Program : Lower School : Sample Class Projects

Kindergarten [top]

Anyone for Green Eggs?
In Kindergarten, we study one of our favorite authors, Dr. Seuss. This is an integrated unit as we incorporate Dr. Seuss into all our learning. Many Dr. Seuss books discuss our overall social studies themes of family, friendship, and community such as Horton Hears a Who, The Sneetches, Yertle the Turtle and The Lorax. For literacy, the children make Dr. Seuss hats that grow with each book they read. They also create their own books on the model of One Fish, Two Fish. These books are filled with rhymes and colorful illustration. We make “oobleck” during a science experiment and go on a forest walk when we read The Lorax. Students put their creativity to work in creating their own “Who” creature from the story Horton Hears a Who. They also write a short story to go with it. In math we read The Many Hats of Bartholomew Cubbins and then use number grid patterns to focus on hundreds, tens, and ones.

As a culminating event to the author study, we celebrate Dr. Seuss’ Birthday on March 2. We wear our pajamas to school on that day and spend much of it reading. We also make a special lunch of green eggs and ham, green milkshakes, green grapes, guacamole and chips, and Cat in the Hat cupcakes.

Snow Stories
In Preschool and Kindergarten environmental education classes, one of the most exciting and dynamic lessons for the children in winter is tracking animals through the snow. Snow has a magical quality to it for children, and one of its benefits is that it provides a living record of what happens outdoors.

Every mouse that scurries for cover, every deer that leaps away into the woods, is recorded for all to see in the sparkling whiteness. Because of this, winter is the best time for tracking animals and learning about their habits first-hand. While the animals themselves are shy and elusive, their tracks are easy to find and follow in the snow.

We begin the lesson indoors with a story about wintering forest animals that shows them finding their way to shelter in the snow. We then learn to recognize the footprints of animals that live in our woods through a memory matching game. We discuss how footprints show us where an animal went and what it did. Then we bundle up to find the snow stories written by our own forest animals. We find and follow tracks of deer, squirrels, mice, and dogs. As we follow in the animals' footsteps, the children enjoy guessing who made the tracks, and what happened where the tracks cross each other.

When we come back inside, the children have an opportunity to create their own snow stories with animal footprint stamps on white paper. Many also choose to draw their animal and its home.

Grade 1 [top]

African Adventures
Jambo! The first graders take an imaginary trip to Africa in January. Our unit on Africa includes many aspects of learning: science, math, language arts, social studies, art, and music.

Students pack a “suitcase” for their imaginary plane ride to Africa, in which a real-life flight attendant, talks about her travels. We begin by studying the savanna, rainforest, and desert as well as the different animals native to each habitat. We learn about the various topographical regions within Africa and, create our own maps with a key.

Students research one animal and present their information in a creative way to the class. Recent examples include a game, a poster, a poem, or a PowerPoint presentation. In addition to becoming familiar with the names and locations of some of Africa’s principle countries, students also compare and contrast life in small villages and in metropolitan cities in Africa.

We do several art projects that embrace the African culture, including dress, food, and homes. Students make Kente cloth from Ghana, a galimato art project from wire, and an African Hut. We learn to count to ten and sing a song in Swahili. One highlight of this unit is the papier-mâché mask-making session. These are painted and decorated to look like authentic African artifacts.

The students read several African folk stories, which we link to our Character Building Qualities. They write and illustrate their own legends. The unit concludes with a visit by parents to our “African Museum” to view all the evidence of the class’ hard work and learning experiences.

Grade 2 [top]

Light Lessons
To kick off our unit on light and color, a science professor from Germany (alias, Mrs. Wadleigh) flew in for this day to prove that light can bend. First he asked the question “Can light bend?” Many students answered, “No”. So he asked Isabella to stand up and aim a flash light beam into a mirror he held. Lo and behold, the light from the flashlight bounced off of the mirror and shone onto the ceiling above them. Then the question was asked again, “Can light bend?” The unanimous answer was a hearty, “Yes!” There ensued a discussion about the source of light and the reflection of light began.

Students helped to create a list of different sources of light such as the sun, a flashlight, light bulb, the moon --the moon?? “Is the moon a source of light?” asked the “Professor”. The students weren’t sure. With a simple explanation the Professor showed the students how the sun was the source of light and the moon reflected that source, bending the light to the earth and providing it with a night light. Then, they soon realized how that same principle applied to the overhead projector in the room. We continued with more discussion about how we can’t see at all without at least a little light, and that without light we can see no color at all. What a great day with our professor friend from Germany! He’ll be back again for our next experiment.

Grade 3 [top]

Understanding Primitive Cultures
With the complexities of today’s lifestyles, influences, and global issues, Environmental Education can provide a refreshing and important reminder about some of the simple truths about life.

