Teaching and Learning

Back to school for Me....
Many of the University buildings are very cool and very old.
Hello again. I have just returned from Otago University which is at the bottom of the South Island in a place called Dunedin. While I was there I went back to school for five days and became a student like all of you.  It was really hard work and by the end of each day my head hurt from all the thinking, listening and asking and answering questions. But it was also very interesting and I learnt how important (and challenging) it is to help people create and complete experiments like they are a real scientist. They showed us that with some encouragement and helping hand teachers, kids and their parents can think and work like scientists. 

This is the University's Executive Residence which is where I got to stay.

 When I come back to St Thomas More in Term 3 I am going to help the teachers and you the kids create some exciting science experiments. I have also been flying to Wellington and have observed and completed lots of fabulous experiments taught to us by some expert science teachers. Soon we will be able to do these together at our school. We have also been offered lots of exciting resources from the House of Science in Tauranga which will mean we can do even more experiments so we can have a better understanding of the wonderful world of science that surrounds us every day. These experiments are for everyone from the Juniors, up to the Middles and right on up to the Senior School. Let the fun begin!

Receiving my Executive Education Certificate from Kris Cooper and Professor Ross



Time for Some Experiments
I am about to make some Bottle Rockets so we can attempt some experiments at school and also in Wellington when I attend my next course in Term 2. I have been looking at some designs for the launch pads and over the holidays I will make a few up.There are lots of different ways to make the rocket launch pads and my task is to decided which one will work the best and not cost too much money to make. 


From the photos you can see there are some parts I will need to purchase but hopefully I can use mostly recycled materials for most things. My design may be a little different as Ben Jackson who is completing his PhD at TiDA explained how I can make a trigger mechanism for the launch pad. If this works we can launch the bottle rocket when we feel we have pumped enough pressure inside the bottle rocket and not before. I am hoping this is going to work.

If it does cost a lot of money to create exciting experiments like this one then schools will find it very difficult to do these type of experiments regularly. We want to be able to do experiments in many different ways, using different types of equipment so we can experiment with and learn about many different kinds of scientific ideas. 

I have included a short movie of one of the bottle rockets that I made so we could use them in  a couple of teaching lessons at school. I wanted the students to fire off the rockets lots of times and measure and record the distances the bottle rockets traveled. I made the launcher so you could change the angle of the launch pad. The students experimented with these changes as well as increasing and reducing the amount of water they poured into the bottle. They needed to record the amount of milliliters of water they poured into the bottle as well. 

They then looked at all the evidence they had gathered and decided together what was the best angle to fire the rocket and what was the right amount of water in the bottle to create the most successful launch. Thank you again to those six students at school who helped me out with this investigation. 

I then repeated the whole experiment three times in Wellington but this time it was completed by the teachers i am working with. They got to fire the rockets for 20 minutes and recorded all their data so they could work out what they thought was the best angle and water combination. Here is a short video of one of the launches as school. 

video


Interestingly all three groups worked through the firing phase in different ways but all three came up with similar combinations of launch angle and amounts of water in the bottles. Incredibly these combinations were very similar to the ones the students had discovered at school. So very well done everybody! 

If you want to make a bottle rocket like the one I made you can use this plan. I hope it is helpful.








As I have been learning about science I have found several educational websites that I have found very useful to help me understand about the Nature of Science. If you click on the website addresses below you should find yourself there...








I have also found this book by Ally Bull to be very helpful in rethinking how to do science at school. 

House of Science at School
We have been busy using the kits from the House of Science in Term 3. Here are a few photos from the Nature of Science Kit. These activities are designed to develop students observation skills.


Capacity and Mass
Recently the school purchased several sets of measuring containers, scales and other bits of apparatus so the students could experiment with the relationship between capacity and mass. Room 7 decided to give them a try and what fun we had comparing our practical measuring with our mathematical calculations. We were pleasantly surprised to see the two methods were similar in most cases, and when they weren't we had some great discussion about what could have happened and what could we do next time to rectify this. Below are some photos;

House of Science Kits, A Hit with the Kids!
We have recently used the Sweet and Sour kit from the House of Science. What a great resource and the students were all over it! I have been amazed how quickly they catch on to the scientific process to carefully and logically mix the chemicals and test the PH of their new solutions. Then when the dust had settled we got together to compare our results. We discussed the similarities and differences of our gathered data and sometimes we retested to reassure ourselves that our data was accurate.


