ST 1.3

ST 1.3 Students are empowered to personalize and self-direct their STEM learning experiences supported by STEM educators who facilitate their learning.

Science Fair
Students in the Advanced Science classes conduct a science fair project and choose to complete either individually or as a collaborative group of two.  The students start in September and with the guidance from their teachers, follow a rubric and timeline to complete their project in time for competition in March.  Students self-select a topic, create a hypothesis and design their own experiment to test. After analyzing the data, they draw conclusions and present their findings. The students have an opportunity to compete at three levels. Level One is held in each individual classroom, where the teacher uses the rubric and votes to move them to Level Two. Level Two is the school-wide competition, where the student projects are judged by the Sea Island Regional Science Fair judges. The winners of the school-wide competition move on to Level Three, the Regional Science Fair. This level includes participants from all of the middle schools in Beaufort County. The winner of the Regional Science Fair has an opportunity to go as an observer to the International Science Fair sponsored by Intel.  In 2018, twelve BLMS students attended the regional competition, and three placed, including one student who placed second in the region, one who placed third, and one honorable mention.

Science Fair

National History DayNHD
Several of our 8th grade social studies students participated in the National History Day Competition.  National History Day is a national year-long project where students choose a historical topic linked to a year long theme. This year’s theme was Conflict and Compromise. Students conducted extensive independent research on their topic of choice by going through and completing several stages; including an annotated bibliography, a process paper, and the creation of the final product. In the process paper  the students explained how they conducted their Gettysburgresearch, developed their topic idea and created their entry. The students determined the method in which they demonstrated their research. They had the option to choose either a website, display board, video documentary, paper, or skit. Our students' entries included: The Killing of the Innocents, The Salem Witchcraft Trials, Hiroshima and Nagasaki: The Atomic Bomb, Jackie Robinson, Pearl Harbor, 9/11, and Harriet Tubman.  Included in their final unique product was the student’s explanation of the facts of the event, and its long-term impact on our society. Eleven of our students attended the regional competition at Charleston Southern University, and one student, who placed first in his division, will continue on to the state-level competition.


In December, the seventh grade math students were challenged to help the elves travel from the North Pole to Grandmother’s house by means of an equation maze/map. The maze was a series of student-created equations with some correct answers and some incorrect answers. Students worked in collaborative groups to uniquely develop and decorate each of the mazes using mathematical concepts learned in class. The groups self-checked their work and when ready, exchanged their mazes with their peers who worked to calculate the correct answers to help the elf find grandma’s house.  If the correct answers were followed, then the elves were successful in finding their way to Grandma’s house!


Find Your Fit: Fitnessgram
Bluffton Middle School encourages students to take control of their health. In Physical Education classes, students in grades 6-8 participate in Find Your Fit through our Fitnessgram program. Students are responsible for assessing their cardiorespiratory fitness, muscular endurance, muscular strength, and flexibility. They complete a series of activities to obtain their baseline data for each of the areas and use the baseline data to set their individual goals for improvement.  Using their goals and data, the students create an action plan by designing a personalized workout program for themselves. The workout program includes everything from choice of exercise to determining the number of repetitions that they will complete for each activity per week. Half-way through the semester, students complete their second trial, performing the same series of activities that they did for the baseline measurement, and comparing the results to see how they have improved over time. At that point, students re-evaluate their goals and adjust their action plans accordingly. They complete a third trial at the end of the semester, track their changes, and reflect on their progress.  As students move through the grade levels, their goals become more detailed as they add measures for balance, agility, and power. The FitnessGram program allows students to develop skills in personal goal-setting and to develop lifelong fitness skills.

Self-Assessment & Self-Direction
Self-assessment and self-direction in learning is a critical skill we encourage at Bluffton Middle School. In sixth grade, math students reflect and determine the level of support that they will need during independent practice. When students are posed with an open-ended problem, after a mini-lesson, they self-assess their understanding of the learning target to determine if they will work independently, with a partner, or with the teacher. During the remainder of the activity, they continue to reflect on their understanding of the material and evaluate their progress.  The students are free to move to a different group if and when needed. For example, a student working with a partner may decide he/she is ready to work independently if he/she fully understands the material. Conversely, he/she may choose to get additional instruction from the teacher if they need clarification.


Socratic Seminar
In our ELA, ESOL Writing Workshop, and Science classes, students regularly engage in student-led discussions using the Socratic Seminar platform. Participants in these discussions start by reading or researching information about a specific topic. As the students read about their topic, their goal is to generate open-ended questions connected to their subject. The most common open-ended questions are identified and the students determine which of those questions will foster discussion and debate. The students and teachers work together to choose a main focus question and several sub-questions to drive the socratic seminar discussion. Students then re-read the original texts, develop opinions and thoughts, and gather evidence to support their ideas.  When the discussion begins, it is completely student-led with students using accountable talk protocols to help the conversation run smoothly. Students can invite each other into the discussion by asking direct questions, and can ask each other follow-up questions if they seek more explanation or supporting evidence. In classes that have done several socratic seminars, such as ESOL Writing Workshop, students have begun to suggest topics as they come across ideas in their reading which they think would fit well with the Socratic Seminar format.