In a recent unit Environmental Education students in Grade Three began by pondering the difference between a luxury and a necessity. They listed many of the common objects in their lives, and categorized them. This was quite eye-opening, as they tried to imagine life with only the necessities. The class then listened to readings from Education of Little Tree, My Side of the Mountain, and The Sand County Almanac, gradually learning about basic ways of living that have been practiced for centuries.

We learned about bows and arrows, primitive knives, animal skins, burned out wooden bowls, and other artifacts that Native American tribes created and used right on the school property, many years ago.

The message was sinking in that nature provides people and other organisms with all the necessities. "How do they make that?," students would ask. The class broke into excited groups to become experts on various aspects of Native American culture including hunting techniques, shelter building, edible plants, fire starting methods, tool making, and clothing. Research went on for days. Based on their research, they created final projects to demonstrate what they had learned. Stories, posters, plays, interactive displays, and video recordings were shared with the school at an all school assembly.

Now it was time to demonstrate their knowledge in the greatest classroom ever, the woods right outside our buildings. Students cooperated to build shelters, model traps and fire-starting methods, identify edible plants, and much more. The adventuresome atmosphere of this lesson was cross-curricular, easily differentiated among students, incorporating various learning techniques. It was unforgettable to students and teacher alike!

Volcanoes and Earthquakes
The third grade science class has been participating in discussions about barrier islands, plateaux, mesas, sand dunes, volcanoes, and earthquake. We have conducted experiments on how forces change the land.

Our first experiment, Folds in Earth’s Crust, was about how mountains are formed. Students dampened paper towels that had been flattened on their desks. Then they pushed the two opposite ends together until the paper (earth) either folded or peaked.

In our second experiment we built two volcanoes out of soil to demonstrate how an eruption can change the look and shape of the land. We used baking soda, flour, food coloring, and lots of vinegar to represent the lava. Students took turns measuring ingredients and pouring the “lava” into the volcano. Everyone had a great time building their groups volcano. During the experiment we wrote a hypothesis and a prediction. After the experiment we reflected on whether our predictions were correct and how we could change the experiment the next time. In the end both groups had successful lava flows.

At the end of the day we watched a movie about volcanos. Student’s learned more about volcanoes and gained an understanding of past volcanoes that erupted causing destruction in Pompeii, and volcanoes closer to home like Mt. St. Helen’s in Washington and Kilauea on the island of Hawaii. They also gained a deeper understanding of how volcanoes can change the land and create land by viewing images of real live active volcanoes.

Our third experiment was done to see how the Earth’s rapid movement (an earthquake) can change structures. We used gelatin to simulate the earth below us and centimeter cubes to represent buildings. We divided up into groups of four, and each group built buildings out of cm cubes, then they shook the gelatin to see what would happen. After all the buildings fell we pretended they were reinforced and stuck the cubes together tightly. Students discovered that the reinforced buildings toppled over as a whole rather than breaking apart quickly.

Grade 4 [top]

First Settlers in the New World
“Land, ho!” shouted a sailor on the Susan B. Constant. On a Sunday in late April, 1607, the coast of Virginia was sighted about four in the morning. Master George Percy wrote, “The same day wee entered the Bay of Chesupioc directly, without any let or hindrance; there we landed and discovered a little way.”

This first landing of the Jamestown colonists in the New World occurred nineteen weeks after the three ships left England. The 102 passengers had endured a challenging voyage, faced treacherous storms, suffered food and water shortages, and fell ill due to unsanitary conditions. These brave individuals had left their homeland for many reasons: land ownership, better jobs, riches, adventure, and a healthier life. The Virginia Company, an investment company chartered by King James, offered passage to anyone who could pay his fare or who would work for the company in the New World in exchange for his passage.

Students in Mrs. Myers’ fourth grade have been studying early American history. To gain a realistic picture of life in the first permanent English settlement, they examined primary source materials, secondary sources, and viewed films about the passage to and settlement of Jamestown. They also enjoyed an historical fiction novel, Surviving Jamestown, the story of Sam Collier, the page serving Captain John Smith. The girls and boys created posters from the Virginia Company advertising grand opportunities for land and riches in the New World. Each student chose to become one of those original settlers, filled out a Virginia Company application for passage, and kept a journal describing his/her character’s own experiences.

Early in the school year, the fourth graders participated in hand-on archaeological activities. Integration of science and social studies occurred here, and when the children began their study of Jamestown, they understood how information was gathered. They learned about the recent discoveries made regarding the Jamestown settlement through archaeological research.

An interesting cooperative group activity in anthropology carried on by the students was comparing and contrasting the cultures of the three groups of people who came together at Jamestown: the Powhatan Indians, the English, and the Africans, each of whom had their own way of life. Students examined pictures of these three groups that showed their customs and daily life activities, read direct quotes made by members of the three cultures groups, and studied secondary source materials and information. Using all these materials, the cooperative groups were able to describe the lifestyles of each of the cultural groups to find where they were similar and where they were different. They were also able to determine areas where the groups were able to cooperate and what ultimately led them to conflict.

Grade 5 [top]

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