Stream and Estuary Study
This term Room 7 is embarking on a Stream and Estuary Study and we have been fortunate to find an excellent place to do this very close to our school. We have also very fortunate to have two scientists who have offered to help us with this study. They are Emma Richardson and Dr Prathima Rao who are both coming along to teach us how to do a scientific survey so we can gather accurate and reliable data which will help us find out how clean and healthy the stream water is and to observe and discover what marine creatures are living in our survey area. We are very excited about this! Here are two photos of our special place.


A Visit from a Fresh Water Scientist
We have also had a visit from Richard Montgomerie who is an expert on fresh water ecologies like ours. He was a great help and spent some time explaining how things worked in a stream. He even brought along some invertebrates so we could see them swimming around and helped us identify what the fascinating creatures were. We had a great time and he even lent us two Hinake (eel nets) so we could capture some long or short fin eels so we can observe them at close hand. Don't worry we will be letting them go after we have had a bit of a cuddle. Yuck I hear some of you say! Here are some photos of Richard showing us how to set out the Hinake. Oh! And images of three of the types of invertebrates we observed swimming in the upland stream water samples he brought along for us to look at.


Stream and Estuary Discovery Day
Here are some photos of our Discovery Day. We had a great time! We learnt a lot about what was actually living in our study area, we learnt how to carefully gather our specimens (which we looked after and put back again) and we have a better idea about how we can devise an accurate and repeatable survey process next time we visit our special place. We collected two little eels, several whitebait, an overactive Bullie and a very fast water boatman. One thing we will have to try hard NOT to do next time is get quite so muddy!


Estuary Survey Day
Well we have completed our data gathering at Matapihi. What a fantastic weather we had with lots of sunshine and no wind to contend with. The kids were ready for their ice blocks at the 2:00pm. They worked very hard and by the end of it they were very tired, wet, muddy and a bit stinky!
Here's our team of junior scientists (with some adult ones as well).


Science Week with the Year 4's.
The senior students are on camp for the week so I have been given the opportunity to have run a science week. Mrs Pipini is also joining me and as she is the arty and creative type she has started us off with some observational drawing to get our senses swarmed up and working. We had a bit of a search around the school and came up with some interesting plants and leaves to study. After a couple of attempts the students developed an eye for detail and produced some excellent scale drawings. 


Working with the Science Capabilities 
The next day we did some experiments around the measuring of PH using everyday kitchen chemicals. We then gathered our data and discussed our findings. We made some inferences about the similar and not so similar results that the six groups recorded in their worksheets. We had some interesting discussions around the possible reasons for any differences and looked for any evidence to support our reasoning. After this we transformed our data into representations (bar graphs) to show the differences and range in our data. Phew! We had such a busy day and how time flew! Tomorrow we are off to the Ngamuwahine Stream in the Kaimai Ranges to do an upland stream study where we can have another practice and finding and gathering data. 


Year 4 Upland Stream Study.
I have enclosed some photos of our recent stream study. We travelled to Ngamuwahine to determine the quality of the stream which included measuring the PH, Turbidity, Flow and Temperature of the water and also collecting a wide range of invertebrates. We were impressed with the quality of the water and so were the mayflies as they were everywhere. No wonder we saw a large brown trout lazing by the shady bank. Yum! Mayflies he is probably thinking. We also came across several large water spiders which made the kids excited and made the mums scream! He He! 


Parents as the Experts.
The new year has started and we are off with a hiss and a roar with our resident scientists helping out with some science experiences. In the senior school Mr Orsler visited us and we had a go at measuring the speed of sound. Our data showed that it took an average time of 1 second for us to see the starting gun fire and the time it took for us to hear the sound and push STOP on the Ipad timers. 

