The independence that kids are trying to achieve in their ‘tween’ years is now fully realized. They are likely to come to their parents only for approval. They may become keenly interested in sports or physical activities and will experience growth spurts and puberty.
Their brain’s growth in terms of size has stabilized. However, it continues to develop with newly learned subjects, events, and models. They are now much stronger in logic and rational, objective analysis and this reflects in the educational content they deal with. A strong pull towards technology like computers, mobiles, video games, making and breaking things can also be expected.
At this age, they also attempt to reconnect with the community by giving back and exploring concepts of social justice, liberty, human rights, etc.
In the 7th grade, students can, to a varying degree, be expected to demonstrate meticulousness, initiative, ability to integrate concepts, raise new questions, expressing ideas and thoughts thru integrative projects, ability to read books of several hundred pages, and so on. All these point to a certain ‘tween’ maturity level, which is understood well by experienced educators.
The traditional natural science curriculum recommends the reductionist approach. Animal and plant species and their classification/taxonomy is studied commonly at this stage. Important concepts like nutritional processes and cycles in species and in nature as a whole are also discussed.
In History, they may be studying a particular period, say the middle ages or the colonial period, but mainly from the socio-political angle. In Civics, they are likely to get introduced to a country’s constitution and citizen’s rights/responsibilities. In Geography, students of this age are expected to grasp a variety of concepts about climate, geology, natural resources, and human life on Earth.
Implications for nature education:
The integrative view towards nature education, initiated in previous grades, should continue in this year. Specific areas for 7th grade would include
- This is a good year to revisit natural history in depth, especially geology and early life.
- This is also a good year to study atmospheric pressure, winds, their connections with oceans, geology and ecological importance of all these factors.
- Revisiting the theory of evolution, it’s history, and evidence like adaptation.
- Key ecosystems on Earth, biomes, regional biodiversity should be discussed, along with their connections to human life and resource use. Relationship between biomes and local seasons should be demonstrated, with impact of
- Continuation of formal classification and taxonomy, with expanding scope: species in the local area, followed by district, state/country, ecosystems/biomes, etc. Realizing the benefits of classification.
- Continuation of study of water and soil. E.g. special properties of water, it’s role in natural history, etc.
- Cycles of matter/elements in nature, within the context of ecosystems and food chains
- A formal introduction to microbiology, with a context of ecosystems and food chains, animal-microbe, plant-microbe, human-microbe interactions, and microbe-linked problems posed by human interference in natural ecosystems
- A resource-centric view of nature, as seen by the hunter gatherer, farmer/pastoralist, and industrial man. Problems caused by overexploitation of resources – both biotic and abiotic
- Extend socio-political study of history of a given period and region to include ecological history, resource use/exploitation and possible linkages with inter-cultural conflicts. Social history e.g. professions or distribution of agricultural surplus, could also be linked with concepts like economic models of that period, or biodiversity of the region during the period.
- When it comes to studying the constitution and it’s place in our lives, a connection must be made to the natural history, history of man and nature, history of resource use in the country, and what are the responsibilities of today’s citizens vis-a-vis nature.
- Needless to say, such study components should be linked to local ecosystems and patterns of life, while also providing example from across the country and Earth.
The above range of integrative topics could be seen as daunting for a 12-year old. Care must be taken to introduce the topics in simple terms, and these same topics would be revisited in later grades at more depth.