Thursday, June 12, 2014

6/12/ 14

As the end of the year approaches, I find myself thinking about the growth of my students past and present.  Students become mine because they need help with something that is difficult for them.  When I think about the math they can now do, the books they can now read, or the activities they can now join, I am excited by their successes.  The greatest achievements come, however, in the developing strength of character the each of my charges demonstrates.  They learn to persevere through tough challenges and that work is hard but that hard work pays off eventually.  They live the old adage "If at first you don't succeed, try, try again" and, like The Little Engine that Could they have learned to "think they can".  All of these life lessons will make them good employees, good employers, good neighbors, good family members, good people.  As I celebrate the  achievements of those for whom school is easy, my heart belongs to those who toil.

My students and I are looking forward to many of the same things: sun, sand, and time with family and friends.  I hope everyone has a wonderful vacation!

Elizabeth Clarke

Friday, May 30, 2014

CCS Social Studies - May - June 2014

CCS Social Studies - May - June 2014

8th Grade social studies students have been focusing on the 4-I's: industrialism, immigration, inventions, and imperialism.  Each "I" influences the others throughout the late 1800s and early 1900s.  Students debate whether figures like Rockefeller, Carnegie, Vanderbilt, and Morgan are captains of industry or robber barons.  How does the wealth inequality of the Gilded Age compare with the wealth inequality of today?  Is the video in this link ( ) propaganda?  What does the data indicate?

Extra credit opportunities for 8th grade students include: 1) researching and presenting on one of the presidents from the Gilded Age (Grant, Hayes, Garfield, Arthur, Cleveland, Harrison, McKinley), 2) Create chapter questions for the book Children of the West, or for the book, Immigrant Kids, 3) Complete the World War I internet search packet.

                                                         *                       *                         *

In 6th and 7th grade social studies (both blue and gold groups), students have recently completed their unit on the conclusion Middle Ages, and are learning about the rebirth after some dark times!  The Renaissance
unit focuses on the big ideas that the arts, philosophy, science, and literature flourish during this time.  It was also a time when people were looking back at what was lost (neo-classical).  These new humanist ways of thinking resulted in challenges to the established religion of the Catholic Church in the time period we call the Reformation.  Could the Reformation have happened without the Renaissance?

Extra credit opportunities for 6/7th grade students include: 1) teach chess to someone outside of middle school, 2) create a modern or local chess set, 3) write an extension of your "pilgrim's" tale, 4) illuminate a medieval letter, 5) create additional Renaissance revolutionaries trading cards, 6) add captions to the medieval comic strip.  

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Updates from the Math Room

6th Grade

The 6th graders have spent the last several weeks focusing on geometry. We're currently focusing on three dimensional figures. This has allowed for a lot of hands on learning, which is always fun! The other day, as an introduction to surface area, we cut apart empty cardboard boxes to make nets. By looking at the nets, students are able to see each part that makes up the total surface area. We'll be finishing up the year with our last unit on statistics! 

7th Grade

The 7th graders have also been focusing on geometry. We just finished our unit on angle relationships and triangles. We had fun playing with "anglegs" to discover the rules for side lengths of triangles. We're now moving on to two-dimensional geometry. The students will be doing some fun activities with circles where they will discover the formula for circumference and area on their own! They will also be working with one of their favorite values - pi! 


The Pre-Algebra class just wrapped on their unit on statistics. We learned about measures of center and measures of variability. We also learned about biased vs. unbiased sampling methods and which methods are most appropriate. We just started our probability unit. Probability always leads to fun activities involving dice and coins, which they have already experienced! 

8th Grade

The 8th graders just finished up our unit on the Pythagorean Theorem. Students were able to find the missing side of a right triangle or determined if three sides made a right triangle. It was a quick, but fun, unit that the students really enjoyed. We are now starting our congruence and similarity unit where students will study transformations and their affects on shapes. It is always fun to create patterns and designs using transformations! 


