Monday, April 8, 2019

Adventures in Outer Space!

6th graders have been learning all about the solar system and beyond!  The first step was learning the distinguishable characteristics of the different celestial bodies contained therein.  Students were introduced to the planets through role-pay.  We staged an awards presentation in which each was competing for "most unique."  Spoiler alert: they all won (for different reasons 😉)!

After "meeting" the planets, we researched a little more about each and also learned about some of the moons out there.  Each student wrote a short postcard from a mystery location and the class tried to guess where each postcard "came from."  Here are a couple below.  Can you figure out which place they are written about?

Hello all,

Where I am right now is the most volcanically active place in the Solar System. Except for the volcanic hotspots, the temperature is way below freezing. The temperature is about -1200 degrees Celsius, -2192 degrees Fahrenheit. I got my name from mythology. This moon is named after a mortal woman transformed into a cow during a marital dispute between the Greek God Zeus—Jupiter in Roman mythology—and his wife, Juno. The place Is am I had an orbit that is irregularly elliptical. Since it has a wide variety of distance from Jupiter, there are extreme tidal forces. Because of all of the volcanoes, this place is most likely never going to have any life. This place is slightly larger than Earth’s moon. This place is really stinky, because the atmosphere is sulfur dioxide. I don’t think you should come here. It stinks, it’s cold, and it is very unlivable. 
Dear Ms. Solomon and Class,Hi class! Ok, so I landed on this very interesting terrestrials body and we are going to play a little guessing game. I don't really like here because it is very very very cold and the days are 15 days and 22 hours. Long, right? The surface is made of rock, lakes, rivers, and oceans, flowing with methane and ethane. The atmosphere is made of nitrogen and other things also like methane and ethane. The atmosphere is thick. I wear a special suit to make myself feel safe. I want to hear back from everyone soon! 
Yours truly,
 Next, we investigated scale models and tried to figure out if we could construct or draw a model of the solar system "to scale."  First, we draw the sizes of the planets on a sheet of paper with one scale but had to use another in order to draw the distances on a second piece of paper.  Last, we wanted to see if maybe we could use a single scale if we took our 3D planet models outside.  First, we constructed the planets from clay (pictured below left), then (with the same scale) mapped where we would need to place each clay "planet" along Hoover Rd using Google Earth (pictured below right).
I took a screen recording for students to reference.  You can click on it below the photos.

Among other things, we have also been learning about things relevant to space travel.  Things like units for distances (AUs, Light Years) and converting between them; The differences between mass and weight; Newton's first law (Interia); and Newton's second law (F = ma).  Students were given a couple "DIY Challenges" in order to illustrate the concepts of inertia a well as mass.  The inertia challenge involved some videos of "magic" tricks while the mass challenge involved trying to balance things by finding the center of gravity!
Challenge: Inertia Tricks 
(A sample of 4 tricks)

Challenge: Finding Your Center 
Check out our students' mastery of balance!



In another series of investigations, sixth graders have been duplicating experiments that are also done up in the space station.  The first, involving empty and full coke cans, showed them the extent to which gravity "pulls" on mass with rubber bands.  (Up in the space station, there was NO pull on either!)   The second was meant to illustrate Newton's second law (F = ma) by showing what happens to acceleration when we keep the force constant (using air pumps) on cars with different amounts of mass.  The students were not surprised to find that heavier things move more slowly, but they WERE surprised to find the same was true up in space!  


The students were not surprised to find that heavier things move more slowly, but they WERE surprised to find the same was true up in space!  See for yourself by clicking on the safeshare link here and you will see a similar experiment run on the ISS!

Friday, April 5, 2019

To Thine Own Cell-f, Be True

7th Grade:

We are nearing the end of our unit on cells, but since our last update, we've learned a lot about cell processes and transport.  How do cells get what they need in and what they do not need out?  How do the cells of producers make their own food?  How do the cells of consumers use food?  

Below, you can see the fun we had viewing cellular respiration in yeast and capturing the exhaust gas (carbon dioxide) in balloons.  Unfortunately, I made the mistake of removing the balloon too quickly from the bottle!  😳😆  


Lt: balloon atop a bottle with warm water, sugar, & yeast.  Rt: balloon atop a bottle with warm water & sugar only.

A surprised Ms. S finds herself with respiration byproduct all over her face

We also observed osmosis  in carrots and eggs.  Students were encouraged to experiment at home to see if they could cause osmosis to happen and made their own water bead sensory bags!  

