Math Mentors

7th grade students have seen what a strong grasp on math facts and mental math strategies can have on their learning. They decided to reach out to their chapel buddies in first grade for a peer teaching opportunity to help demonstrate these skills. They worked with the first graders on adding and subtracting with numbers up to 20 and showed them different strategies of solving these problems. Together they played a number of games that required students to find the missing addend, check if addition problems were equal, use counting on strategies, and fact families.

Peer teaching has been shown to have great benefits for all students involved. Not only is active learning promoted but there is a level of comfort between students that allows for students to let their walls down and try without fear of failure. This experience has helped solidify for the 7th graders that being fluent with math facts will help present these different strategies and by using these strategies they see there are many ways to solve some of the math problems we face each day. Hopefully it has given our first graders something to remember and helps their math facts stick!

By: Ms. Caitlyn Forrest, MS Math Teacher

Solidifying Science Using Simulations

What would happen in the universe if the sun was more massive?  Why does a balloon stick to a wall?  How do you know that gravitational, electric and magnetic force fields exist?  These are just a few of the questions the 8th graders were able to explore and answer in science using PhET Interactive Simulations created by University of Colorado Boulder.

Students explored six major topics related to forces and interactions using the simulations in three ways.  First, students individually played and manipulated the simulations to explore and answer guided practice questions and solve various scenarios.  Next, students collaborated to explain and describe their understanding to each other in small groups.  Then in their small groups, students presented their answers to teacher-selected questions from the activities to the whole class giving students an opportunity to reflect on their learning.

Utilizing simulations in science is an effective learning tool for students for multiple reasons.  First, simulations give students access to investigate real-world phenomena in the classroom that would otherwise be inaccessible, such as the role of gravity in the universe.  Second, they foster fun, active, engagement experiences for all students.  Third, students can individualize their learning by having the ability to run and rerun simulations to assist in mastering the learning of key scientific concepts.  Fourth, students are able to see the interconnections amongst scientific concepts, such as in this unit—gravitational, electric and magnetic forces and force fields.  Fifth, the simulations provide natural collaboration opportunities for students to share with each other their learning experiences and practice scientific conversation just like scientists.  Overall, science simulations offer our 8th graders an awesome opportunity for scientific inquiry.

By: Mrs. Kruse, NBCT, 8th grade science

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5th Grade Engineers!

Problem solving and team work are foundational skills for 21st Century learners. To strengthen these skills the 5th graders worked through two STEM projects during the first quarter of the school year.

For their first project the 5th graders worked in teams to design and build a bridge out of popsicle sticks. The goal was to build a bridge that could hold 10 pounds while spanning a thirteen-inch gap. The students had to communicate their ideas, listen to other students’ ideas, and work together to build a bridge.  This year’s strongest bridge held 60lbs!

Another STEM project the 5th graders completed was to design the ideal bubble wand for their three-year-old cousin.  After testing store bought bubble wands they brainstormed idea’s and then used the Tinkercad program to create their design.  After completing the design process the bubble wands were 3D printed.  After printing, the wands were tested and compared to store-bought wands.

Students are blessed here at St. Johns to have the resources to develop the skills they need to be successful.

By: Mr. Duport, 5th grade

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Learning on Catalina Island!

Wow! Our 7th graders had an amazing opportunity to venture beyond the four walls of the classroom and dive into God’s Creation as they attended outdoor education at the Catalina Island Marine Institute (CIMI) at Toyon Bay on Catalina island. Snorkeling, kayaking, hiking, and hands-on labs provided opportunities to explore, ask questions, and discover new information about the ocean, the island, and the plants and animals that live there.

Our very first snorkel on Monday was just the beginning of a fantastic week! The water was warm and extremely clear. Most students got to snorkel with leopard sharks, round rays, shovel-nose guitar fish, and many other fish. Other activities throughout the week included using oceanography equipment, identifying different types of plankton from the bay on digital microscopes, learning about sharks and petting them in a touch tank, observing and touching invertebrates to learn about their structure and behaviors, using inquiry strategies to explore algae in a water table and predict how scientists classify the algae, and even dissecting a squid! We also went on a night snorkel and saw tons of horn sharks, lobsters, and a huge octopus swimming along the sandy bottom of the bay!

