Throughout the school year, students in Calhoun’s Lower School—Elementary division have explored science through a number of interactive, hands-on projects. From plant growth cycles to plate tectonics to the solar system, teacher Paul Weaver has helped Calhouners in 3rd through 5th grades explore the exciting and vast world of science.
Exploring the Natural World
Third graders began the year with a unit on the growth cycle of plants. During their work together, Calhouners started with planting Wisconsin Fast Plants, which go through the entire life cycle in just five to six weeks. Starting with seedlings, the students cared for the plant, and as the plant went through various stages of development, Paul broke down what they were seeing. As he shared information about its leaves, flowers and the process of pollination, students kept records, making observational drawings of the plant at different points in its life cycle. After discussing the importance of bees in our world, students used bee specimens to hand-pollinate the flowers. Once the plants reached full maturity, the class dried out the plant and harvested the seeds, comparing the number of seeds harvested with the number they had at the start of the unit. Harvested seeds will be saved and used with a new class the next year, continuing the cycle once and maintaining a connective thread from year to year.
Blending Art and Science
Collaborations with fellow teachers create opportunities for students to display their knowledge in creative ways. A partnership with woodshop and design teacher Nora Nicolini resulted in a playful project about outer space that incorporated research, art and technology. While in Paul’s class, Calhouners learned about the characteristics of planets in our solar system, including a number of interesting facts like its distance from the sun, climate and unique features like number of rings or moons. After choosing a particular planet to research, students created travel brochures with Nora, providing readers with details about their chosen planet in the form of a sales pitch designed to entice visitors to a cosmic destination. Each booklet was made up of a digital and a physical component. Using the e-book platform Book Creator, Calhouners shared their research, filling the pages with the details they had learned about their planet. The covers, however, were hand drawn. To make the images look as realistic as possible, Nora taught the students how to shade circles to create the looks of spheres and introduced new materials like oil and dry pastels to inspire creativity.
Science in Action
Fifth graders explored electricity through a unit on magnets and motors. To start, the class gained knowledge of the basics, learning how magnets with opposite poles are attracted to one another, while the same poles will repel. In addition, Calhouners learned about the properties of magnetic fields before getting hands-on as they built simple electric circuits consisting of a battery, wire and bulb. This activity sparked an important discovery — that when running electricity through a circuit, it creates a magnetic field that can be manipulated. With this newfound knowledge, the class used wire and coil to create electromagnets that served as the basis for the simple motors which they later constructed.
With Paul’s guidance, Calhouners discovered just how diverse and exciting the field of science truly is. Through hands-on lessons and long-term projects, these young students have already explored elements of biology, astronomy and physics — with no signs of stopping.