future lessons in concert with this anchor chart. Also ask the math teacher if students have worked with using negative numbers to represent quantities in the real world. This will inform your decision about how to represent temperature changes in the pooled class data table.

Next semester, your facilitators will train you to implement Unit 7.2.

Unit 7.2 How can we use chemical reactions to design a solution to a problem?

Unit overview:

In this unit, students are introduced to the anchoring phenomenon—a flameless heater in a Meal, Ready-to-Eat (MRE) that provides hot food to people by just adding water. In the first lesson set, students explore the inside of an MRE flameless heater, then do investigations to collect evidence to support the idea that this heater and another type of flameless heater (a single-use hand warmer) are undergoing chemical reactions as they get warm. Students have an opportunity to reflect on the engineering design process, defining stakeholders, and refining the criteria and constraints for the design solution.

In the second lesson set, students develop their design solutions by investigating how much food and reactants they should include in their homemade heater designs and go through a series of iterative testing and redesigning. This iterative design cycle includes peer feedback, consideration of design modification consequences, and analysis of impacts on stakeholders. Finally, students optimize their designs and have another team test their homemade heater instructions.

See the OpenSciEd Unit 7.2 page for additional information (e.g., what students should know from earlier grades, what common ideas are students coming with, what are the pre-requisite math concepts).

Next semester, your facilitators will train you to implement Unit 8.2.

Unit 8.2 How can a sound make something move?

Unit overview:

In this unit, students develop ideas related to how sounds are produced, how they travel through media, and how they affect objects at a distance. Their investigations are motivated by trying to account for a perplexing anchoring phenomenon — a truck is playing loud music in a parking lot and the windows of a building across the parking lot visibly shake in response to the music.

They make observations of sound sources to revisit the K–5 idea that objects vibrate when they make sounds. They figure out that patterns of differences in those vibrations are tied to differences in characteristics of the sounds being made. They gather data on how objects vibrate when making different sounds to characterize how a vibrating object’s motion is tied to the loudness and pitch of the sounds they make. Students also conduct experiments to support the idea that sound needs matter to travel through, and they will use models and simulations to explain how sound travels through matter at the particle level.

See the OpenSciEd Unit 8.2 page for additional information (e.g., what students should know from earlier grades, what common ideas are students coming with, what are the pre-requisite math concepts).


Page last updated April 26, 2022