The algebra students are in the middle of their unit on quadratic equations. We are currently focused on factoring trinomials to solve quadratic equations. This had been challenging, but they're getting the hang of it with lots of practice! As we get close to the end of the year, they will start to prepare for their final exam at the beginning of June! 

Sunday, May 4, 2014

News from the Science Classroom!

6th and 7th grades!

Having done an excellent job on their science experiments for the science fair, students are now taking on the study of basic chemistry.  They have been studying characteristic properties of substances.  They learned how to measure mass with triple beam balances, and to measure volume by water displacement, or by measuring length, width and height.  They used these skills to help them calculate the density of many different metals, woods, and plastics.  Then they were able to identify "mystery substances" using the density.

We have also been talking about other properties, such as boiling point and freezing point (and trying to imagine how hot it is when metals "freeze" into solids, and how cold it is when oxygen "boils")  We explored the idea of solubility, and how some substances dissolve easily, and others don't.

We posed the question, "How do we use characteristic properties to separate substances?"  Students were challenged to use their knowledge of properties, to separate a mixture of sand, salt and sawdust.  We worked on connecting the names of the properties (density, solubility, and boiling point) to the differences that made it possible to separate them.

Lately, we have been learning about atoms and elements.  Students are thinking about just how small an atom is, and trying to make sense of the fact that they are too small to see, but we have evidence that shows us their properties.  We are distinguishing between elements (made of one kind of atom) and compounds (made of more than one kind... chemically bonded together)

Our study of the periodic table is aimed at helping students know how to use it as a reference tool (not memorize it)  We have been exploring what all the symbols and numbers mean.  We wondered, together, why it is such a strange shape, with some elements sticking out at the top.  Students were given data on each element, and asked to organize it themselves, based on as many different pieces of evidence as they could. They discovered that it's organized by atomic number and atomic mass AND by what the elements combine with and whether they are metals, non-metals or metaloids.

This past week was particularly fun for students (and me too).  We have been looking at the differences between chemical changes and physical changes, and thinking about how chemical changes make new substances.  We saw pure sodium metal react violently with water (it catches fire and explodes), and talked about how sodium, combined with a poisonous green gas (chlorine) makes plain old table salt!  We also burned paper, saw chemicals combine to produce color changes, saw other chemical combinations produce gasses, and 7th graders even saw chemicals produce heat or cold.  Our objective is to see the difference between a physical change and a chemical change, and to understand that after a chemical change, there are new and completely different substances.

Upcoming is another "figure it out yourself" lab (known as student "inquiry" in educational circles)  involving several chemical reactions.  Students will see four chemicals mixed, and evidence of several chemical reactions.  Their job is to figure out which combinations of substances cause which reactions.

Soon we will turn our attention to weather, including how we measure pressure, humidity, temperature and wind, as well as how and why air moves, how clouds form, how we know when and where storms occur, and other weather-related learning.  I am excited to look at data from our new electronic weather station, right at the school!

8th Grade!!

Throughout the year, 8th graders have been working on honing their informational writing skills.  Scientists do experiments, but they also need to communicate clearly about them, and synthesize information they read about science topics.  Clarifying one's ideas, enough to write clearly about them, is an important skill.  The 8th graders wrote about the physics of roller coasters in the fall, they wrote about why planets orbit the sun, and why there are eclipses in the winter, and now in the spring, they are writing about a genetic disorder.

We have worked on a concise, clear, get-to-the-point writing style, that is different from story writing, and different from argument writing.  We have worked on shortening our sentences, but using several short sentences in a row to get across a complex point.  We have worked on coming right out and saying what needs to be said, with specific detail, but without too many extra words, and without introductory phrases that don't say much.  Some students began the year with run-on sentences that included up to seven commas.  They are learning to break apart complex sentences, and achieve a clean, crisp, concise style.  Others started with such "concise" writing, that they left out most of the important detail that needed to be described.  They are writing less vaguely now, with more specific terms, and fewer missed details.

I am so pleased with their efforts!  The difference in their writing from the beginning of the year to now, is truly inspiring.  They get many comments on their papers from me, and often feel somewhat overwhelmed. However, the improvements in the quality of their informational writing on the whole should make each of them very proud.

