It’s not always so easy to come up with something that is both interesting and challenging. But, we have a sneak peek of our Omega 7/8 students doing just that.
We visited their classroom recently to see them testing and working diligently on their science projects to get ready for the upcoming science fair. In the Omega classroom, students were working in four different groups on a specific science experiment they chose.
Proving that gases have weight
This particular group set out to prove that gases have weight by using combustion. They weighed out pieces of wood and magnesium before burning. Next, they put each one to flame and tested their weight after the burning process.
Their prediction was that the wood would weigh less, and the magnesium would weigh more.
Omega students set out to prove that gases have weight by burning wood and magnesium, while comparing the weight of each before and after the burn process.
Engineering a Reptile Egg Incubator
The idea behind this science project was to engineer how to transport a reptile egg from site A to site B while using heat chemistry. The goal was to keep the egg stable and warm, as it could not shift position or roll over, nor could it endure temperature fluctuation.
The incubator required calcium chloride, baking soda and water. Students needed to measure whether they could detect temperature changes after they dissolved calcium chloride, and baking soda into water. The eggs needed a constant temperature of 28 – 32C during transport and being able to maintain temperature for a certain amount of time was an important consideration in this investigation.
Two of our Omegan students work on their project: Engineering a Reptile Egg Incubator (with heat chemistry).
The Digestion of Minerals in the Stomach
This group began their science class by heating up small glass pipes and bending them to simulate the “pipes” in human digestive systems. Once complete, they would then mix hydrochloric acid and marble to observe the reaction (much as it would happen in the stomach). The last step was to measure the resulting water and carbon dioxide from the process.
Above: Two Omegans heat and bend glass pipes to simulate “pipes” of the digestive system.
Below: All the materials needed to complete their investigation.
Testing for Vitamin C Content by Titration
Are you curious about how much vitamin C is actually in the things you buy? This group set out to answer those questions by testing how much vitamin C is present in various common beverages through a titration technique. Students used an indophenol solution to determine the presence of vitamin C by how much the color changed. The various beverages they tested included freshly squeezed lemons, limes, and oranges. They also tried orange juice found in the grocery store, and sodas that claimed to have Vitamin C.
This Omega group is checking the presence (and amount) of Vitamin C in common beverages using titration.
The results from each of these experiments is the subject of the upcoming science fair. You’ll have to check out the Omega 7/8 classroom to find the conclusions to burning magnesium and wood, how to maintain temperature in an egg incubator using chemical reactions, what happens to calcium carbonate when it reacts with hydrochloric acid in the stomach, and how much vitamin C is really in our common drinks. Check Rainbow Reminders for science fair details!
Fourth graders figure out their favorite Greek deity
We headed over to 4th grade recently where our students were immersed in the world of ancient Greece. They learned about mythology and creative arts. Their teacher, Kurt, said they really loved learning about the Greek gods and doing hands-on activities related to their learning.
Because of that, Kurt let them do a special activity that would further their learning with Greek mythology. They investigated their favorite god by reading a story, and created designs using paper shaped like pottery. These designs were based on what they knew about the deity they studied.
Hercules – probably the most famous Greek deity
They started off their lesson with a short video about Hercules. They talked about how the story of Hercules is from long ago when “chaos reigned.” Students realized there were many references to pottery and design, as well as other historical events.
Fourth graders had a chance to look at examples of ancient Greek pottery. They saw references to Achilles, a centaur, minotaur, war and peace, Hercules and more. Once they had a chance to look at different examples, their teacher explained that stories they were about to read would also inform the designs they’d create on their pottery.
Stories about Greek gods
Each student paired up with another and chose their favorite Greek deity to study. They were allowed to read the story to each other, silently, or alternate between silent reading and reading aloud as they liked. Once finished, each student created their paper pottery. Essentially, they created a stencil using one piece of paper, cut it out, and finally glued it onto paper with a brown background.
After students finished gluing their stenciled piece onto the background, they could begin drawing designs. They worked with pencils and black markers. Some designs were quite eloquent and detailed. One requirement was to reference the story they read within their pottery design.
These pottery designs complemented the rest of their unit on Greek mythology. Intricate and detailed, each pottery piece reflected each student’s drawing style. As students concluded the unit, they did further research on their chosen Greek god. This research led to a one-page report, which they later presented to their class.
