Mr. Harper is the Murdock Elementary School Science Lab teacher, funded by MESF as part of our mission to provide resources that will enhance the learning environment and educational opportunities of the students at Murdock Elementary School.
Students have learned to identify the difference between living organisms and non-living materials by using their observation skills to communicate what’s similar and different between items. The students explored the school garden and our composting worm farm. Our youngest scientists also explored the different types of motion through hands-on exploration of common objects and the way these objects move.
Students learned to make observations about different types of weather and how to use various weather tools to communicate those observations to other scientists including a thermometer, rain gauge, wind vane, and an anemometer.
Students explored the properties of matter and learned about the changes between the states of matter. We focused on using a balance and a scale to quantify the mass of an item. The scientists also had the opportunity to change a liquid into a solid by making ice cream in the lab.
Students learned about rocks and minerals by exploring the minerals talc and graphite. The students made observations about the hardness and appearance of the minerals. The students also went on a rock hunt outside and learned to use a map of Murdock to identify where they found various rock samples. The third graders learned how fossils are formed and were able to make an artificial fossil in a milk carton. Once these artificial “fossils” dry thoroughly they will be used in their classroom to further discuss how fossils formed.
Students learned how water changes from a solid to liquid to gas. A solar still was constructed in the school garden to demonstrate a real world application of this science concept. Students also learned about the water cycle and how clouds and fog are formed. The students created a “water cycle in a bag” to see the water cycle in action. Weather and weather instruments were also explored and each student made an anemometer.
Students conducted hands-on activities to explore the constructive and destructive forces on earth including acid rain, glaciers, erosion and earthquakes. The students participated in an earthquake challenge where they worked in a group to build a structure out of marshmallows, toothpicks and cardboard that could withstand a simulated earthquake. A bed of jello was used to simulate the effects of an earthquake on the students’ structures. We definitely have some future engineers in 5th grade.
We began speaking to the students about the school-wide science fair scheduled for January 10, 2017. Now is the time to start brainstorming ideas for science fair projects for this year’s science fair. The Science Lab Instructor will hold an information session about the science fair on November 7, 2016 from 6:00 – 6:30 pm for students and parents. More information about this year’s fair will be available closer to that date.
On September 21, 2016 Murdock held a school-wide composting day. On this day the Science Lab Instructor (with the tremendous support of the cafeteria staff) collected the uneaten fruits and vegetables from students during lunch. Staff purposefully did not announce this event in advance because we always want students to eat all of their fruits and vegetables. That being said, we know there is fruit and vegetable waste that can be separated from the school’s waste stream that would otherwise go to a landfill. The Science Lab Instructor spoke with students throughout this event about what items could be composted. We also asked the school’s kitchen staff to collect the fruit and vegetable scraps generated in the preparation of the school’s lunch for this day. The school’s cafeteria is so efficient that there was zero fruit and vegetable waste from the kitchen.
The lunch trays and the fruit & vegetable scraps collected were all weighed at the end of the day. On this single day the students generated 14.4 pounds of lunch trays, 162.8 pounds of trash and 122.2 pounds of fruit and vegetable scraps. The 122.2 pounds of fruit and vegetable scraps equated to 18 gallons of waste by volume. This amount of vegetable waste filled our compost bin half full. The fruit and vegetable scraps were placed in the enclosed compost bin kept in the school’s garden.
We will use this composting day information as a teaching tool in the second nine weeks to talk with 3rd graders about soils and how vegetation breaks down into soil over time. To support this effort Mrs. Dang’s class has volunteered to come to the garden weekly and record temperature observations and rotate the compost bin. Our goal is to monitor this process to determine how long it takes to break down one day’s worth of fruit and vegetable waste from the school into compost that could be used in the school’s gardens. Once we know how long this process takes we can better evaluate the feasibility of a larger composting effort at the school. Once the fruit and vegetable scraps are broken down into compost we will report the result to you.