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! 

Greening Day

Working on the succulent garden. 

Working on the succulent garden. 

We had a great group of parent volunteers come out on Sunday November 6th, rolling up their sleeves and putting their hands in the dirt to help make our school beautiful. 

We lost a lot of our "green" during school construction a couple years ago,  slowly but surely, a dedicated group of volunteers has helped to bring it back. It's always exciting to check in week to week to see what the green thumbs around school have added to the mix. 

Thank you to Cameron, Michelle, Annie, Laine, Alex, Sheila and kids, and Brian for their hard work. And of course a big thanks to Margaret and Sophia who are our Green Thumbs in Residence! 

If you'd like to join the greening committee or have your own ideas about greening our school please let us know! 

Fall Carnival Fun!

Laine and Stephanie with Joe Bear

Laine and Stephanie with Joe Bear

Fun was had by all at our annual Fall Carnival. Thanks to everyone who came out despite the cold fog rolling in! 

The kids played games, made arts and crafts, got their faces painted, ate tasty baked goods, performed in the talent show, danced to the DJ, made cute succulent pots and ran around having fun all day! 

We have such a great community and appreciate everyone who helped out and came to support our school. 

Mandarin Immersion admission information meeting

If you have younger children who will be applying to the Mandarin Immersion kindergarten program next year, OR if you have older children who you are interested in transferring in, this meeting is for you!

Jose Ortega School Cafeteria (400 Sargent Street) 
Monday Nov. 7 at 6pm

Interested in the Mandarin Immersion program at Jose Ortega Elementary or Starr King Elementary?

Want to learn more about the SFUSD application process for language pathways?

Curious if your child will be able to test as proficient in Mandarin?

Please join staff from the Educational Placement Center for a town hall meeting to discuss the current enrollment process and get an overview of what to expect in the coming year!


Update from Ms. Paige:

5th grade - Mr. Calubaquib

In Mr. Calubaquib’s class, we were examining how much salt can be dissolved in 50mL of water.  We tested this by adding a 5mL spoon of salt to a bottle containing 50 mL of water.  We would shake the bottle for 1 minute and then observe if the salt dissolved.  We know that a solution is a type of mixture in which a solute (in our case salt) dissolves in a solvent (in our case water).  Solutions appear clear.  We slowly added spoons of salt until we observed undissolved salt on the bottom of the bottle.  We had definitely made a saturated solution.  A saturated solution is a solution in which no more solute can be dissolved in the solvent.  But the challenge was to find out how much salt could dissolve in the 50mL of water.  We only knew approximate spoons, and even then, not all of that salt was dissolved.  We ran out of class time the first day, and picked up here the next week.

We realized that we could filter the saturated salt solution.  We knew that the salt that is dissolved cannot be removed by filtration.  Therefore, only the dissolved salt will pass through the coffee filter, leaving behind any undissolved salt on the filter.  Then we could weigh the saturated salt solution relative to 50mL of water.  We added gram weights to the water until the two cups were in balance.  The gram weights were equal to the amount of dissolved salt.  If I recall correctly, most students got 9-12g of salt that dissolved in 50mL of water.

I then went on to demo the concept of supersaturation by making rock candy.  I first made a saturated solution of sugar and water.  The students directed me to make a saturated sugar/water solution by adding sugar to the water until I no longer saw it dissolving, approximately 1 1/2 cups of sugar to 2 cups of water.  Then in a second pan, I made a saturated sugar/water solution, but at 100oC (boiling water).  I stirred water on a burner until it was boiling, and then I added sugar until it stopped dissolving.  This was approximately 6 cups of sugar in 2 cups of water.  I emphasized that the hot solution is still just supersaturated.  The hot water contains the exact amount of sugar that will dissolve at that temperature.  However, once we turned the heat off and it started to cool, the water would contain much more sugar than should be dissolved at room temperature.  When a solution contains more solute than would normally dissolve in the solvent, we say the solution is supersaturated.  Supersaturation is a precarious situation because the solute does not want to be dissolved in the solvent.  By adding a surface for the solute to crystallize on, the solute will come our of solution.  We added a skewer to both the saturated and supersaturated solutions.  Within 2 days, we saw beautiful rock candy crystals of sugar on the skewer in the supersaturated solution but not in the saturated solution.  We again reiterated that the sugar did not crystallize out of the saturated solution because that solution had the amount of solute dissolved in the solvent that it can accommodate.