The next day we discussed our experiences with lightning and thunder and after a bit of research we found out that sound travels at 340 m/sec which proved our data and that light travel at approximately 300,000,000 m/sec. The maths wizz kids then figured out that it takes about 3 seconds for sound to travel a kilometre and so if we count a thousand and one , thousand and two...etc. We can work out how far away the lightning strike must be. Well done kids!!! Here are some photos below. 


Estuary Visit III
this is our third visit to the estuary where we are continuing to gather data on the health of our chosen sample area. Every time we take students out there we are improving the process of collected and recording the the creatures along our three transect lines. We are placing our quadrats every five meters. This time we learnt that you need to chase the tide on its way out and not the opposite as the 300mm deep holes soon began filling up with water. Our next day out will be after carefully considering the tide times.  Nevertheless the kids are having fun and learning the finer details of a scientific investigation. With the growing data we have gathered we are now ready to create some solid representations and present these to our parent community. Here's the latest bunch of scientists having a well earned rest. 

The students worked in six groups with four in each group supported with one adult. This system is working well producing accurate data which we record in spreadsheets when we get back to school.


Robots from the House of Science 
We had the opportunity to program and try out the robots from the House of Science. I was surprised how quickly the students could work out the program and follow reasonably challenging directions. They also included different sounds and ran them in the dark with the robots headlamps on. Once they had become confident and competent we had a competition. Several groups competed by programming to follow a pre-planned course. They all did very well and we had some close calls and laughs as they decided to run them through the course at the same time.  

The photos below were taken in the Junior School with the some of the senior students getting the little kids to have a go at programming the cool little machines.


Our Senior Scientists visit the Middle School Scientists.
The middle school students has been very busy learning about changes of state. They have been gathering and interpreting data and using this as evidence to verify or rethink their hypothesis and process. In response to this the middle school teachers asked our senior school scientists to make a visit so the junior scientists could present their observations and findings to them. 

This was very helpful as we are trying to develop our students ability to explain their scientific thinking within the context of science experiments and experiences outside the classroom. This time the children were using the tried and true 'fizzing and foaming' experiment with vinegar and baking soda to create carbon dioxide which filled up a balloon.

Once completed the senior students shared what they had observed and learnt from the younger scientists and shared this in a debrief time. This information was then passed onto the teachers. One unanimous comment was how much the children enjoyed 'doing science' and their enthusiasm to tell others what they had done and learnt. 

Hydroponics and Potting Mix
The Paua team has been focussing on learning about plants and growing vegetables and herbs. My literacy group have been planning their own summer and winter gardens using the Garden Grow NZ website. From an excellent interactive website called the Great Plant Escape we found out there are seven conditions that produce healthy plants. These are light, water, air, space, time, nutrients and temperature. Meanwhile Mr Barton's literacy group has been preparing our raised beds to start planting our radish seedlings we have been growing in our classrooms.

Caring for our Classroom Seedlings 
We all have plant diary's so we can record our daily care for our plants. In the photos below the kids are measuring five weeks of growth from seeds. We have coz lettuce growing hydroponically and radishes using the traditional method using potting mix. We have just planted out our radishes in the raised beds and now we have runner beans in our upcycled growing containers. 


Rainstorms, Blue Goo and Literacy
A recent visit to a junior classroom found them making rainstorms with shaving foam and blue food colouring, and then they transformed their experiments into blue goo! Then the fun began! Asked what they thought of their experiments they wrote. "Good." Thats fun literacy!


Estuary Trip Number Four 
We have recently completed our fourth trip to Matapihi to gather our data on the various species living in this bit of the Tauranga Harbour. Now all the students in Paua Team have had the opportunity to complete an estuary study. And welcome to our newest parent scientist to join us on the mud. Thank you Caroline for sharing your expertise with us. We hope you will join us next time?


Informing our Parents at St Thomas More School
Well its taken three estuary visits but I now have enough photos and data for the kids to make an information poster for the foyer. Hopefully it gets noticed by the parents! I am very pleased with the final product.
Coz Lettuce Harvest Time in the Paua Team.
Today we decided Paua needed to harvest their Coz Lettuce crop. We had found the hungry little plants were guzzling the nutrients we had been feeding them. Thus out came the scissors and the students filled their lunchboxes with them and took them home to become a salad sandwich. I have to admit from a very tiny seed they turned into large vibrant vegetables.

