Being in my new role is borderline surreal, and if it is don’t pinch me. It’s given me this immense feeling of fulfillment and yet a desire to achieve more. If you vision a dad and his son riding in a truck down a country road, doing what fathers and sons do, talking about things one day to come. The dad looks at his son, tells him one day he’ll be a grown man and when the day comes to find a job that makes him happy. The conversation is much the same as the years pass and the boy becomes a young man. Through it all the son watches his parents hold down multiple jobs to provide for the family. He hears the parent’s frustration and watches them endure to make sure their kids have lives better than their own. Through the full time jobs, the moonlighting, and the third income the parents somehow created time to hold; through the time they took the kids to bitty ball, summer camps, the factory on strike; through beginning their own business, and then selling it, to entering real estate and the flipping of houses; the son holds the phrase. Now on his drives to work the son hears the words his dad once told him so long ago as he passes the Croatan Forest, and drives over the waterways. A smile spreads. The goal he worked toward for the past ten years arrived as opportunity presented itself. For the first time waking up to go to work doesn’t seem to feel like work. He’s found the secret so many search for. To enjoy what you do. He’s also smart enough to know that this is the beginning, not the end. To maintain this, he’ll need to invest more time and resources to ensure this new role develops into something greater.
With that mentioned . . . Dear readers, I present some of the Vantaztic Learning Experiences
Let’s peek in with 5th grade as these students are learning about properties of matter. Their unit began by studying something all around us, water. Students travelled through the water cycle transforming from the three states (solids, liquids, and gases) in a dice game created by Project WET. Some found themselves flowing from rivers to being absorbed by plants or animals, then perhaps travelling into groundwater or becoming a glacier. Many found they became trapped between the cloud and ocean stations while others might have been lucky to escape to a lake. Students tallied their travels, analyzed the data, and shared individual results. Then we collectively shared all results and wouldn’t you know the data was common amongst all four 5th grade classes with the dominate group being liquid.
Trapped between the ocean and clouds.
Travelling as Solid, Liquids, Gases
After introducing the states of matter and these physical changes, we focused on the changes that occur chemically. First the scientists listed properties of the penny including detailed illustrations. Students removed the coverings of oxidized pennies using an acid base (vinegar) and an abrasive (salt) and then recorded the changes observed and jotting down properties of the penny after the experiment. Following this students created carbon dioxide (a gas) by combining baking soda and vinegar. They trapped the CO2 in a container and used syringes to measure the amount of gas produced. Then students hypothesized how much more/less gas would be produced by changing one of the variables, meaning the amount of baking soda or the amount of vinegar. Let the retesting begin.
Before & After Copper Oxide
Acid Cleaning Pennies
As a follow-up to CO2 theme, the kids conducted hypotheses on which type of soda would produce the greatest amount of CO2 release. They compared soda to diet soda, lemon-lime, to diet lemon-lime, cherry to it’s diet counterpart, and Dr. P vs diet Dr. In this activity students dropped a roll of Mentos into each 2 liter of pop. Once the nucleation (bubbling experience) occurred, students poured the remaining soda from the 2 liter bottles into graduated cylinders to measure and record how many mL where blown out. Results varied because one variable that was tricky for some was getting all the Mentos in the 2 Liter. Some spilled, some got stuck in the paper made funnel, and some kids were jumpy. Regardless all Mentos were placed in the container to make it as fair as a test as possible, but classes did receive different results (as expected in most experiments).
Below are 4th graders exploring traits. Each tool represents a bird’s beak and on the surrounding tables are types of food that match a certain style or trait of beak. The 4th graders researched hummingbird and woodpecker beaks to build up on their content knowledge, then made predictions as to which tool would be best suited to “eat” that given food source. Tools (beaks): strainers, droplets, tongs, chopsticks, tweezers, scoop cup, nut crackers, scissors. What would you use to suck nectar from a flower (graduated cylinder)? If tearing meat from a bone (playdough off of a tube), would tweezers, scissors, or tongs be the best trait to have? What style of beak would you need to peck at insects in tree limbs?
4th graders also explored estuaries and how important these are to our community in terms of cleaning the ecosystem as well as in commercial fishing. A snacking card game provided by the NC Coastal Reserve is always a hit. Have a healthy estuary? Add fish crackers to your estuary. Draw a polluted card? Eat the fish.
Third grade is honed in on the solar system. These astronomers are developing an understanding of how gravity and inertia (something that can rest will rest; something that can move will continue to move) keep our planet in orbit as well as the other planets and moons. The demonstration below was an easy one for them to comprehend. They understood that gravity holds us on earth and if a cup of water were to be poured upside down, the water would spill out. We tested that and their conceptualization was true. So then, if I use gravity and inertia together I can keep the water in the cup while turning it upside down. They were hesitant, so we had to take the experiment outdoors to attempt. Check the picks of the kids swinging the cup in circles, keeping the water intact thanks to the combo.
Our current project is converting the distances from kilometers to meters and centimeters of each planet from the sum. Students are in process of measuring these distances with tape and meter wheels and cutting string to serve as a model distance. We will then convert the planet sizes into metric for the circumference of planet models to attach to the string.
Second grade is deep into operating weather tools. We’re calibrating anemometers, and reading thermometers. They’re creating hypotheses on which would hold the temperature of water the longest (foam or plastic) and keeping track of their data, then interpreting the results.
Foam or Plastic?
First grade is tracking the movement of shadows throughout the day to recognize patterns and movement of objects throughout the day. Check out our friends modeling with flashlights and tracing the shadow patterns made.
And my kindergarten friends (no pics yet) are improving their coding skills using directional terms as turn, forward, stop, etc. They helped Mr. V get from point A to Point B using these terms with a number set. I did get a bit dizzy when the direction was turn and I kept turning in place, or if they said go forward and I’d walk across the room. We’re working on adding the number of steps and turns, so perhaps next time when we add arrows, numbers and directional word cards it will get us where we need to be. Footage will be taken next time. So much good to come.