Environmental Investigations

Fifth grade has begun a new FOSS Science unit, Environments, in which we study organisms in their environments, including adaptation in their environments. Last week, we planted 5 types of seeds--corn, pea, barley, radish, and clover-- in small rectangular terrariums for our first investigation. Students also created a terrarium map to identify their seeds properly. After discussing the environmental factors of temperature, sunlight, and water, lab groups determined an amount of water for their seeds and a location with adequate light inside a hallway with a well-regulated temperatures. Three days after planting, we were excited to discover sprouts! The lab groups then recorded their data of which seeds had grown, and how much. Every other day, we are checking on our terrariums, only to find new growth. This has brought an element of surprise into our afternoons-- how much have our plants grown, and have any not grown? Students are using their math measuring skills as they learn how much the plants have grown. The only variable that students have changed is the amount of water. At the end of this investigation, students will compare their results and graph them to see whether the amount of water affected growth. We will then add isopods and beetles to our terrariums and investigate how these animal organisms fare among the plants. An added bonus-- we will use these plants as "crops" for our Colonial Living History Project in December.

Jennifer Jordan
Life Skills at 4-H Arkansas Outdoor School

Last week, fifth graders enjoyed their overnight class trip to Little Rock. The students have been excited about this little adventure for weeks, and our experience did not disappoint. With 6 wonderful chaperones and myself, we started at the C.A. Vines 4-H Center, which offered us outdoor team-building activities. Students played cooperative games, canoed blind-folded in pairs, and participated in orienteering challenges with compasses. The highlight of the day was the rock-climbing wall, where students climbed in pairs with the support of five students holding each student's rope. It was heartwarming to witness students encourage each other to keep going when they reached tricky spots on the wall. Students loved this!

On Friday, we ventured into downtown Little Rock and braved the cold rain to tour the Old State House. It was neat to see the original state capitol and to explore the various artifacts housed there-- everything from Arkansas First Lady dresses to dinosaur bones! From the Old State House, we traveled to the Historic Arkansas Museum for a Science in History program. Here, we learned the important role that science played in the lives of Arkansas' original settlers. Students began the program in Little Rock's oldest building-Mr. Hinderliter's Grog Shop, which was built in 1827. Students tested a variety of wooden musical instruments there and then proceeded to churn cream to make butter the old-fashioned way. They also learned how ink was originally made, how newspapers were created with a printing press, how simple machines help blacksmiths shape iron tools, and how Arkansas formed its physical boundaries through surveyors' equipment. We finished our adventure with a warm lunch at Gusano's Pizza before heading home. Overall, this experience taught our 5th graders cooperative life skills and how to support each other-- elements that enable us all to live well!

Please check out a few photos from our trip below! 

Jennifer Jordan
Digging Deep into Science

Fifth grade students are literally digging deep into science! In our Landforms unit, students learn about the Grand Canyon and study the processes of erosion and deposition by making their own stream tables. This hands-on approach lets students see first-hand how erosion and deposition create landforms such as deltas, channels, meanders, and alluvial fans. Working in their lab groups, students have been taking on different roles each week to participate in the investigations. Some students gather the set-up materials, some put together the stream tables, and others record the observations of the experiments. We switch out the roles with each investigation. So far, we have performed standard experiments by running a liter of water through a plastic container with a small hole to witness the effects of the water on a 20 centimeter “plateau” of sand and clay, colored the water with blue dye to observe more clearly the channels and deltas created as the water runs through the table, and provided a slope by positioning a wood angle under the tray to determine how faster-flowing water erodes the earth material. (We learned that the water carries the material farther and creates more fan-shaped deltas and more deposits). Later this week, students will flood the stream tables and notice the effects of large amounts of rapidly moving water. Finally, students will end their erosion investigations by designing their own investigation and testing the processes with their own ideas. Teaching science in this interactive format is a wonderful experience personally as I watch students truly grasp the concepts they are studying. There’s no better reward than seeing students really “get it”!

savannah jarratt
Learning by Doing

Children learn best by doing, and this motto informs a great deal of our 5th grade curriculum. Interactive practice not only increases students' energy as they get out of their seats and move around, but it also helps their brains to make deeper connections with the learning material. Three weeks into the school year, fifth graders have used their early finisher and recess time to build small-scale STEM projects and have created models of our school campus in the Science lab. They have also played "sentence station" in Language Arts to hone topic sentences. In groups of three, students rotated through a series of paper bags that contained a variety of short paragraphs, which were missing topic sentences. After reading each paragraph, each group devised a topic sentence for that paragraph, wrote it on a slip of paper, and deposited in the paper bag. We shared the students' ideas among the whole class afterwards, and there were several excellent examples. I'm a believer that movement sharpens comprehension, and so, if you see fifth graders out and about with clipboards, various "building tools", or writing implements, more likely than not, these students are knee-deep in learning!

savannah jarratt