November Science Newsletter

First Grade Science

First grade scientists continue to explore the concepts of light and shadows.  In the past two weeks students set up tests to determine whether or not a variety of materials are opaque, translucent, or transparent. Anything that is visible has light getting to it from a source. If no light from a source is present, there is no light to get to anything, so nothing is visible (you can’t see anything). When light from a source gets to a surface, it looks brighter than without the light. If an object is between the source and a surface, the light from the source may not pass through, and the surface is not as bright (darker) as when the light reaches it. Different materials can allow different amounts of light to pass through them to reach a surface beyond. They can allow almost all light (transparent), some light (translucent), or no light (opaque) to pass through. 

Discussion questions: What are the three things needed to make a shadow? How will shadows look in the middle of the day when the sun is high up in the sky? How will shadows look if the sun is low in the sky like it is in the morning or in the evening?

Second Grade Science

Second grade scientists are continuing to study the properties of matter, and in particular how matter can change forms or states based on the temperature. Students are using the water cycle as way to visualize how matter, in this case water, changes states and that water can return to its original state without changing. Students are also looking at how the particles that make up matter act differently at different temperatures, which is what determines the properties of different states of matter. For example, if water is in a solid state, the particles that make up water are stuck together and move very little. When water is in a liquid state, the particles move around more, but not nearly as much as the particles move when they are in a gaseous state. 

Particles of a:
                  Solid                                                          Liquid                                                         Gas

Discussion questions: When water is a solid, how do the water particles move? When water is a liquid, how do the water particles move? When water is a gas, how do the water particles move?

Third Grade Science

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Third grade scientists continue to study how variation among individuals of a species helps the species as a whole from going extinct. In particular, students are learning about natural selection. We started by identifying traits that exhibit variation in a variety of plants and animals. Students then started to make predictions about how and why those variations might help a species survive. For example, students researched how Finches in the Galapagos islands all relate to the first finches that arrived on the islands. These first finches are the common ancestors of all the finches that live in the Galapagos today. These common ancestors had variation in their beak size and shape and because of this variation, some finches were better able to survive than others. The finches that had beak traits that helped them get the most food were the most likely to survive long enough to reproduce. Because different islands in the Galapagos had different food sources, different beak traits were beneficial on different islands and the finches that live on that island have all evolved to have beaks that allow them to utilize the food sources available where they live. As a culminating activity, students played the game Who Wants To Live One Million Years, which is a simulation of natural selection in action. In the coming weeks, students will begin exploring how that in addition to inheriting traits, the traits of plants and animals can be influenced by their environment. For example, individuals trees of the same species might grow to very different heights depending on the conditions where they are growing. 

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Discussion questions: Why is it important for individuals of the species to exhibit variation in their traits? What is a common ancestor? What did you learn from playing Who Wants To Live One Million Years?


Fourth Grade Science

Fourth grade scientists continue to study how the structure and function of different parts of an organism help those organisms survive. In particular, students are investigating how the structure of different animal eyes is different depending on the function those eyes must serve. For example, the eyes of diurnal predators are situated on the front of a predators face to allow for binocular vision and the eyes of such a predator contain low sensitivity light receptors that are sensitive to color and detail. On the other hand, the eyes of a nocturnal predator will have many high sensitivity light receptors that do not see color or detail well, but allow the predator to see in low light. Additionally, students explored how the structure of all vertebrate limbs is similar because all vertebrates with four limbs (tetrapods) share a common ancestor. Students researched that although the structure of these limbs is similar, their overall shape will differ based on the function the animal needs them to achieve. For example, all vertebrate limbs share the same basic structure: one bone, two bones, many bones, digits. However, even though the flippers of a dolphin and the wings of a bat both share this same pattern, each animal’s limbs have evolved to serve the function the animal requires. 


Vertebrate Evolution

Amphibians were the first tetrapods and an extinct amphibian is the common ancestor of all reptiles, birds, and mammals.


Discussion question: Why do all tetrapods have limbs that share a similar structure? What is that structure? Are snakes tetrapods? What is a common ancestor?