Turbines and Solar Ovens and Windmills, Oh My!

Ms Young with one of her students at the Engineering Expo

Ms Young with one of her students at the Engineering Expo

March 23rd marked JOES first ever Engineering Expo and what a night it was! Attendees mingled and listened to kids explain their various engineering marvels, parents representing a wide array of fields explained to rapt kids what a career in engineering can look like, fun science prizes were raffled off, and everyone munched on tasty treats.

Thanks to everyone who came and rewarded the students’ hard work, to all the teachers for going the extra mile to help these projects come to fruition, and for our wonderful science consultants Paige and Caitlin who spearheaded this wonderful event and help keep our children so excited about science each and every week.

Click here for more photos

Finally, we’re very grateful for everyone who donates to the PTA—your generosity allows us to fund this program!

Newsletter February 9, 2017

Hi JOES Community,  welcome to the very first Jose Ortega newsletter! 

We’re taking a step towards digital communication-—welcome to our first newsletter! We hope it helps you keep up with what's going at your school.

Here's what's coming up:


Parent Teacher Conferences

Reminder: Parent-Teacher conferences are coming up later this month, Feb. 27-March 3, and that means early dismissal at 12:50pm. When you come in to meet your teacher, the school will be also asking you to complete SFUSD’s Family Survey. This survey provides a great opportunity to provide feedback about your school and how it is or isn’t supporting your child. 


Black History Month

Nelson Mandela artwork created by Jose Ortega students

Nelson Mandela artwork created by Jose Ortega students

There's a lot of neat stuff going on next week to help celebrate Black History Month:

  • Selected students will dress in costume and tour classrooms, bringing historical figures to life!  
  • Lunches will be extra special, featuring slide shows and music that will take students through the evolution of African American music in history
  • February 9 - Parent Volunteers will be read books about black history to each classroom. 
  • February 17 -  Members of SF State's Black Student Union will present a step show during Friday sing-a-long and then visit classes to talk about their journey on how they got into college.


PTA Meeting

Thursday, Feb. 9 at 6pm: This month's PTA meeting will feature guest speaker Jennifer Devine, founder of Superstar Health Education, who will be teaching our 5th graders about puberty. This is a great opportunity to hear first-hand what she’ll be teaching our kids and to ask questions about how to best handle this potentially tricky topic with all ages. (Meeting in the Cafetorium; Childcare and food for the kids will be provided in the library.)


English Language Learner Council (ELAC)

Is your child an English Language Learner?

Ms. Danielle Uttley, from the District’s Multilingual Pathways Dept., is  our Special Guest speaker and will answer questions about DELAC and multilingual programs.

When: Friday, February 10, 2017, 8:15 a.m. – 9:15 a.m.
Where: Jose Ortega Conference Room 221

A Chinese translator will be available. Please let us know if you need translation in another language, and for any other questions about ELAC, contact Ms. Watanabe at watanabes@sfusd.edu 

A light breakfast will be provided.



Saturday, Feb. 11, a group from our school will be marching in San Francisco’s Chinese New Year Parade, named one of the top 10 parades in the world! We should be about 3/4 of the way through the parade, so come on down and cheer!! Or, if you can’t make it, you can check out the live broadcast on channel 2 or 26. Missed out this year but want to be in it next year? Contact: GoJOESVolunteer@gmail.com



Reminder: Parent-Teacher conferences are coming up later this month, Feb. 27-March 3, and that means early dismissal at 12:50pm. When you come in to meet your teacher, the school will be also asking you to complete SFUSD’s Family Survey. This survey provides a great opportunity to provide feedback about your school and how it is or isn’t supporting your child. 



Save the date! 3/23 (6-9pm) will be our school’s first ever Engineering Expo! For the next month, our science consultants and classroom teachers will be working with all grades on a special engineering challenge, which will be presented at this fun, family event!



Traffic! Rainy days make roads slippery and visibility poor. Please take extra care when dropping off your little ones, and a HUGE thank you to the parent volunteers who keep everything running smoothly. Do you have a morning to spare once or twice a month? We could sure use more help! Please contact GoJOESVolunteer@gmail.com for this or other volunteer opportunities!


Thanks for reading and stay tuned for more updates...we’re working on scheduling more fun community events, including a movie night and possibly a school concert & dance party! If you have any feedback or want to see anything added, we’d love to hear about it (email below)!

Ben Klaus, Principal

Melissa Unzicker, PTA president (JOESpresident@gmail.com)

Science Update January 2017

Update from Caitlin:

Pre-K: Last week, we took a break from learning about how animals eat and trying to eat like they do to examine some real animals live and in-person. We watched a short video about the life cycle of a darkling beetle, and saw how it starts as a tiny egg, hatches into a larva called a "mealworm," grows and sheds its skin, turns into a pupa, and finally becomes an adult darkling beetle. After our video, and a discussion of how to safely handle the mealworms, each student was given a shallow plastic dish with a mealworm in it for them to observe, and to handle gently if they so chose. Some students were a little squeamish about touching the mealworms, but many students were brave enough to let the mealworm crawl on their hand, and felt its tiny feet tickling their palms. After our observation, we put the mealworms into their habitat. The bottom of the habitat is covered with bran meal, which is what they live in and eat. They also like to hide under the bran meal, because they don't like the light. We gave them a few apple slices to eat, which is also their source of water, and they have become a fixture in the classroom that the students check in on daily and care for.