Our genetic disorder essay is currently in its third revision.  Still to come, is the writing of a narrative story about a patient (fictional but realistic) who has the genetic disorder they wrote about.  I will be looking for connections to their research, but also a sensitive, dramatic and realistic portrayal of the real life issues that face patients and families with these genetic disorders.

Thursday, May 1, 2014

Happenings in the Spanish Room

Despite the cold weather, eighth graders ushered in la primavera with Cascarones. Cascarones are confetti-fillled hollowed-out eggs that you crush on top of somebody's head.  This tradition, already popular in Mexico, is expanding to other Latin American countries.  Cascarones often appear during Carnival celebrations, Easter, Halloween, Cinco de Mayo, and even during weddings.  Having an egg cracked on your head is said to bring good luck.  Whether or not this is true is open to question.  However, I can tell you that it did create a colorful trail of confetti leading from the ball field to the classroom.

Eighth graders will be starting their final unit of study next week.  The focus of this unit will be on leisure time activities in Spanish-speaking countries.  Discussions about Hispanic art and music will be an integral part of this unit.  During the week of June 2-6, eighth grade Spanish students will take a final exam.  This is the same test that is given to all level I students in the region, including those at the high school.  It covers the material studied this year and is a requirement for any student entering Spanish II.

Sixth and seventh grade Spanish students are working on an interdisciplinary project combining technology skills and Spanish.  Mrs. Nelson introduced the students to the project via a catchy "Billy, la Bufanda" video on YouTube (see the blog entry below).  Students are preparing the animation under the guidance of Mrs. Nelson and will work on the Spanish narration during our class time.

Seventh graders will start their final unit of the year - FOOD!  We'll talk about the traditions surrounding food in various countries and compare the eating habits and diet of various Spanish-speaking countries to our own.  There will be some opportunities to sample different dishes created in and out of class.  Seventh graders are also required to take a final exam.  This test is actually the mid-term exam that is given to level I Spanish students at HVRHS in January.  Review will take place during the week of June 2-6;  the exam will be administered the following week.

On the Tuesday before vacation sixth graders traveled to Kent.  There they participated in a Zumba workshop.  Under the tutelage of Wanessa, a vivacious instructor who hails from Brazil, the students learned multiple Latin American dances.  We also learned a bit about the history of the salsa, cumbia and merengue.
The favorite dance among the students appeared to be the Capoeira, an interesting blend of Brazilian martial arts, music and dance.  A special shout out to Juan, Haley, Luke, Lucas and Arieh who boldly stepped forward to lead the class in the dance.  Wanessa was quite impressed, and so was I!  A special treat for me was listening to Juan as he conversed so beautifully in Portuguese with Wanessa!

I'd like to take advantage of this forum to recognize Roxy (grade 8) who has been very generous with her time.  Not only does she help in the Spanish room with the first grade during her Flex time, but she also assists me with a Pre-K Spanish class that meets after school.  Roxy's patient, thoughtful manner coupled with her knowledge of young children and Spanish, have made her a valuable asset in the Spanish room.  Muchas gracias Roxy!

Billy, La Bufanda

Friday, April 25, 2014

Spring Updates for English

6th Grade:
6th grade recently finished reading Bud, Not Buddy and related non-fiction articles about The Great Depression. They wrote collaborative persuasive letters in small groups to convince the social worker that after a long and difficult journey, Bud had finally found a good home and should stay in Grand Calloway Station. We also watched Walt Disney's musical "Newsies" and compared the life of the orphan Jack Kelley to Bud's life. Although the time periods were different, the students found many similarities in the rise of the unions and increase in strikes, the treatment of children in the orphanages, the level of poverty in the cities, and unfair working conditions for children. They saw how determined both main characters were to find "a family". 
Coming up:
6th graders will be learning the expectations and procedures for literature circles in preparation for our Obstacle unit. During this unit, there will be several small groups reading different books centered around the theme of obstacles and resilience. Some of the titles are Daniel's Story, Milkweed, Fever 1793, A Corner of the Universe, and Freak the Mighty. 

