Natural Selection and Adaptations Explored Using STEAM

Have you ever wondered what might happen to a bird species over 20,000 years?  The 8th graders explored this idea in science while studying natural selection .  First, students learned the concepts of existence, diversity, extinction, anatomy, genetic variations, mutations, survival, reproduction, traits, predominance, suppression, adaptations, and natural selection.  Once they were confident in their understanding, they chose a bird specie and researched it. From this foundation, creativity was unleashed, synthesis took place, and depth of understanding was showcased.

Students had to envision realistic changes and adaptations that could take place with their bird over 20,000 years to enable it to survive and thrive.   Students drew 2 dimensional drawings of the way their bird would look in the future along with the habitat it would live in. They also used the 3D CAD design tool Tinkercad to design a functional  beak. Once the beaks were printed, students video recorded the testing process of their beak trying to pick up the intended food source. Students created the background production of their project using a green screen app by Do Ink.  They used their two 2D drawings along with the video of their beak test to create the three layer background.  

When students were satisfied with the three layers of their background production, they pulled the footage into iMovie.  Here they synthesized the story of their bird specie from the present to the year 22,020 using realistic and deep explanations rich in factual scientific vocabulary.  This science project gave the 8th graders the opportunity to explore an interest (each chose their own bird specie) to gain knowledge, understanding, application, analysis, evaluation and creativity of the science behind natural selection and adaptations.

MS 8th Grade Science Teacher  Laura Kruse

Creativity in 4th Grade History Class!

In Mrs. Fink’s 4th Grade class, we wrapped up our last history chapter on California Exploration and Settlement with a choice-board activity. Students were able to decide how they wanted to share their knowledge of the material. They were given a variety of options, including a board game, a newscast video with a green screen, making posters, or trading cards.

The students were excited to be able to share their knowledge of the chapter in their own creative and unique ways! Our classroom has also been transformed into a harbor. As a class, we decorated our desks to look like boats. The students loved creating parts of the boat with simple materials like paper and popsicle sticks!

Mrs. Fink, 4th grade

 

California Early Tribes and STEAM!

The 4th graders have been studying the early tribes of California. They are learning about their environments, tools, and shelters.  They were tasked to create an example of a house or a tool in our STEAM lab. They used their imagination and creativity to collaborate and to work independently. They applied their past knowledge to create something new and exciting.  They found fun ways to display their learning.

Beth Clark,4th Grade Teacher

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Finding their voice, 5th grade podcasters

This year, the 5th graders are finding their voices through podcasting.  The 5th graders worked through the creative process to develop a podcast “channel” that included cover art, a creative channel name, and creating their own intro and outro music.

Podcasting allows all students to share their thoughts, knowledge, and opinions on any given topic and can be used across all subjects. Students who may not be good writers or may not feel comfortable sharing in front of their peers have flourished by creating podcasts.

The students recently created their first “All About Me” podcast episode in which they shared information about themselves. This project allowed all students to have a voice in their learning. Throughout this school year the students will continue to use podcasting to demonstrate their learning. They will be conducting debates, interviewing book characters, reviewing books they have read, and much more.

Kyle Duport, 5th Grade Teacher

 

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Peru Project – Part II

In part 1 I outlined this project which St. John’s students have been supporting for the past 9 years.
Once my wife, Patty, and I have a list of projects our work begins. One of the major projects we wanted to take on was quickly started:  the awning to cover the space between the two classrooms.
The biggest consideration was where the awning would be of most benefit. The next was timing:  how to get the structure built and the awning made so that both would be done before we leave in July.  Two different people are needed, a carpenter and an awning maker.  The last consideration was that the entire structure needed to be done in such a way that it can be unassembled and moved when the government comes through with the funds to remodel the school. This could be as early as this September or up to several years.
Lola wanted the space between the two largest classrooms covered. (See the first picture.)  This decided we then began to work on how to best coordinate structure with awning.  The carpenter gave us a time frame for completion just before we were to leave Perú. That meant the awning person would have to work from dimensions given by the carpenter rather than taken from the actual structure. This is risky at best. In the end we decided to have the carpenter build a structure the same size as the structure covering the play structure. (See picture #2)  to our amazement these dimensions fit almost perfectly into the desired space. And even better: because the two structures will be identical it will allow  Lola to design the space in the new school around the shade structures, placing  them end-to-end. It will add continuity in the long-run.
This decision also allowed the awning person to take more accurate measurements from the existent awning for the new awning. We took bids from several awning makers and chose the one who offered quality and the best price. It would cost about $850 for a high quality, water/weather proof material made to special order and installed.  About a week later we returned from a short trip to Cajamarca to find the rolled up cover (photo #3) hand delivered and ready to installed when the carpenter finished his work.  It weighs about 300 lbs.
The carpenter was called and came to the school to get the measurements for the awning structure. We agreed on a price (about $1500 equivalent in national money: Soles) and we went to Trujillo to exchange dollars. (Picture 4 shows the structure being put in place.) While there we went to a local store called Sodimac to see if they had prefabricated shelves the size we wanted. Sodimac is a Homedepot-like store which recently has come to Trujillo. While convenient it doesn’t offer a lot in terms of shelving. Nothing we could find fit the dimensions needed.  We wanted to steer clear of donating something which would just be makeshift. The units we did see were expensive and low quality.
So we began looking for plan B.  A family member recommended a young man in the town who had recently built some cabinets for a local restaurant. The young man’s name is Meikel and he works with a material he calls melamine, a kind of particle board covered in formica-like material. He could build sturdy shelves to the dimensions we wanted at less cost than the prefabricated odd-sized units we had looked at.  It did mean more footwork for us, but assured something which will endure the hard use they will receive, while adding uniformity to the classrooms.
The photos 5 and 6 show Meikel, the handy man, constructing the five shelves in our living room. It took he and his wife two days to put them together and they looked great.
Part three:  going shopping for things on the wish list.

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Math Carnival

Step right up! Come one, come all to the 7th grade Probability Carnival! The seventh grade math students have been busy as we wind down to the end of the school year. We have been in our probability unit discussing the difference between simple and compound probability. To help the concepts sink in more deeply we finished our unit with some project based learning.The students first needed to brainstorm ideas for their own games that were based on probability and not skill. From there they had to calculate and compare the theoretical and experimental probabilities of their games. What better way to test out their probability than to host a carnival for the school! The STEM Lab was filled with dice and spinners, candy and bubbles, and lots of learning. And oh boy was fun had by all!

Ms. Forrest, Middle School Teacher, 7th and 8th grade math

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Got Energy?

Our 7th graders do! This past week they have been conducting labs to see the impact of height and mass on the amount of potential energy stored in an object. Understanding that to calculate the potential energy of an object you multiply the mass times the gravitational acceleration (9.8m/s) times the height, they first isolated the height of the drop of a ball as an independent variable. They dropped a tennis ball from 50cm, 75cm, and 100cm then recorded the height of the bounce. After the collection of their data, they used their information to calculate the potential energy and analyzed their data to draw a conclusion on the impact of the height of the drop on the amount of potential energy.

Next, the 7th graders decided to isolate the mass of the object as the independent variable and designed another experiment. This time they dropped a tennis ball, ping-pong ball, and golf ball from 100 cm and measured the height of the bounce. Again, they analyzed the data, calculated the potential energy, and drew conclusions.  Their 21st Century Skills were put to the task as they thought critically, created an experiment, collaborated with their lab partners, and communicated their results! Way to go, 7th Grade!!

By: Yvette Stuewe, MS Science

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