Throughout the year, we take a peek into the classrooms hosting Letters to a Pre-Scientist. In this post, Ms. Farmer shares the excitement of her middle schoolers getting to take science class every day for the first time!
A big step for elementary students going into middle school is getting to have a whole hour (every day!) dedicated to both science and social studies. Growing up, most of my students had time for one or the other, but not both. On the first day of school, students are always bubbling about getting the opportunity to work with mixing chemicals in beakers to cause explosions or getting a chance to dissect animals. They are always a little bummed to hear that we will not be exploring these topics. However, I use this time to introduce them to the Letters to Pre-Scientist program. Most of the students get the look of excitement back about learning that they get to hear from a real scientist! This first introduction to the year long program for the student is just a small peek into the reality that is Letters to Pre-Scientist. Their happiness about learning of the program has no comparison to the enthusiasm these students feel when seeing their letters for the first time.
Having the Letters to Pre-Scientist program run during their first experience in middle school is so meaningful to both me and the students. Starting middle school is a difficult transition for most students. From having to move room to room, to getting lost in a new school, to making sure they have enough time to go to their locker, run to the restroom, and make it back in time for class. Letters to Pre-Scientist offers so many positive associations during a transition in their life. Even the students who started out as doubters that there would not be a scientist to answer their questions, wrote the most thoughtful letters and had some of the most insightful questions. Even my students from last year have been asking if I am having the pen pal program again because it was one of their favorite things we learned that year.
One of the biggest high points of our semester was each team getting to build a roller coaster. A challenge for the students with this unit was putting more of the learning in their hands because I had them use problem solving skills rather than giving the answers directly. The students had experiments to test how height would affect the speed of items. Afterward, they did an experiment about how changing the mass would change the amount of energy. Using this information students had to brainstorm solutions for their roller coasters, pick out the best design, and then test their theory. We spent several days working on these roller coasters because students wanted to design the best possible. They combined their knowledge from the entire semester to create their working roller coaster.Yes, there was frustration that the BB got stuck inside the loop. Yes, we went through about 3 rolls of packing tape. However, the look of satisfaction on a groups face after getting their roller coaster to work is priceless.
Our next unit is talking about life science and getting the student learning about ecosystems. We will be deep diving into our three classroom ecosystems: a land ecosystem with anoles, a water ecosystem with guppies and snails, and a decomposer ecosystem under a rotting log. Giving the students an opportunity to have pets in the classroom is such a joy because of their wonder at a snail moving across the glass. Towards the end of the year, we will finish off by studying our solar system and the motion of objects in the sky.