This fall in science at Summers-Knoll, the 7th and 8th graders have been focusing on Weather and Climate change. They are learning what natural force determines the weather (the uneven heating of the earth by the sun), and how the resulting movement of air and water develops into wind and precipitation. We have just purchased and set up a weather station so that students can ultimately make daily observations and starting making their own forecasts. Our station is part of a network of citizen weather stations at wunderground. You can take a look at it here: https://www.wunderground.com/personal-weather-station/dashboard?ID=KMIANNAR112
At this grade level, the students are engaged with a number of hands-on activities, but are also expected to carry those experiences into further work in homeroom as well. For example, during science time the students created a “cloud in a bottle”, which involves two related single variable experiments and introduce the concepts of humidity, temperature, condensation and condensation nuclei as necessary for cloud formation. Then, as a follow-up in home room, they are writing paragraphs to communicate the relationship between what they saw in the lab and real life weather in the world. In another activity, the students used ice cubes colored with blue food coloring and warm water stained red to create a model that visually demonstrates how air masses move in our atmosphere in three dimensions. We have been studying how these warm and cold “fronts” can cause flooding, like the kind that has caused evacuations in Iowa earlier this fall, and like we saw locally in Ann Arbor several days later. The class then travelled to the Broad Museum in Lansing Michigan, to visit an exhibit of photographic and video work by Gideon Mendel called Drowning World. http://gideonmendel.com/submerged-portraits/
Drowning World is a visual attempt to capture the magnitude of climate change through portraits of flood survivors taken in deep floodwaters, within the remains of their homes, or in submerged landscapes, in the stillness of once lively environments. They invite the viewers to reflect on our impact on nature and ultimately, on our own attachment to our homes and personal belongings. See Karl’s blog for further information about their trip and to see photos.
With an eye towards making future forecasts of their own, the 7th and 8th graders have been learning how high and low pressure systems across the planet drive the direction of wind and precipitation all over the globe, which is key to developing the ability to predict the weather. We are also using this topic to strengthen our note taking skills, and to learn how to record ideas that are new to us in a way that we can decipher later, an ability that is necessary in all disciplines, not just science. They then used their notes to answer questions about the movement of wind around some fictional low and high pressure systems.
As part of a longer term project, the students have also constructed homemade barometers. We use this project as a vehicle for learning how to design data collection tables in a way that makes it simpler to analyze our data in the long run, and the students have learned how different data collection formats can either assist or impede our ability to analyze our information quickly, depending on the question we are trying to ask. It also introduces the students to the art of “trouble-shooting” equipment and experiments, which is a necessity that every scientist understands.
Students at this grade level are also asked to begin to accumulate and use a larger scientific vocabulary, that the students quickly learn they need to understand in order to have meaningful discussions about the work that they are doing. We periodically work on crossword puzzles of important vocabulary words, and students that are comfortable with their answers come to the whiteboard to demonstrate their knowledge to others in the class. This also gives those who are less confident another opportunity to learn and ask questions.