Monday, 25 November 2013

Outstanding and Inspiring Teacher and Blog

I came across this teacher last week.  Apologies that he's an Australian, but I just have to share who he is.

Mr Richard Johnson, winner of the 2013 Prime Minister's Prize for Excellence in Science Teaching in Primary Schools.

Firstly, have a look at who is and what makes him stand out and be an inspiring science teacher.

And now for his website, this is one to bookmark.
Its full of news, fun things he's done in his class, ideas to try at home, interesting links and clips, and just lots of really interesting information.

Surprising What's on Our Doorstep!

The term started with Year Six investigating our local beach, in particular, our own rocky shore around Days Bay.  We spent the first session learning about the tidal zones, what sorts of things we can see in them, and how to respect the habitat of these living creatures.  In the afternoon, all three classes went down to the beach right on low tide.
They were told that if they were quiet and patient, they would be rewarded.  And boy, they sure were!  It was fantastic to see 60, ten and eleven years old, sitting quietly watching the rockpools.  Soon the noise level began to rise as they began to notice a huge variety of living species.  The boys saw a range of crabs, sea anemones, ragworms, snails, fish, mussels, kina, chitons, limpets and the most amazing hermit crab that had crawled out of a huge Cooks Turban snail shell!
 6O exploring the rock pools 

Some of the crabs and snails that were found in the pools

Once the classes had been given lots of time to explore the pools, the boys then had a chance to share what they had found and to sketch one of the creatures they had seen.  

It was a great afternoon and the boys were really surprised at what they found living right on our doorstep.

In class we followed up our visit with finding out more about our local sea life, we found out about food chains and food webs and the sorts of adaptive features these creatures have which enable them to survive in our rocky shore.

If you haven't been already, I have to strongly recommend you visit the Island Bay Marine Centre.  Open only on Sundays, this has to be one of the best little places to visit in Wellington.  There are touching pools which are filled with a huge range of rock pool life that you can pick up and take a close look at.  Around the walls are tanks filled with a huge array of fish and sea-life, all of which have been found around our Wellington waters.  Many have been fished up by the local fishermen and handed into the marine centre.  The place is staffed by marine biologist students and a few very knowledgeable volunteers.  
Another place to spend some time is around the marine reserve, Taputeranga.  Visit at low tide and you will be absolutely amazed at how the sealife is regenerating and just how many things are living there and how big they have become.

Sunday, 10 November 2013

Term Three Catch Up post

Suddenly a term has passed and all of the exciting things happening in our science and technology room have not been shared on the blog.
Time to sort that.
As usual, the science room continues to get busier and busier.  Firstly, the juniors had an opportunity to use their imagination and construction skills once again.  This term classes tried out a range of tasks.  Year Two worked really hard to construct their own kaleidoscopes, it was pretty tricky getting the little shiny bits in the right place so that they fell and created the interesting patterns as they turned their tubes.   We had varying success so I decided to try something else with Years Three and One.  Our whole school were working on an inquiry based around Nature - Our Greatest Teacher.  We decided to give nature a little helping hand, and using ice block sticks and a few sticks gathered from the gardens, all the boys made their own bird feeders.  These turned out great!

As part of Year Four's inquiry, I helped them to construct egg shell people which they filled with seed raising mix, added some small greens seeds and then let them grow until they were ready to harvest.

Towards the end of the term, Year Five completed an investigation into milk, its production and products. The website, Rosie's World introduced them to a range of information.  This is a great New Zealand based site that has all sorts of interactive features, movie clips and fun stuff.  Throughout the unit, the boys investigated how to turn milk into butter, cream and cream cheese, how to make casein and then use it to make buttons and glue, and the final session saw the boys making their own ice-cream, easily the most popular science session!

Kitchen Chemistry is always a popular unit of investigation with Year Six and it was the same again this year. Boys learnt about acids and bases by using red cabbage indicator and indicator paper.  They also completed experiments into dissolving, evaporation and condensation.

We also experimented with salt and learnt how to make a saturated solution.  It was great to have the opportunity to use our new microscope and the boys were fascinated to see the shape of the crystals under the microscope.

And as it was called Kitchen Chemistry, the final experiment looked into tasting a range of common things found in the pantry, mixing them together and then tasting the final product, Sherbet Fizz!!  The teachers did enjoy watching the boys tasting the tartaric acid!

In Year's Seven and Eight, all of the classes enjoyed participating in the chemical change experiments.

 Anything that fizzes, explodes, slimes or squelches is instantly appealing to boys!  So, to make our science fun, the boys got to investigate the best combination of baking soda and vinegar to make the largest reaction, how to make their own silly putty, and their final experiment was learning about the chemical and physical changes that materials undergo when they are heated and result in hokey pokey!  We had a range of success with that experiment, from the totally perfect crunch and taste to the oh so terrible, awful burnt brown mess! 

The Year Eights also got to finish their bird feeders which they had started at the end of term two.  They were very successful and I've even had reports that they are hanging in gardens around Wellington and birds are enjoying feeding from them!

Tuesday, 30 July 2013

Bird Feeders

Towards the end of Year Eight, each year the boys are challenged to design and construct a catapult!   Often it is the first time that students have used a power drill or used a saw or hammer (some remember the hammers at kindy!).  The teachers decided that it would be great to have a simple project that incorporated all of the woodwork skills so that students could learn how to use these tools accurately and safely.

