Chain Reactions – Third Grade Science Unit

Chain Reactions – Third Grade Science Unit

how things work

Just before our winter break, the third grade class completed a unit on how things work. They investigated what might make a machine do what it does.

At the end of their unit, they invited the whole school to watch as different groups of students made their wonderful contraptions come to life.

Citizen Scientists

Take a look at the video to see what the students made – in action!

This activity was inspired by Rube Goldberg machines. To take it a step further, the third graders used this as inspiration for several centering lessons on chain reactions in their emotional and social lives.

When the kids were working collaboratively, they had to use these things to receive full credit:
At least three simple machines

  • At least five exchanges of force
  • Examples of friction
  • Examples of gravity
  • And, of course, teamwork.

This presentation of their machines was the culmination of the entire unit. Students did several experiments based on the scientific method that helped them build upon their prior knowledge for this activity.

It’s pretty amazing how just a little rolling ball can have such a powerful impact on integrated systems.

Of course, this unit blends in so well with our theme of systems thinking this year.

Third Grade – Legend of Chocolate and the French Broad Chocolate Lounge

Third Grade – Legend of Chocolate and the French Broad Chocolate Lounge

The Legend of Chocolate

The third grade class just completed a unit on the Legend of Chocolate in Spanish. Their Spanish teacher, Cynthia, worked with West, their third grade teacher, to create a unit that would complement what the students were learning in their main classroom.

Students studied about how things work – machines, phones, etc. – in their main classroom lessons and in Spanish class, students learned about where chocolate came from.

At the end of the unit, third graders got a chance to see how chocolate is made, and how the machines work to make all that chocolate.

In their Spanish unit, students learned many new vocabulary words such as food (comida), drink (bebida), the Toltecs (los Toltecas), as well as many more vocabulary words.

They learned abut Quetzalcoatl, the god of Light and Tezcatlipoca, the god of darkness. Quetzalcoatl was the god to bring the food of the gods – chocolate – to the people, especially when they were so hungry. He taught them to farm, and how to turn cacao into a chocolate drink fit for the gods!

Third graders at the French Broad Chocolate Tasting Room

Third graders at the French Broad Chocolate Tasting Room

From there, they learned the mythical story about where chocolate originated. They learned the story in Spanish and even learned to recite it.

At the end of the unit, they took a field trip to the French Broad Chocolate Factory and had a tour of the Tasting Room. They listened to Evan, a Chocolatier, talk about cacao, where it comes from, how the Chocolatiers turn the cacao beans into chocolate and how they try to be as sustainable as possible in the process.

The crew at the French Broad Chocolate Factory led everyone into their “back rooms” where students could see all the machines at work. From rinsing, to sifting the cacao beans, to grinding them down into chocolate, they were able to see the entire process from start to finish.

Students sampled chocolate – the dark, unsweet kind directly derived from cacao – from different regions and it has a different taste from different regions!

Learning about chocolate and cacao

Learning about chocolate and cacao

At the end of the presentation, the third graders performed the skit of the Legend of Chocolate in Spanish for the French Broad Chocolate Lounge Staff.

Did you know that the French Broad Chocolate Factory uses solar power to heat all its water? And that they make every attempt to source all their ingredients locally?

They also deal only with farms that use fair trade in their practices. In fact, the owners and employees make trips to cacao farms in Costa Rica, Nicaragua and Peru and help harvest the cacao by hand.

They have developed mutually beneficial relationships with farmers in those countries.

third grade

Watching the grinding machine take off the outer shell of cacao.

Rainbow would like to extend a special thank you to the Chocolatiers – especially Evan – for a wonderful lesson on chocolate, sustainability, how things work, and the idea of being as responsible to the planet and to each other as possible!

Omega Lock In – Astronomy and Myth

Omega Lock In – Astronomy and Myth

The Astronomy Unit

On Thursday, October 20th, the Omega class had a Lock-In at Rainbow – but this event might be better-called a Lock-Out because the event was in honor of their current unit.

One Omega teacher, Jason, helped students discover constellations, planets, and other mysteries in the sky. Students began the unit that began at the end of October.