This week, we returned to learning about interesting ways that animals eat, and we learned about a special fish called the archer fish. We watched a video about how this amazing fish catches his dinner: when it sees a bug crawling around on the plants above the water, it shoots a stream of water out of its mouth and knocks the bug into the water, where the fish can eat it. The scientist in the video told us that the archer fish is very good at being able to aim the stream of water as he spits, even at targets up to two feet away. We tried eating like an archer fish. Each student was given a small paper plate with three gummies attached to it (the gummies had been moistened with water and dried onto the plate). They were given a larger plate and a plastic pipette. The larger plate was filled half way with water, and the students had to pretend to be archer fish by sucking the water from the big plate into their pipettes, and shooting it at the "bugs" on their small plates. The rule was that students were allowed to eat the gummies, but only if they managed to get them to fall from the small plate by shooting them with water. 

Pre-K SpEd: To kick off our dinosaurs unit, we had a dino-dig. Students used their hands to dig into a tray filled with sand, where sea shells and an assortment of small plastic dinosaurs were hidden. 

Kindergarten: Continuing to think about how a material like paper is not very strong, but can be made into something strong like a box and our papier mache cups, I gave the students a challenge: using only a single half-sheet of newsprint paper and a single piece of tape, they had to build something that would be strong enough to hold a paper plate off of the table high enough for a marker to roll underneath it. If the paper could hold up a plate, the next challenge would be to hold up a small bottle full of water. They were allowed to fold, roll, or crumple their paper, but not to tear it. Students tried many different strategies, but we found that the best way to meet both challenges was to roll the paper up into a cylinder and tape the side. We have already observed that paper can be made stronger by layering it and adding glue, like the box and our papier mache, but now we had discovered something else that we could change about our paper to make it stronger: its shape! A paper cylinder was much stronger than crumpled or folded paper, and it could hold as many as 4 bottles of water before collapsing. If we added layering to our procedure by folding the paper before rolling it, it could hold as many as 8 bottles! So, now that we knew that changing the shape of a material could make it stronger, our next question was, what is the strongest shape you can make. On Thursday, we reviewed some of the three dimensional shapes that they have already learned about: cube, rectangular prism, triangular prism, triangle-based pyramid, square-based pyramid, cone, cylinder, and sphere. We decided to build a few of these shapes to test which is the strongest. Using toothpicks and play-doh, students constructed cubes, triangular prisms, and both kinds of pyramids (we realized that we couldn't build shapes that had round edges, because our toothpicks were straight lines). After building the shape, the students were asked to try testing its strength by putting pressure on its sides, its corners, and by picking it up to see whether it would hold together. We discovered that a cube was the weakest shape. It would wobble with only a little pressure on any of its corners, and if you tried to pick it up, it would fall apart. Our triangular prisms were a bit stronger. Sometimes the pushing on the corners would make it wobble, but it depended on which way the shape was oriented. It also fell apart when it was picked up. Next was our square-base pyramid. That was very strong if you were pushing on the top corner, but if you turned it on its side and pushed one of the bottom corners, it wobbled. When you tried to pick it up, it mostly stayed together. Our strongest 3-D shape was our triangle-base pyramid. No matter how you turned it, pushing on the corners didn't make it wobble. You could pick it up, roll it around, even toss it back and forth between your hands, and it would stay together. Why were some shapes so weak, while other shapes were so strong? We looked at our different shapes, and thought about the 2-D shapes that made them. A cube is made up of all squares. A triangular prism is three squares joined together in a triangle. A square-base pyramid is four triangles and a square bottom. A triangle-base pyramid is made up of only triangles. We realized that the more triangles our shapes had, the stronger they were, and we concluded that between a square and a triangle, a triangle is much stronger.

