First grade scientists have begun studying how the Earth moves in relation to the Sun, and how this movement impacts our lives here on Earth. Earlier in the year we were studying light sources, and after a quick review of what we learned, the students were challenged to look at a series of animations and make predictions about why we have day and night. Quite quickly, the students connected that during daytime, one part of the Earth must be getting light from the sun, but that during night time there is no light from the sun. Students were then asked to come up with words that describe how the Earth turns. Students have also begun completing moving models that demonstrate how the Earth orbits the Sun and the Moon orbits the Earth.
Discussion questions: Why do we have day and night? If it is daytime here in NY why is it nighttime on the other side of the world? What are some words that describe how the Earth moves? What is the imaginary line that goes from the north pole to the south pole called?
Second grade scientists have been continuing to study why and how matter changes forms. We are specifically looking at how temperature can change some forms of matter permanently and some forms of matter temporarily. As a follow up activity to our dissolving salt experiment, students once again used graduated cylinders to measure precisely 60ml of water with which they once again dissolved the salt crystals in their cups. However, this time we added food coloring to the water. Many of the students predicted that because the food coloring is a liquid it will evaporate with the water and leave behind white salt. However, as the students realized, their must be something in the food coloring that is not water because after the water evaporated, the color had stuck to the salt, and as we have learned, when water evaporates anything that was dissolved in the water is left behind.
Discussion questions: Why did the salt change color? Why didn’t the color in the food coloring evaporate with the water? When the water evaporates, where does it go? How could we make the water evaporate faster? How could we make the water evaporate more slowly? Is there a way we could stop the evaporation all together?
Third grade scientists have been studying the differences between weather and climate. The definition we are using is that the climate of an area includes all of the possible types of weather that can occur in a place and can only be accurately measured over many years. Weather on the other hand is what is happening in a particular place at a particular time. For example, a cold, windy, day in NYC is an example of weather in NYC, while describing NYC as hot in the summer, cold in the winter, and with precipitation every month of the year is a way of describing NYC’s climate. Another way to think of it is that climate is what you expect, weather is what you get.
In addition to learning about the differences between climate and weather, students have been interpreting climatology graphs. Climatology graphs frequently show the average temperature and amount of precipitation of a particular location. Students have also begun collecting data from various sources and entering that data into a Google spreadsheet that they created. Eventually, the students will create and share their own climatology graphs for a location of their choosing.
Discussion Questions: What is the difference between climate and weather? What are some examples of precipitation? In the graph above, what is the hottest month of the year? The coldest? The rainiest? Based on the graph above, does it snow very often in London?
Fourth grade scientists have begun starting to review and practice for the fourth grade state science exam. The NYS Fourth Grade Science Exam is a two part exam. The first part, known as the Performance Test will take place between on May 18, 19, and 20th. Not every student takes the Performance Test on the same day, as to minimize the disruption to the rest of the school and to allow for sufficient time. The Performance Test requires students to complete certain tasks, such as using a balance to measure an objects mass, as well as using graduated cylinders and beakers to measure the volume of a liquid. One of the ways we will prepare for this part of the exam is by creating challenges that require the students to use a variety of the scientific tools they will be using on the test. For example, students were recently asked to estimate the mass of 1ml of water. One part of this challenge is that the students were given a graduated cylinder that could only measure 5ml or more of a liquid accurately.
The second part of the exam is a more traditional test, with a combination of multiple choice questions and a few short answer questions. The primary tool we will be using the review for this part of the exam is the Coach review book pictured below. The students are in the process of taking a pretest in the book, and entering their scores into a class-wide database. This will allow us to look at how the class did on certain questions and what common misperceptions exist in the class while protecting the anonymity of the students. Once all students have completed the practice exam, and we have practiced using the book together to study, students will eventually be expected to complete some of the test prep for homework which will allow us return to our regular curriculum.
Discussion questions: What was it like trying to figure out the mass of 1ml of water? What tools did you use? What was challenging about it? Why is it essential to label the units of any measurement you are recording?