This last week, we started looking at chemical reactions.  I showed students that calcium chloride, citric acid, and baking soda will all individually form solutions with water.  The question was, “What will happen if we mix two of the solids together with water.”  We tried each combination and observed what happened.  Calcium chloride, baking soda, and water fizzed, and then produced a white precipitate (a solid that forms during a chemical reaction).  Citric acid, calcium chloride and water formed a solution.  Citric acid, baking soda and water fizzed, but then formed a solution.  We realized that the fizzing was due to a gas, but we hadn’t added a gas to the cup.  This was a clue that something different had happened.  We had seen a chemical reaction.  In a chemical reaction, the atoms of the substances are rearranged to form new products.  Production of a precipitate, gas, temperature change, and color change are all signs that a chemical reaction has happened.

5th grade - Mr. Ellingson

Mr. Ellingson’s class started three weeks ago on the chemical reaction experiment described above.  We have since gone on to look at chemical reactions in greater depth.  We have learned the chemical formulas for many of the substances we have been using (baking soda is NaHCO3, water is H2O, carbon dioxide is CO2, calcium chloride is CaCl2, and salt is NaCl).  Chemical formulas are like a shorthand way of writing what atoms are in a compound and how many of each type of atom are present in a molecule (a single particle of the substance).  We also talked about how we represent chemical reactions in using chemical equations.  We put the reactants on the left side of the equation.  These are the substances that we have at the beginning of the reaction.  We then draw an arrow depicting that the substances are changing into something new.  Then we write the formulas for the products on the right side of the arrow.  The products are the new substances that are formed in a chemical reaction.  We learned that in a chemical reaction matter cannot be created or destroyed, so all of the atoms present in the reactants must be present in the products.  The formulas have to be balanced.

We spent a week looking at balancing chemical equations.  We used M&M’s to represent atoms.  We placed a colored M&M for each atom of a reactant.  We then rearranged these atoms and moved them to the product side to show that all the atoms have to move to the product molecules; not M&M’s can be left behind or created.  Once we successfully rearranged our atoms to make the products of the reaction, we got to eat them!  Always a highlight!

Then this past week we let students make their own hypotheses about what will happen when different chemicals are mixed and try out their experiments.  Each group of 2 students was allowed to pick 2 solids and 1 liquid from materials available (calcium chloride, baking soda, salt, citric acid, vinegar and water).  They wrote a hypothesis about what they thought would happen based on their previous experiences, and then they put their materials in a bag and saw what happened.  Some bags puffed up due to production of carbon dioxide.  Other bags formed a precipitate or a solution.  Some bags changed temperature.  Students wrote about their observations using the vocabulary we have been learning in this unit.

4th grade and Mr. Briggs 4/5 split

We have been exploring the properties of minerals.  Minerals are pure earth solids; they are the building blocks of rocks.  We had previously seen that we can differentiate minerals based on the properties of color, texture, crystal structure, and luster.  Three weeks ago, we learned about the property of hardness.  Hardness is the resistance of a material to being scratched.  The Mohs Scale is used to describe hardness.  This is a scale from 1 (softest, talc) to 10 (hardest, diamond).  In geology, minerals are tested for hardness using the scratch test.  The scratch test consists of trying to scratch a mineral with a fingernail, aluminum object and stainless steel object. Based on which tools scratch the mineral, the geologist can assign a hardness score to the mineral.  We practiced the scratch test using 4 unknown minerals we had been observing.  Based on our results, we were able to identify the minerals using hints like quartz is the hardest mineral and gypsum is the softest.  We were able to see how mineral hardness is a very useful property for identifying minerals. 