This week, we began by reviewing what we had learned about shapes and that, so far, our strongest 2-D shape is the triangle, and the strongest 3-D shape is the triangle-base pyramid. After the review, I told the students that we were going to take a short break from thinking about shapes, and think about houses. Giving each student a half-sheet of paper and 3 minutes to work, I asked everyone to draw a picture of a house. After we had drawn our houses, I shared the designs different students had drawn. We looked through many different pictures, and I asked the students to think about what shapes they observed in each house. We noticed a pattern: almost everyone had drawn a house that was made of a square bottom with a triangle on top. Even between the three classes, most students had drawn a house in the same shape. Why was this? Why does everyone draw the same shapes when they think of a house? I explained the students that here in the U.S., most houses that people live in and that we see in books, tv, and movies, are shaped that way. So it is natural for us to draw houses in shapes that we are used to seeing. We looked at a chart of the most common kinds of houses in the U.S., and we saw that many had the same shape, and that big buildings like apartment buildings and condos were also squares. We then looked at some other houses from around the world. Some other countries had similar houses (like adobe houses), but some houses had very different shapes. A teepee was shaped like a cone, and an igloo, a yurt, a hut, and a wigwam were all shaped like half-circles. I then showed the students a picture of an indigenous-style house from India, which was in the shape of a half-cylinder. We also observed that the house was made of grass, or straw. I asked the students if they had ever heard of someone building a house of straw, and indeed, they knew the story of the three little pigs. In the story, a house made of straw is not a very strong house at all. Why did the people who built this house use straw, then? Some students guessed that they hadn't heard the story, or that they weren't very good builders. I asked the students what houses in the U.S. are usually made of, and they listed wood, brick, cement, and metal. I asked whether those are strong materials, and they agreed. I then asked why the people who built the house pictured hadn't used bricks or cement, and it dawned on some of the students that the people who built the house didn't have bricks, cement, or other strong materials to build with. They built the house of straw because straw was the material they had. But even though the material wasn't very strong, the people still wanted a strong house to live in. What could they do to their material to make it stronger? After thinking and referring back to our paper challenge from last week, the students realized that by making the house into a half-cylinder shape, it was much stronger. It wasn't that the people weren't smart, or not good builders. They were using the materials they had in the best way possible. On Thursday, we took some time to look at the houses again, and think about how shape and materials both work to make something strong. We recalled that shapes with triangles were stronger than shapes with squares, but how did circles compare? We began by re-enacting the water bottle challenge, this time with paper that had been folded into a cube, into a triangular prism, and a cylinder. We saw that a paper cube could hold only 3-4 bottles of water, and a triangular prism had similar results, while our cylinder could hold 8. It seemed as though the circle in the cylinder was stronger than the triangle or the square. I showed the students an egg, and asked them whether eggs are weak or strong. Most agreed that eggs are weak and easy to break. Easy enough to break just by squeezing in my fist? Most students thought so, and were surprised to see that I couldn't break it by squeezing it. Sitting in a circle, each student was given a chance to try to break the egg by squeezing it, but try as they might, no one could. Some students suspected that the egg was fake,  or hardboiled, but once it made the round, I cracked it into a basin to show them that it wasn't a trick; the egg really was that strong. The eggshell itself was very thin, and I broke a fragment with my nails to show the students how fragile it was. So why couldn't we break it by squeezing? Because of its shape. Round shapes are very strong when there is pressure coming from all sides at the same time. To see how strong, we took a flat of 3 dozen eggs and had the students try standing on them. They were amazed and thrilled to see that the eggs did not crack. 


(There were several surprises, however.  After students in Room 2 tried standing on the eggs, they asked Ms. Griffith to try. She was able to last year, but this year, we had several cracked eggs. We also had a student crack eggs in Room 3, but that was because he rocked backwards on them. The biggest surprise, including for me, was during Room 4's science class. After the first egg had made its round through squeezing, I took one last squeeze, joking that maybe the students had weakened it for me. Perhaps they had, because, for the first time after having done this lesson at least a dozen times before, the egg burst in my hand and exploded everywhere. Luckily, I had clean-up supplies prepped and ready.)


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.

Pre K - 3rd Grade Science Update

Pre-K: After we learned about how butterflies eat with a mouth called a "proboscis" last week, this week, we took a look at how some birds eat. We learned that a bird's mouth is called a "beak," and that many birds like to eat seeds. Since birds don't have hands, they need to use their beaks to pick up seeds to eat them. We practiced eating like birds, using forceps (tweezers) as our "beaks" and a plastic cup as our bird tummies. The students were given a seed mix on a plate to practice picking up seeds with their beaks and putting them in their tummies.

Pre-K SpEd: This week, we made rain clouds with cotton balls and blue-colored water. The students were given cotton balls, a dish of blue water, and a pipette. Using the pipette, they transferred water to the "cloud" until it was saturated with "rain." Then, using their hands to squeeze the water back into the dish, we made the rainclouds rain.

Kindergarten: This Monday, Rooms 2 and 3 went on a field trip to the symphony, so only Room 4 had science that afternoon. We remembered the different kinds of wood we had observed, and talked about how wood is a very useful material. Room 4 brainstormed a long list of things that are made of wood, and I wrote each idea on the board, accompanied by a simple drawing. Afterwards, the students were given a story sheet to fill out, similar to what we had read at the beginning of our unit about wood, "The Story of a Chair." The first panel in the story read, "Wood comes from trees. Many things are made of wood." The students were told to draw a tree to illustrate the first panel. The three following panels each had a sentence to complete, "___________ is made of wood." From the list on the board, the students were allowed to select whichever wooden items they liked, wrote the name of the item in the blank, and drew a picture of the item. On Thursday, I posed a question to the students. We are learning about wood because wood is a very useful material that can be made into many things. One example is that wood can be used to build a boat. We have had a chance to observe and compare five different kinds of wood. The question was, if we were going to pick one of our five kinds of wood to build a boat out of, which wood would be the best choice? We narrowed that question down into a question that we could experiment to find the answer to: which kind of wood floats best? First, we determined that all of our five types of wood do, in fact, float in water. So the way to test which wood floats best would be by adding weight to it until it sinks to see which type of wood can hold the most weight before sinking. The students worked with a partner to test a wood sample. The sample had a rubber band around its middle, and the students took turns adding one large paperclip at a time, then testing to see whether the wood still floated with each additional paperclip. (To save time, we defined "sink" to mean when any part of the wood touched the bottom of the container, rather than being completely submerged.) To help us compare the results, after their wood sample was "sunk," the students would work together to link the paperclips into a chain. The chains were hung on the white board in columns labelled with the name of each kind of wood, and the students were asked to count the clips and to write the number on the board below the chain. Once each type of wood had been tested at least once, we met together on the rug to compare our data, and see if we could answer the question: which kind of wood floats best? Results varied by classroom, but from each classes' results, they were able to see that the wood that held the most paperclips before sinking was the best at floating, and therefore the best for building a boat. We were also able to determine which types of wood are not good for building a boat (particle board), although those types of wood can be good for building other things.

