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Science & Engineering Practices

Students develop and practice these essential skills in increasing complexity throughout grades K-12 to aid in their understanding of core ideas in the science and engineering disciplines.

  • Asking Questions and Defining Problems

  • Developing and Using Models

  • Planning and Carrying Out Investigations

  • Analyzing and Interpreting Data

  • Using Mathematics and Computational Thinking

  • Constructing Explanations and Designing Solutions

  • Engaging in Argument from Evidence

  • Obtaining, Evaluating, and Communicating Information

High School

High School Science

The Science Department at Hopkinton High School provides students with a curriculum as well as extra-curricular activities that provide students with an understanding of the role of science in the world around them.  In the classroom, students can be found completing hands on laboratory experiments, online simulations and field studies. Courses offered in the Science Department range from one semester to full year courses at the College Preparatory thru Advanced Placement Level.  The curriculum is focused on incorporating the Science & Engineering Practices into each unit as outlined in the Massachusetts Science & Technology/Engineering Framework.  These practices allow students to apply their knowledge of science to solve real-world problems as well as build a strong foundation of skills that can be applied in outside the science classroom.

Along with completing traditional coursework, students have the opportunity to participate in the Science Fair program where students can complete a science or engineering project in an area of interest to them.  Students then have the opportunity to present their work at the local, regional and state Science Fairs.  Outside the classroom students can participate in several activities including STEM Club, Environmental Club & Science Olympiad.


Middle School

The Middle School science curriculum is designed to develop scientific literacy in our students. By studying concepts from each of the four domains of science: physics, chemistry, biology, and earth science, students will build a conceptual understanding and appreciation of science. It is our belief that students learn science best when they do science. Therefore, to meet the needs of 21st century learners, students are actively engaged in inquiry-based learning. The nature of inquiry-based science lends itself to students working collaboratively. All lab work is designed to assist students in developing and improving the science and engineering practices. Students are required to ask questions (for science) and define problems (for engineering), develop and use models, plan and carry out investigations, analyze and interpret data, use mathematics and computational thinking, construct explanations (for science) and design solutions (for engineering), engage in argument from evidence, and obtain, evaluate, and communicate information.
 Projects and performance assessments within each grade level require students to synthesize material, and use critical thinking and problem solving skills. Some performance assessments provide individual opportunities to showcase creativity and innovative ideas. Interactive technologies are routinely used in all science classes to provide students with opportunities to simulate real-world applications of science.


Elementary Science

Science and engineering concepts are introduced at a crucial time, while our youngest students are trying to make sense of the world around them. Early elementary science curriculum celebrates this innate curiosity and provides students with hands-on opportunities to observe and experiment with phenomena across four disciplines: Earth and Space Sciences, Life Science, Physical Science, and Technology/Engineering. As students develop, they begin to notice differences from previous observations and formulate reasons for why things change. Students start to see patterns and make predictions of future occurrences. Moving from an intensive focus on one phenomenon, they come to understand how their distinct observations are, in fact, just parts of larger environments. Witnessing the world as wholes and parts lays the groundwork for systems thinking in the upper elementary grades where students sharpen their reasoning and analytical skills and, ultimately, come to explain how components within various systems interact with and influence each other.

Curriculum Snapshots


Reasons for Change

In kindergarten, students build on early experiences observing the world around them as they continue to make observations that are more quantitative in nature and help them identify why some changes occur. Students begin to learn to use these observations as evidence to support a claim through growing language skills. They learn that all animals and plants need food, water, and air to grow and thrive and that the fundamental difference between plants and animals is a plant’s ability to make its own food. Students build their quantitative knowledge of temperature in relation to the weather and its effect on different kinds of materials. They observe that the amount of sunlight shining on a surface causes a temperature change and they design a structure to reduce the warming effects of sunlight. They investigate motions of objects by changing the strength and direction of pushes and pulls. They provide examples of plants and animals that can change their environment through their interactions with it. In kindergarten science, students begin to identify reasons for changes in some common phenomena.

(Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education, 2016 Massachusetts Science and Technology/Engineering Curriculum Framework)

Grade 1

Describing Patterns

In grade 1, students have more fluency with language, number sense, and inquiry skills. This allows them to describe patterns of motion between the Sun, Moon, and stars in relation to the Earth. From this understanding they can identify seasonal patterns from sunrise and sunset data that will allow them to predict future patterns. Building from their experiences in pre-K and kindergarten observing and describing daily weather, they can now examine seasonal data on temperature and rainfall to describe patterns over time. Grade 1 students investigate sound and light through various materials. They describe patterns in how light passes through and sounds differ from different types of materials and use this to design and build a device to send a signal. Students compare the ways different animals and plants use their body parts and senses to do the things they need to do to grow and survive, including typical ways parents keep their young safe so they will survive to adulthood. They notice that though there are differences between plants or animals of the same type, the similarities of behavior and appearance are what allow us to identify them as belonging to a group. Grade 1 students begin to understand the power of patterns to predict future events in the natural and designed world. 

(Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education, 2016 Massachusetts Science and Technology/Engineering Curriculum Framework)

Grade 2

Wholes and Parts

As students grow in their ability to speak, read, write, and reason mathematically, they also grow in their ability to grapple with larger systems and the parts that make them up. In grade 2, students start to look beyond the structures of individual plants and animals to looking at the environment in which the plants and animals live as a provider of the food, water, and shelter that the organisms need. They learn that water is found everywhere on Earth and takes different forms and shapes. They map landforms and bodies of water and observe that flowing water and wind shapes these landforms. Grade 2 students use their observation skills gained in earlier grades to classify materials based on similar properties and functions. They gain experience testing different materials to collect and then analyze data for the purpose of determining which materials are the best for a specific function. They construct large objects from smaller pieces and, conversely, learn that when materials are cut into the smallest possible pieces, they still exist as the same material that has weight. These investigations of how parts relate to the whole provide a key basis for understanding systems in later grades. 

(Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education, 2016 Massachusetts Science and Technology/Engineering Curriculum Framework)

Grade 3

Human Interactions

In grade 3, students develop and sharpen their skills at obtaining, recording and charting, and analyzing data in order to study their environment. They use these practices to study the interactions between humans and earth systems, humans and the environment, and humans and the designed world. They learn that these entities not only interact but influence behaviors, reactions, and traits of organisms. Grade 3 students analyze weather patterns and consider humans’ influence and opportunity to impact weather-related events. In life science they study the interactions between and influence of the environment and human traits and characteristics. They use the engineering design process to identify a problem and design solutions that enhance humans’ interactions with their surroundings and to meet their needs. Students consider the interactions and consequent reactions between objects and forces, including forces that are balanced or not. Students reason and provide evidence to support arguments for the influence of humans on nature and nature on human experience. 

(Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education, 2016 Massachusetts Science and Technology/Engineering Curriculum Framework)

Grade 4

Matter and Energy

In grade 4, students observe and interpret patterns related to the transfer of matter and energy on Earth, in physical interactions, and in organisms. Students learn about energy—its motion, transfer, and conversion—in different physical contexts. Grade 4 students interpret patterns of change over time as related to the deposition and erosion in landscape formation. They study today’s landscapes to provide evidence for past processes. Students learn that animals’ internal and external structures support life, growth, behavior, and reproduction. They work through the engineering design process, focusing on developing solutions by building, testing, and redesigning prototypes to fit a specific purpose. Each domain relates to the use of matter and energy over time and for specific purposes. 

(Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education, 2016 Massachusetts Science and Technology/Engineering Curriculum Framework)

Grade 5

Connections and Relationships in Systems

In grade 5, students model, provide evidence to support arguments, and obtain and display data about relationships and interactions among observable components of different systems. By studying systems, grade 5 students learn that objects and organisms do not exist in isolation and that animals, plants and their environments are connected to, interact with, and are influenced by each other. They study the relationships between Earth and other nearby objects in the solar system and the impact of those relationships on patterns of events as seen from Earth. They learn about the relationship among elements of Earth’s systems through the cycling of water and human practices and processes with Earth’s resources. They also learn about the connections and relationships among plants and animals, and the ecosystems within which they live, to show how matter and energy are cycled through these (building on the theme of grade 4). An ability to describe, analyze, and model connections and relationships of observable components of different systems is key to understanding the natural and designed world. 

(Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education, 2016 Massachusetts Science and Technology/Engineering Curriculum Framework)

Contact Us

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Lauren Bailey-Jones

Titles: Teacher Grade 7
Locations: Hopkinton Middle School

Marjorie Billeter

Titles: Chemistry Teacher
Locations: Hopkinton High School

Andrew Couto

Titles: BiologyTeacher
Locations: Hopkinton High School

Michael Graeber

Titles: Physics Teacher
Locations: Hopkinton High School

Bryan King

Titles: Biology Teacher
Locations: Hopkinton High School

Curriculum Snapshots

Grade 6 Science

Grade 6 - Structure and Function

Red Team: Kerry Thornton-Genova,, (Science Co-CTL)

Yellow Team: Karen McDeed,

 Blue Team: Inpakala Pandian,

The grade six science curriculum is designed to give budding scientists an introduction to the basic principles in all fields of science: astronomy, earth science, physics, biology, and chemistry. The common themes of observations and inferences as well as structure and function are introduced at the beginning of the year as students are taught to approach the world from the mindset of a scientist. Students use models and evidence to not only make claims, but also to explain their reasoning using the "Claim-Evidence-Reasoning" model as they explore different ideas.  Young scientists use observations and inferences to explore the biosphere. They then transition to understanding the geosphere and the evidence that Earth’s surface changes. Our scientists then switch to how matter interacts with waves, and chemistry. Finally, we end the year with an exploration of how people in the fields of science, engineering and technology approach design. Throughout the units, we work toward practical mastery of scientific equipment, including the use of microscopes, as well as processes like experimental design. 


Grade 7 - Systems and Cycles  

Purple Team: Lauren Bailey-Jones,

Aqua Team: Maryfrances Kirshenbaum,

Silver Team: Laura Kirshenbaum,

Students in grade 7 focus on systems and cycles using their understanding of structures, functions, connections and relationships in systems, and the flow of matter and energy developed in earlier grades. A focus on systems requires students to apply concepts and skills across disciplines, since most natural and designed systems and cycles are interactive. Students will gain experience with plate tectonics, interactions of humans and Earth processes, organism systems to support and sustain life, ecosystem dynamics, motion and energy systems, and key technological systems used by society. Through grade 7, students will begin moving from the concrete to the abstract perspective, since many of the systems and cycles studied are not directly observable. Students explore these concepts through a varied and hands-on approach including labs and modeling experiences.



Grade 8 Science

Grade 8 - Cause and Effect  

Orange Team: Cameran (Huestis) O'Connell, (Science Co-CTL)

Green Team: Matthew O'Connell, & Christy Kouris,

Grade 8 students use more robust abstract thinking skills to explain the causes of  more complex phenomena and systems. An understanding of the cause and effect of key natural phenomena and designed processes allows students to explain patterns and make predictions about future events. Students will develop and use models to assist them in visualizing such phenomena as: seasons and tides, gravity and its role in planetary motion, atoms, molecules and their interactions, weather and climate, plate tectonics, and the role of genetics in reproduction, heredity, and artificial selection.  Being able to analyze phenomena for evidence, of causes and processes that often cannot be seen, and being able to conceptualize and describe those causes, is a significant outcome for grade 8 students.