Next, we looked at 4 rocks.  Rocks are solid earth substances consisting of 2 or more minerals.  We looked at basalt, limestone, marble, and sandstone.  We first studied these rocks for evidence that they were rocks.  We saw that marble had flecks of high luster in a background of low luster.  We thought this was evidence of at least 2 minerals being present.  Sandstone had particulates of brown, black and tan.  We thought this was evidence of 2 or more minerals of different colors.  We then learned about an interesting property of one of the minerals we had been studying - calcite.  Calcite has a chemical property that when it is mixed with acid, it fizzes.  We put a sample of calcite in a vial of vinegar and saw effervescent bubbles.  I then asked how could students find out if any of the rocks contained the mineral calcite.  Students realized that if they put their rock samples in vinegar, they should see fizzing of rocks containing calcite.  One by one, we put the rocks in vials of vinegar and looked for fizzing.  It was clear that basalt does not fizz and limestone fizzes.  Marble and sandstone were more difficult to decide about.  We decided we needed more evidence.

This last week, we talked about how to get more evidence.  I pointed out that mixing calcite with vinegar produced a gas (the fizzing), but it might have produced another product.  How could we see if there was another product.  Students had lots of great ideas.  They suggested we could look for a new solid in the bottom of the vial, or we could use a high power microscope to examine the vinegar closely.  As we don’t have a microscope, and we didn’t see a solid, I asked what they could do if something was dissolved in the vinegar like salt is dissolved in saltwater.  Students suggested we could evaporate the vinegar and see if anything was left.  I had done this the week before to give the samples plenty of time to evaporate.  We looked at the evaporation dishes and compared them to our calcite + vinegar dish (positive control; what we expect to see if calcite is present) and to a vinegar alone dish (negative control; what we expect to see if there was no calcite present).  By comparing each rock’s evaporation dish to the two controls, we could determine if the rock contained calcite.  We observed that after calcite reacts with vinegar there is a white crystal in the evaporation dish.  We saw these same crystals in the limestone and marble dishes, but not the basalt and sandstone dishes.  Based on our two sets of data (fizzing and evaporation dishes), we concluded that limestone and marble contain calcite.

3rd grade - Ms. Lin

We finished up our studies on energy a few weeks ago by looking at how energy is transferred from one place to another.  We had explored energy transfer in 5 different systems.  We found that energy moved using waves (sound to make rice dance, water waves to move a ping pong ball, and mechanical waves in a spring bouncing back and forth), wires (battery to make a motor shaft turn), and objects (bowling ball to knock down pins).  We took a week to process all this information and put it together.  We did some reading from the text book, rehashed our explorations using images on the bulletin board to describe what we had seen, and took a quiz.

Next, we started exploring one particular kind of energy - light.  We talked about how we can only see when light hits on eyes.  That’s why we can’t see anything at night; there is no light to hit our eyes.  We also learned the science word for light.  We call the energy coming out of a light source - light rays.  We learned that light rays only move in straight lines.  We talked about how when light hits an object a few different things can happen.  The light can be transmitted.  This means the light passes through the object.  This happens if the object is transparent or translucent.  An example of this is light rays from teh sun passing through our classroom window into our classroom.  Light can also be reflected when it hits an object.  This means that the light bounces off the object in a new direction.  An example of this is light hitting a mirror and bouncing off.  To explore reflection more, we used a flashlight and mirrors to complete challenge questions.  We had questions like, “Can you make the flashlight light rays shine on the side of the flashlight?” or, “Can you make it appear the flashlight light rays appear to go through a book?”  Students worked in pairs positioning mirrors.  Once they completed the challenge, they drew a diagram in their notebook of the mirror positions and the light rays’ path.  

