Mark Day School
39 Trellis Drive
San Rafael, CA 94903


In kindergarten, the seasons, our gardens, and local resources provide a wonderful entry into inquiry and exploration of the natural world. Students learn about apples and pumpkins and seasonal growing, and in the spring, they visit Cedars of Marin, a residential community for developmentally challenged adults, to provide lessons about growing plants used to make fibers that are then woven into textiles. Our 1st grade science curriculum builds the skills of collaboration, creative and flexible thinking, problem solving, curiosity and questioning, and communication. Units of study include: interactions of color and light, understanding solids and liquids, and observable lessons in life cycles. The 2nd grade science curriculum grows from the class's "journey" through Australia and Kenya. The class also studies weather, weather phenomena, and the water cycle, conducting a water-cycle experiment. A unit on nutrition is integrated with media literacy, discussing advertising and what's in foods such as cereals; this unit culminates with making fruit leather from scratch. Science in 3rd grade is closely linked to social studies, as both subjects focus on Marin County. Our outdoor education program begins in 3rd grade, with an overnight trip to Walker Creek Ranch in West Marin, where the class hikes and has lessons with naturalists.

The highlights of 4th grade include sound (for which students make their own stringed instrument) and the workings of simple machines, such as levers, pulleys, catapults, and sails. Students also apply the scientific process in a project on testing and identifying the different types of rocks. Fifth grade covers three inquiry-based science units - electricity and magnetism, Flash animation, and ecology. In 6th grade, students engage in more lab activities and learn to design experiments, conduct the process, and draw conclusions from their observations. They also study genetics, flight and rocketry, light and lenses, density, and astronomy. 

Upper Division science is a hands-on process of achieving scientific literacy and proficiency with the scientific process through an understanding of biology, chemistry, the environment, and the principles of physics. The curriculum rotates, with physical sciences as the focus one year and life sciences the next. Through a variety of in-class experiments and longer-term projects, students become confident in their abilities to design and carry out investigations, do research, build working models, present their findings, and evaluate the work of others. All 7th graders participate in the Marin County Science Fair, and the results are always impressive, in both topics and awards: Projects have examined the use of biogases as alternative energy sources, the possibilities for state-changing materials in solar energy design, and the effects of chemicals in Marin County streams on aquatic insects.

Featured Project: 1st Grade Human Body Exploration

First graders engage in an extensive human body project-based learning unit. They start in various human body stations to begin their exploration and inquiry into various components of the body. Students spent time with various body models, games, and puzzles representing the various organs, muscles and skeleton. They also explore lots of human body books and a very interesting model that simulates how our heart pumps blood.
Students are introduced to the project's driving question: How do we teach members of our community how to keep their bodies safe and healthy? First graders will explore the various systems (nervous system-brain, circulatory system-heart, respiratory system-lungs, digestive system-stomach/intestines, and the muscular and skeletal systems) and teach them to other students. The 1st graders conduct research to learn more about each system and record facts. As a class, they also develop charts to collect information on how we keep our body parts safe and healthy.
Each 1st grader has the opportunity to work individually, with a partner or in a small group to choose a system of the body to share with members of our school community. They then choose a way to present their knowledge and information by creating one of the following: a poster, booklet, video, slide show or oral presentation. This allows for choice in how each 1st grader shares with others. In the end, each 1st grader also builds up a life size model of their body.

Students will independently use their learning to:

  • Apply scientific thinking, concepts, and information to make informed decisions and work toward creating positive change in the world.
  • Generate questions and identify problems that can be explored or investigated scientifically.
  • Understand and apply the process of scientific inquiry to carry out a sound investigation or experiment.
  • Communicate scientific thinking and reasoning in a variety of forms.
  • Participate in scientific communities by actively soliciting and exchanging feedback about investigation, analysis, and conclusions.