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. Murdock students have enjoyed coming to the Science Lab during the third nine weeks of school to enrich the lessons that they are learning in their classrooms. Each grade has had several opportunities for hands-on fun!


Students have continued to refine their observation skills. During this nine weeks students studied different types of slime and evaluated the characteristics of each. The students touched, smelled and even walked through slime to fully appreciate the various properties of each type of slime encountered in the lab. The students also had an opportunity to go on a mining adventure to study rocks and soil in Murphy’s Mine. Each student entered the dark mine using flashlights and then used mining tools to separate out gems from the “earth”. The students then took home a necklace made out of the gems. The students even studied strange examples of rocks and minerals found on Earth during this mining adventure.

First Grade

Students learned about light and shadows and experimented with ways to change the direction of light. The students also studied the difference between a light source like the sun and a surface that reflects light like the moon. In the lab the students used flashlights to replicate the sun and mirrors to represent the moon. The 1st graders used the marigold plants that they had grown from seeds to study the parts of a plant. As a reminder, the 1st graders harvested the marigold seeds in November from the marigold plants that had grown in the Murdock garden and then they planted these seeds in the lab. The students then dissected out a mustard plant from the soil to view all of the plants roots. Finally the students dissected a germinated lima bean seed to view the plant developing inside the seed.

Second Grade

Students explored the complexity of how day becomes night and how the Earth orbiting the sun effects the seasons of the year. The students made sundials in science lab and learned how to set up and use the sundial to observe the path of the sun throughout the day. The 2nd grade students had an opportunity to study the universe in the Starlab planetarium. In the Starlab the students observed the differences in star size, brightness and patterns of stars.

Third Grade

Students learned about heat and how insulation works. The students were challenged to work as teams to design and build a container that could hold an ice cube and prevent it from melting. All of 3rd grade was given the same materials and rules for this challenge. Each group weighed their ice cube before and after the timed challenge and results were summarized for all of third grade. Variables like changes in room temperature were identified and accounted for during this challenge so that results could be fairly compared across all of 3rd grade. The students then studied magnetism and the various ways magnetic force can be utilized. The push and pull of magnets and the power of magnetic force was experienced using various permanent magnets and electromagnets.

Fourth Grade

Students explored the universe using a number of tools. The 4th graders began their journey by using an augmented reality astronomy app called “Star Chart” on the iPads. Each student used an MESF iPad and explored various constellations and stars. The students noticed that a star’s position in the sky changes because of the Earth’s rotation and orbit of the sun. The students learned that this same rotation and orbit and the tilt of the Earth gives us our changes in the seasons. The students spent an hour in the Starlab planetarium to continue this stellar adventure. The students learned how to use a paper star chart to identify elements of the night sky in the planetarium. The planetarium time offered a different way to view the relationship between the night sky and how our view of the night sky changes as we orbit the sun.

Fifth Grade

Students experimented with the positive and negative forces in static electricity and magnetism. The students used static electricity to repel and attract other materials and even were able to make a plastic bag fly using items with the same charge. The students used wire and a nail and made an electromagnet and compared this with a traditional permanent magnet. The students then experimented with making electrical circuits and wiring in a switch to make a light bulb turn on and off. The concept of magnetism, electromagnets and an electrical circuit was combined to illustrate how an electric motor works through building a simple model of one. Finally, the 5th graders learned about animal classification and were challenged to build a dichotomous key and separate out a stack of plant and animal cards using the key.


In addition to the fun outlined above, the science lab has been involved in a few other activities this quarter.

  • Kids R Kids field trip to Murdock: Mr. Harper facilitated Murdock’s student led Green Team to educate the Pre-K students about gardening and how to plant a seed. The science lab instructor taught the Pre-K students about how Murdock cares for the environment and promotes good environmental stewardship on campus.
  • Gardening and Reading: Mr. Harper collaborated with Ms. Dang (3rd grade) to teach students that the directions on the back of a seed package has meaning and the seeds will not grow if you do not read and follow the directions. Mr. Harper then organized and facilitated a gardening event for Ms. Dang’s class to try their hand at planting seeds and reading the back of a seed package to successfully plant a seed. The radishes and beets this class planted have started to grow in the garden thanks to the students’ reading comprehension.

The science lab apologizes if your student has come home wanting to dig a hole in your yard, play with the magnets on the refrigerator, or experiment with static electricity and shock you. Just beware, in the 4th nine weeks we’ll be raising tadpoles,mealworms, and chickens, and will be dissecting owl pellets. Thank you for supporting MESF and science at Murdock.