Vocabulary: observe, compare, basswood, pine, redwood, particle board, plywood, float, sink

Try this at home: Look for examples of how wood is used, and think about why. Is there a reason that the object is made of wood? Could it be made of another material instead?

First Grade: Last week, we began our investigation of gas by using a set of solid objects to observe some things that a gas (air) can do. We saw that air can push things and pull things. This week, we continued to investigate what air can do, this time using liquid. Working in groups of two or three, the students were each given a 12-dram vial, and a 1 gallon clear bin of water to share. After taking some time to do unguided exploration, the students observed that air can make bubbles. Since they had made the observation, I asked the students to consider the following question: What is a bubble? How can we describe a bubble in terms of matter? Thinking about the bubbles we had observed, and about bubbles that we play with outside, we were able to say that "A bubble is a gas inside of a liquid." After defining what a bubble is, I challenged the students to try making as many bubbles, and the biggest bubbles that they could, using the vials. Students had many different strategies: filling the vial with water and pouring the water from the vial back into the basin, holding the vial side ways when submerging it, submerging it upside down and then turning it over. After sharing our ideas, I gave the students a new challenge: given one of the small styrofoam balls from last week, which floated on top of the water, could we get the ball to touch the bottom of the basin without touching the ball? The students were told that they could use their vials to help them, but that the vial itself could not touch the ball either. Some students tried to submerge the ball by pouring water onto it with their vials, but that did not move the ball far enough down to touch the bottom. Once some students found the solution, it quickly caught on with the rest: Turning the vial upside down over the ball and lowering it into the water, the air inside the vial pushed the ball down to the bottom of the basin, without the vial or hands touching the ball.

Vocabulary: matter, gas, air, bubble

Try this at home: We observed that bubbles are usually spheres or hemispheres, but we didn't discuss why. Blow some bubbles with your child and observe their shapes. Is it possible to make a bubble that isn't round? There is also something else for them to consider: we have defined a liquid as being matter that gets its shape from its container, and a bubble as a gas inside a liquid. So how is a bubble a sphere? Where is it getting its shape from? The answers to these questions are probably too complex for most first-graders, but they are fun to contemplate.

Second Grade: With our meter tapes that were made last week, the students had a chance to practice estimating and measuring objects around the classroom. We learned that estimate means to make a good guess, trying to get as close as you can to the real value. They selected an object (anything they could find and reach in the classroom), estimated its length in centimeters, and then measured it with the meter tapes to find its actual length. They then had to compare the estimate with their actual measured length. I explained to them that their estimates might be far from the actual measurements at first, but given practice, they would get better at estimating, and their estimates would get closer to their measurements. 

Vocabulary: standard units, metric system, meters, centimeters, estimate

Try this at home: Students will be bringing their measuring tapes and worksheets home. On the reverse of the estimating worksheet is a place to compare the sizes of different body measurements. This is a fun activity that we just don't have the time to finish, and it is interesting to see how closely some body measurements align; for example, comparing your height and your arm span from fingertip to fingertip, or the length of your forearm between your wrist and elbow to the length of your foot from tips of toes to heel. 

Third Grade: We know that matter is defined as anything that has volume and mass. We investigated the concept of volume and the tools and units for measuring volume last week, so this week, we investigated mass. We know that mass is how much stuff an object is made of, and that we can tell differences in mass by observing differences in weight, i.e. things that have more "stuff" in them will feel heavier. To demonstrate this, students worked with a partner to sort a series of three objects, a metal circle, a plastic circle, and a wooden square, from greate

Help Send 5th Graders to Weeklong Science Trip!


From Mr. E: 

Do you remember your first trip to science camp? Do you remember the sense of excitement and adventure that surround your learning? I do! And I'll never forget it. That's what we are trying to provide for our 5th Graders. Help us attend Exploring New Horizons at Camp Loma Mar during the coming school year. This is an all inclusive outdoor science camp nestled in the California coastal redwood forest. While at camp, our urban students will experience science in a brand new way unavailable to them in their own city.

They will be immersed in exciting opportunities to explore and investigate the flora and fauna of redwood and oak forests, tide pools, and coastal marshlands.

Students will be lead by Exploring New Horizons's fabulous staff of expert naturalists as well as local high school counselor volunteers. They will also have a chance to learn and collaborate with students from a neighboring elementary school as well. While at camp students are housed in rustic yet comfortable cabins and provided 3 delicious meals per day.

This experience provides students with an opportunity to learn in a way that is unavailable in their daily city life. It engages them in science education in a unique way that stimulates lifelong interest and develops a sense of environmental stewardship. Beyond that, it serves as a confidence builder as they develop independence from their families while learning to collaborate with science experts and students from other schools (many of which will become their middle school classmates in 6th grade).

My students are a community of 5th graders representing one of the most diverse schools in our large urban city. We have over 8 home languages represented as well as a variety of racial, cultural and ethnic backgrounds. Our school community also draws in families from all socioeconomic levels. This creates a unique and beautifully colorful experience for all of our students.

Our students are hardworking and academically motivated, especially in Science and Reading.

They also love writing, dancing, gardening, creating art projects, playing Four Square and Kickball. Our 5th graders are curious and engaged learners who desire hands-on and adventurous learning experiences.

Donate here, any amount is appreciated! 