This past week, we reviewed what we had done with the flashlight.  We used white string to trace the path of a laser pointers light rays as they bounced off several mirrors and ended up on me.  We saw that the light traveled in a straight line, when it hit a mirror it reflected (bounced in a new direction), and then continued in a straight line.  We then used the white string to map how I was seeing the student sitting to my right.  We worked backwards.  We knew the light ended at my eye, traced back to the light rays reflecting off the student, and then traced further back that the light had begun at the overhead light.  We tried an even more difficult scenario as a class.  I acted the part of a parent driving, a student was the rearview mirror, and 2 students played George and Harold (of Captain Underpants fame) poking each other in the backseat.  We used the white string again to trace how I saw the kids in the backseat given I don’t really have eyes in the back of my head:)

After reviewing reflection and light rays traveling in straight lines, I introduced that light is made of all colors (ROY G. BIV; red, orange, yellow, green, blue, indigo, violet).  I exchanged my white string for a set of red, orange, yellow, green, blue, indigo and violet strings gathered together.  We then did experiments to verify what I said.  We used a prism to break sunlight into a rainbow.  Then I gave students a diffraction grating (a little slide-like viewer that breaks light into the different wavelengths that make it up).  Students viewed the overhead lights, sunlight, and flashlights using the diffraction grating.  They saw that they observed all the colors of the rainbow.  We then used the diffraction gratings to view a flashlight covered with a red plastic film or blue plastic film.  Students saw that when the light was covered with a red plastic film, they only saw red, orange and yellow through the diffraction grating.  When students viewed the flashlight covered in blue plastic film, they only saw blue, purple, indigo and green through the diffraction grating.  We thought about why this might be.  We knew that the flashlight was producing all the colors of the rainbow as we had seen initially, but after going through the film, some of the colors were missing.  I told them that these colors had been absorbed (taken in by the film and converted to heat energy).  This is one more thing that can happen when light hits an object.  In the case of the red film, the film absorbed the blue, indigo, violet, and green colors.  In the case of the blue film, the film absorbed the red, orange, and yellow colors.

We ended by thinking about how we see color.  A student with a blue shirt stood beside me.  We knew that the white light from the overhead light is made of all colors.  We used by multi-colored string to model this light coming from the light and hitting the student’s blue shirt.  We also knew that we saw blue.  We realized that this must mean that only the blue light hit our eyes, and the rest of the colors must have been absorbed by the shirt.  Next, we modeled what happened with a student wearing a black shirt.  Again, the multi-colored light must hit the shirt, but our eyes don’t see any of the rainbow colors.  Just like at night when we see black, this must mean that no light is hitting our eyes after reflecting from the shirt.  The shirt is absorbing all the colors.  This is why black shirts get so hot outside; they absorb all light and convert it to heat.  Last, we modeled what happens when light hit a student’s white shirt.  The multi-colored white light hits the shirt, and we realized that because we see white, it must mean that all the light is being reflected.   


Hello JOES Families,

Here is this week's update for science classes Pre-K through 3rd Grade.

Have a great weekend, and happy Friday!



Pre-K (GenEd): We continue practicing using our eyes to see and match shapes by playing a game called "What's Missing?" The students were each given a sheet with nine different leaf shapes on it. They were given a set of nine cards with the same leaf shapes, and first, they had to match each card to the right leaf on the sheet. After all the cards were matched correctly, I would come check their work, then mix their cards up again and remove one, placing it on a nearby shelf. The students had to match the remaining eight cards to the leaf sheet, find which one was missing, and then go to the shelf to retrieve the correct card to complete the game.

