This week we are studying oceans. We talked about the different kinds of life in the ocean, and about what ocean animals eat. Then we explored the idea that the ocean has different zones. Each zone is inhabited by its own set of plants and animals, which have adapted to that particular environment. We read the book Down, Down, Down by Steve Jenkins. This book takes you from the surface of the ocean through the sunlight zone, the twilight zone, the dark zone, and all the way down to the bottom of the Challenger Deep, almost seven miles below the surface.
Students have been investigating, sorting, and counting shells. They have been “diving” in the ocean in our outdoor classroom, and exploring the wide variety of animals that inhabit the waters.
Last week we started talking about an exciting African country—Egypt! The tricky part of talking about Egypt is finding a balance between investigating all the fascinating aspects of the ancient civilization while still emphasizing that the modern Egypt has cities and cars and children who live lives quite similar to their own. We read books about Egypt, and what it’s like to live there. We talked about how Cairo is a huge city, and that most Egyptians are Muslim.
Once we felt everyone had a good handle on modern Egypt, we dove into talking about pharaohs, pyramids, hieroglyphs, and mummies. We emphasized that mummies are not alive, contrary to what we sometimes see in books and movies. We talked about how challenging it was to build a pyramid, and the maze of passages and chambers that lay inside.
Our students have loved exploring Egypt with their hands—building pyramids with our blocks inside and constructing their own pyramids outside. They also created a cartouche necklace by using hieroglyphs to represent their name.
This week, students in Primary are studying rocks and the Earth. We talked about the three types of rock and how each type of rock is part of the rock cycle. Molten rock fromed beneath the earth’s crust is brought to the surface by volcanoes. After the lava cools, this igneous rock can be transformed into sedimentary or metamorphic rock. Then it can be pushed deep inside the earth again, where it will melt and the cycle will start again.
We demonstrated these three kinds of rocks with soft candy—adding pressure to simulate sedimentary rocks, some heat and pressure for metamorphic rocks, and a lot of heat for igneous rocks. We watched the components of dirt separate when mixed with water and allowed to settle and erupted our volcano model. We also sliced open a hard boiled egg to see that it has layers similar to our planet.
This topic has led to numerous drawings and the writing of books showing the incredible information gained by studying rocks.
On Tuesday we talked about Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and his significance in history. At this age, we try to find a gentle way to talk about this subject.
We began with a basket of eggs in a variety of colors. We gave each child an egg and asked them describe it—color, size, and shape. Then one at a time, we asked for the eggs back, cracking them into a big bowl. What we noticed was that while the shells of the eggs looked very different, for the most part, the insides of the eggs looked very much the same.
We talked about how this was much like people—we look very different, but on the inside we are very much the same. We told the children that this was the work of Dr. King, to spread the idea that he felt all people should be treated equally, regardless of the differences we might see on the outside. We all deserve love, respect, and a chance to thrive.
We finished our meeting by reading a book which contained an excerpt of Dr. King’s “I Have a Dream” speech.
Second graders have been busy learning the pentatonic scale, both aural and written, and have been learning to sight-sing different patterns. A pentatonic scale is a scale with only 5 tones. The word “pentatonic” comes from the Greek “pente” meaning 5 and the Latin “tonicus” meaning tone. Pentatonic scales are very useful in learning music theory as well as composing music. Most Western folk music is composed using a pentatonic scale.
Today, students were given cards on which were printed various patterns of solfege in the pentatonic scale: do, re, me, sol, la. Each student chose favorite patterns and arranged them in a way that sounded pleasing to them the only “rule” being that the song had to end on do. After some practice, composers became performers as they played their songs for the class.