The Middle School Independent Science Project (ISP) is a signature program that Princeton Academy takes great pride in. As a Sacred Heart school, we are committed to educating to a deep respect for intellectual values. We aim to incorporate all forms of critical thinking, we inspire a lifelong love of learning, and we emphasize the creative use of the imagination. We recognize our students as individuals, and we support them in their journey to self-advocate and to be independent.
The ISP is a true exploration of Sacred Heart Goal II. All MS students carry out an ISP under the guidance of their science teacher. They follow the scientific method process: they pose a problem, find out information through research, design a controlled experiment, troubleshoot, analyze data, draw conclusions, write a detailed report and present the completed project to a panel of scientists at the Science Exposition.
"This is a six-week intensive unit," Head of Middle School Kathy Humora states. "It's a 21st century project that blends problem solving and creativity and takes the students from the knowledge they gain in research to applying it in their experiment, troubleshooting and evaluating. It's an all-encompassing project."
Students in Grades 5 through 8 presented their Independent Science Projects to a judging panel made up of professional scientists, researchers, professors, engineers and alumni on Monday, March 6. Each young scientist developed a hypothesis and ran controlled experiments to test it. The students' presentations included a summary of the experiments and an analysis of the data.
"Many fifth grade students carried out sports-based ISPs because they love sports," Humora states. "By the time students reach eighth grade, they choose a wide variety of project topics. Many eighth graders carried out human behavior ISPs as they are curious about peer pressure, focus, attention and memory. They also like to choose topics that are based in the branches of science such as chromatography separation and heat and crystallization in physical science or taste sensation in life science. In fifth grade they've just learned what a controlled experiment is. By eighth grade they understand it fully and it's amazing what they can do."
While teaching the scientific method is important, the real lesson of the ISP program is about the students' capacity for refined thought and analysis.
"What's really great is that the eighth graders buddy up with the fifth graders to help them with their projects," states Humora. "It's a community builder in many ways. And to me what's really important about it is that it represents a deep respect for intellectual values. This shows the students not only the importance of their lessons, but of the process of learning."
Whether it was bacteria, reaction time, human behavior, sailboat speed, air pressure variation, or time perception, students followed the scientific process. Creativity was everywhere you looked as students turned ideas into projects. The six steps of the scientific method were the foundation for process, investigation, evaluative thinking, problem solving and independence. As students moved through the ISP, they planned their work and worked their plan, they grew in their responsibility and self-discipline, they reflected on the value of process, and they never stopped questioning. Truly, the ISP is Sacred Heart in action.