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Bridging the Gap: Sixth Graders Design Experiments for Lower School Students

An essential component of science involves a strong understanding of experimental design. Since the beginning of the year, sixth grade students at WFS have been learning how to design and carry out reliable investigations. To serve as a framework for this topic, they have been studying the bell shaped curve and its implications to many facets of life (scores on a quiz, height in relation to your classmates, results of a 5K race etc.)

To demonstrate their understanding of experimental design, sixth graders developed an experiment that tested a question that they were curious about, which ranged from how well can you memorize items from a list in 30 seconds to how many planks can you do in 1 minute with and without encouragement. In order for the experiment to be reliable, they had to control all variables and develop a means of collecting data. Lastly, they had to identify a group of individuals suitable for collecting data. 

To serve this purpose, they invited lower school students to participate in the experiments. On October 28, sixth graders conducted the experiments virtually with Beth Hill and Kelly Cox’s fifth grade cohorts. 

Overall, the collaboration was a huge success. The sixth graders loved having the freedom to design their own experiment for others. Lower school students, on the other hand, not only enjoyed being part of these experiments, but also expressed how much that they couldn't wait to be in the sixth grade so that they could be the ones designing the experiments for the next group of lower school students. Data from the experiments will be shared with fifth grade teachers to use for math and science lessons.

The benefits of this type of collaboration are two-fold. First, curricular needs are met as sixth graders learn the fundamentals of experimental design. At the same time, the sharing of information makes it possible for lower school students to use relevant and meaningful data when learning the basics of graphing. Second, by crossing divisions, middle and lower students help to build a stronger sense of community, one of the Quaker testimonies, which makes Friends a wonderful place to learn and work. 
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