Vocabulary: cube, rectangular prism, triangular prism, pyramid, cone, cylinder, sphere
Try this at home: Using blocks or other materials, try building some structures with your child and seeing which ones are strongest and most stable. Think about what makes one structure stronger or more stable than the other, and what you could do to strengthen a weak structure. (This will be a big part of our engineering unit, beginning next week.)
First Grade: Last week, we reviewed how an anemometer and a pinwheel work, and that they are both instruments that meteorologists use to measure wind speed. We then watched a short video about measuring the wind, and I told the students that the video would discuss three instruments, one they knew about, and two new ones. I told them to listen carefully for the names of the new instruments, and what they measured. After watching the video, students were quick to name the anemometer as the instrument we already knew about, and that it was for measuring wind speed. The two other instruments mentioned in the video were a wind vane, and a wind sock, which tell where the wind is coming from, and where is is going. The video also told us that wind direction is described in terms of compass directions: North, East, South, and West, and that when describing the direction of the wind, you always talk about where the wind is coming from, not where it is going to. For example, a wind that is blowing toward the South is a Northerly wind. I showed them a wind vane that I had built, and we observed how the arrow always pointed into the wind, showing you which direction the wind was coming from. After learning about our new weather instruments, it was time to build another weather instrument that is more commonly used as a toy: a kite. Students took their kites home.
After reviewing the wind vane and wind direction, this week, we went back to what we had learned about air back at the beginning of the unit, about how air can push and pull. I asked the students to think about the kites that they had made last week, and what we had learned about the wind scale some weeks before. You can't fly a kite in calm, or even in a gentle breeze. Why? There isn't enough wind to push the kite up. In a moderate breeze, the wind is moving fast enough to push the kite up. We know that air is pushing the kite up, but what is pulling the kite down? Gravity! If the force of gravity is stronger, the kite will sink and fall. If the force of the wind is stronger, the kite will rise and fly. To demonstrate what we would be thinking about during the lesson, I took out a model parachute made from a paper napkin, string, and a paper clip. I asked the students to think about what forces were working on the parachute. The parachute fell to the ground, but not as fast as a paperclip would have by itself. The force pulling the parachute down was gravity, and the force slowing it down was the air. I told the students that this force of air pushing against the parachute had a special name: air resistance. We then watched a short video about how parachutes work, and I asked the students to pay attention to the word that the video used to describe air resistance, because they would use a different word to talk about air pushing against things. In the video, they called air pushing against things drag. We realized that the best parachute would have a lot of air resistance, or drag. That would make it fall slower, and the best parachute is the one that falls the slowest (because it keeps the person using it safest). On our parachute worksheets, I had the students label a diagram showing a parachute with the forces moving the parachute. I then showed the students a second parachute, and before releasing them, we compared them. They were both weighted with a paper clip, attached with four pieces of string and stickers, and the size of the chute was the same. However, one chute was made of a napkin, and the other was made of newspaper. Would they work the same way? Releasing both at the same time, the newspaper parachute reached the ground before the napkin parachute. So which was the better parachute? The napkin makes a better parachute, because it creates more drag. I told the students that I had several materials for them to make their parachutes from: napkins, newspaper, plastic, and paper bags. Each student was to write the question: "I wonder what will happen if my parachute is made of ___________________?" on their worksheet under the parachute diagram, and to fill in the blank with the material of their choice. We then built the parachutes, which the students took home (we didn't have time to compare student-built parachutes, but we will be comparing the different materials next week.
Vocabulary: anemometer, meteorologist, instrument, wind vane, wind sock, North, East, South, West, gravity, air resistance
Try this at home: The parachutes we made were not built to last, and probably fell apart by the end of the day. However, it is very easy to build another parachute, and you can build a few with your child and test different materials at home to see which would make the best parachute.