7th Grade:
7th graders worked on their argument writing skills while reading the The Giver. The Dystopian setting of the book made for great discussion and writing. Students considered whether or not a community should have pets, books, love, pain, color, music and more. They wrote 2 collaborative essays in small groups focusing on a variety of these topics. They incorporated information from the text, their own lives, and non-fiction articles into their essays. 
Coming up:
We will be continuing with our study of Dystopian literature but adding more of a Science Fiction element as well. Students will read and discuss books in literature circles. Students will create their own schedule of readings and assign jobs as a group. Students work individually on the reading and jobs in order to be ready for the scheduled discussion days. The jobs include: Discussion Director, Vocabulary Enricher, Connection Creator and Passage Master. 

8th Grade: 
8th graders have just finished their reading of "A Raisin in the Sun". They took turns taking parts as we read the play aloud in class. We stopped to discuss events, write responses, learn vocabulary words, and see clips from 2 different versions of the film. They will begin a formal essay on the play this week where they will once again practice in- text citations. 
Coming up: 
8th graders will be starting The Outsiders as their final independent reading book of the year. They will be blogging about the book in small groups outside of class. We will come together for a whole class discussion, assessment,  and opportunity to view the film in early June. In the meantime, they will be working in student lead literature circles on books centered around the theme of Human Nature. Some titles include: Lord of the Flies, The Chocolate War, The Wave, and Animal Farm. 

On a personal note, my son, Jackson,  turned 1 at the end of February and started a couple days per week at the Cornwall Child Center. He brings us much joy at home and many fun stories to share with the students. 

Thursday, April 3, 2014

All Things Social Studies

                                                Social Studies - March - April 2014

8th grade students are currently completing studies on the Civil War and that conflict's consequences. Students have analyzed technologies from the time period and their impacts, as well as how it affected and was affected by individuals.  Students examine the African American point of view through the film Glory.  The class also considers ways that the Civil War is still relevant and how there are ramifications of this conflict still today.

6th and 7th graders are concluding their unit on Ancient Rome.  And as all CCS middle schoolers know, the Romans were great borrowers and builders. Each student researched and became the class expert on a particular piece of Roman architecture.  They then taught the class about the importance and modern relevance of their structure.  See pictures of some of the projects created below.


Currently they are exploring and determining the reasons why the Roman Empire fell.  Next up: the Muslims!  Then the Middle Ages!

The Quiz Bowl team wrapped up its season this year at Falls Village on Wednesday, April 2.   It was a fun season, highlighted by the annual Parents vs Kids match.

Geography Bee.  On Friday, April 4, Donovan McCray will be representing CCS at the state level.  We are all very proud of Donovan and wish him the best of luck!

On a personal note, my daughter, Adeline Rose Vincent was born on Wednesday, April 2, 2014 to two very proud and happy parents.  Thank you to everyone at CCS for helping to make this such a wonderful experience.  Both mother and daughter are doing great!  While I am out, I am pleased to have Beth Dineen teaching my classes.

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Do You Know Why March 14th Is Important?

6th Grade Math

As the second trimester comes to a close, the sixth grade math class just finished up two very important units that introduced them to the world of algebra! They worked with manipulatives to practice combining like terms when simplifying expressions and used the idea of keeping a scale balanced to understand the importance of keeping an equation balanced. We are now beginning our unit on ratios and rates which will introduce the students to unit rates and even a bit about percents!

7th Grade Math

The seventh grade math class also just finished up their important units on algebraic concepts as the second trimester comes to a close. Although we may be moving away from a unit titled “Working with Equations,” the students have been reminded that solving equations will now be incorporated into all of their future math units! We have moved onto proportional relationships and already we have been solving proportions using equations! This unit will serve as an introduction to linear relationships - a very important concept in both 8th grade math and Algebra I!