Constellations are so fun because students have to use their imaginations to compose their shapes in the night sky and use the stars as guiding points.

astronomy unit omega

The Omega classroom became its own spaceship to travel to far away places in the starry night sky.

Stardate 20.11.14

Students arrived back in their classroom – after a full day at school –  at 6:30 pm to set up their sleeping space prior to the evening of Myth, Stars and Mystery.

Before the night sky was all aglow, the students settled in to watch a modern day myth: Star Wars. Students transported themselves to a galaxy far, far away to understand how to use the Force for good.

This movie would illuminate the elements of a hero’s journey and myth, as well. Students explored this concept in an English extension of their astronomy unit.


astronomy unit omega

At light speed, students propelled into a world of myth and legend, learning about the stars and constellations.

During the film, students worked to create gifts for the younger grades that would remind all the Rainbow students of the stories in the night skies.

Fun Fact: Did you know that for more than 5,000 years, humans have looked into the night sky and saw the same configuration of stars that they do today? 

Another Fun Fact: Humans can only see 5,780 stars in the night sky with the naked eye. There are millions and millions more they cannot see.

astronomy unit omega

Once the movie ended, the students reflected on the connections to the unit of study prior to layering up for an outdoor exploration of the winter sky.

astronomy unit omega

After the students had the opportunity to look thousands of years into the past (this is exactly what happens when you look at the stars), they migrated back into their classroom.

They took some time to reflect about their experiences and their learning prior to dozing off and dreaming the myths and legends of the nigh sky. In the photo above, one student read to another before lights “out.”

astronomy unit omega

The group gathered for a community breakfast in the morning, discussed different cultural myths connected to the zodiac, and prepared for a normal school day on Friday – a great send-off before heading off for break.

Halloween Celebration and Parade

Halloween Celebration and Parade

Happy Halloween!

If you were on Rainbow’s campus today, you might have been spooked.

Ghosts and goblins roamed the forest, flanked by aliens, tigers, bears, wizards and other magical creatures for the most frightful day of the year: HALLOWEEN!

First, Kindergarten sang some ghostly songs. Preschool chimed in, too.

Then each grade paraded around, valiantly confronting whatever bear, cupid, witch or robot they encountered along the way…

Then students departed the meeting grounds in search of spooky treats in not-so-scary places!

Click on an image to see it in a larger window.


The First Day of School – 2014 – A Success!

The First Day of School – 2014 – A Success!

We are thrilled to have our K-8 families back on campus!

Tomorrow, our Pre-K families return to campus.

What a glorious first day it has been!

Making Friends

Returning and new students were glad to see each other. Some had met only days before at their class pot luck, and others have known each other for years. We know one thing is for sure: all our students and families have become part of the Rainbow family.

The First Day…

Students in all grades showed how much they remembered in classroom activities in every grade. Some completed forms that were about what they did over the summer.

Others created artwork, joined a Centering Circle, and others engaged in Imaginative Play.

Some classes took tours of the campus to familiarize themselves with some of the new changes – such as our expanded campus.

We had lots of wonderful photo ops for the first day, coffee for parents. The energy on campus was just glorious.

Take a look at our 2014 First Day photo gallery – you can click on each image to see a bigger version.

Photo credit: C. Calhoun

World Travelers at Rainbow

World Travelers at Rainbow

With its holistic learning environment, and our research-based methods to elicit creative and critical thinking, many wonderful families have become part of the Rainbow family.

New this year to the school is Duncan, a rising second grader. His younger brother Raleigh will attend the Rainbow Community School Pre-school beginning in November when he turns three years of age.

Duncan’s family is relocating here from Ireland.

Along the way, however, they’re making a few stops. They have traveled to Dublin, Amsterdam, London, and Los Angeles. They will make one more stop in the historic Washington, D.C. just before settling in Asheville and beginning the school year.

We look forward to Duncan sharing his experiences with his classmates as he begins second grade. In fact, his experiences will add a lovely flavor to our global initiatives program!

We’re also very excited that Raleigh will be joining our community in November, too.

Welcome to our family!

students traveling

Duncan, a rising 2nd grader, in Amsterdam.

Rainbow students in Britain

Duncan and Raleigh in front of the British Museum