Science Update Pre K - 3rd

Pre-K (GenEd): We have continued to explore our senses, and we have begun reading and thinking about how animals use their senses in ways that are different from humans. We did an activity about our sense of touch where students traced outlines of their hands and glued pieces of differently textured materials to the fingertips of the outlines: a cotton ball for "soft," a square of wax paper for "smooth," and a square of sandpaper for "rough." 

We have been reading from a book about animal senses, and we began by thinking about how animals ears are different from human ears. Some animals have ears that are much bigger than human ears, and many animals can move their ears to be able to listen for sounds. We tried hearing like a fennec fox by poking a hole in the bottom of paper cups and holding them to our ears. We were able to move the cups around to hear sounds coming from different directions. We also read about how some animals use their sense of smell, and how many animals are much better at smelling things than humans are. We used our noses to try to figure out what was in a series of vials. The first vial had a strong, stinky smell, the second vial had a nice clean smell, the third vial had a strong, medicine-y smell, the fourth vial soft, powdery smell, and the fifth vial had a strong, sweet smell. Inside the vials were vinegar, dish soap, rubbing alcohol, baby oil, and peppermint oil.

This week, we read another section of our book about how animals see. We learned that animals see in many different ways, and we tried using different tools to see the way different animals see. We looked through a screen to try to mimic how a bee and other insects see with compound eyes, and we looked through a magnifying glass to see how a fish sees. We also talked about how some animals are much better at seeing in the dark than people are. We passed around a box with four blocks inside of it, and a blue plastic filter on the cover. We peeked into a box through a hole in the side and tried to figure out what color the blocks were. All of the blocks looked blue and black, and when we took the cover off, we saw that the blocks were really red, blue, white and black, and we learned that when we see at night time, it is very hard to tell colors apart.



Pre-K (SpEd): We have been working with learning to use pipettes. Each student was given a clear plastic plate, a small piece of sponge, and a 50 mL plastic pipette (dropper) to practice moving colored water from the basins to their plates. It can be tricky for little hands to use a pipette, and to remember the steps: if you want to pick up water in your pipette, you have to squeeze, dip, and let go. With practice, we are getting better at moving the water to our plates, dripping it on the plates or on the sponges, and watching the colors mix together.


Kindergarten: After finishing our leaf booklets, we had a chance to observe several kinds of leaves that were gathered from Golden Gate Park, and the students made rubbings of their favorite leaves. 


After we learned the four parts of a tree (roots, trunk, branches and leaves) and had a chance to take a closer look at leaf shapes, we learned about why leaves are an important part of the tree, and how the parts of a tree work together. We know that plants like trees are living things: that’s why we had to treat them respectfully on our Tree Walk in Brooks Park. All living things need food to grow and stay healthy. Animals eat food, but plants, like trees, are different: they make their own food! We learned that plants like trees make their own food with three ingredients: water, light, and air. Leaves are an important part of the tree because they get the air and the light, and also because they are where the food is made. The roots are important because they get the water the plant needs from the ground. The trunk and branches are important because they take the water from the roots and bring it to the leaves. To help us think about how the parts of a tree work together to make their own food, we did an activity where we were the parts of a tree. We had a big outline of a tree on a piece of fabric, and the students were assigned to different parts of the tree. The root people would get the water, and hand it to the trunk people. The trunk people would pass the water to branch people, and branch people would put the water into the leaf cup where the food was being made. Leaf people gathered sun light and air to put in the food cup. For our three ingredients, we used colored water. Water was colored blue, light was colored yellow, and air was clear. The ingredients were placed in dishes close to the parts of the tree that collect them (water near the roots, light and air by the leaves). Students collected the ingredients with pipettes, and helped transfer the ingredients to the leaf cup, making green food for our tree to use to grow and be healthy. Once we had worked together to make enough food, we used the food we made to help our tree make one of its paper flowers bloom. We played several rounds of the game, and students had a chance to play different roles of the parts of the tree, and with good teamwork, we were able to make several of our paper flowers bloom! (This activity is on display in the kindergarten hallway over the ramp.)

Since we have learned that a tree's roots get water for the tree from the soil, we had a lesson about the importance of healthy soil. We looked at a poster called "Dirt Made My Lunch" (a song by the Banana Slug String Band), we read the lyrics together, and we talked about how every part of the lunch on the poster had originally come from the dirt, and then we talked about what had been for lunch in the cafeteria that day, and we found out about how all of those foods had come from the dirt too. We put together a booklet for the students to take home and share with family and friends about why dirt is so important called "Dirt Made My Sandwich." Each page in the sandwich featured one of the sandwich ingredients: bread, tomato, lettuce and cheese, and on the back of the page was the story of how that ingredient had come from the dirt. Some ingredients had a short story, like bread being made from wheat, which grows in the dirt. But cheese had a long story, because cheese is made from milk, milk comes from a cow, a cow eats grass, and grass grows in the dirt. 

