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Letter home

Dear Riverside family,

Welcome to another terrific year of Riverside science class. There are exciting things happening in science this year once again.  I wish to make some things clear to you from the outset regarding class expectations, homework, and assessment. If you have any questions, please feel free to ask me anytime. My home phone number is 626-4565 and my e-mail is “”. You may find my (new) website useful with (not-annotated) lecture notes and images, handouts, and rubrics. It is: “”  


"The whole of science is nothing more than a refinement of everyday thinking."

--Albert Einstein


The first thing I would like to clarify is the major components of science class at The Riverside School.  There are many aspects to being a good Riverside science student. Riverside works to develop active learners, patient leaders, and engaged citizens in a supportive community.  Science requires inquiry, careful laboratory investigations, and evidence-based conclusions. Being a student means thinking creatively, trying and persisting, taking responsible risks, learning how to learn, as well as learning a body of knowledge.  Each of these major areas can be subdivided into more detailed proficiencies, skills, and concepts. These many proficiencies are what your child will be assessed and evaluated on this year. Expect periodic updates on what they are doing well and where they could improve.  


“...the qualities that are most important for scientists [are]: creativity, individuality, freedom of thought, and hard work.”

--Lisa Randall, renowned astrophysicist


During class time, I will strive to encourage and nurture all my students’ creativity, freedom of thought, individuality, and hard work. The homework I will assign this year is part of that process. I will try not to assign more than my share of homework and what I assign should be entirely doable by the student without help. Sometimes the assignment will be a creative one like designing a self-sufficient city. Sometimes I will ask the students to devise their own hypothesis about data. Sometimes I will assign work that builds specific skills like writing a research paper or lab report. Sometimes I will ask them to work on construction projects at home. Details regarding specific assignments will be handed out with the assignment and usually available online, but some general rules apply to all assignments.

First, assignments will have a due date. If an assignment is not turned in on the due date without an acceptable excuse, the assignment will lose points. Recurring problems with turning in late assignments will result in working on them during lunch or break as well as a phone call home.

Second, the assignment is to be done by the student. Plagiarism will not be tolerated and parental “help” actually prevents the learning experience that I design for the student. If the student cannot do the assignment, let me know immediately!  That said, please ask about their work and be involved in ways that encourage and enable them to do their best work.

Lastly, sleep and the students’ health are more important than any one assignment. When it is bedtime, put the homework away. If this causes recurrent missed assignments, please help your child by motivating them and helping them to organize their time so they get their homework done earlier (I usually give several days for most assignments and pacing workload is an important skill).

An important thing to bring to your attention at the beginning of the year is that the sixth, seventh, and eighth grade classes have a yearlong project called the “Big Book of Science” where they must write / compile a book with all the important content from each unit (this is optional in the 7th and 8th grades). There will be minor due dates to check their progress and the whole book will be due in May. They could work on their books anytime and will be allowed some class time to do so. The guidelines for it are posted on the wall in the science rooms along with the pages / units for each class. A more detailed rubric may be requested if needed for any assignment.


“I have not failed. I've just found 10,000 ways that won't work.”

“Genius is one percent inspiration and ninety-nine percent perspiration.”

--Thomas Edison


Thank you and I look forward to another great year,


Joel Gilbert

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