Electronics With Paul From JPC 
Paul Billing arrived with a big supply of electronics kits and the kids were into it. Seven classes from seniors to middle school kids devoured the opportunity. There was not an off task student to be found! There was a mountain of problem solving, careful observations and clever reasoning around the differences of parallel and series circuits, and lots of interesting objects tested with our simple conductivity meters. Thank you Paul the children will be asking me when you are coming again?
  

Wonderful Water 
This term we have been looking at water and its influence and context for the environment. Where ever possible we have been using water as a context for literacy and numeracy. Here some students are using water to generate a downward force to move a rough and smooth sided block up various inclines. They are recording the weight and volume of water required to create a steady upward movement. Then they have graphed their results and compared their data. There were some wobbles that they will need to address. They are eager to retest to rectify any mistakes. 

Paua Rocky Shore Study
We have recently completed a survey day at Mount Maunganui. We took 70 students along with our resident parent scientists, and lots of patient supportive parents. They had the challenging job of recording all our observed species data. We surveyed three different areas which we labelled as Surf side, Oceanside and Harbourside. By the end of the day we had a mountain of photos and 54 data sheets to show the range of species and the numbers we observed. Next term we are going to use all our data to develop our understanding and skills in statistics. We will then use our representations to make some inferences about the similarities, differences and puzzling things our data could be showing us across all three survey sites.

Observation and Inference Morning 
Mr Mills had managed to borrow some excellent marine artefacts from the University of Waikato Field Station at Sulphur Point. He organised these so groups of students could learn how to make observations. Each group carefully studied an object and once done were encouraged to make inferences about what these objects could be. The students were highly engaged and after lots of discussion completed their mission. This is a very effective way to develop observation skills and recognise the difference between observation statements and inference. 


Volume, Mass and Capacity
We have been busy discovering a fantastic relationship this week. One gram equals one cubic centimeter equals one milliliter of water. Fortunately we have been collecting the equipment needed to complete these experiments this week. Although our data and possibly our measuring skills were not perfect we were able to recognise from our data that the milliliter / grams /cubic centimeter relationship was observable. 


Volume Mass Capacity Number 2

We decided to try finding the volume of some irregular shapes. We used several river stones and by observing the change in water level in a measuring jug we were able to find the volume through displacement. The photographs below show us checking our data using home made balance scales and carefully balancing the mass of each river stone with an equal volume of water using 50 ml syringes. We were pretty happy with our results. Most groups found there was only a small difference when they compared their data. Well done team! 


Catapults
Paul Billing from John Paul College came over and brought with him a a large supply of catapults. He taught us how to use them and how we could use our observation skills to increase the distance our catapults could fire a large marbles. Over the day the four classes managed to vastly increase the performance, speed and distance we could propel the marbles. 


 Catapults Stage 2  
The Year Four students had the opportunity to build upon their previous experiences with the catapults. They were keen to investigate further and recorded their marble distances to see which of their designs was the most effective. It was encouraging to see they understood that the data they recorded provided feedback on their success and a way to compare other groups efforts and designs. By the end of the session they were using three rubber bands, had removed the rollers and some were using two cotton loops to fire their machines. The record distance was 12 meters. 


Cycle Science 
This week we had Cycle Safety Team in at school so we thought with seventy bicycles available we should use them to learn about gear ratios, friction using our brakes on wet and dry surfaces. We learnt about thrust, drag and velocity. We completed our investigations over 50,100 and 1000 meters making sure we gathered enough data for each experiment.


Geysers with the Middle School
Week 4 Term 2 gave the science leaders across the Community of Faith Based Schools the opportunity to get together for some professional development. Paul Billing the CoL Science Leader modeled an excellent lesson on geysers with the Year 3/4 students. He also provided a working model of an erupting geyser and supported this with a simple representation from a graph he and the students created earlier in the lesson. 





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