5th Grade Math Fun

Fifth grade math students were recently learning about volume.  They created a cubic foot and a cubic meter to better understand proper units of measuring volume.  They were then able to use this information to find the volume of their classroom. 

Sometimes to learn math you have to step away from the book and into a hands on activity.  Way to go 5th graders!

First Grade STEM Project #6


[Each week Ms. Darea’s first grade class has a STEM lesson that crosses the curriculum and lasts all week.  Here is what Ms. Darea had to say about Project #6]

We’ve been learning about apples for a few weeks.  We’ve read fiction and nonfiction books about apples in guided reading and self-selected reading.  We learned about the life cycle of an apple, read diagrams of apple cross sections,  and made apple sauce in science.  On Friday, we continued our subtraction lessons with some apple subtraction on the Mimio board.  Then, we had an apple taste test between Red Delicious, Golden Delicious, and Granny Smith Apples.  We then made a bar graph on the Mimio board.  Granny Smith apples won!  They’re my favorite too!  After spending some time discussing the data, we transferred the bar graph information to individual picto-graphs that the kids completed themselves.  Once these were finished we read a book called Eating Fractions.  We then did some fraction work on the Mimio board, focusing on ½ and ¼.  Then, we made apple prints and labeled them with the fraction they showed, either ½ or ¼. 










Testing Stream and River Water Quality as Part of 8th Grade Science


[Ms. Chris and her 8th grade students have started a long term project studying the water quality of both the stream that runs through The Outdoor Learning Center and the Valley River.  These photos and words come from Ms. Chris in her explanation of the project.]


We put mesh bags of dead leaves into the creek and the river (one each place), in order to collect benthic macroinvertebrates (aka bugs and worms that live in the water).  The leaves grow algae, which feeds certain animals which then feed other animals.  These invertebrates are useful bioindicators of stream health because many of them are very sensitive to water quality–if the water quality is poor, they can’t live in it.  On the flip side, certain ones are very tolerant of poor water quality, so if you find nothing but those invertebrates, you know that the water quality is probably bad. 

So the leaves stayed in the water for about 3 weeks, in order to become fully colonized by whatever was living there.  We were interested in finding out if the species in the creek and the river were different.  The students predicted that we would find more types of invertebrates in the creek compared to the river.  And we did! 


In the pictures, the students were looking at all of the animals that we found in the leaf samples.  Some of them were very active and were fun to watch.  And from the species of invertebrates we found, the creek had higher water quality than the river (there were more species total, and the ones present were more sensitive to water quality).  Fun stuff! 


Stone Soup!

Stone Soup is an old folk story in which a hungry stranger manages to persuade local people of a town to give him food. 

In the folk tale, the weary traveler fills his empty cooking pot with water, drops a large stone into it and places it over a fire. One of the villagers becomes curious and asks what he is doing.  The traveler answers that he is making “stone soup”, which tastes wonderful, although it still needs a little bit of garnish to improve the flavor, which he is missing.   The villager does not mind parting with carrots to help him out, so it gets added to the soup.   Another villager walks by, inquiring about the pot, and the traveler again mention his stone soup which has not reached its full potential yet.  The villager hands him a little bit of seasoning to help him out.  More and more villagers walk by, each adding another ingredient. Finally, a delicious and nourishing pot of soup is enjoyed by all.

 It is usually told as a lesson in cooperation, especially amid scarcity.

Kindergarteners enjoying real stone soup in The Outdoor Learning Center.

TLC! Chef, Ms. Debby worked in conjunction with Kindergarten teachers Ms. Jessilyn and Ms. Penny to incorporate a cooking and nutrition lesson with the kindergarten class by way of the famous Stone Soup folk tale.


The students and teachers alike got to enjoy the fruits of their lesson!

Following Directions?

Edible spider!


Following directions . . . and not.

Recently Ms. Jamie  did a guided reading lesson with her sixth grade class on “following and reading directions”.  The students were supplied with directions to make “spider bites” via the mimio board.  They were to independently and silently read the directions and create their snack based on what they read.

Scenes Around Campus

3rd grade making volcanoes in their study of landforms.

In third grade students have been studying landforms as part of science – comparing earth’s land features using 3-D models, etc. The children were paired up and assigned different landforms.  The students had to do research on their landform, create a model, and give a minimum of a three minute speech on their landform. The major landforms they studied were Mount St. Helens, Everglades, Mauna Kea, Arches National Park, Creelsvoro Natural Bridge, Grand Canyon, Death Valley, Niagara Falls, Crystal Grotto Caverns, The Grand Staircase, and Lake Erie.


Those industrious third graders have been busy in math as well.  They’ve been working on a unit where they have been surveying other classes (so far it’s been 1st, 2nd, and 4th) and then taking the data they’ve collected and interpreting it, sorting it, creating bar graphs and line plots with it.  After the graphs/line plots were created, the students  then made observations regarding their information.


Yummy! Caramel apples in first grade!

First Grade STEM Project #5

[Each week Ms. Darea’s first grade class has a STEM lesson that crosses the curriculum and lasts all week.  Here is what Ms. Darea had to say about Project #5]

For our STEM project this week we first filled in a graph of different bats’ wingspans.  We analyzed the graph and talked about how bats’ wingspans are measured.  In the graph, the wingspans were measured in inches so we talked about how this is a standard unit of measurement and how inches can be found on the rulers that we have in school.   We compared inches to centimeters and determined that inches were bigger. 