This one lesson touched on several different domains: the social and emotional, in which students were able to collaborate with one another, and worked together to complete their stories and pottery projects. They engaged in the mental domain in researching more about Greek deities. They were able to use the creative domain with their pottery designs and even touched on the spiritual domain with regard to Greek beliefs and mythology itself. All teachers at Rainbow create units that incorporate the seven different domains at least once.
We headed to second grade recently to find students doing classification of…shoes! There is a very interesting reason why.
As students started out this lesson, they began with some silent reading time. These quiet moments helped get them ready for what was next.
It was so quiet you could hear their minds “thinking.” Little did they know, they would need their sharp minds and their shoes for the subsequent portion of their lesson.
Their teacher, Eddy, had them take their paired shoes and separate them. They put one on the checkered green rug in their main classroom, and the other on the green rug in the library/centering room.
Classification of shoes in different ways
The kiddos separated into two groups with the following instruction: to group or separate the shoes according to a system they would create. In other words, students could separate shoes by color, brand, size, or some other determining factor. They brainstormed different ideas of how they might classify their shoes within their groups.
Each group chatted and came up with a plan that all could agree with and implement.
Neither group had any idea how the other was classifying their shoes. However, they each came up with very different ways of grouping and organizing their shoes.
In the library room, students grouped shoes by their overall color. In the main room, students grouped them by how they “closed” or secured to the foot, such as with velcro, slip-on, shoestrings, etc.
Once they did that, their teacher asked them to reclassify their shoes and come up with a second way to group them all. Students in the library decided to group by the “purpose of the shoe,” such as hiking or running. The other group classified all the different shoes by size.
Why classify shoes?
Why would students do this?
They brainstormed about labeling and classifying things to make sense of the world and understand it better. Eddy asked them, “aren’t there lots of different kinds of trees?” All students agreed that there were. He asked them about animals, plants, and seeds. Everyone agreed that, yes, there are many different varieties of each of these. It is in classifying and grouping plants, animals, and seeds, humans can identify what they are and understand what they do and their role in the world ecosystem.
Learning about the animal kingdom
After everyone got their shoes back, they began talking about the scientific system of classification. They learned about the five main kingdoms of living things: plants, animals, fungi, bacteria (monera), and one-celled organisms (protists). Later, they went more in-depth with the animal kingdom. Eddy gave each student a piece of paper with the name of an animal on it. Each student had to determine if the animal they had was a mammal, reptile, amphibian, fish, or a type of bird. Some of them were tricky! Did you know that a whale is a mammal? Or that a skink is a type of reptile?
Students walked away with a broader understanding of why people classify the world around them. They explored a number of ways in which it’s possible to do so. What a fun way to use methods of scientific thinking to reason, deduce, classify, as well as integrate other skills such as collaboration, discussion and reaching a consensus.
We love how Eddy integrated elements of the 7 Domains. Students were able to move around the classroom. They worked together to complete their tasks which reinforced the social domain. This process of reasoning and classification touched on the mental domain. Talking about organisms in nature brought in the natural domain. One lesson with multiple approaches. That is a day in the life of a Rainbow student.
First graders have been studying the rock cycle, and they’re learning it through the seven domains: the mental domain, creative, and natural, among others.
The story of Piedra
Have you heard of Piedra? She’s the main character in the story their teacher, Rachel, told. Students gathered around while they heard the tale of Piedra, whose journey spanned MILLIONS of years.
Rachel told of how Piedra lived in Appalachia, then made her way to a nearby river where she stayed for hundreds of thousands of years. Over the course of that time, she witnessed turtles, ducks and river otters going about their lives. Little by little, Piedra rolled and rolled downriver, eventually finding herself out at sea. Piedra saw sea animals that she’d never seen before swimming all around her.
Millions of years in the making…
Gradually sand and silt from the sea bottom began to cover her up until she was completely buried, taking about 20,000 years to happen. Piedra stayed there for another million years until she felt a warmth coming from the earth. She felt a whoosh and before she knew what happened, she erupted through a volcano as hot lava, and immediately cooled once she hit the air. She emerged once again as a rock upon a mountain. Only this time, she was a rock who had changed.
Through this compelling story, students learned about how a rock might go through the entire rock cycle. They talked about other cycles they might be familiar with: the lava cycle, the water cycle, and the butterfly cycle.
Illustrating the Rock Cycle
After students heard the story, they had an opportunity to create an illustration of the rock cycle. Miss Rachel led them through a guided drawing.
They began with a line.
Followed by a volcano.
Next they erased the left part of the line and replaced it with a wavy ocean line.
