To cap off our year of studying Latin, middle school students hosted our annual Roman carnival. Fifth and sixth graders chose Roman deities to represent, researched them, and completed mini projects about their characters. Students were grouped by common traits of the deities, or by family members, and were then tasked to create a game based off their gods' skills. With the help of fourth grade assistants, students set up game booths and entertained the rest of campus. We had everything from Jupiter and Juno's "Knock Down" to Vesta and Ceres' bread toss, Mars, Mercury, Janus, and Hercules' obstacle course to Minerva and Fortuna's "Test your Knowledge", Apollo and Faunus' musical chairs to Venus, Flora, and Cupid's hair and beauty salon plus many more gods and games. Samson, Mrs. Joyce's gentle dog, helped guard the underworld. We hope that the lower school and preschool students had as much fun as the middle schoolers did! What a great way to end standardized testing week!
As a completion to our study of force and motion, 5th graders "played with" Newton's three Laws of Motion in a set of stations. Each station featured either a written set of everyday scenarios or a set of everyday objects, which students tested to determine which of the three laws operated when these objects are used. We looked at everything from a toy car riding down a "ramp" (a binder) to spinning two kinds of eggs-- raw and hard-boiled to a flinging an index card with a penny on top of it. The variety of stations required students to put on their thinking caps and play with the objects to decide which law applied. Was a chair being moved with a stack of books on it demonstrating the first law, that an object at rest stays at rest until acted upon by an unbalanced force? Or, did second law--that force equals mass times acceleration--apply? You could argue both; however, when you begin to remove books from the stack and observe that the chair is easier to push, then the second law clearly applies.
Newton's laws are important foundations of physics, and any child can memorize them by reading them over and over. However, the only way truly to understand how these laws work is to investigate them in an interactive manner. I found that moving around the room and physically handling and testing objects helped students to gain a deeper comprehension of the three laws, their differences, and how sometimes they can work together in various situations. Moreover, who doesn't want to flick coins and play with toy cars?
Fifth grade just completed our persuasive writing unit. Learning how to convince someone to agree with your position has proven quite a challenge, and students worked hard to do so. One of the most visible forms of persuasive writing is advertisements, and the class finished the unit with a snack food advertising campaign. I introduced students to the job of a copywriter and the idea of the creative brief, which is the key written item in an advertising campaign. Students broke into advertising teams, chose a snack food (Goldfish, Pringles, Lays Original Potato Chips, Animal Crackers, Cheez-Its, and Oreos), and commenced to taste test research to develop their campaign. Snacking for school work! Each student in the team was assigned to design one of three ads: a magazine ad, a billboard, or a television commercial. Students had already created commercials in Technology class, so they were professionals. The final campaigns were presented to the fourth grade class, our clients. Each snack food campaign had to "sell" its product and win over the fourth graders with all three ads and an effective speech. There was some serious competition occurring in our classroom! The ultimate winner was the Cheez-Its group, which won for the best marketing campaign. The favorite snack food in terms of taste, however, was Pringles. What a fun, memorable way to learn how to write and speak persuasively!
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!
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.