Second Grade: Last week, we observed that although milkweed bugs, silk worms, and painted lady butterflies are all insects, they do not have the same stages of their life cycles. While they all begin with an egg stage and end with an adult, from which future eggs come to continue the life cycle, silk worms and painted ladies go through stages such as "larva" and "pupa," while milkweed bugs go through a "nymph" stage. We learned that all insects go through a process called "metamorphosis," but that metamorphosis has two variations: complete and incomplete metamorphosis. Since metamorphosis is a big word, we broke it down into two smaller parts: meta, meaning "beyond," and morph, meaning "shape" or "form." An organism that undergoes metamorphosis is one that goes beyond the shape or form that it is born with. Some insects are born looking nothing like their adult parents, such as the painted lady caterpillars. To reach the adult stage, they have to completely change their shape. To go through such a drastic change requires a pupa stage. This is called "complete metamorphosis." Other insects, like our milkweed bugs, emerge from the egg looking like a tiny version of the adult, called a "nymph." The nymphs grow and shed their outer skins until they are adults, but they change only a little bit, so they don't require a pupa stage for intense growth and transformation. This is "incomplete metamorphosis." We watched two short videos about other insects that undergo metamorphosis: a luna moth undergoes complete metamorphosis, going from larva to pupa to adult, whereas a mantis is born a nymph, shedding its skin as it grows, undergoing incomplete metamorphosis.
This week, we delved deeper into variation and where variation comes from. We read a section in our book called "Environment," and we learned that every organism has "characteristics" that make it a unique individual (similar to "properties" when we were studying geology). Some of these characteristics are inherited, passed down from parents to offspring. However, others are the result of environment. An example in our book was a darkling beetle. A darkling beetle has certain inherited characteristics, such as its body plan (head, thorax, abdomen, six legs), and its color. However, some beetles have characteristics that result from the environment, such as a broken wing cover or a missing leg. Some of these characteristics will be passed onto its offspring. The beetle's offspring will have the same body plan and coloration. But its offspring will not have a broken wing cover, or a missing limb, because those characteristics are environmental. We learned that variation, especially inherited characteristics, can have a big impact. We watched a short video about the differences between artifical and natural selection. The video taught us that for as long as people have been farming, we have been selecting organisms with preferred characteristics, such as sweeter, larger fruit, or more meat. In each generation, there is some variation, and farmers choose which characteristics they like the best, and allow only those organisms to reproduce. The farmer doesn't actually create anything, only chooses. In natural selection, it is nature that chooses which animals will live and reproduce. It isn't making a conscious choice like a person does, but simply by natural processes and forces, some variations will be selected for. The video showed us that many vegetables that we eat such as kale, cabbage, brussel sprouts, broccoli, and cauliflower, all came from the same weed. After watching the video, I revealed to my students that all these vegetables are brassica, just like the plants we have been observing in our classroom. The brassica we are observing is not going to turn into a vegetable, but it does come from the same plant that kale, cabbage, etc. come from. We also looked at selective breeding in two other plants. I showed the students a picture of Queen Anne's lace root, and asked them what they thought farmers might have selected it to become. They were very surprised to see that the small, tangled root of the Queen Anne's Lace was turned into carrots! They were equally surprised to learn that carrots have only been orange for about 300 years, and that farmers selectively bred the orange carrot from yellow, white and purple varieties to honor William of Orange. We also looked at how far bananas have come from the tiny, starchy fruit full of big black seeds in the wild to the large, sweet, seedless fruit we know today.
(Note: Due to the holiday for Chinese New Year, and because we will be starting the engineering project next week on Thursday, Ms. Guillen's class did not have the lessons about metamorphosis or selective breeding. This week, they had the preparatory lesson for the engineering unit that the other second grade classes will have this coming Tuesday.)
Vocabulary: larva, pupa, nymph, complete and incomplete metamorphosis, head, thorax, abdomen, variation, environment, inherit, characteristics, artificial and natural selection, selective breeding
Try this at home: Choose a favorite food and do some research into its origins. Almost every plant or animal that we eat has been selectively bred for hundreds, if not thousands of years. You may be amazed at what you learn!
Third Grade: Last week, we used the collaborative moon phase poster we completed in the previous lesson, and worked on individual moon phase charts that went into our notebooks.
This week, we completed the moon phase charts, and watched a video called "All about Stars," in preparation for our final lesson next week about stars and constellations. The students had to complete a guided worksheet for the video, filling in the blanks for different facts about the stars, such as how many they are (billions), what they are made of (hot gases, hydrogen becoming helium), the life cycle of stars (sometimes they explode in a supernova), their colors(blue, white, yellow, orange, and red, with blue being the hottest), and how telescopes work (lenses and mirrors collect light from stars, with inward curving mirrors collecting the most light).
