December Science Newsletter, Grades 1-4

First Grade

First grade scientists have been studying sound. We have learned that all sounds come from a sound source, all sound sources vibrate, and if the sound source stops vibrating, the sound will stop. We began by exploring things that make sound that we can see vibrating, such as a guitar string or rubber band. We then explored things that make sounds that we can feel vibrate, such as a tuning fork and our voice boxes.

Most recently, students have begun exploring the concept of pitch by creating their own musical instruments. One instrument was a thumb piano, where students had to attach the keys in a way that they went from highest pitch to lowest pitch. The other instrument is similar to a xylophone, and the students were asked to arrange the parts of the xylophone in order from highest to lowest pitch.

Discussion questions: Where do all sounds come from? What do all sound sources do? If you put you hand on your throat while you are talking, why do you feel vibrations? What are some examples of high pitch sounds? What are some examples of low pitch sounds?

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Second Grade

Second grade scientist have been studying the different ways matter can change forms. Some of those changes are permanent, like when you heat up popcorn until it pops. Other changes, like the changes water goes through as it travels through the water cycle, can be repeated over and over again. For example, no matter how many times a particle of water evaporates, it will still turn back into liquid water if you cool down the water vapor. Also, you can freeze and melt water over and over again and it will never change. To partially simulate the water cycle and explore changes, students dissolved salt into cups of water. We then let the water evaporate, which left the salt behind in the cup. The salt that was left behind, however, looked different than the salt we added originally because the salt crystals stuck together as the water evaporated. Next, we will crush up the salt crystals, converting them back into the type of salt we started with. We will then dissolve the salt crystals and let the water evaporate once again to show that no matter how many times you do this activity, the salt will always return to its original form.

Discussion questions: What happened when you mixed water and salt together? What happened when you left the salt water out to evaporate? Why did the salt stay in the cup? If you bake cookie dough, can you change the finished cookie back into cookie dough? What are some other examples of things that change and cannot be changed back? If you freeze water, can you turn it back into liquid water? What are some other examples of things that can change and then change back into their original form?

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Third Grade

Third grade scientists have been studying life cycles. By looking at a variety of examples, students realized that even though their are millions of different species of plant and animal, all of their life cycles have certain things in common such as birth, growth, reproduction, and death. That does not mean every individual of that species will go through all of those steps, however. For example, a fish eaten immediately after hatching will not be able to grow or reproduce. Furthermore, not all individuals reproduce. For example, many humans never have children. The definition we use for reproduction in science class is that reproduction is how animals and plants make more of themselves. In most animals, this means that there needs to be a male and a female. However, some animals are both male and female. Other animals are able to change from female to male as they get older. The most important aspect, however, is that some individuals of all plants and animals need to make more of themselves.

Additionally, students have been reviewing the traits we receive from our parents, but are also now looking at how those traits can change depending on the environment. For example, we were born with brains that are capable of language, but we must be taught how to speak individual languages. The languages we grow up speaking are learned from our environment.

Discussion Questions: What do all life cycles have in common? What is metamorphosis? Mr. Crohn was not born with a beard, but he has a beard now; why is this not an example of metamorphosis? What are some example of metamorphosis? What are some traits you inherited from your parents? What are some traits you learned from your environment? Why might two trees of the same species growing in different locations look very different from each other?

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Fourth Grade

Fourth grade scientists have continued to study the ways in which animals get information from their environment. For example, students learned that even though there are millions of different animals, and therefore millions of different eye structures, vision works essentially the same for all creatures. Light must come from a source, bounce off an object, and into the animal’s eye. Students drew detailed diagrams with labels and descriptions to demonstrate their understanding of how vision works.

Additionally, fourth grade scientists have been researching the senses of other animals. Some animals have sensory organs that are particularly well developed. Some examples of these sensory organs are a catfish’s skin, which is covered in taste receptors, and a snake’s tongue, which it uses to smell the air.

Fourth grade scientists have also begun to explore our various body systems, which work together to provide us with what we need. We began by connecting our study of tetrapod limbs to the purpose of the skeletal system. We tested our resting and active heart rates as a way to better understand our cardiovascular and respiratory systems. We also did internet research on the nervous systems and digestive systems.

Discussion Questions: How does vision work?  How is a catfish like a giant tongue? What animal senses did you research in science class? What made that animal’s senses unique/interesting/special? What are some of the systems in your body that help it function? What is the purpose of those systems? Why does your heart beat faster when you exercise?

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