They also designed their own "egg-speriment" using eggs de-shelled in vinegar.  While they enjoyed the lab exploration, they all really looked forward to the end when they could crush the eggs in their own hands under the sink 😉 A special visitor even captured one in slow motion! 

As we conclude this section by learning about mitosis, students complete a final project called "Cells R Us."  In this simulation, they act in pairs as consultants helping to launch a fun family destination that not only teaches about cells but is also a working analogue of a cell.  Many groups will "build" their vacation spot in Co-Spaces and I look forward to sharing with you all what they come up with!

Friday, February 1, 2019

Getting to Know Them"Cell"ves

Seventh graders are working on a unit called “Know Your Cell-f.” In it, they learn about body systems at the macro then micro level. In the lab, students detected CO2 in exhaled breath and examined the purpose of chewing food.  
To investigate cellular structure they broke out the digital microscopes and photographed things from home or around the room at 100x or more their original size.   Students looked for similar structures that might help distinguish living from nonliving things. Among the items photographed were a leaf bud, glove, iPad screen, splinter, and more.  Students sorted one another’s images based on common structures into “living” and “nonliving.”  

Other activities in this unit included becoming expert microscopists and slide sketch artists.  The class also used different cell models in the lab to better understand nutrient uptake, surface area to volume ratios, cellular respiration and semipermeability.  

Thursday, January 31, 2019

Invasive Inventions!

Our recent engineering/makerspace project was so much fun!  The kids learned about a few invasive species and the problems they present here in Indiana.  They envisioned a solution and built a prototype or model of their idea.

AK and RF conceived of a unique chemical applicator that would eliminate the Emerald Ash Borer exclusively while allowing other native insects to thrive.

CMS and IE came up with an eco-friendly way to kill mosquito eggs in your yard by placing standing water laced with copper (toxic to mosquitoes) all around your yard!

CRG and AM's "Honey Pluckle" is designed with an injector that inserts a native plant to the soil at the same time as extracting the invasive Bush Honeysuckle and any toxins it put into the soil with its "sucker."

EG and KY sought to mitigate brown stinkbug populations with their specially formulated oil + soap spray which kills stink bug eggs.  It is named after the Samurai Wasp, another species that preys on the eggs of stink bugs.  Other scientists have proposed introducing them to Indiana in order to control the stink bug population.

OA invented the "Flower Wall" to maximize surface area of a portable, unwater wall.  This invention is to allow lay fisherfolk to catch a LOT of mussels at a time in order to sell them to manufactures for their glue.

Thursday, September 6, 2018

Predicting a Photo Finish

On night one, 7th Graders timed themselves walking and running ten meters.  They did three trials of each type of motion, then found their average time.

The next day, the students found a racing partner and choose: who would be the walker, and who would be the runner.  They were tasked to manipulate their variables so that instead of one person making it to the finish line first, they needed to reach the finish line at the same moment.   They collaborated and calculated.

On the third day, we tried out their predictions.  If all went well, the head start they determined should enable each walker/runner pair to finish at the exact same moment.

Obviously, this was a time to use slow motion technology ;)

Wednesday, August 29, 2018

Metamorphosis Begins!

Hello Wonderful Friends and Families of HHAI!  This year is off to a phenomenal start in middle school, with all sorts of fun new initiatives and projects that we hope to share with you all year long.  As usual, it is a pleasure and honor to teach these children, and everyday I try to get better at inspiring and empowering them as much as they do me!

I can tell you about a few things so far that have happened upstairs and beyond that I hope you will find a chance to discuss with our young scholars:


Middle School went to Flat Rick River Camp last Monday/Tuesday as you may have seen in last week’s edition.  The students caught macro invertebrates in the river, fished, made candles, careened down water slides, and pushed themselves to climb the alpine tower!  (I tried it and found I was sore in unexpected places the next day!)  The kids really bonded in new ways as a community.  We center our activities around our advisory program, which seeks to connect students to one another and teachers for support as they navigate this fast and often daunting bullet train to adulthood.   By focusing on the importance of community and relationships, our kids are able to graduate with a strong sense of identity and self worth that is unparalleled here in Indianapolis, and retreat is where a lot of the magic happens!

During daytime activities, we experienced a light dusting.
The torrential downpour happened after the campfire ended. Whew!

The dutch auction included interpretive plays, ferocious flossing, and much more ;)

Archery was all sorts of fun!
GVJ got some good headshots during retreat ;)
AK gets the bigger chicken with her arrow!