On Halloween, we had a special lesson in the Kinder classrooms, because one of the rules in the science room is that there is no tasting. In their classroom, we played a game about food that comes from trees. I told the students that I had brought in a backpack full of lots of different kinds of foods that come from trees. First, they were going to try to think of every food that comes from a tree, and we would make a list. If the students could think of a food that I didn't bring with me, they would get a point. If I had brought a food with me that wasn't on our list, I would get a point. Then we would have a chance to taste some of the foods that come from trees. Most of the classes were able to think of at least one food that I hadn't brought with me (coconuts, cherries, cocoa beans), but I brought in foods that surprised them, and some foods that they had never heard of. We also learned which foods do not come from trees (a surprise is that bananas do not grow on trees. We learned that trees have a trunk that is woody, and banana plants, although they grow very tall, do not have a woody trunk.) Afterwards, we had a chance to taste some of the more exotic foods. (I brought: apples, oranges, pears, plums, peaches, persimmons, pomegranates, papaya, guavas, figs, dates, mango, avocado, cherimoya, olives, tea, coffee, cinnamon, cloves, and maple syrup. We tasted persimmons, pomegranates, papaya, guavas, figs, dates, avocado, cherimoya, and a drop of maple syrup from the end of a straw.)

This week, we learned about our scientist of the month, and we started talking about another reason why trees are important: many animals live in trees. We brainstormed all the animals that live in trees that the students could think of: birds, squirrels, owls, monkeys, bats, bees, sloths, koala bears, etc. The students completed a worksheet about animals that live in trees. They colored in a picture of a tree and four animals that live in trees: bees, owls, birds, and squirrels. After coloring, they cut the animals out and glued them to their tree. Finally, they drew two (or more) additional animals that live in trees that were not one of the four from their worksheet.


Vocabulary: Leaves, branches, trunk, roots, air, water, light

Try this at home: Review how trees (and plants) make their own food. This is one of the lessons where we are able to set a foundation for visible growth the following year, when we discuss photosynthesis in first grade. Students who have had this lesson in Kindergarten and already know the basics of the process are able to expand and refine that knowledge into an understanding of photosynthesis that might otherwise be beyond them. (It is much easier to understand that a plant uses carbon dioxide to make glucose if you already know that it uses air to make food.)


First Grade: After reviewing the properties of solids and liquids that we have spent so much time learning about, I introduced the students to five new materials with the challenge to figure out whether they were solids or liquids based on what they knew about solids and liquids. We had five stations, cornmeal, rice, mung beans, pinto beans, and lima beans. The students were given a cup full of the material, a bottle, a large and a small vial, a funnel and a scoop, and they were allowed to touch and play with the materials to try to determine if they were solids or liquids. Most students were able to see that the larger materials (the three kinds of beans) were solids, because they kept their shape, even though they flow and pour the way liquids do. The trickiest was the cornmeal, because the particles were so small that it was hard to see individual pieces, so some students determined that it was a liquid. During our wrap up, we learned that all of the materials are in fact solids, and that if we were to look very closely at a piece of cornmeal with a magnifying glass, we would see that it keeps its shape. Sometimes, when solids are small, they can behave like a liquid (flow and pour), but we also learned some other ways to tell if a material is a solid or a liquid. You can use a plate to find whether a material is a solid or liquid. If you can make a pile of the material, it is probably a solid. If you can draw a picture in the material, it is probably a solid. You can also use another solid, like the metal bolt from our solids investigation, to determine whether a material is a solid or liquid. If you drop a screw into a cup full of material and the bolt stays on top, it is probably a solid. If you stick a bolt down into a material and it stays standing straight up and down, it is probably a solid. 

The following week, we worked with our new materials again, but this time, they were all mixed together. I explained to the students that you can find mixes of beans, rice, and spices sold in a grocery store as a soup mix, and that we had a soup mix made from our materials. However, I decided that I didn't want a soup mix. I wanted to have our materials be separated into their own containers. We discussed how this could be done. Some students suggested that we could separate the mix a piece at a time with our fingers, but we realized that that would be very slow (and probably very boring). Some students were able to think of a strainer, and some even remembered using the screens from last year, when we used them while making paper to separate paper pulp from extra water. I gave the students a set of three sizes of screens and asked them to work with a partner to separate the soup mix into its ingredients. If the students were able to separate the soup mix successfully, we played a game, where they were the chefs of a restaurant who had made a delicious soup mix that was very popular. However, I was a picky customer who didn't like to eat certain foods. I asked the students to make me a special soup mix (beans only, nothing brown, just corn and pinto beans, etc.)

Since we had spent so much time learning about solids, and liquids, and solids that sometimes behaved like liquids, we started to investigate what happens when you mix solids and liquids together. Pairs of students were given a plastic ziplock bag with one of 11 different solids inside (plastic triangle, aluminum foil, cardboard, cotton ball, candy, rock salt, cloth square, corn meal, craft stick, beans, rice). They were asked to draw the solid and to write at least three properties of the solid. This was also a great chance for the students to review the properties of solids. Afterwards, each pair came up and presented their solid to the class and described its properties. We then added a small amount of water to each bag of solids, and we observed how the solid and the liquid (water) changed when mixed together. We saw that some solids changed very quickly (candy, rice, cornmeal), while others changed more slowly or not at all (cardboard, aluminum foil). We did a gallery walk around the room so that the students could see each of the solids interacting with the liquid. I told the students that we would check in with our solids the following week to see how the solids had changed. 

This week, we checked our solids. We saw that some had changed a lot, some had changed a little bit, and some still had not changed at all. We also noticed that when a solid changed, it seemed to change the liquid as well (something we also noticed last week with the candy and the rice). However, some of the solids had become quite stinky and moldy, so we skipped the final step of evaporating the water from the solids. We reviewed the ways that you can tell whether a material is a liquid or a solid, because the final class before Thanksgiving break will be a materials test. 

