Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Science News

6th and 7th graders went to Rocky Neck State Park on November 1st.  In spite of rain and wind during the first hour, I think the trip was a big success in many ways.  Many thanks to the cheerful, helpful and hardy chaperones who accompanied us.

Students observed and measured some non-living (abiotic) factors that affect organisms, such as sand particle size, pH and temperature of seawater.  The temperature on the surface of the sand, and the temperature under the sand.

They also were asked to think about adaptations of plants that live on the windy, sandy beach.  They thought about adaptations of animals who must avoid predators, and keep from being swept out to sea.  They even played a predator-prey game called "flinch" in which they tried to keep still and avoid being noticed by a pretend predator.

We went to the salt marsh, where the river joins Long Island Sound, and talked about water pollution coming down the river.  Our next unit will be on pollution of watersheds.  Seeing the place that Cornwall's runoff water goes (Long Island Sound) is important when we begin to talk about water pollution in Cornwall. There are many small ways we unintentionally pollute our water, and there are things we can do to minimize water pollution.

We even had a sandcastle building competition, for fun!

This week, in class, 6th and 7th graders are doing their second lab investigation of the year.  This time, 6th graders are being asked to be more independent when writing their lab reports.  Seventh graders are learning to write a "discussion" section, in which they explain why their conclusion is true, talk about unintended variables, ask new questions and relate the concept to a real life example.

8th graders have been working hard on writing about science concepts.  We recently built roller coaster models, and our task is to explain physics concepts, using the roller coaster as an example of concepts like friction, positive acceleration and kinetic energy.  There is a particular style to science writing.  Cultivating an informative writing style that is formal and explains concepts clearly, does not come easily to students.  Many have discovered that what they think they know, is not so easy to explain clearly in writing.  Some students are learning to make their writing more concise.  Others are learning how to define a concept and explain it more completely.  All of them are learning that communicating clearly about science concepts is a task that requires focus, and attention to detail.

8th graders have also been working in the lab on some experiments about friction.  As 8th graders, they have written several lab reports before, and are practicing their skills.  New challenges in lab report writing include writing an introduction and getting more precise in writing a discussion of the experiment.  Ask your 8th grader if you may see a lab report, or their roller coaster essay as they refine their writing techniques!

Our next 8th grade unit will be on the solar system.  We will look at how orbits are affected by the physics concepts we have been studying.  We will refine our knowledge of what causes days, years, and seasons.  We will talk about how much a person might weigh on other planets... and why.  We will review and extend what we know about moon phases and eclipses.