Featured Class: 9th Grade Science

At Tualatin Valley Academy, we focus on teaching students as much by experience as we do from a textbook. That's why the Freshmen class headed out on a Marine Biology Trip in mid-September, led by Mr. Phil Kahler. Students had 3 days jam-packed with learning, including fossil hunting at the beach, engineering ROV's (remotely operated underwater vehicles), exploring mud flats, salt marshes and tide pools and taking a boat trip to whale watch and collect specimens to examine for their Marine Biology class. Students camp during this trip, and each evening closes with a campfire and student-led vespers. 

"It was amazing, a beautiful experience."

Mr. Kahler teaches Middle School and High School Science at TVA. When asked about his teaching philosophy, he answered "As a science teacher I don't want to just sit around and teach my students about science. I want my students to experience science and to do their own scientific investigations. I want my students to be scientists! To make this happen for our students, we must leave the confines of the classroom from time to time.

Our Marine Biology Trip is much more than another activity in the curriculum, it is an experience that I hope will inspire these students for a lifetime of exploring the wild and wonderful things God has created. There is nothing quite like breathing in the cool salty air as you hear the ocean waves crashing on the shore. It really does not matter how many books you read or how many documentaries you watch on TV; something as wonderful as a California Gray Whale will always be an abstract concept until you have seen one surface right next to your boat. You always knew whales were big, but this creature is crazy HUGE! And it is a breathing, living thing that moves and does what it wants."

The Freshmen science curriculum is Physical Science, made up of Marine Biology, Astronomy, Electricity & Magnetism, and an Introduction to Chemistry. The course is a hands-on laboratory based continuation of the integrated sciences covered in earlier grades. Students explore their world and gain a solid foundation for what they will study in Science over the next 3 years. 

Students on the Marine Biology Trip kept journals of their findings and favorite activities. One of the students' favorite activities was building ROV's at the Hatfield Marine Science Center. The class was divided into teams (girls vs. guys!) to craft their ROV's out of PVC pipe with a magnet attached to them. The girls dubbed theirs Charlotte, the guys, Tera-DACT-yl 3000. They then had a competition to see which team could collect more magnetic items from the bottom of a pool. A student reflected on building the ROV's:

"Making a submarine was the coolest, not knowing we were using engineering the whole time."

Another favorite memory across the board was the Discovery boat tour. Students studied creatures from plankton to whales and even got to try their hand at driving the boat! 

"When we were on the boat we got to learn more about the importance of the ocean, which made it much more interesting rather than just reading about it." 

"You could see God's majesty through His beautiful creation."

Building students' relationship with God was central to the trip. When studying science, it is hard not to see God's hand in all of His creation. One student commented: 

"...and seeing how beautiful the sea is and the life that lives there made me reflect on how perfect of a job God did in crafting this amazing world."

God's amazing world, indeed. 

For photos, links and more information, check out Mr. Kahler's Marine Biology page here!