7th Grade Pre-Algebra

The seventh grade Pre-Algebra class just wrapped up their unit on real numbers and scientific notation and has now moved into the world of geometry! We have been investigating angle relationships when it comes to parallel lines, triangles, and, soon, all polygons. Students have discovered these relationships on their own by drawing figures and measuring angles with a protractor. We will continue with geometry for the next two units as we learn more about two-dimensional and three-dimensional shapes.

8th Grade Math

The eighth grade math class just completed their unit on linear functions which was spent drawing graphs from equations, writing equations from graphs, and determining slope from equations, graphs, and tables. We’re now continuing to use our knowledge of linear functions to solve systems of equations. We will learn three ways to solve systems – graphing, substitution, and elimination. Solving systems will allow us to solve problems with more than one unknown!

Algebra I

The Algebra I class recently finished a unit on writing linear equations. They wrote equations from graphs, from a slope and y-intercept, from a slope and point, and from two points. They are now continuing to apply their knowledge of linear equations to solve systems of linear equations. We have already learned to solve systems by graphing and by using substitution and will learn our final way, elimination, this week. We are going to end the unit by playing with some technology that can be used to solve systems.

Pi Day!

In case you didn't know, a fun math holiday is coming up! March 14th is Pi Day! Pi is the number that you get anytime you divide a circle’s circumference by its diameter. The Greek letter π is used to represent this value. Many times you will hear that π is equal to 3.14, but really the number goes on and on forever with no pattern! We celebrate Pi Day on March 14th (3/14) because 3.14 is the start of Pi. Here are some fun facts about pi and Pi Day!

Pi Day is also Albert Einstein’s birthday – March 14, 1879.

In 1706, William Jones, a mathematician from Wales, selected the Greek letter π to represent the value.

In 2006, Akira Haraguchi set the world record for the most digits of Pi memorized by reciting the first 100,000 digits!

Happy (almost) Pi Day!

Monday, February 24, 2014

Spanish Valentines

Once again this year the upper grade students made colorful Spanish valentines.  These were distributed to the homeless and hungry during a Valentine's Day celebration in Harlem on February 8th.  Under the direction of Sister Mary Lanning and her outreach project "Street Corner Gourmet", several hundred people enjoyed a tasty meal, received a small pouch of personal goods and were given some warm clothing.  As folks waited for their meal, they were presented with a handmade valentine.  One cannot overstate the pleasure that these cards bring to the people that receive them.  Many thanks to our caring students who worked hard to create thoughtful, beautiful cards.

Extra help/review Spanish is offered to all interested seventh graders after school on Mondays.  Sixth graders are welcome to stay on Tuesday afternoons.  Pick up time for both afternoons is at four o'clock.
These sessions provide extra practice on vocabulary and grammar; they are also a great opportunity for those individuals who would like to conference with me about writing and projects.  Although there is no regularly scheduled meeting time for eighth graders, students are encouraged to make arrangements to see me for extra help as needed.

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Homework Expectations

For many assignments, CCS middle school teachers employ the concept of Focus Correction Areas (FCAs). This is a simple way to establish and communicate expectations. When an assignment is graded, it is done based on the FCAs. Below are FCAs for homework:

Complete the assignment
Show your work
Use pencil

Assignment is complete and neat with good thought and effort
Correct punctuation
Complete sentences when appropriate

English & Social Studies:
Complete/appropriate length
Includes evidence/details to support ideas
Complete sentences including correct punctuation

Assignment is complete and neat with good thought and effort
Includes evidence/details to support ideas
Complete sentences including correct punctuation

Thursday, February 6, 2014

Social Studies Updates - February 2014

8th Graders recently "published" film reviews of Amistad.  They wrote as a movie critic might to a wide, unseen audience.  Check out their work at their blog site:

8th Graders are currently studying Westward Expansion in the mid 1800s, and asking big questions such as, was it a good thing for Americans?  What type of Americans might benefit from Westward Expansion?  Who might view Westward Expansion negatively and why?  Students are reading and examining primary source documents including a US Federal Census from 1850, and "The Peacock Letters", which is a compilation of letters written by a man (William Peacock) to his wife (Susan) as he travels out to California by foot in 1850 in search of gold.

