We’ve hit a point in Weather & Water where it’s one fun experiment after another, starting with the old “differential heating” experiment, comparing how water, soil, sand, and air absorb heat. The FOSS method for this experiment was subtly different from my old method, and worked a hundred times better. I had the kids write lab reports, and while many did not turn in first drafts, those who did turned in really, really good first drafts. I’m excited to grade their final drafts over vacation. It’s interesting, the Science Expo really made a positive impact on their understanding of the process of doing an experiment and writing about it. They are still awful at identifying variables, but I don’t sweat that because in part it’s their young, developing brains struggling with cause and effect and abstraction.
We also did an experiment with aluminum and steel bars, placed in hot water, with liquid crystal temperature strips taped to the top of each bar. As heat moved up the bar, the temperature strip changed color. It was dramatic, easy-to-understand, and simple. Sweet. Their understanding of heat, radiation, and conduction seems pretty solid so far. Right now, I’m lovin’ FOSS.
Meanwhile, I have a double-size enrichment cluster on Fridays, with another teacher: Chemistry. I’ve put together a fun series of experiments for them to do (it’ll cost a fortune in materials, even though many are household products, but it will be worth it) to capitalize on their excitement while still teaching solid science concepts. Last week, we started off with the vinegar & baking soda experiment, because it’s everyone’s favorite, but they had to test different variables that might speed it up or slow it down. It was a bit rushed but very successful. Since it’s a big, excitable group and it’s Friday last period, I let them choose groups but those groups are going to be in a competition based on points earned for doing a good job completing the lab worksheets and for behavior. This week will be a surprise for them when they realize that some groups earned 2 points per person while others earned nothing at all! I think it will help them focus and get more out of it, while still working with friends and having fun.
This week’s revelations:
I like teaching science. I knew that, but this year has been a lot of change in both curriculum and in the habits of the kids, and for a while, I lost touch with what’s fun and challenging – but also easy! – about my job.
My kids – minus a few with very serious social-emotional-behavioral problems – are starting to perform like kids at my school typically do in the fall of sixth grade. This year’s group came in a bit behind, but the gap is closing. The work is much better. We’re moving forward so much faster. Then again, the weakest students might be farther behind than ever, especially those with poor attendance or who have been suspended multiple times. But that issue is so much bigger than me and my teaching, I have to let go a little bit. I help them as much as I can, and I ponder the broader, longer-term strategies & policies that might help them, but today, this week, this month, I let it go a little.
I’m still digging out from the pile of work and obligations. Posting will be infrequent for the duration, bear with me.