Since we let out early for conferences this week, and Thanksgiving break starts on Wednesday the following week, this week was our final class. The students were given a brand new material, and they were allowed to observe and experiment with it, and it was their job to determine whether it is a solid or liquid and explain (through writing and drawing) why they think so, keeping it mind what we learned about solids and liquids, and thinking about shape, the plate test, and the metal bolt test. (I told them it does not matter whether they are right or wrong, that it only matters that they show what they have learned and use good reasons.) While they were working on their shaving cream experiment, we also discussed how matter can change from one state to another (solid to liquid and liquid to solid). The example everyone is familiar with is water. We discussed how sometimes, you can change the state of matter by changing its temperature (making it hotter or colder). But there are sometimes other ways to change matter. While they worked individually on the shaving cream, I poured some heavy cream into a jar and went around the room, giving each student a chance to shake it vigorously. By the time class ended, our cream had turned from just a liquid into some liquid and some solid: butter milk and butter. I spread the butter onto small squares of brown bread, and the students got to enjoy them (outside of the science room, of course: no tasting in the science room!).

Vocabulary: matter, solid, liquid, gas, property, plate test, metal screw test

Try this at home: Discuss the different ways that your child can tell if a material is a solid or a liquid. Try giving them some materials that may be ambiguous (sand, flour, elmer's glue, jam), and ask them to think about the ways they can show that the material is a solid or liquid. It doesn't matter if they are correct, only that they can remember and use the reasoning they have learned about.


Second Grade: After learning about the properties of our rocks, we began to focus on one property in particular: size. We began referring to our rocks as "earth materials," because we will be thinking about them not just as phenomena that happen to occur in nature, but about the ways in which people use them. We learned about seven different sizes of earth materials, beginning with (largest to smallest) pebbles, gravel, and sand. Since people using earth materials to build things often want earth materials of one particular size, the challenge was to figure out an efficient way to sort a mixture of earth materials that might be collected from a natural source, like our river rocks from a river bed. Students worked with a partner to sort a cup full of earth materials into large pebbles, small pebbles, large gravel, small gravel, and sand. They were given a set of three different-sized screens to help their sorting. In the lesson that followed, we tried sorting again using a new tool: a sorting mat. The mat had a circle to hold each size of material, and a box to compare each piece of earth material by size to determine which circle to sort it into. After having a chance to sort their earth materials with both sorting tools (screens and mats), the students were asked to compare the tools, pick their preferred tool, and explain their preference. Most students preferred using the screens, as it made sorting much faster. However, some students came up with novel answers, like preferring the mat because you can use just one mat to sort all your earth materials, but you need three screens to do the same job-- what great original thinking!

After our introduction to pebbles, gravel, and sand, we read an excerpt from our book called "The Story of Sand," and learned how sand is formed. We added two new sizes of earth materials to our list: boulders and cobbles. We learned from the story that boulders are weathered into cobbles, which are weathered into pebbles, then into gravel, and finally into sand. The question for us to consider then was whether there was a size of earth materials smaller than sand? I asked the students to think about why we had been able to sort pebbles and gravel into large and small, but not sand. They were able to correctly deduce that our screens were not small enough to sort large pieces of sand from smaller pieces of sand (or a material that might be smaller than sand). I told them that we would use another tool to try sorting some sand into larger and smaller pieces, and possibly even find a size smaller than sand. After observing a sample of sand and seeing through our hand lenses that there are, in fact, larger pieces, smaller pieces, and some very tiny pieces, we placed the sand into a vial and filled the vial with water. After shaking vial to mix the water and sand together, we noticed that the sand settled quickly at the bottom, and the water became very brown (students described it as chocolate milk or coffee). We made some predictions about what we would observe if we left the vial undisturbed to settle for a week. Most predictions fell into three categories: 1. The water would weather the sand and the sand at the bottom of the vial would disappear by the next week.

2. The water would be absorbed by the sand.

3. The "dust" making the water dirty and brown would settle back down, leaving the water clear on top and the sand on the bottom of the vial.

After a week, the vials were returned to the students, and we could see that of the three predictions, the third was closest to being correct. The water had indeed cleared, but there was something unexpected with the sand. Instead of two layers inside the vial, there were three. On top of the sand was a thin, lighter layer of brown. This was our new size of earth material, "silt," which is smaller than sand, and therefore took longer to sink because, as the students were able to communicate, the pieces are smaller and lighter.

Having settled the issue that there is a size of earth material smaller than sand, silt, the next question, naturally, was is there a size of earth material smaller than silt? I gave each student a small sample of a material they were all familiar with: clay. They were given time to manipulate and observe the clay, and were asked to think about some properties of the earth material. After their observation, I asked the students to think about where on our earth materials chart the clay belonged. Some students assumed that because each piece was about the size of a pebble, it should go between pebbles and gravel. But we observed that clay can be broken into smaller and smaller pieces. Finally, I told the students that we didn't have the tools to be able to see each piece of clay by itself, because clay particles are so small that they can only be seen with an electron microscope. I showed them an SEM (scanning electron microscope) image of clay particles, which looked like a stack of pancakes. The reason we can see and touch clay is because the tiny pieces stick to each other, and we put that on our list as the smallest size of earth materials.  

Vocabulary: geology, property, basalt, scoria, tuff, weathering, boulder, cobble, pebble, gravel, sand, silt, clay

Try this at home: Our final lesson about rocks will be a rock walk, where we will take a tour of the school grounds and try to find as many examples of the ways people use earth materials to build things as we can. Try to look for examples of people using earth materials around your home or neighborhood.