Nine Square was almost as popular as rug ball this year!
And of course our invertebrate inquiries began anew with our explorations in the river and the innumerable monarch caterpillars discovered by students.

Look at all these monarch larvae on retreat!   

 Monarch Watch 2018:
At my home outside of Broad Ripple we had a number crop of monarch caterpillars on our milkweed!  Two are currently in the Maon A classroom (one of which has turn into a Chrysalis as of Wednesday) and seven are in the MS classroom.  Tuesday, several students and I had the honor of witnessing one cat turn into a chrysalis before our very eyes!  It was the most amazing thing I’ve seen since last year’s eclipse totality, and I was honored to share it with my students.  We are watching them carefully now as three have pupated and we await the other four to do so any minute—they are already J-ing from the roof of their cage!  If you’re in the building, feel free to pop in and check them out!

Watch us watch our own classroom monarch pupate!

6th Grade Science:
Our first unit is a marriage of ecology and earth science as we learn about seasons.  Students will understand the cosmological reasoning behind longer and warmer days in some seasons, changes in shadows, day and year length, moon phases, eclipses.  They will also investigate how these changes affect living factors in an ecosystem and how living things respond to those changes.  We are practicing our careful observations by collecting data on weather and looking for patterns as well as tracing and photographing shadows.  In the weeks to come, students will learn about cataloging senescence (the changing of leaves) and contributing to a growing body of scientific data through GLOBE: an international citizen science

7th Grade Science:

We have returned to our study of physics and mathematical models as we investigate motion.  This year we grow our thinking to encompass velocity, acceleration, and forces.  Our 7th graders have really retained a lot from last year already, and we have been able to explore motion with a physics app called “Physics Playground,” which allows them to record objects (or people) in motion and collect time, distance, and speed data.  They have had a lot of fun with the app and having the chance to run around, but in doing so, I’ve surreptitiously taught them how to  calculate and interpret motion and speed on a graph!  I look forward to building moving objects with them later on next month as we talk about balanced and unbalanced forces.   Rockets, cars, and other crazy inventions will ensue!

8th Grade Science:

We are putting chemistry together with weather and climate this year and taking off!  With our small but powerful trio, we are able to do a lot of student-lead investigations.  In the first week, they discovered for themselves how condensation works by designing their own investigative experiments.  This topic lead us straight into the water cycle, where students “played” a live action game as water molecules and wrote stories to reflect their experiences  Water is truly awesome, of course, so the cycling of water flowed naturally into the properties of water as a unique, life-giving, compound.  Ask them about surface tension and pennies: another lab they chose and did with systematic care!  We also observed capillary action in celery.

But this wasn’t just any “watch-the-leaves-turn-colors-experiment.”  We whipped out the laptop cameras purchased with the solar eclipse glasses sales, and cut those suckers open in order to see the color changes all the way up the plant!  As we move forward into the atmosphere, we will learn to be cloud & contrail-Identifying masters and take part in the citizen science of GLOBE once again.  This material trickles down to connect humidity and moisture in the air to the weather we experience here in Indiana.  Soon, your 8th grader will be excellent amateur meteorologists: a handy thing to have in the home!

Passion Projects:
Another new and exciting thing happening in middle school this year is a weekly period when I meet with a group of students in 6th-8th grade to help facilitate any student-lead, service-oriented “passion project.”  With only a few meetings under our belts, our groups have taken on some of the world’s problems are are determined to make a difference.  They are hoping to share their projects with all of you this November and have an intergenerational community learning event.  I hope you will support them as they seek to:
Educate about the dangers of car idling around children and jump-start car-pooling or even a “walking school bus;” 
  • Improve the physical health of students;
  • Connect with local and international groups that support immigrants;
  • Reduce waste and styrofoam use in our cafeteria;
  • And work with other grades and the EC to establish a pollinator garden and perhaps even a beehive.

This past Wednesday, the outreach leaders of Thrive (the City of Indianapolis’ Sustainability Initiative lead by Mayor Hogsett) came to present to the group about the project and making our school “Thrive Certified.”  They offered ideas, connections, and support to those students whose projects connect to the mission of this initiative.  Several of our student groups are planning to apply to the grant that is offered by our fair city to enable and empower them to do so. If you or someone you know would be interested in helping to support or facilitate any of these projects, please e-mail me and I will connect them with you right away.