Pre-K (SpEd): This week, we decorated some more petals to add to our coffee filter flowers on Monday. On Wednesday, we worked on a project about our sense of touch. Each student was given a sheet of paper with "My Hands Can Feel..." and the words ROUGH, SMOOTH and SOFT printed across it. The students traced their hand prints onto the paper, and then had a chance to feel something rough (sandpaper), smooth (wax paper), and soft (a cotton ball). After feeling with our hands, we glued the sandpaper, wax paper, and cotton ball to the hand prints.

Kindergarten: On Monday, we continued our investigation of leaves and leaf shapes by playing a game called "What's Missing?" Working in pairs, the students were given a game set (either green or blue) that included a mat with six leaf silhouettes on it, and six cards that matched the leaves on the mat. With their partner, they were asked to begin the game by matching all the cards to the correct leaf on the mat. After matching all the cards, one student would pick up the cards, shuffle them, and remove one, placing it face-down next to the mat. Their partner then had to figure out which card had been removed by matching the remaining cards. After taking several turns with one set, the students would switch sets (from green to blue, or vice versa). After everyone had had a chance to play the game with both sets of cards, we discussed which set of cards was harder to play with. Everyone agreed that it was much harder to play with and match the green set of leaf shapes because they were very similar to each other (including four different species of oak leaves), while the blue set had leaves that were all very different (each leaf was from a different kind of tree). We had to be much more careful when we observed and compared the leaf shapes of the green set.

On Thursday, we began putting together a leaf booklet. Using six of the nine leaf outlines from our comparing to geometric shapes activity from last Thursday, the students cut out and folded the pages of the book so that each page featuring a leaf outline was facing a blank page. On the blank page opposite the leaf outline, the students drew and wrote the names of the geometric shape the leaf outline reminded them of, using the shape mat as a reference. (Some classes will be finishing the booklets next week.)

Vocabulary: observe, compare, communicate, circle, triangle, rectangle, heart, oval, egg, spear, wedge, paddle

Try this at home: Have your child compare other household or natural objects to the geometric shapes we have been working with. What shape does a spoon remind you of? What shape does that cloud remind you of? You can even begin venturing into "Why?" Why does the spoon remind you of a paddle? You can model this for your child as you go ("This rock reminds me of an egg because it is round, but bigger at one end, and smaller at the other end").

First Grade: Continuing our investigation of liquids, this week we observed how a liquid flows to the lowest point. We saw that liquid in a container, like a bottle, will flow with the movement of the container, but will always flow to the lowest point. For example, if a bottle is sitting upright on the table, the liquid sits at the bottom of the bottle, because that is its lowest point, but if the bottle is knocked over or turned upside down, the liquid will flow to the side or the top of the bottle. We also observed how when the container is still, the top of the liquid forms a straight line called a "level." Our first activity was centered around observing the liquid level of the same amount of liquid in a set of different containers. A small 7 dram vial of water was placed in a bottle, a dish, a large 12 dram vial, and a cup, and the students recorded the level of the liquid in each. After observing levels, we thought about how much liquid each container could hold, and tried to guess which container would hold the most water. We tested this by adding one small vial of water at a time to each container until is was (nearly) full, but not overflowing. Each time a vial-full was added, the students marked a box on their worksheets with an X, creating a bar graph comparing the amount of liquid each container could hold. We found that the large vial could hold the least liquid (only 2 small vials), while most students (though not all) found that the dish and the cup held the same amount of liquid (usually around 10 small vials). 

Vocabulary: matter, solid, liquid, gas, property, viscous, bubbly, foamy, has color, transparent, translucent, opaque, level

Try this at home: We have not yet begun a discussion of "volume" as the amount of space taken up by matter, but we are beginning to explore the concept. At this age, many students are just reaching the developmental stage where they can actually grasp the idea of conservation (that the amount of something stays the same regardless of the container it is in). It is also helpful if students have a chance to practice pouring liquids at home, so give your child a chance to practice pouring, especially if you have the opportunity to have them pour into containers of different sizes and shapes.

