Science Lab

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 about gravity through the use of balloons and paper airplanes. We also explored why some things like helicopters stay up in the air while other things fall back to Earth. Through exploring items that the kindergarteners play with they were able to understand the force of gravity on these objects. The students also learned how day becomes night and night becomes day. The students visited Murdock’s small planetarium to simulate night and discuss what we hear and see at night.

First Grade

Students learned about magnetic force by exploring different types of magnets and what types of substances that magnetic force can pass through. We also explored how magnets are used in common toys like wooden train sets, etch a sketch and toys with an electric motor. The 1st graders also explored the link between vibration and sound. The students used tuning forks and glass harmonicas to generate vibrations and sound. First graders in the third nine weeks will be studying plants. In preparation for this, the 1st graders visited the school garden and learned how to harvest seeds from a marigold plant. The students then learned how to plant these seeds so that another marigold plant can be grown. As an update on this effort the young marigold plants are growing well in the science lab and are about to start flowering. The marigold plants the first graders have grown from last year’s seeds will be planted by them in the garden later this spring.

Second Grade

Students explored heat energy through the use of a hot air balloon model and a Stirling engine working model. We captured heat energy and turned that it into motion by using a Stirling engine (invented in the 1800s). We discussed the new uses of the Stirling engine being explored by inventor Dean Kamen to create clean efficient energy and to purify drinking water. Second graders then learned about light energy from the sun and the many uses of this energy source. We used ultraviolet beads and sun art paper that changes colors when exposed to sun light. The students discovered that the benefits / effects of the sun go beyond the light shining down on us. Finally the 2nd graders explored the pushes and pulls (forces) that allow a car to roll down a ramp and the attracting / repelling force of magnets. The students also compared how the mass of various objects affect its speed and ability to move another object while rolling down a ramp.

Third Grade

Students learned to compare and contrast the characteristics of clay, loam and sand types of soil. This was accomplished by comparing soil particle size and how that effects the soil’s ability to both drain and retain water. The students also spent time in the school garden studying the composting process and how plant growth is improved with better soils. The 3rd graders also discovered that these different types of soils erode away at different rates. The students also experimented with ways to control the erosion of soils.

Fourth Grade

Students explored simple machines through a number of hands on activities. To explore the functions of a lever the 4th grade students built a marshmallow catapult and adjusted the size and position of the fulcrum to influence the flight of the marshmallow. Two more labs were devoted to working with a specialized Lego kit to build a number of simple machine models showcasing the functionality of gears and pulleys. The 4th graders also visited the science lab to explore reflection and refraction of light through the use of mirrors, prisms, convex and concave lenses.

Fifth Grade

Students learned how to use the science lab’s microscopes to discern the differences between common household powders (salt, sugar, brown sugar, baking soda, and flour) at the microscopic level. Salt and sugar look very similar to the naked eye but under magnification the students realized that these two substances appear very different. This hands-on microscope use allowed the students to practice using a microscope in advance of studying plant and animal cells in the spring. The fifth grade students explored physical changes through a chromatography exercise, dissolving substances in water and separating mixtures. The students also explored chemical changes through making slime and watching a demonstration of endothermic and exothermic chemical reactions.