I used a bat from an activity that we did early in the week to demonstrate how to measure the wingspans from tip to tip in inches under the document camera.   Each child was secretly assigned a bat from the 6 listed on the graph.  They then had to make a bat with the correct wingspan to match what it said on the graph.  

I showed them how to measure out the number of inches by marking from the zero on the ruler to the number representing the length of the bat’s wingspan.  We also talked about where to start measuring with the ruler because many children thought they either had to start at 1 or at the end of the ruler.  I showed them how some rulers have their zero at the very end, but some have space between the end and the zero. 


So once this was discussed the children marked their bat’s wingspan and connected the marks like a rainbow and finished off drawing their bats.  They had to measure to make sure the wingspan was correct before they cut their bats out.   Once all the bats were cut out, we switched bats with another student.  The students then had to measure another student’s bat to figure out which bat they had made by comparing the measurement to the graph.  Pretty cool stuff.

Freaky Friday always follows STEM and this week was super fun.  We took the kids to The Outdoor Learning Center to make bat boxes!  Eighth grade science teacher Ms. Chris was our volunteer for the week.  She showed the kids a completed bat box, talked about bat boxes a bit, and then we divided the class into two groups.  Each child had several turns whacking the nails into the boxes. 



What an awesome wrap up to a batty week!

First Grade STEM Project #4

[This is the fourth STEM project happening in first grade this year.  Be sure to check out the others by selecting STEM from the category selector over on the right sidebar.  This was written and submitted by first grade teacher, Ms. Darea]

This week’s STEM project revolved around leaves! 

The kids headed to The Outdoor Learning Center on Tuesday with their science notebooks.


Each student was given a green leaf.  In the screen house, we wrote down our pre-investigation in our science journals.  The investigation was to first predict what color their leaf was going to change in the fall and then to find a colorful match to their leaf. 



The next day, we went to The Outdoor Learning Center to collect some pretty leaves.  The plan was to bring them back to the classroom and spend some time identifying them.  But, we were having too much fun collecting to get back to the classroom in time!




On Thursday, half of the class stayed with me to identify their leaves, while the rest went with Ms. Gale to collect yet another leaf for their art project on Friday.  The students had to find leaves that would fit on an index card, so first they measured the index card with paper clips to see how long their leaf could be.  Then they took their paper clip chain out with them to find the perfect leaf.  When they were done, we switched groups.   Ms. Gale had made a book of leaves she had identified for a class and we used this to help with our identification.  I put it under the document camera.  This was much easier for them to handle than a typical field guide.


I then ironed the leaves between two pieces of wax paper.  I stapled a border around the edges and the students wrote the names of their leaves around the edge.  These made beautiful window decorations!


On Friday, for art, the kids did leaf rubbings with the leaf they previously collected and measured.  These rubbings were put on cards which will be used in writing in a few weeks when we learn how to write friendly letters!


For our final leaf project, we went to The Outdoor Learning Center to collect one last leaf. 


We used these leaves for a variety of math activities.


We did many things with our leaves one collected like measure the leaves with cubes to see how long they were, figure out the area of the leaves by covering them with pennies, count how long it took our leaf to fall to the floor when dropped, and measure how many pennies it would take to sink our leaves.

All of this information was recorded in our leaf books!



Once we completed all of these activities, we gathered data from the class about how many pennies it took to fill our leaves and made a line plot on the mimeo board.


 When looking at the line plot many kids were able to tell that the leaves which held only three pennies must have been pretty small leaves and the ones that held 25 or more pennies must have been pretty big leaves.  I asked what we could tell about leaves that held the same number of pennies.  One child said that maybe the leaves were from the same kind of tree.  Another kid said that we could tell that the leaves were the same size.   


[Ms. Darea used the study of pumpkins in first grade to introduce the science concepts of force and motion.  Here’s what she had to say.]

This week we learned about pumpkins and what better way to introduce force and motion than watching videos of catapults at pumpkin chunkin’ festivals?!  The kids watched the videos, looked at some pictures, and then were given a shoe box, 2 popsicle sticks, 4 rubber bands, a plastic spoon, a 6 inch piece of masking tape (which they measured), a pair of scissors, and a ruler, and were told to build a catapult in groups of 5.  They were so excited!  I was hesitant, but SO amazed at how well they did with this.  Within 20 minutes each group was testing their catapults with wonderful results!    



Friday was the competition.  Each team gave themselves a name.  Since they didn’t all agree on team names, each group had to vote between two and decide who had the most votes.  We were going to shoot marshmallows but quickly realized this was not going to work so we switched to cap erasers.  Later we talked about how scientists often go through trial and error  to learn what works best.  So, each child in the group launched the eraser from their team’s catapult and the greatest distance was marked with a piece of masking tape with their team’s name on it.  Team Catapult was the winner! 



We measured each group’s distances with yard sticks and wrote down the numbers in our science notebooks.   Back in the classroom we talked about the catapults’ designs and why some shot things farther than others.  We also talked about the amount of force that was put on the catapult and why this might affect how far the eraser flew.  We also compared the shortest distance to the longest distance and took a difference between the two.  It was pretty cool all around.  What a group of little physicists!