In addition to all of the learning that took place, our 7th graders bonded and united together through activities like a whole group kayak and a rock climbing party at night. Each morning the dorm groups completed a devotion together and on the last night, the students led a worship service on the beach to praise God for his Creation and to thank Him for our opportunity to explore, learn, and enjoy time together! It truly was a week of hands-on learning and fun!

“But ask the animals, and they will teach you, or the birds in the sky, and they will tell you; or speak to the earth, and it will teach you, or let the fish in the sea inform you. Which of all these does not know that the hand of the LORD has done this? In his hand is the life of every creature and the breath of all mankind.”  Job 12:7-10

5th Grade One-to-One iPads

This year our fifth graders are utilizing one-to-one iPads as aids to improve their education.  They can access their homework and textbooks anywhere through Google classroom.  So far this year, students have been able to collaborate on projects using the google suite, including slide presentations, and this week, paper slide videos.  They are having fun with many Math, Grammar, and States and Capitals review games. They are adding to their writing portfolios this year using SeeSaw.

Students will use iPads this year to write and research their state reports. They will also be learning more about Digital citizenship.  They are excited to grow and learn in new ways.

By: Mrs. Mary Schirrmacher, 5th grade

Real Learning with Virtual Reality

During one of the scenes of the Disney movie “Big Hero 6,” there is a part where the main character Hiro, is controlling his computer and programming Baymax, by just clicking images that are hanging in the air in front of his face.  In today’s world, we are beginning to see this same type of technology being developed, which we call virtual reality. Virtual reality is a simulation created by a computer of a three-dimensional image or environment that can be interacted with in a real or physical way by a person using equipment such as ipads.  Here at St. John’s, our 2nd graders have been using virtual learning to complete research on the Solar System.

In 2nd grade, we began our Solar System research by utilizing a Merge Cube and a Solar System app.  The students would hold up the Merge Cube in front of the Ipads’ cameras and the cubes would transform into the Solar System.  The students were given the task of going on a scavenger hunt to discover cool facts about the Solar System. With the cubes, the 2nd graders moved the Solar System around, and clicked on the planets displayed on the Ipad, to find out a variety of answers to the questions asked during the hunt.  After exploring all the planets, each student was assigned one planet to study. They again used a virtual reality app that allowed them to see the solar system appear in the classroom. Students found their planet by moving the ipad around in a circle, touching the planet on the ipad, and then finding out facts about it.  At the end of the project, the 2nd graders will take a picture of themselves holding their planets in their hands, using the virtual reality app.

All in all, virtual reality is no longer just found in the movies, but not can be an important tool to help students learn and explore the world and universe around them.

By: Mrs. Sarah Grack, Technology Teacher

STEM…Saving Fred!

Saving Fred… our first STEM activity of the year!

Last Friday, 2nd graders were given their first STEM challenge.  Before we began our activity, we discussed what the acronym STEM stood for…. Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math.   I was impressed at the number of students who already knew what all four letters stood for and represented.  What they didn’t know is that the T can have a second meaning… Teamwork!!!

After dividing up into small teams, each group was given one gummy life saver, one clear cup, four paper clips, and one very cute gummy worm named Fred!  After hearing about Fred’s tragic boat accident, where the life saver was trapped under the capsized boat, the 2nd graders worked as a team to get Fred safely back into his life saver.

Fredgrade2

Each group worked in their own way to first retrieve the life saver and then to work Fred safely back into his flotation device.  There were many failed attempts, but each group continued to work at it, talking to each other, testing new ideas and strategies.  In the end, Fred was rescued by every group at least once.

What I found most impressive, however, is that when the group completed the initial task, we added additional challenges.  Instead of complaining or giving up, each group embraced the new challenge, adjusted their strategies, and once again, worked as a team to save Fred!

With the addition of the new STEM lab, I look forward to having so many more opportunities to give our kids the chance to apply those science and math skills, to try out new forms of technology, and especially to work as a TEAM!!

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