6th and 7th Graders recently performed with Grumbling Gryphons in the play, Persephone.  This play perfectly coincided with our Greek unit!  Thank you to Leslie Elias for all of her help and work in making this happen!  Students will receive extra credit for writing thank you letters to the performers!

Currently, the Blue and the Gold groups of 6th and 7th graders are studying ancient Rome.  The big idea presented to them is that the Romans were great borrowers and great builders.  We are reading a retelling of Shakespeare's Julius Caesar and are comparing the Roman Republic with the Roman Empire.

English 6-8 News for New Year!

Figurative Language:
All 3 middle school classes have been working on figurative language and literary terms needed for narrative writing and understanding literature and poetry. Some of the terms include idiom, simile, metaphor, alliteration and paradox.  6th and 7th graders discussed how often figurative language is a part of pop culture. They viewed examples from movies, TV shows, songs, books, and poetry. All students brought in song lyrics to practice with. Students found numerous examples in their songs (Example: "I came in like a wrecking ball..." Miley Cyrus) and picked the best one to explain and illustrate for our board. 
6-7th Grade Song Lyric Examples 
8th graders worked in pairs to become familiar with 3 of the literary terms from the list. Each pair prepared a lesson for the rest of the class including the definitions, examples, and a hands on activity for their classmates. Once all the terms had been learned, students took a 2 part test. The 2nd part allowed them to work with a partner to complete a full in-depth  analysis of a modern song. 8th graders will be continuing to utilize these terms as we move into our African American unit which includes short stories, poems, and the famous play "A Raisin in the Sun". 

"I Have a Dream..."
 6th and 7th graders compiled lists of issues or challenges in our society today. Some of the items listed were unemployment, gas prices, distracted driving, terrorism, and so on. Next, they watched a clip of the famous MLK speech and created what might have been on Martin Luther King Jr.'s  list (prejudice, segregation, racisim, etc.) We compared lists and discussed what progress has been made and what new issues have been created. Students then followed MLK's format to create their own modern version of a "I Have a Dream..." speech. They read their speeches aloud to a peer and worked on making changes, typing,  and choosing appropriate art work to emphasize their ideas. The final products are powerful and inspiring! 

Utopia or Dystopia?
 7th graders have continued to use their lists of societal problemsas part of our introduction to Utopia/ Dystopia. Students have been working in groups to determine what problems could be solved, how they could be solved, and what new issues the solutions may bring about. They have been introduced to famous utopias in the world or literature and are learning about why a utopia may fail or become a dystopia. These ideas will help with their understanding of our next whole class novel, The Giver by Lois Lowry. In Jonas's community everything is the same. The community leaders make all the choices in order to create a peaceful and safe environment. When Jonas turns 12 he is given a position in the community that allows him to uncover some of the secrets that allow the community to function as it does. Jonas must decide if he can live with these new truths about his home community. 
7th Grade group working together on "My Utopia" plans 

The Great Depression
 6th graders are beginning their study of The Great Depression as an introduction to the next class novel, Bud, Not Buddy. They have been reading articles about the 1930's and working on informational and compare/contrast writing as they look at how different life was for kids at that time. 

Independent Reading (IR)
All grades continue to read independent books and write responses in booklets or online logs. For the 1st trimester, 6-7th graders completed PowerPoint Presentations in English and US/IT on their IR books. 8th graders wrote formal literary analysis papers complete with in-text citations. 2nd trimester books will be complete in the beginning of March and new projects/papers will follow.  

Friday, January 24, 2014

CCS Middle School Snapshot Friday, January 24th, 1:50 pm

Eighth grade English- Students are working in partners on a paper titled “Analyzing Figurative Language.” The teacher says to two students trying to understand metaphors, “You wouldn’t want to compare a run to a race; they’re too similar.” On the other side of the room, partner #1 says, “What did you have for #6?” Partner #2 says, “ I had ‘extended metaphor’.” Partner #1 responds, “Oh, yeah, I forgot about that one!”