Third Grade: If you've been reading Ms. Paige's Science Updates, you have a pretty good idea of what has been going on in my classes as well. After finishing energy transfer, we began to focus on one particular form of energy: light. We have learned that light is a form of energy (and can therefore make things happen, as we saw with our energy station with the solar cell crickets), and we observed that light travels in straight lines from its source, which we call "rays." Several things can happen when a light ray hits an object, and thus far we have learned that it can reflect (bounce off of), be absorbed (soaked up), or be transmitted (go through), depending on what it hits. We began observing how light reflects by doing an activity with mirrors. The students were sent outdoors with a small hand mirror to observe how they could make the light from the sun reflect onto other surfaces. After our outdoor observation, the students worked in teams to try to solve a set of flashlight challenges. Given four mirrors, they were asked to figure out how to get the light from the flashlight to do tricks like shine on the side of the flashlight, or to shine in two different directions at once. 

Following our flashlight challenges, we continued learning new things about light. We learned that light from a source like the sun or a light bulb is called "white" light, and is in fact a "spectrum" made up of all the colors of the rainbow. We viewed light through a diffraction grating that allowed us to see the light being broken up into all the colors. The colors are sometimes known as ROYGBIV (red, orange, yellow, green, blue, indigo, violet), but I told the students that this is just a way to remember them, as there are many more than seven colors, and that we often say that there are seven because Sir Isaac Newton, who made so many important discoveries about light, really liked the number seven. The reason we are able to see colors in objects around us is that when white light hits an object, some of the colors of the spectrum are absorbed, and others are reflected. Since we knew that light going into our eyes is what enables us to see, we realized that when we see a colored object, such as a student's blue sweater, it is because the blue light from the light source is being reflected, while the other colors are absorbed. We also learned that when all the colors of the spectrum are reflected (and none are absorbed), this makes the object appear white. When all the colors are absorbed (and none are reflected), this makes the object appear black. 

To help students understand how light produces color, the students made observations at several stations. Three stations included a shoe box with a hole cut in its lid, covered with a plastic filter, and containing four blocks, red, blue, white and black. One box had a white/clear filter, one had a red filter, and one had a blue filter. The students were given a worksheet and asked to color in the blocks the colors that they appeared when viewed through a hole in the side of the box (this was an important emphasis, as students have a tendency to report what they expect to see, not what they actually observe). With the white filter, there appeared to be a red block, a blue block, a black block, and a white block. Under a red filter, there appeared to be two red blocks (one darker, one lighter) and two black blocks. Under a blue filter, there appeared to be two blue blocks (one darker, one lighter) and two black blocks. At the final station, the students were given a flash light and a set of handheld filters in red, blue and green. They were asked to shine the light first through only the red filter and describe what happened to the light (the filter absorbs OYGBIV, and transmits red). Next, they were asked to shine the light through the red filter and blue filter at the same time. Many students predicted that this would produce purple light, but in fact, most of the light was gone. This was probably the most complicated part for the students to explain of all the stations. First, they had to recall what was happening to the light as it passed through the red filter. Then, they had to think about what happened to the light when it hit the blue filter. The red filter absorbs all the other colors except for red, transmitting red light only to the blue filter. However, the blue filter absorbs all colors except blue. Since there was no blue light reaching the blue filter (it was absorbed by the red filter), and the blue filter absorbed the red light, all the light was absorbed by the two filters, and there was nothing left to transmit. Only combining the blue and green filter transmitted any light, because as we saw with our diffraction grating, a blue filter actually transmits small amounts of other colors close to it (green, indigo, violet).

After reviewing and discussing our observations at each station, the students were paired up and began working on poster presentations about the stations. They were given the format for their title: "Why Does a ________ Block Look _______ Under a ________ Filter?" and told they must use the vocabulary ray, spectrum, absorb, transmit and reflect in their poster. Students will be finishing their posters this week.

Vocabulary: energy, light, ray, spectrum, absorb, reflect, transmit

Try this at home:  Get a pair of sunglasses and have your child try them on. Think with your child about what the sunglasses are doing to the light. Do the sunglasses make colors look different? Why? What do sunglasses do to light?

Scholastic Book Fair November 14th - 18th

Scholastic Book fair is happening in the JOES Library - November 14th thru the 18th, during Parent Teacher Conference week .

Hours are Monday 8-3pm, Tuesday - Thursday 8-5:30pm, and Friday 8-2:30pm. 

There are a couple of things to note about the Scholastic Book Fair if you're unfamiliar or are a new family:

1. As you enter, there is a shelf where teachers will place books they've picked out for their classroom libraries. Please feel free to buy books from this shelf. You can buy them for your child's teacher or any other teacher in the school. 

It's a great way to help stock up interesting books for students to read in their classrooms. If you want, grab a few book plate stickers from the cashiers and have your child write their name so the teachers know who to thank :)

2. "All For Books" - a flyer was home asking for donations and we've been so happy to see people sending in money.

So you know how those donations are used: Ms. Wong the librarian allocates two All For Books certificates to each teacher to give to students at their discretion. The recipient of the certificate can get a book of their choice at the book fair up to $8. It's a great reward.

3. While we do earn credit for the teachers to spend on books at the fair and the kids love shopping , if you can, it's nice to help out a little...please see items #1 AND #2

Lots to choose from!