A couple of weeks before the end of term two, the two Year Eight classes began to construct their own bird feeder.  The first session was spent carefully measuring and ruling up their wood.  They knew that it was critical that this first stage was exact.

Boys were given two pieces of wood and then once they had completed their measuring they began their cutting.  The next sessions were spent using the power drills, hammers and screwdrivers constructing their bird feeders.  Suddenly the importance of being accurate became very obvious to the boys.

It was really great to see boys enjoying the challenge and taking the time to get things right.  There was plenty of problem solving and helping each other out.  It was obvious they enjoyed the task, it suited their abilities and at the end of it they had something to take home and feel proud about.

Boys from 8P and 8B with their finished bird feeders.

8P boys showing their bird feeders.

Mr B gave his class a challenge; who could send in a photo of a bird using their new feeder.  Needless to say, the next morning two photos had arrived ...

"He never said it had to be a real bird."
Nice pics Atom and Albie!

Friday, 19 July 2013

Sounds all Around

We had two very noisy and very fun sessions with Year One a couple of weeks ago.

We spent the sessions exploring sound.  What is it? How does it travel? How is it made?

After making sounds and sharing our ideas about sounds and how they travel, boys were put into pairs and each pair got to make their own string telephones.  I can remember doing this in my childhood so it was fun to do this activity with our five year olds.  After taking much care not to tangle the strings, each pair were able to make their phone and have a go at speaking and listening using it.  The important part was to make sure they kept their string tight.

We also experimented making sounds with different objects and parts of our bodies.  It was great to see the boys realise that sound involved some sort of movement and vibrations.  We looked at different musical instruments and completed some experiments using drums and rice bubbles!

To finish off, we made simple flutes using drinking straws.  The boys thought the 'duck call' sounds were hilarious - and even more so when we cut small holes for their fingers to cover, just like a simple recorder. Then they were sent back to class to share their small flutes with their classroom teacher...

Year Seven Forensics Study

It's now the end of term two and there's still a couple of posts I need to write.  This term has certainly been busy and the year groups have covered a range of science areas.

Year Seven completed a study into Forensic Science.  I was lucky enough to join them on their trip to the National Police College here in Wellington.  We spent a really interesting morning with their education officer who was really well prepared for our visit.  Boys had a go at; fingerprinting, guessing the mystery substance by conducting simple experiments, wearing the new bullet-proof vests, completing a quiz using information from the exhibits within the museum and they had an opportunity to ask lots of questions about real crime and criminals.  It was an excellent and worthwhile trip.

After the trip, classes completed some study within their own classroom and then they came to the science room to try a few of their own forensic experiments.  We learnt about the patterns in fingerprints and how to take a fingerprint.  Then each class played a game of Whodunnit - out of a total of 12 different groups, nine were able to correctly identify the criminal through carefully studying and picking the correct fingerprint. Impressive results!
Another day, classes were organised into groups and this time they looked at fibres and fabrics.  After learning some simple information, each group then got to burn samples of fabric and using a guide, they attempted to identify what sort of fabric each sample was.
The classes also had another activity where they learnt about chromatography and experimented using filter paper and various pens.

Tuesday, 11 June 2013

Senior Lego Robotics

The Senior Lego Robotics groups is well underway now and the group have all mastered the simple programming ideas.
They have been working on constructing their robots and then have been given challenges which they have to get their robot to do.  As they have become more familiar with using the Mindstorms programming, the group have gone from getting their robot to move in a straight line to a range of different tasks; performing a group Mexican Wave, being able to move in a square, travel up to a man and stop without running him over, follow a line, move around furniture without hitting anything and now they are working on getting it to travel down the road, stop at the crossing to let a man walk across and then follow the road around and reverse back into their car park.

The group are enjoying mastering the programming and getting their robots to do exactly what they want them to do.  We regularly get boys popping in during the lunchtime to watch and learn about the robots.
Now we are in the process of organising whole classes to come and have a few sessions with the robots so that everyone can benefit from learning simple programming and problem solving.

Mrs Stevens has also started another lunchtime group with the Year 5 and 6's and they are also beginning to really enjoy what the Mindstorms can offer.

Wednesday, 29 May 2013

Year Four Magnets

Over the first half of term two, Year Four have been learning about magnets.  Each class came along for three sessions in the science room.  The first session was lots of fun as I put out all of our magnet kits and let the boys have a big play.  Afterwards it was great to hear what they had learnt through their play.

The classes then went on to learn about how magnets attract and repel, the names of the ends of the magnets, what types of objects are magnetic and the magnetic field around a magnet.

Now that they've covered these ideas about magnets they are going on to use their new knowledge in their classrooms to construct their own magnetic games.  Well done Year Four!

Science in a Van

Yesterday we were fortunate to have Science in a Van visit our school.  Emily and Alan are two passionate people who enjoy sharing science ideas in a fun and interactive way.

In the morning they arrived and set up in the hall for their show titled Move It!  A number of the senior syndicate classes watched them perform tricks and experiments based around Newtons Laws of Motion.

The boys participated in a number of the experiments and had lots of fun helping Steve the chicken fly across the length of the hall.  

In the afternoon, the juniors attended the storytelling session of The Three Billy Goats Gruff.  All of the boys were fantastic, enjoying the audience participation of calling out and making actions.   Throughout the story they learnt that all forces are either a push and a pull and they learnt what friction is.

Thanks Science in a Van, we had lots of fun learning about forces!