They followed that with a “lava ball”…
…that grew into a lava chute.
They erased the top of the volcano to allow the lava to exit the earth, and had some fun drawing globs of lava “splashing out and spilling over the side”.
Next came creative layers that represented millions of years of creation.
The final steps were to go over their pencil lines in marker…
…and fill in their drawings with watercolors.
Our first graders now can tell you all about the rock cycle, starting with a tiny little rock on the side of a mountain.
Recently, Omega 7/8 students gathered in a circle in the Social Studies room to talk about their character strengths, how all that ties in with learning, and being a changemaker. In a previous class, they watched a short video about the Science of Character. In this class, they looked at their own character strengths as a way to look at themselves as they are now, and who they want to become. They completed a “periodic table of character strengths.”
As students gathered in circle, their teacher, Jason, asked them for a willingness to be a little vulnerable as they embarked upon a conversation that would certainly involve sharing personal information about one’s character – not a task that’s so easy to do. Our Omega 7/8 students, however, were up for the challenge.
Omega 7/8 students ponder questions about character strengths and about being changemakers.
Jason posed quite a few questions that made students really look at how or why they do the things they do. “Why explore character strengths?” was one question he asked, to which students answered, “Many current changemakers have these strengths and that can help others become changemakers themselves and live out their truth.”
Character Strengths at School and in US Culture
Another question: What character strengths do you think are valued at our school? They answered with a number of terms:
kindness (especially in wanting everyone to feel welcome)
spirituality (through centering and other activities)
love of learning
Jason followed up with, Are these the same character strengths that are valued in our culture? For a few quiet moments, students pondered their responses. Several offered their insights: “these are supposed to be values in our culture, but it doesn’t always happen that way. We’re supposed to be kind but you don’t always see that, and through some of the language and actions were seeing, kindness is not always there.”
A few student examples of the “Periodic Table of Character Strengths”
J: Does that make it hard to value certain character strengths? S: If you believe in these values, sometimes it’s not always easy to stand by them.
J: Which strengths are important to have or develop in a digital world? S: Creativity, social responsibility, and gratitude. With social responsibility comes the idea that one must think critically in response to what’s online. It’s also important not to take for granted everything that comes to us as “easy.”
Fixed vs. Growth Mindset
Jason invited the Omegans to reflect on the idea of a fixed mindset versus a growth mindset the video covered as a topic. A fixed mindset is the belief that you cannot change who you are. A growth mindset is the belief that you can. This was a segue into the next probing question:
J: Is there an area where you have a fixed mindset about something? S: Yes. When you don’t feel like you’re good at math or reading, that you can’t draw, or that you always procrastinate to get things done.
J: Is there any character strength that might help you shift out of a fixed mindset? S: Yes: perseverance in which you keep trying to do something. There’s acceptance, where you accept that perhaps a subject isn’t your favorite but you can keep working at it. It’s an opportunity to be gentle with yourself and accept that this is where you are. Still, there’s curiosity. If you have a certain belief about something, such as “I’m not good at math,” you can adopt an attitude of curiosity.
J: When you’ve failed at something, how did you feel? S: Anger, directed at the self, or it’s possible to even feel like a failure. Feelings of discouragement, being scared, or being fearful can happen, too. Being mad at yourself, however, won’t get you anywhere.
Learning from Failure
At this, everyone paused. Jason offered words of wisdom, as well as encouragement: These emotions can and do arise. It’s even possible to let fear get in the way of you trying again. This can be a great opportunity for self-reflection in which you ask, “what could I have done differently? What can I learn from this?”
J: Is it okay to fail? S: Yes. We can learn from it. But it can also be hard.
J: What is it that you want to achieve? S: That is a hard question: it makes you think about the future. Perhaps write a book. Be the smartest person that ever lived. Maybe doing a job that you “like to do” instead of something that is forced. You can make goals for yourself.
A small poster hangs in the Social Studies room – a relevant question when determining character strengths.
Again, Jason offered his wisdom as their teacher. It’s up to you to find your truth. You also need to determine what lights you up. The way to grow your strengths is to be around others who have strengths that you would like to develop.
As students concluded this portion of their lesson, they pensively began other projects. They demonstrated such wisdom and a complex understanding of life and its lessons. This is something we’ve come to expect of our Omegans: they embrace the journey and take charge of their learning in all Seven Domains. It is in that spirit they use their internal wisdom to guide their decisions as they navigate academics, the adolescent years, friendships, and so much more.