Second Grade: This week, we continued to identify and sort river rocks by properties. The students paired with a partner to play a guessing game. Sharing a bag of river rocks, and using a sorting mat, one student would take a turn picking a property and would begin sorting the rocks onto the sorting mat by that property. After sorting 3-4 rocks, they would give their partner a chance to guess which property they were sorting by. If the partner guessed the wrong property, a few more rocks would be sorted, continuing until the partner guessed correctly, and then their partner would have a turn to sort. After playing a few rounds of the game to help us practice identifying properties, the students were given a "Rock Record" worksheet to fill out. There were spaces on the worksheet for the students to select a rock, do a sketch of the rock, and then write some properties of the rock to complete the sentence "This rock is..." This was also a chance for the students to review and practice the ABCDE of scientific sketching, especially focusing on "B for BIG," as many students have a tendency to want to trace whatever they are sketching, and we saw that many of the rocks in our set were too small to trace and still take up most of the space given to sketch in. After doing a "Big" and "Detailed" sketch of their chosen river rock, the students completed the sentence by describing properties of their rock such as size, shape, color, pattern, texture, and luster. The worksheet contained space for four rocks, so students worked until time ran out. Some completed all four quickly, but others took their time to focus on doing a very detailed sketch of their rock.

Vocabulary: geology, property, basalt, scoria, tuff, weathering, luster

Try this at home: Have your child practice sorting by properties with rocks from their collection, rocks they find, or even other objects, including their toys, etc. Try playing the guessing-the-property game with them.

Third Grade: This week, we completed the energy transfer stations from last week's lesson. There were four energy transfer stations for the students to observe. The first station had the battery-powered tone generators from the previous activity, except that the students were asked to place grains of rice on the speaker and observe the action when the tone generator was switched on. The second station was bowling: with a tennis ball and empty plastic bottles as pins, the students were asked to simulate a round of bowling, and to observe the energy transfer. The third station was the battery-powered motors from the previous activity, where students needed to connect wires to the ends of AA battery to make the motor spin a small flag. The fourth station asked students to hold a toy spring (slinky) between them, and have one student gather five coils of the spring at one end with their hands, and then release the coils. After completing the final two stations, we met on the rug to discuss our findings. On the board, we divided each station into three columns: where the energy "started," what transferred the energy, and where the energy "ended." Next to the columns were cards featuring components from the energy stations ("flag on motor spins," "batteries," "sound waves," "wires," etc.) Going through the stations one by one, I asked the students which card showed where the energy had started. When a student answered correctly, they came to the board and moved the card into the correct column. We wrapped up by returning to what we had learned at the end of last week's lesson by considering the following question: What are three ways energy can be transferred? Looking at the center column on the board, the students were able to see how energy had been transferred by wires (connecting battery to motor), by waves (moving through the toy spring, and through the speakers of the tone generator into the rice), and by an object in motion (the tennis ball to the bottles/pins).

Vocabulary: energy, energy converter, energy source, fuel, transfer, waves

Try this at home:  We have been defining energy as the ability to make something happen, and it is sometimes difficult for students to separate and make distinctions between an action and the energy behind it. For example, the set of questions the students are given at each station always begins with "What action did you observe?" and frequently, students will simply write a form of energy (e.g. at the bowling station, when answering this question, many students simply wrote "motion.") When you discuss energy observations with your child, ask them to be specific about what they are observing, especially what action they observe (what happened?).



Hello JOES Families,

Here is this week’s update for science classes Pre-K through 3rd Grade.

Have a great weekend, and happy Friday!



Pre-K (GenEd): Continuing our theme of using our five senses to observe, students had a chance to use their sense of sight to help them complete this week’s activity. Each student was given a wooden tongue depressor with a half of a colored shape on each end (dark blue circle, pink heart, dark green square, light blue triangle, orange star, yellow crescent, black X and light green 8). They were told that the matching half of their stick would be somewhere on one of the tables, and that they had to use their eyes to find a stick that had the matching half of both shapes on the ends to complete the set. Once they had found their first match, they were given a new stick with different shapes to match.