Vocabulary: lunar cycle, phase, new moon, waxing, waning, crescent, gibbous, full moon, stars,
Try this at home: We will be having a guest speaker next week to share some information about the constellations. Weather permitting, take some time to examine the night sky and see which constellations you can identify. The speaker will also give a little background about the different cultural origin stories behind different constellations. If you know any of the stories behind the constellations you can spot, share them with your child, or feel free to make up your own together.
Update from Paige:
5th grade: Mr. Ellingson and Mr. Calubaquib
The most exciting experiment we have done in the new year occurred about two weeks ago. Thanks to the help of first grade parent, Susan Koo, our students had the opportunity to see a fresh pig heart, lung, and other tissues. A big "Thank You" to Susan!
We have been studying how cells get what they need to live. It's pretty straightforward for single-celled organisms, but multicellular organisms (organisms made of many cells) have to have more elaborate systems to get resources to all of their cells. Previously, we studied how vascular plants solve this problem. Now, we have been looking at how humans solve this problem. In this study, we were trying to understand more about the circulatory and respiratory systems.
We had four stations through which students rotated.
1.). The first station had laptops with pre-selected YouTube videos related to heart function.
2.). The second station had human models of the heart borrowed from Stanford and UCSF.
3.). The third station had models of the heart/lung in combination also borrowed from Stanford and UCSF.
4.). But the truly awesome station was station 4. The fourth station had a pig heart specimen and a pig heart/lung specimen. As an anesthesiologist involved in organ recovery, Susan was able to get access at Stanford to dissect two pigs and bring us fresh samples to examine in class. Susan had dissected the heart, so students could see that the addition of liquid to the left ventricle caused the valve to close. Susan had set up the pig heart/lung specimen, so the lungs could be inflated using an external hand pump. It was incredible to see the lungs fill up with air and then deflate! Honestly, it was an amazing experience!
4th grade: Ms. Washington, Mr. Calubaquib; 4th/5th Mr. Briggs
My favorite experiment in 4th grade this month was an experiment looking at how the distance between magnets changes the strength of the magnetic field. We did a really cool experiment using a balance to explore this topic. On one side of the balance, there is a magnet on a post attached to the balance base. On the balance arm, there is a cup. We put a second magnet in the cup that was attracted to the magnet attached to the base. On the other arm of the balance, we put metal washers in a cup. When the force of gravity acting on the washers exceeded the magnetic force holding the magnets together, then the balance would tip as the two magnets came apart. We recorded how many washers it took to break the magnetic force. We repeated this experiment, but we added small plastic discs (spacers) between the two magnets. We recorded how many washers it took to break the force when the magnets were separated by 0, 1, 3, 4, 5, or 6 spacers. When we graphed the number of washers vs. the number of spacers, we saw there was a relationship. It’s actually a totally beautiful exponential curve:) We talked about how we could predict how many washers it would take the break the force between magnets separated by 2 spacers. After making a prediction, students tested how many washers it took, and lo, and behold, the predictions were nearly always correct. Totally awesome. Students talked about how the data showed that as the distance between magnets increases, the force between them gets weaker.
3rd grade: Ms. Song
We started our unit called "Sun, Moon, and Stars" when we returned from winter break. We began by looking at the sun. Our first question to investigate was does the sun appear to move in the sky? We approached this question by recording where the sun was in the sky three times during the school day. In addition, students also drew their shadows on the concrete while standing in the same position each of the three times they were outside. The next week we looked at the data. First, it was apparent that the sun does appear to move in the sky throughout the day. Moreover, the sun rises in the east and sets in the west. Next, we looked at the data of one student's shadow study. We saw that the size and direction of her shadow changed throughout the day. To try to explain this phenomenon, we developed a model for what was happening. In our model, we used a flashlight to represent the sun, a cork to represent the student, and the table represented the ground. Students were challenged to try to determine why the shadow changed size and direction throughout the day. Through this study, they realized that shadows are created by objects blocking the light. They also realized that the sun moving through the sky from East to West explained both the change in size and direction of the student's shadow. When the sun is closer to the horizon, shadows are longer. When the sun is closer to overhead, shadows are shorter. When the sun is East of the student, the shadow is on the West, and vice versa. In the end, we also looked at a model in which the earth was a globe, the light source was a flashlight, and the person was a small slip of paper on the surface of the globe. I explained, as most students already knew, that the sun doesn't move, but instead, the earth rotates on its axis, making it appear the sun is moving.