Little Calhouners Become Scientists in the Discovery Lab

By Carlyle Lincoln 

Little Calhouners get their first taste of the diverse world of science in the Discovery Lab. Each hands-on project introduces students to foundational concepts while complementing core classroom curriculum. Learn about what each class has been working on below:


Kindergartners engaged in a study of trees, exploring various aspects through a series of engaging activities. The class reflected on the value of trees in providing oxygen or foods like chocolate and syrup, as well as trees' essential roles in the production of common items like paper, wood, gum and rubber. 

Students welcomed two New York City Parks rangers who shared their knowledge of trees that can be found in the city. Their work later expanded to the anatomy of trees, their importance to the environment and the function of various parts of the tree. To display their knowledge, students created 3D models using multi-colored straws to represent the xylem, an essential part of the tree that brings water and dissolved nutrients from the roots to the rest of the plant. Later, Little Calhouners created large-scale models of trees, exhibiting what they had learned while crafting each crucial element including the crown, leaves, branches, trunk and roots.

Later, kindergartners learned about the unique characteristics of deciduous and coniferous trees, noting that leaves on deciduous trees change color and fall off in the winter, while coniferous trees are generally evergreen, have needles and disperse seeds in cones. 

Watch the video below for a look at kindergartners’ work: 

First Grade

A focus on farms started off the first grade year. Together the class explored the many food items grown on and supplied by farms, learning about plants that serve as food sources, and noting which parts of plants are edible and which are not. The focus later shifted to food sources that are available to animals, sparking an exploration of food chains and the relationship between predator and prey. 

A visit from park rangers shed light on owls, predators that can be found right in New York City. Students learned about the anatomy of owls and how physical characteristics like talons, big eyes and hooked beaks help them catch their prey. The dissection of owl pellets made their learning tangible as first graders searched for evidence of bird and rodent bones.

Moving down the food chain, the next focus in this study was decomposers — the insects and fungi that break down organic material and turn it into new soil. A trip to Central Park provided an opportunity for hands-on learning as first graders looked for snails, worms and grubs in logs and under leaves. 

See more of first graders’ Discovery Lab experience below:

Second Grade

A study of energy sparked excitement for second graders. Learning about types of energy — stored, potential, motion, kinetic— served as an introduction to physics. Students transformed into scientists, working in groups to perform an experiment and record their findings. After being given different types of balls, including a foam baseball, a wiffle golf ball and a tennis ball, students dropped the balls from specific heights and then measured how high each bounced. Comparing their predictions to results, students discovered that the energy was sometimes released due to friction or thermal energy, accounting for differences in height. 

The study then turned to electricity. After discussing various power sources, students rolled up their sleeves to perform another experiment, creating a circuit using a D cell battery and light bulb. Later, additional pieces of equipment were added, including alligator clips, buzzers, motors and vibrating cells. A visit to the New York Historical Society provided insight into the origin of electricity in New York City, and a trip to the Brooklyn Robot Foundry gave second grade scientists the opportunity to create their own simple machines. 

Back at 74th Street, the projects continued with second graders experimenting with using dough as a conductor. Later the class drew inspiration from the board game Operation with students creating their own versions using AA battery holders, light emitting diodes, alligator clips, copper sheets and copper tape. 

See more of our second grade scientists at work below: