Science in the Lower Division

Science lends itself so beautifully to Lower Division’s multi-sensory, hands-on/minds-on approach to learning. Be it a one-day science lab or a year-long study, science exploration involves as many senses as possible in any given lesson and supports student understanding of science-related concepts.  For example, our fifth-grade classrooms engaged in a year-long study of ecosystems through the Stratford Ecological Center in Delaware, Ohio, led by fifth-grade science teacher Michelle Lewis. During each of the three visits to the Center, as well as a Marburn visit from Stratford staff, students worked in small groups to explore a number of different concepts related to Ohio ecosystems, relying on their senses to explore each topic. On the most recent spring trip to the Ecological Center, fifth graders took part in the Bee Different activity in which they worked to develop an understanding of how diversity builds stability in the environment. With students acting as the bees, they “buzzed” from flower to flower (large colanders mounted on poles) and then back to their hive (a large board on which they stuck the tennis ball “pollen”). By taking on the role of a bee in the environment, students recognized that when bees have access to a variety of flowers, the stability afforded by many food options supports a stable population.

During an investigation of plant structures that function in supporting growth, Steve Biehn’s class observed individual stalks of celery split between a cup of red and blue dyes. The movement of liquids through the stem to the leaves provided clear evidence of the role of stem structures in plant growth and survival. While observation was a key component in this investigation, their Room 1208 neighbors, under the direction of Angela Bell, applied their understanding of force and motion to solve this problem: How do I make a vessel that can deliver a message across the hall to the Lower Division office? Overcoming the obstacles of friction and gravity, small groups of students designed and then tested carriers that would send the message the required distance. Catapults, cars, ramps and boxes were just a few of the ideas used in finding a solution to their problem.

Leslie Dilley led her class in a simulation of non-renewable resources as each student was given a large cookie to represent land. The cookie contained chocolate chips, which served as fossil fuels. With each roll of a die, students learned about a way humans use fossil fuels and, as each use of fuel was discussed, students chiseled a fossil fuel (i.e. a chocolate chip) out of their “land” cookies to demonstrate its removal from the earth. If a student was out of fuels on their cookie property, they had the option to purchase fuels from the cookie properties of other students….at a cost — losing part of your cookie to the trashcan. One student, Nyllah, had a special cookie that represented protected land. The game ended once our chocolate chip fossil fuels had all been eaten, representing the reality of fossil fuel use. Once they’re gone…they’re gone!  In Lower Division, the use of our senses supports students in developing enduring understandings of important science concepts.

Author:
Miriam Skapik
Head of Lower Division