Pilots and Planes

The final component of our Variables unit in Science involves planes, and what 5th grader doesn't enjoy flying a plane he or she constructed? The students divided into lab groups and followed a set of instructions to build a plane out of popsicle sticks, straws, a propeller, and the "engine", a rubber band. Then they set up fishing line flight lines of 4 meters in length between two chairs. The goal was to learn how many "winds" of the rubber band it would take to fly the plane the entire length of the line. On the second day of investigation, the groups completed flight logs and conducted various controlled experiments, changing only one variable at a time-- winds, mass, or incline of the flight line. The final day of this investigation brought us self-designed experiments in which students became creative in changing their variables, such as stacking books under chairs, chairs on top of chairs, or removing parts of the plane to see if it would still fly. This is definitely a 5th grader's idea of a fun Science lab!



Jennifer Jordan
Life Boats, Pennies, and Passengers

On the heels of a successful Science Fair, fifth graders are tackling variables again in Science. This week, we used our math skills to construct "life boats" of 3 centimeters in height and floated pennies as our boat passengers. Students made hypotheses as to how many pennies their boats could hold before sinking. We had quite a range in numbers, which was interesting. Could it have been passenger placement, boat construction, or mass of the pennies? We also tested the capacity of each boat by filling it to the brim with water, sucking out the water with a syringe, and measuring it in a graduated cylinder. We'll be making boats of various heights-changing our variable- and testing those on Friday. Not only will students graph their results, but they will apply this week's math concepts of mean, median, mode, and range to find these elements in their data.

Jennifer Jordan
Spies, Secret Codes, and 5th Graders...Oh, My!

Fifth grade has been serving as spies conveying coded messages to teachers in our building. In conjunction with our American Revolution study, we learned about the Culper Spy Ring. This spy ring--the first successful espionage ring in America--operated out of Long Island to aid George Washington in identifying British maneuvers, and ultimately helped to win the revolution. To extend our lesson, fifth graders wrote secret messages in code, similar to the coding used by the Culper spies, for a few teachers. The teachers had to decipher our messages by studying a series of numbers. Of course, these wonderful teachers enriched our lesson even more by starting their own decoding project with our class. For the last week, 5th graders have received clues in code themselves. They are now engaged in solving the mystery of their secret "admirers." Will they be successful?

Jennifer Jordan
A Variety of Variables

Fifth graders are preparing Science Fair projects that will be displayed in February. Along with planning, organizing, and engaging in all elements of the scientific method, an important aspectsof this project involves testing a variable. Students must conduct controlled experiments and change only one variable at a time so that they can accurately understand and record the effects their variable has on their experiment. To practice working with variables, we are doing several experiments in the classroom. This week's experiment involves hanging a pendulum (a simple string with a paper clip tied to one end and a penny as the weight) and recording the number of cycles the pendulum swings in 15 seconds. Lab groups all began testing the release of position of the pendulum. All other variables remained constant. Groups then proceeded to test the number of cycles in 15 seconds by changing only the height from which the pendulum hung. Finally, they added more mass to the pendulum and recorded those cycles while keeping the height and release of position the same. This is an interactive way to test variables and think about how one factor affects the outcome of an experiment. Plus, who doesn't like to get on chairs and find the highest possible surface from which to test!

Jennifer Jordan
Multifaceted Learning

Fifth grade is resuming its routines after the holidays. We are back in the swing of things with our lessons, and in our room, that includes varied learning modules throughout our day. Focus and listening are critical components to learning; however, sitting a desk for more than an hour does not cement understanding and retention for my students. They learn so much more by interacting with our material in different ways.  We read in our history textbooks about the Boston Massacre, but then we applied that knowledge to writing a newspaper article and giving multiple perspectives about the event. We learned about the Boston Tea Party by performing a webquest to write invitations to our own "tea party", which culminated in drinking hot tea and then dumping our tea bags a la the Sons of Liberty (however, we kindly used the garbage cans). 

To practice writing in the text structure of comparison and contrast, we took a gallery walk of the 4th grade's International Fair projects, choosing two countries to compare and contrast their features. Again, moving about while studying activates different parts of our brains, allowing us to make deeper connections.

Fifth graders also learn by interacting with each other. To review parts of speech this week, students met in groups to sort sentences and break down the words into the eight parts of speech. This exercise required collaboration to understand the function of the words in the sentences and then agreeing with one another on the part of speech each word represented. We completed a whole class review of the sort and learned that some of us need to study conjunctions, pronouns, and adverbs. This led us to try a different method of review--playing some grammar games in the computer lab. Regardless of the concept, we work to meet all learning styles in fifth grade!

Jennifer Jordan