Pre-K (SpEd): While we care for our seedlings in the planter boxes and wait for them to bloom, we are making some paper flowers bloom as well. Each student was given two white coffee filters as the petals for our flowers, and allowed to color them with washable markers. When the students were done with coloring, each filter was sprayed with a water from a spray bottle, causing the colors to blend together in interesting ways. The petals will be attached to a pipe cleaner stem.

Kindergarten: On Monday, the students had a chance to finish their Tree booklets to take home. We also took the first part of the classon Monday to talk about the Scientist of the Month, Dr. Carlos Juan Finlay (see last week’s update for more info).

On Thursday, we began talking about leaves. Just as when we began looking at tree shapes (our tree puzzles and memory game), we could see that each leaf outline in our set comes from a different kind of trees because each is a different shape and size. We also introduced a set of geometric shapes to compare the leaf outlines to. Some were familiar, like circle, rectangle, triangle, heart, oval andegg, while others were new. We saw that a “wedge” is like a triangle, but with rounded corners, a “spear” is like an oval, but with pointed ends, and a “paddle” is like a circle combined with a long rectangle. Working with a partner, the students completed an activity that helped them practice comparing and communicating. Each pair was given a mat with the nine geometric shapes on it, and a set of leaf outline cards. The first student would take a card from the top of the pile, and begin her turn by showing it to her partner and asking which geometric shape the leaf outline reminded him of. After listening to her partner’s opinion, her partner would ask her what shape the leaf outline reminded her of. She would share her opinion, and then have the final decision of where to place her card on the mat, and then hand the deck of cards to her partner to begin his turn. The activity continued until each card had been placed by the geometric shape it resembled (more than one leaf outline could be placed next to each shaped, depending upon the students’ choice).

Vocabulary: observe, compare, communicate, circle, triangle, rectangle, heart, oval, egg, spear, wedge, paddle

Try this at home: Start a leaf collection from trees in your neighborhood or local park. Ask your child what shapes the leaves remind them of. Try to find some examples of our nine geometric shapes, and see how many you and your child can spot.

First Grade: After a quick review of how to tell the difference between a solid and a liquid (the former keeps its own shape, the latter gets its shape from its container), we read over some of the properties of the liquids that we had observed last week that were written up on the board, and as with our properties of solids lesson, we learned some better science vocabulary to refer to the properties of our set of liquids (water, water with green dye, cooking oil, hand soap, dish soap, fabric softener, corn syrup). For liquids that the students had described as having the property of being “sticky,” “gooey,” or “thick,” we learned the word “viscous” to describe liquids like corn syrup, hand soap, and dish soap. The students had also observed that most of the liquids would form bubbles when shaken, and we learned that a liquid can be described as “bubbly” if it had bubbles throughout the liquid, or “foamy” if the bubbles mostly appeared at the top of the liquid. We also observed that most of the liquids “have color” (brown, dark blue, dark green, teal, orange, yellow). We saw that while some liquids that we would call “see-through” are better called “transparent,” while liquids we could not see through were called “translucent.” We also did a demonstration to help us understand the difference between transparent and translucent liquids. The classroom lights were turned off, and some of our transparent liquids were held up in their bottles against a flashlight. These liquids allowed a lot of the light to pass through, so that we could see it on the ceiling. Translucent liquids let some light through, so that we could see the light in the liquid in the bottle, but not going through the liquid onto the ceiling. We also saw a sample of an “opaque” liquid (not included in their set of liquids, we used a bottle of black paint for this demonstration). When the flashlight was held against a bottle of opaque liquid, we could not see any light at all. We then had a chance to practice our new science vocabulary by playing the same activity with a sorting circle that had helped us practice learning our properties of solids. Working with a partner, each student shared a set of liquids and a sorting circle mat. One student would start by choosing one of the new properties, and would try to get his partner to guess which property he was thinking of by placing liquids with that property inside the circle, one at a time, until his partner was able to guess.