Across the hall in math class, the sixth graders are beginning a quiz. Item #3 is
x + 4 = 5. Item #12 is, “Pennsylvania is 280 miles from east to west. This is 120 miles more than the length of the state from north to south. Write and solve an addtion equation to find the length of Pennsylvania from north to south.” 
The teacher reminds students to show their work.

Upstairs in music class, the seventh graders are researching “swing era” jazz artists, including Glenn Miller, Artie Shaw, Benny Morton, Benny Goodman, Lester Young, Duke Ellington, Eugene Krupa, Art Tatum, Jr., and Coleman Hawkins. The students are making “trading cards” for their artists.

Your intrepid reporter also noticed that a new middle school business has sprung up. MSB (the Middle School Bank) has opened and is taking deposits of MSMs (Middle School Money) with an interest rate of 5%. Pretty good return!

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Science at CCS in January

8th Grade Science - January 2014
Science students in 8th grade finished up an engineering unit on bridge building after the holiday break.  Over the course of three weeks, students learned about different styles of bridges, designed a bridge with a team of classmates, and built the bridge.  

 Each team was given a one million dollar budget, but they quickly learned that purchasing land, insurance, and making payroll cuts into the budget of any business.  They also had to "purchase" their materials, pay the building inspector to approve their plans, and pay an "auditor" to look over their accounts.
Each member of the team had a role to play: Project Manager, Builder, Accountant or Transport Chief.  In their roles, they each had specific jobs to do, but they also had to work as a team to get the bridge built on schedule.
 Bridges were judged on three aspects: Strength, Cost and Aesthetics
Most important (60%) was the strength and safety of the bridge.
Second (30%) was the cost of the bridge (how much under budget)
Finally 10% was based on the simple beauty of the structure, or the aesthetics of the bridge, as judged by a panel of three CCS staff members.
 When all the bridges were complete, we hung weights from the middle of each bridge to test the strength.  The challenge was to hold up 6 kg.  All 4 bridges were able to hold that much.  Students had fun hanging a 10kg (22lb) box of nails off of the bridges too.  Three of the four were able to hold it.
We discussed the concepts of tension and compression stress, and the importance of using triangles and arches in building structures, as they are the strongest shapes (least likely to collapse)  All in all, students had a wonderful time, and learned a great deal about, not only bridge building, but also teamwork, perseverance.

6th and 7th Grade Science - January 2014

Since mid-November, we have been studying water pollution and how it affects the Long Island Sound watershed and Cornwall's streams, lakes and rivers.  A large part of the students' work was to research a particular form of pollution that sometimes occurs right here in Cornwall.  Students worked in teams of 2 or 3 to read selected websites, watch some educational videos, and ask questions of parents, friends and community members.

 Once their research was complete, students needed to express what they had learned in a concise, clear informative writing style. They worked on revising and editing their work for several weeks to make it easy to read and understand.  They practiced writing in heading/bullet style.  Some needed to add more specific information.  Some needed to work on their writing to make it more concise, as it was too long and wordy.  All students worked on clarifying the central ideas.

Finally, they printed out the text they had written, and some pictures they had found or taken themselves.  Then they worked on cutting them out neatly.  We talked about white space around text, being consistent in font size and style, having a large enough font size and choosing colors that are easy to read.  They needed to arrange the headings and bullet statements in an order that made sense, and place pictures next to the text they illustrate.  The result of all this work was a display board for presentation.

Then students started practicing their presentations.  They needed to learn some information that their partner had researched, and practice talking about their topic for an adult audience.  They practiced eye contact, smooth speaking, and tried to take the "ums" and awkward pauses out of their presentations.  On the evening of January 14th the CCS Gathering Room was full of students, displays, parents and community members.  Students talked to many adults about their pollution topics.  The experience of speaking publicly is nerve-wracking to many students but valuable to all of them.           They did a wonderful job presenting. Many community members told me they had learned a lot from the students, and were impressed by their presentation style as well as the content.  BRAVO to all of the 6th and 7th graders!