In kindergarten, students used a pumpkin as a unique cross-curricular experience. They began by brainstorming what might be inside the pumpkin and what it might look like. After cutting open the pumpkin, students each got a turn to reach their hands into the pumpkin to “clean” it out. Students used this experience to help describe the different parts of the pumpkin and what each part of the pumpkin could be used for (i.e. flesh is for making pumpkin pie). After the pumpkin was clean, they used their estimating skills to estimate how many seeds were in the pumpkin; in groups the students counted different amounts of seeds from the pumpkin then added each group’s number to come up with a final number of pumpkin seeds in the pumpkin. Once they acquired all of this knowledge about the pumpkin, they created a song that described each part of the pumpkin.
In first grade, students did a fun project about the pond habitat. They started by reading several books about the pond habitat. After reading, the students deduced how many layers are in a pond. Students in first grade collaborated with middle school by visiting the science lab, where they looked at pond water under the microscope. This helped them to see the makeup of pond water and helped them understand even the little things living in a pond. Then they created a paper model of a pond together as a class, then with their table group they had to decide what animal they were making that lives in the pond. Each group had to share with the other groups to discuss who was making which animals to ensure that all layers of the pond were covered and no one was creating the same animal. They also figured out that students needed more than just animals in their pond; they needed plants, mud, lilypads, logs, etc. for places the animals need to rest, hide, eat, etc.
In second grade, every Friday is “STEAM Friday”, where students are grouped to work collaboratively on a STEAM project. Each group is presented with a challenge to either build something, create something, or solve a higher level problem that they may not encounter in everyday classroom work, requiring communication to work through it together. The building materials are limited to one or a few supplies to invoke creative designs. Students work in their groups to discuss how to revise and improve their plan to make the best design for their task.
In third grade, students participated in an animal habitat research project. The students took a Google Expedition to an animal museum to learn about vertebrates and invertebrates. They began by choosing a specific animal to research, investigated whether it was a vertebrate or an invertebrate, created Google slides and wrote a research paper about their animal. Then they worked in groups to design a specific habitat that their animals could live in. At home, students created a recyclable animal model out of recyclable materials. They presented their animals in the 3rd grade animal museum.
In fourth grade, students took part in an Engineering Design Challenge to wrap up their unit on Native Floridians by exploring the Native Americans’ basic needs and the challenges they faced in Florida’s environment. Students worked in groups to design and construct a tool out of Florida native materials (items found in Florida’s environment) that could meet one of the basic needs of humans. They discussed whether Native Floridians were engineers based on their ability to construct tools and shelters out of native materials.
In fifth grade, as a culminating activity for the content covered so far in math, students challenged themselves in a classroom Escape Room experience. In this activity, engagement is present in many forms that may not be typically seen in a “regular” classroom activity. Many methods of review and knowledge acquisition occurred through chunking of content, review of content knowledge, higher order thinking skills/problem solving, examining ways of thinking, teamwork, technology integration, academic games, ongoing visual assessment, and facilitation of collaborative work. Students used critical thinking and problem-solving skills by interjecting with thoughts/ideas, asking questions, leading their group, supporting their group members, and working together as a team to solve the clues. Students needed to stay engaged in each activity or else lose out on the opportunity to gain new knowledge to help them race to finish line.
Sixth grade students have been studying the three different types of rocks (igneous, sedimentary, and metamorphic) and the rock cycle. In order to help students “see” that rocks can change form due to heat and become entirely new rocks, Mrs. Kleinsteuber leads the class through a fudge-making activity. While the fudge is being made, students think about what each of the fudge ingredients might represent in the real rock cycle. For example, the chocolate chips are like igneous rocks, marshmallows are like sedimentary, and the pan is like Earth’s crust. Vanilla symbolized mineral solutions that “glue” rocks together. Just like the real rock cycle, fudge takes time, and students must be patient as it boils like magma and cools like new igneous rock. While eating this delicious treat, students write to clearly explain how making fudge in like the rock cycle. This simple activity is not only engaging because food is involved, but it helps children see how matter can begin in one form, undergo a process, and become something completely new.
In seventh grade Latin, students work collaboratively to create a Roman Country House (Villa Rustica). It requires students to research the Roman architecture while becoming familiar with the Latin terminology. Once their research is complete, students build a 3-D model of their depiction of a Roman Country House, using critical thinking skills to take a design concept from production to presentation. After they are built, students present their Villa Rustica to the class using their knowledge of their Latin vocabulary and the daily Roman life.
In eighth grade Algebra, students experience a “flipped classroom” model, where their homework is to watch a teaching video on a math concept taught by Mr. Ross. In class, students are grouped together to work through the math practice problems, answer questions for each other, and problem-solve when things get tough. Mr. Ross has the ability to move around the classroom to facilitate where needed, while still allowing students the opportunity to work through problems themselves, instead of just being “given” the answers.
In middle school Social Studies, students explored the topic of freedom of speech through a project-based learning activity. Students worked in groups to create a final project on freedom of speech. Through collaboration and critical thinking, many higher-level thinking skills will be used as they explored how the First Amendment came about, how it has evolved, and how it is affecting our country today. Students reflected upon what they learned and gave their own opinions on how freedom of speech affects themselves and others.
One of the middle school Houses competitions this year was an egg drop challenge. In this competition, one of the monthly middle school House challenges, the students competed to win points for their House. In this challenge, students worked in small groups (comprised of one 6th, 7th, and 8th grade student from the House) to create a contraption that would save an egg from breaking when dropped from the second or third floor window. They are given a list of supplies to choose from, dimensions of which they could not exceed for their contraption, and time to work on them during House meetings. It was exciting to drop their contraptions and see which House created the most secure one!
In Physical Science Honors, students began their Introduction to Science unit with a challenge on trial and error. They were charged with collaborating with their group to design a catapult made from very limited items and then fine tune the catapult so that they could knock over towers of cups. Using critical thinking and creative problem-solving skills, students worked to not only design their catapults, but test and refine their catapults before reaching a final product. They recorded, analyzed and communicated their results to the whole class when completed.