Dear Parents,

I am very excited to be a part of Berkshire’s 8th Grade team and am looking forward to making this a successful year for your child! We will be going over this syllabus during class during the first week of school. If you have any questions, you may find my contact information below.

Along with many other schools in the State, 8th grade now focuses on high school Earth Science content expectations, which will prepare students for the Michigan Merit Exam, taken during 11th grade. While this can be a challenging transition, the pace and supporting activities that we will do in class supports students at the middle school level.

In addition to meeting the essential expectations, students will have an opportunity to examine the nature of science through inquiry and reflection, as well as reflecting upon various social implications. We will build upon basic knowledge of the earth sciences by frequently examining current data, observing models, and conducting our own research into these ever-changing areas of science. Through the use of data, models, and experimentation, students will be continually asked to think critically about the world around them as they deepen their knowledge in the earth sciences, and learn more about the nature of science.

We will use the Prentice Hall Earth Science textbook, complete with online access, as a resource throughout the year, as we complete our four major themes/units:

1. Universe
2. Oceans and Climate
3. Dynamic Geosphere
4. Depending on Earth

At-Home Reinforcement
During class time, I focus as much as possible upon actively engaging students in science. We spend our time analyzing data, addressing misconceptions, inquiring about new topics, etc. It is crucial that students keep up with readings, assignments, and vocabulary at home in order to be successful in my class. In-class activities don’t always translate well to something that can be finished at home, but helping your child with some of the basics is a great way to get them prepared.

Rules, Procedures, Supplies
I expect that students should be prepared and on time with all supplies (3-ring binder, lined paper, a pen or pencil, a red pen, and textbook). They should also be ready to follow proper science lab safety procedures, and behave with respect when they enter my classroom. Frequently abusing any one of these can have an enormous impact on your child’s progress and the classroom climate as a whole. In order to keep the classroom running effectively, expect to hear from me if your child has difficulty correcting any inappropriate behaviors on his/her own.

Parents and students can be updated on their child’s progress by using PowerSchool. I strive to keep these up-to-date in order to give you a picture of your child’s current grade and attendance at your convenience. I will assume that you have access to this program and that you use it to monitor your child’s grade and attendance. I welcome any questions you may have, but place the primary responsibility for checking this periodically upon both parents and students. Details about the criteria uses to assess students are as follows:

Homework/Classwork (40% of final grade)

Designed to help students build a knowledge base and provide practice with new concepts. Assignment or task will be graded based upon completion and quality. Mastery of the concept is not required, but students will be asked to take responsibility for adding to or correcting their responses during class discussion in red pen before turning in. Students will receive one of four grades on each assignment:

“Plus” (100%) – Assignment is reasonably complete, with full sentences. Thought is demonstrated in answers. Corrections are made in red pen if needed.
“Check” (80%) – Assignment is partially complete, with less than full sentences, and partial though in responses. Some corrections are made in red pen.
“Minus” (60%) - Assignment is present, but is less than half complete, without full sentences, little or no thought in responses. Little or no corrections made in red pen.
“Zero” (0%) – Assignment is missing at time of due date or student is caught filling in answers while the class is making corrections in red pen (This is considered to be academic dishonesty)

Assessments (60% of final grade)

This can include items such as projects, lab reports, quizzes, tests, presentations, etc. Students will be assessed after multiple exposures and practice with the concepts. Feedback and grades will be provided for the students based upon their understanding. Because daily homework is graded based only upon completion and quality, they do not necessarily indicate mastery of the material. Therefore, it is crucial to look closely at these assessments to get an accurate picture of your child’s progress.

Academic Honesty
If a student attempts to turn in work that is not their own, they will not receive full credit. This can range from students filling in answers during class while checking papers (i.e. not using a red pen), or plagiarism on a project. See Berkshire’s Academic Honesty policy for more details.

Turning in Work
Most assignments are due at the beginning of the hour on the day they are due. Students are not allowed to print from the computer, return to their locker, send via e-mail, look for a lost file, etc. I enforce this routine because having assignments completed on time is the best way to move forward with our curriculum and engage students fully during in-class activities. If a student does not have assignments ready on time, they may use a Homework Pass (one per marking period), which they can use to excuse an assignment, turn in a long-term assessment one day late, or use for extra credit at the end of the quarter. As yet another option, I will accept also late homework/classwork for up to one week for ½ credit.

If absent, your child will be responsible for picking up, completing, and turning in assignments in a timely manner. Each day we will post a short outline of what was done during class on our Website, as well as in a binder in the classroom that will inform students about what they’ve missed. I am happy to help students with any questions after they’ve looked up this information. I’ll do my best to keep your child up-to-date during extended or planned absences, but this is not always possible due to the dynamic nature of our class.

Additional Resources & Communication

You may link to our class Website through the Birmingham Schools site, or go directly to Here you will find updates on our class, information about homework, class notes, directions on how to link to the online textbook, as well other resources. If you have any questions, please do not hesitate to contact either one of us. E-mail is the preferred method of contact and will generally allow for a quicker response.