February 12, 2015

Science, Science Everywhere!

2nd & 3rd graders building a trebuchet
Come, take a walk with me.

One of the great joys of my work is that I spend part of each day visiting our classrooms. I wish you could see what I see every day, so here’s a small snapshot.

Dateline: Tuesday afternoon of this week, Friends’ School, Boulder.
Weather: a balmy 68 degree Colorado February day!

First stop: Mary Pearsall’s fifth grade classroom. The fourth and fifth grade classes are working together, watching a demonstration from Teacher Candidate Kristine Helsper as she teaches the students how to dissect a pig's heart.  This lesson is part of the 4th/5th grade human biology unit. 

After learning about different human body systems including the skeletal, muscular, and digestive systems, our older students are studying the organs of the human body.  After receiving a clear and well-planned lesson from Kristine, the classes split into small groups to dissect pig hearts. While some, including a certain Head of School, are a little squeamish, almost all were completely engaged in this fascinating hands-on learning lab.

As Mary said in her newsletter to parents this week: Students will work together to apply their knowledge of the heart and its anatomy to reveal the various layers of this organ and really get to the heart of the matter - just in time for Valentine’s Day!”

dissecting a heart
Second stop: Beth and Katelynn’s Kindergarten class.  Choice time is in full swing.  Choice is a time when children actively engage in the process of defining themselves. They initiate their play and work and take risks.  More than any other period of the day, students are given the opportunity to make decisions and learn how to connect with others. One particular activity on Tuesday centers around magnets. I enjoy participating with our Kindergartners as they experiment, observe, predict and try new things as they explore magnetic fields.

Third stop: Laurie Nakauchi’s 1st grade classroom.  The class has been studying the polar regions and has learned the similarities and differences between the poles. Students learned about the North Pole and bears that live in the north and created life-size renditions of bears. They are also studying the South Pole and penguins. Students are learning facts about penguins and, as I wander through, they are measuring and making life-sized penguins, integrating math, science and art beautifully.

Next stop: the elementary playground.  Here, our third and second grade classes appear to be waging a siege. Not quite true, but after designing and building mini-catapults in class as part of their study
2nd & 3rd graders and the giant catapult
on the Middle Ages, they are applying the same building skills to create life-size replicas of trebuchets using a variety of materials including large pieces of wood, skis, and even toilet seats! The catapults being created with the help of Friends’ parent Garth Sundem are amazing. And they work!

(If you are not quite sure what a trebuchet is, ask a second or third grader – they know!)

Last stop: preschool.  Because it’s the afternoon our Pre-K classes of 4-5 year olds are here.  Jessie and Hetta’s east classroom is a hive of activity – dress-up, painting, running rice through our fingers at the sensory table, gak, but, perhaps because I’ve been noticing so much science all afternoon, I am drawn to the young engineers in the block area. These are busy people!

Our preschool teachers have previously shared with parents this excellent article on block play. In it, author and early childhood specialist Jean Schreiber says:

“Block play provides experiences that foster emotional and social development as children work together in a respectful and cooperative way. They share a sense of joy in their communal accomplishments. While solving structural challenges, they learn to concentrate while gaining mastery in the arts of persistence, patience, and overcoming frustration. Children also have many opportunities to be rewarded with the sense of pride and satisfaction that come as they develop confidence and competency. They come to understand that their friends may have different perspectives on “construction” and they learn cooperation and tolerance along the way.”
4th and 5th graders pondering dissection

Continuing outside into the gorgeous sunshine, Caroline and Christie’s west kids are spread out throughout the playground – they’re on the swings, riding tricycles, climbing, digging in the sand, rolling on the grass in the warm sun. They may not be dissecting sheep hearts, or building historically accurate trebuchets quite yet, but these kids are gaining all the skills now to be able to grow into accomplished scientists later on. 

It may look like they’re just kind of messing around – but these are some serious scientists at play.

Thanks for walking with me. Enjoy the long weekend.

No comments: