Third graders became soil scientists by observing and testing different soil samples around the school campus. Students noted color, texture, and infiltration. They did a simple soil test to determine the main rock particles of each sample. After moistened, if the soil would not make a ball we knew the main component was sand. If it formed a crumbly ball the main component was silt. A sticky ball that could form into a worm was mostly clay. Students also noticed if there was a high or low amount of organic matter present. Students identified organic matter in the garden soil and noticed it made the soil darker in color.
Recently, fourth grade teacher, Carrie Dyer, and elementary science teacher, Emily Willey, collaborated on Native American science and social studies E-STEAM project.
Students learned in science that technology evolves with society and that technology is anything or system that makes a process easier. Student went out into the school gardens and harvested seed bead plant, a plant that produces a little seeds with a natural hole through them that native Americans often used to make jewelry. The plant is technically a native from Africa but has been used in America for many years.
The students were challenged to see how many they could collect in a certain amount of time. It was interesting to watch the students process in gathering change. Some students quietly sat and picked the seed off the plant. Others picked up seeds that had dropped from the pile of plants pulled from the ground. Finally one group decided to start whacking their plant on the ground to knock the seeds off and collect them. Ms. Emily told that they basically had discovered the threshing of grains. The class discussed how indigenous peoples harvested grains and had to thrash the plants to get the seed off of the plant. They further discussed other systems of production and how need for survival encourages the development of technology. Students then worked with Ms. Carrie to incorporate the seed beads into a Native American project that tied in with their social studies standards.
Ms. Emily, Elementary Science and Outdoor Learning Coordinator, and Ms. Katie, First Grade Teacher, collaborate to bring education alive by tying in nature to lessons as well as providing students an education in the greatest classroom of all- the great outdoors.
Recently, the teachers had the first grade students flexing their engineering muscles by beginning construction for miniature fairy houses.
While in the woods of The Outdoor Learning Center so many exciting discoveries happen. Students find interesting animals like slugs, caterpillars. They find peculiar mushrooms and toadstools. They inspect the variety of textures of bark, sticks, leaves and roots. They compare and contrast and become enchanted with their experiences developing the story of their fairies needs and housing.
Press “play” below to watch how excited one student is about his work!
Ms. Emily and Ms. Katie were so impressed at how quickly this class adapted to independently working in the woods!
Third grade students enjoyed their first day back at school by exploring the sensory tea garden planted by the previous third grade class. They chewed on peppermint leaves and fennel twigs, and sniffed lemongrass and pineapple sage.
They also explored all the growth that has taken place in the vegetable garden they helped plant and maintain last spring. They found all kinds of peppers, herbs such as basil and chives, Roma tomatoes, chard, broomcorn, sunflowers, and African seed beads.
Third graders had no idea that they could learn history, science and etiquette from one project all about the Boston Tea Party. But, that is exactly what they did at The Learning Center Charter School in May 2018.
Emily Willey, science teacher, and Kathleen Shook, classroom teacher, collaborated to create an ongoing project based learning (PBL) project where students learned about the history and importance of tea. Students began the project by planting a perennial tea garden consisting of lemon grass, bee balm, various mints, and roses. Students researched the science of each plant as well as traditional medicinal properties of the resulting steeped tea.
Students learned that during the Colonial time period, Americans began growing herbs and drinking herbal teas as a patriot act in order to assist in the boycott British teas. Many of these herbs were native plants that had been used by Native Americans for both health purposes as refreshment.
To conclude their studies, the class held its own formal tea party based on what they had learned about Colonial times, traditions and history. Community volunteer, Sharon Nifong, taught the class about the customs and etiquette of “afternoon tea.” Students dressed in 1700’s era clothing and used fine china to taste teas made from their own herb garden. They even baked tasty treats using recipes from the 18th century.
Emily Willey teaches science to first through fourth graders and takes a unique approach to daily science class.
Students in these grades have an on-going project of designing, constructing, maintaining and improving upon fairy houses in the school’s Outdoor Learning Center. This is because Willey views the forest as an extension of her classroom.
Before beginning fairy houses, Willey takes her students outdoors to introduce a variety of science topics throughout the school year. At least every other week, students are outside learning and interacting with untamed nature. They see birds they don’t get to see in their backyards and find bugs, larvae, caterpillars, lichens, fungi, turtles and more.
For many years, the charter school has worked diligently to make their curriculum and campus an E-STEAM environment. E-STEAM stands for entrepreneurship, science, technology, engineering, agriculture & arts, and math. Willey introduces fairy and hobbit houses to her students with this precise focus in mind.
Students design these miniature forest homes. They find ideal building locations and search for natural building materials. They troubleshoot building techniques, learn how to use basic tools for secure construction, explore design principles, and experiment with sustainable building techniques such as building out of clay or cob.
Willey notes that these fairy house projects help students build on their engineering skills and says the project gives students a safe environment to create with no rules.
“It is helpful for students who are intimidated in a classroom setting to be outdoors and have unstructured play and creative freedom while interacting with nature,” says Willey. “There is no wrong way to build these miniature homes and to watch students who may be timid in class slowly come into their own as they get to build outside has been nothing but inspiring.”