Vocabulary: matter, solid, liquid, gas, property, viscous, bubbly, foamy, has color, transparent, translucent, opaque

Try this at home: Look for liquids (or solids) that have the properties we are learning about, especially practicing differentiating transparent, translucent and opaque. Transparent and translucent are tricky for students because they are very similar sounding, and because the distinction between translucent and opaque can be difficult to discern. It may be easier to practice using solids (we did an example using a sheet of copy paper as translucent).

Second Grade: This week, we read a story about another junior geologist called “Peter and the Rocks,” about a boy named Peter who, finding himself with nothing to do once school is out, begins collecting rocks. He arranges his rocks by different properties, researches his rock collection at the library, and learns the names of many different kinds of rocks. We compared some of Peter’s observations of his rocks to our observations of our volcanic rock samples last week. In the book, Peter thinks that the prettiest rocks he collects are those found near a stream, because when held under water, the colors of the rocks brighten. We noticed that this was different than what we had observed, as most of the volcanic rocks had seemed to darken when they were wet. We decided to see whether we could get similar results to Peter’s if we also observed rocks collected by a river. Each student was given a bag of “river rocks,” and asked to observe them and try arranging them, as Peter had, by different properties: size, shape, color, pattern, texture, “luster” (shininess). After observing and arranging the river rocks dry, the students were given a cup of water and allowed to place their river rocks into the water to observe the property changes. We saw a variety of results. Some rocks had their colors darken, as we had seen with volcanic rock, where others had their colors brighten, as Peter’s had. An interesting observation some students made was that some rocks would appear brighter while under water, but then be darker when taken out but still wet.

Vocabulary: geology, property, basalt, scoria, tuff, weathering, luster

Try this at home: At the library, or using online resources, try to identify a rock your child finds, or one (or more) from their collection. In the book, Peter, after his visit to the library, identified several rocks in his collection, practiced writing and saying the names of his rocks, and made labels for the rocks in his collection.

Third Grade: We picked up this week’s lesson with the question from last week about the truck that Brad and his friend observed. We learned that gasoline is a form of fuel that is made from oil. Oil, like coal and natural gas, is a fossil fuel, meaning that it is made from the fossilized remains of ancient plants and animals. The ancient animals got their energy from eating plants, and the plants got their energy from the light from the sun. So both Brad and his friend were right. A truck runs on gasoline, but it also, in a way, runs on sunlight.

This week, we concentrated on understanding energy “transfer” or how energy moves from one place to another. There were four energy transfer stations for the students to observe. The first station had the battery-powered tone generators from the previous activity, except that the students were asked to place grains of rice on the speaker and observe the action when the tone generator was switched on. The second station was bowling: with a tennis ball and empty plastic bottles as pins, the students were asked to simulate a round of bowling, and to observe the energy transfer. The third station was the battery-powered motors from the previous activity, where students needed to connect wires to the ends of AA battery to make the motor spin a small flag. The fourth station asked students to hold a toy spring (slinky) between them, and have one student gather five coils of the spring at one end with their hands, and then release the coils. (The students only had time to complete two of the four stations, but will be completing the other stations next week.) Before class ended, we discussed the concept of “waves” and how they can move up and down or back and forth. The students watched a demonstration of how waves transfer energy by observing a ping pong ball in a basin filled with water, as the water was being pushed by a paddle, and connected the demonstration to the energy transfer we’d observed at the slinky station. We also discussed how energy can be transferred by wires, as with the motor, or by objects in motion, as with the bowling simulation.

Vocabulary: energy, energy converter, energy source, fuel, transfer, waves

Try this at home:  Continue your energy discussions with your child, and expand the discussion to include what is transferring the energy.