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Science Topics for Middle School Students

Instructor: Jessica Keys
While the exact course of study will vary from district to district, middle school-level science often encompasses a diverse spectrum of scientific fields. Students at this level also continue working with scientific fundamentals, such as critical thinking and inquiry, the scientific process, the application of mathematics, lab safety and more. Read on for a detailed look at the topics in an average middle school science program.

Overview of Science Topics

Some school districts plan their curriculum based on the National Science Education Standards set and published by the National Academy of Sciences (nas.edu), or by the Next Generation Science Standards (nextgenscience.org). Other districts must comply with standards set by the state. In any case, most science programs at this level generally cover material in the following three topics:

Earth Science

This is an umbrella topic that usually covers geology, vulcanology, paleontology, meteorology and even astronomy. Students learn about the formation of planet Earth and its many layers, which includes the study of its tectonic plates, earthquakes, volcanic eruptions and the various types of rocks and formations that may form as a result of these events.

Also covered are natural phenomena such as the rain cycle, pressure systems, storms and the connections between climate and Earth's rotation. This may lead to a greater discussion regarding Earth's place in the solar system, its relationship with the Moon and the Sun, and how it differs from other planets. Along those lines, students may also learn about the human footprint on the environment and discuss the repercussions of resource waste, pollution and overpopulation.

Life Science

In life science, students will be introduced to a broad range of biological topics involving both plants and animals (including humans). This topic often begins with the study of the cell, the functions of its parts and its methods of reproduction, along with the differences between plant cells and animal cells. Students are introduced to basic genetics and how to map variations in the offspring of one or two parents (e.g., Punnett squares).

Also included in this subject are photosynthesis, natural selection and the food chain, evolution, ecosystems, animal/plant behavior and the different ways organisms adapt (or fail to adapt) to their environments. Taxonomy and anatomy are sometimes introduced at this level; this is often a student's first experience with a real animal dissection!

  • Life science covers a lot of important and fascinating subjects. For a fun review of the fundamentals, have your students check out this Life Science: Middle School course. You can also use this resource to prepare your own lessons for class.

Physical Science

The basics of both physics and chemistry are covered in this topic, including the properties and states of matter, the different types of energy and its transference, the calculation of speed and velocity, the electromagnetic spectrum, and Newton's Three Laws of Motion. Additionally, students usually get down to the molecular level and study atomic structure, valence, reactivity and the periodic table of elements.

This topic may involve more lab work and experimentation due to the very quantitative nature of the subject material. There's plenty of number crunching, so students would be wise to brush up on their math skills, too!

  • Physical science may seem a little bewildering at first, but there's no need to worry. Study.com has a great review course that's all about Middle School Physical Science topics. This course includes easy to follow and comprehensive video lessons that students can view at any time, anywhere!

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