Last week when Wildwood 3rd graders arrived at the middle and upper campus for some relatively sophisticated scientific lab action, their 6th grade hosts were ready and waiting with a carefully prepared agenda: Get acquainted, have fun, and teach something new by demonstrating what 6th graders are learning.
The visit illuminated ways that Wildwood students learn from each other, in a variety of contexts throughout the year.
On this day, students first explored a few icebreaking questions, focused largely on favorite foods and family, before moving swiftly on to the harder science.
Inside the labs, the students rotated among four learning stations:
- The science of sound waves under the guidance of upper school physics teachers Levi Simons and Andrew Lappin,
- How to make “snow” out of a polymer and water with upper school biology teachers Carolyne Yu and Joma Jenkins,
- Instruction in creating “oobleck,” a slithery, viscous mix of cornstarch and water that has properties of both a liquid and a solid with middle school science teacher Jane Kaufman, and
- Buddy pairs of 3rd and 6th graders cut up and examine a large lily bloom on a wax-coated dissection tray under the guidance of middle school science teachers Katie Boye and Deborah Orlik.
At that last station, the 6th graders thoughtfully showcase the various parts of the plant, gently quizzing their younger companions on the purpose of each part. “And what do the veins in the leaves do for the plant?” Reid B. asks his buddy, 3rd grader Jacob G., who responds: “They carry nutrients through the plant.” Reid compliments Jacob brightly, “That’s right!” (See Reid and Jacob’s interaction in the video below.)
The science exchange visit was conceived by Katie Boye and her elementary science colleagues, Anna Boucher and Christie Carter. “We realized that our kids both study units on plants,” said Katie, “so we planned to have these lessons coincide in the middle of this year. It just seemed natural for us to then bring our kids together to have them share what they’d learned.”
As they left their rotation making “oobleck,” Reid B. echoes Katie’s plan for the visit: “We’ve taught them a lot today,” he says. For 3rd grader Carter F. the day was also about having fun: “We got so messy! Just look at my hands!” he says as he shows off the small globs of cornstarch and water still caked on his fingernails.
On this day, the science mattered, but for Wildwood’s 6th graders, the day also offered an important range of opportunities to practice and gain fluency in learning, and teaching. As the explainers-in-charge, the 6th graders actively reinforced their own learning while introducing some cool new science to their 3rd grade peers. The lab results really were positive.
~ By Steve Barrett, Director of Outreach, Teaching, and Learning
(Below) 6th grader Reid B. shares his knowledge of plants with 3rd grade buddy Jacob G.
(Below) 3rd and 6th grade buddies make and play with “snow” made from sodium polyacrylate and water
(Below) 9th grade physics teacher, Andrew Lappin, explains the physics of sound waves
(Below) Sound waves vibrate reflected laser lights, creating a visual delight