Summer, Summer, Summer Time!

I was truly blessed to teach these students this year and to have such amazing support from their families.  I will miss them all but, I know that they are ready to spread their wings and fly in second grade.  Please read, read, read this summer and practice your math facts.  I have sent home: information on Summer Solutions Common Core Math workbooks, Step Up to Second math packets, and two different reading programs that are available thru the school and the public library. Any of these would be very helpful in avoiding the dreaded “Summer Slump.”  Have a very safe and happy summer!

Levers, Pulleys, and Motion

For our last Flex Day of the year students were given a STEM challenge that included vocabulary words from our Reading, Phonics from our weekly studies, and the use of levers, pulleys, and motion from our Science lessons.  Two Lego children wanted to celebrate their mother’s birthday by baking her a cake but found themselves needing our help to be able to get the ingredients up and into the bowl to make their gift. Students were asked to create a system that would help the little Lego children hoist the ingredients to the mixing bowl.  They had to be resourceful and use only items that were in our classroom.  For one last time this school year, I will say that I was truly amazed at what they were able to create from indoor recess toys and supplies that we had used in other projects throughout the year.  Their thought process has grown immensely and their willingness to continue to try new ideas and strategies when they are not successful in their original designs brings a smile to my face. I hope and pray that they continue to be curious and open-minded throughout the rest of their lives because I believe these students can move mountains if they put their minds to it. I am blessed to have been their teacher and to be able to watch them grow!

Delicious States of Matter

First graders concluded our lessons about matter with some delicious treats!  We used root beer floats to visualize the different states of matter.  The root beer was our liquid, the ice cream was our solid, and the bubbly foam on top was a result of the gas. For many of the students this was also their very first root beer float! A huge thank you to the Hazelgrove family for providing all of our supplies for the root beer floats!  We also explored changes in matter by making our own bags of ice cream in small groups. This helped students to see first hand how liquid can change to a solid by decreasing temperature.  What a “sweet” way to finish these lessons!

Oil Spills and Chemical Engineers

The first graders took a peek at what it would look like to be a chemical engineer in attempting to clean up an oil spill. We have been talking about Earth’s resources and and how we can conserve them throughout our whole school PBL. Recently, in science we examined the water cycle as well.  So how are all of these affected when we add in pollution?  Students were amazed at how one oil spill could affect our whole planet.  They learned all about how much time and money it takes for “the clean up” in our simulation.  Students were given a feather and a frog manipulative to represent the wildlife and were asked to not only clean those but to also find a way to remove the oil from the water.  They priced out supplies that were needed and set to work.  They soon discovered this was not an easy task but, with perseverance the students found ways to clean the wildlife and filter the oil out of the water.


The Water Cycle, Clouds and Weather

First graders learned all about the water cycle and how it affects weather.  We explored all different types of weather, in all the seasons, and what factors make them possible.  Then we created our own water cycle in a bag. The sunshine through our window began to work its magic and students were able to see just how evaporation, condensation, and rain work in our world. After learning about the various types of clouds , students were then able to take a hands-on approach by creating their very own cumulonimbus clouds.  We made our clouds “rain” by adding drops of food coloring to act as the moisture that gathers in the air until it becomes too dense and falls back down to Earth as rain,snow, sleet, or hail.  At the end of the day, one student said, “Our Earth is really cool when you think about it!” and with that, I knew our day was a success. We spent our week learning this knowledge from our books and ended with not only an understanding of it but, also a curiosity and excitement for learning.

Kites, Kites and more Kites!!!

Kite building with found material (plastic table cloths, newspaper, string, yarn ect….)

Innovation Challenge

Mrs. Eads presented the entire school with the challenge of innovating a lunch box and the first graders took to the challenge with great excitement. By pure coincidence, one of our students had a problem with her lunch box just days prior.  An item in her lunch box had leaked all over the contents of her lunch and ruined all of her food.  That day our heroines in the cafeteria came to her rescue and provided her with a delicious hot lunch, but the first graders wondered: how could we innovate the lunch box so that this problem could be avoided in the future?  As the light bulbs started to turn on, I started drawing what they were describing on the board.  Their ideas were so amazing at times it was hard for me to keep up, but here’s what they came together to create.

First, the lunch box would have two sections where wet and dry items would be held. Then, the wet storage area would be divided into two more compartments where hot and cold items would be separated.  The cold would be kept cold by a cooling pack that would slide down into a side and the hot would be kept warm by a heating pack that could be warmed in a microwave and slid down into the opposite side.  The students were inspired by warming packs that are heated in this way to sooth aches and pains.  One of the students then thought of the huge mess that was created when this occurred and suggested that each of the wet storage areas be lined with a removable, washable, seal-able liner. Lastly, another student thought of how lunch boxes are also hard to store at home, especially when you have multiple.  This brought about the idea that our innovated lunch box would then be able to fold down flat when carried back home or stored when not in use.

Now, please pause for a moment and try to picture me (not an artist) feverishly drawing and trying to keep up with all of these great ideas!  Mrs. Tran and I were so impressed that we then sent the students’ idea on to a Design Engineer who rendered these drawings.

Lunch Box

If you ever wondered what we do on the Flex day, this is it. Simply put, we are inspiring each student to reach for their maximum potential because when we do…this is what they do!

Germs, Germs Everywhere

What a busy day we had exploring the world around us and how germs attack it. The first graders began by looking at different types of germs like viruses and bacteria and how they affect our bodies.  We took a trip inside Ralphie’s body with “The Magic School Bus” where students could see what germs do inside us and how our bodies fight back.  Then students took the sneeze challenge, where we measured how far germs could fly when we sneeze or cough.  Some students germs carried up to 8 ft. but we researched this question and found that germs from a sneeze can travel at 100 mph. and up to 200 ft. Yikes! Cover that sneeze, please!

First graders then learned that most germs enter our bodies through the T-zone.  This area refers to the eyes, nose, and mouth.  Dr. Marshal of Dr. Mark Marshall D.D.S.,Inc., graced us with his presence to teach the children about oral health and how this affects our entire body. Each student was given a new toothbrush and toothpaste to fight back against those nasty germs.

Then we gave each student some secret gel to rub on their hands and sent to play at recess.  This gel would help us to see where germs were spread in our own room throughout the day during normal activities.  After we returned to the classroom, we shut off the lights and turned on a black light. If you think the dark is scary, just flick on a black light in an elementary classroom! The students were able to really see where they carried the germs.

We then put on a second dose of the special gel, as we had washed it off before lunch, and looked at our own hands.  Students were asked what they thought was the most effective way to remove these germs from their hands, hand wipes, sanitizer, or old fashioned good hand washing practices. The class was divided into thirds to discover the answer.  They found that washing with soap and warm water was the clear winner, but why?

Next, I put some water in a shallow cake pan and added glitter to act as germs.  With the students all gathered around, we added a few drops of soap and “germs” immediately scattered away from the soap.  What a cool visual for the students to embrace the power of good hand washing practices!

Finally, students replicated different germs we had seen at the beginning of our day with modeling clay and q-tips.  It’s safe to say that the students will not soon forget this lesson on healthy habits, and all this was possible through our amazing Flex Day learning!

Groundhog Day

First graders learned all about the groundhog and its habitat, hibernation, chambers of a burrow, and budgeting with our Groundhog’s Day STEM challenge.  We even learned that groundhog hibernation habits are the focus of several types of studies that are trying to find ways of improving people’s health.  We discovered that the groundhog’s brain doesn’t need as much oxygen when it is hibernating and therefore, only breathes about once every 4 minutes. Scientists are using this information to try to apply a “hibernation” principal to the human brain to help alleviate stroke damage. They are also studying the hormone that helps the animal to deeply relax for hibernation to help transplant and heart attack patients.

Students began with the problem: Construction workers accidentally destroyed the groundhog’s burrow and with winter just around the corner, he needs a new place to hibernate. They then took on the challenge: Build a new burrow for the groundhog that has a sleeping chamber, a main entrance, and a secret escape route. You only have $20.00 to spend on supplies so plan wisely and stick to your budget.  It was amazing to see all of the different ideas that the students came up with but then had to revamp to fit there budget. Then once the students had a successful structure they were challenged to go back and improve it with their leftover budget. Some added extra chambers or a false tunnel to trick predators and in the end all of our groundhogs had a safe and cozy place to hibernate for the winter.

Celebrating our Veterans during Catholic Schools Week

The first and fifth graders teamed up to create an extra special gift for the veterans. The first grade began this project by listing words they thought would describe a veteran such as loyal, brave, hero, courageous and fearless.  The fifth graders then shared their knowledge of Word Art, a website where you can create a word collage.  These were then framed and given to the veterans in attendance as a token of our appreciation for all of their service. The students of SJS also prayed for and sang patriotic songs from the heart to honor them.