Wheel of Life: Food Chain of the Temperate Forest

As Lower Elementary continues their study of Biomes, they’re taking a closer look at the each of the six components that make up a biome. They’re currently exploring energy, which means understanding its importance and observing how it is exchanged within the biome.

They investigated the food chain within a temperate forest, a cycle that continuously repeats itself. After they discussed the life cycle, students had an opportunity to illustrate it on their own. More or less text was included, depending on grade level and personal preference.

The lesson within the lesson was determining how to share one work amongst an entire class. Students facilitated this entirely on their own over the course of several days. They negotiated who needed each piece at what time, and choosing to work in close proximity so resources could be shared.

We love interdisciplinary projects like this. They build skills in many areas—science, art, and language—but also include social learning.

Posted in art, language arts, Lower Elementary, McGuffey, peace, science, social studies

Digestion, respiration, and circulation

We have been studying the human body in science, beginning with digestion and nutrition. We read the book What Happens to a Hamburger? and traced the journey of food through the body. Ms. Torso visited us to help explain digestion. The children had many questions about this process.

We also explored My Plate (the successor to the Food Pyramid and the Four Food Groups), and how to build a healthy meal. We were able to name many favorite foods in each group: fruits, vegetables, grains, and proteins. We’ve been busy sorting foods into the five groups and thinking about what makes a healthy meal.

Our next Human Body topic was circulation and respiration. We learned about the three kinds of cells in our blood: red blood cells, white blood cells and platelets. Each cell type has its own job. Red blood cells are like delivery trucks, taking oxygen through blood vessels to all the parts of our bodies. White blood cells fight germs, and platelets help us stop bleeding if we get a cut or scrape.

Next, we demonstrated what blood looks like under a microscope by filling a jar with Karo syrup “plasma” and candies representing the three kinds of blood cells – making sure to explain that we never eat food used for a science experiment, even if it looks yummy! We also watched a video of a white blood cell chasing a germ, which the children loved, and began our discussion of the heart and how it moves blood through our body.

Posted in Primary, science, Uncategorized

Learning about the piano with Robin Spielberg

This week the kindergarteners and Lower Elementary were the guests of Robin Spielberg and the Miami University Performing Arts Series. Robin talked to children about how a piano works and then discussed why and how she composes music.

We learned that pianos have over 12,000 moving parts, including 88 keys. This particular Steinway weighs about two tons! We experimented with the damper and discovered it could make a note last for 37 seconds.

When Robin asked why we compose and perform music, one of our students noted, “It’s like letting your feelings out through an instrument.”

Robin performed songs that she had written for her friends, cats, and even herself. She talked about why she writes music, explaining, “I compose music because I want to remember something, like a beautiful day or a wonderful memory.” Robin played gentle music, and we practiced quiet meditation, noting how calm the music made us. She read a book by her friend, Henry the Steinway and the Piano Recital, which explored the anxiety some children have about performing.

We ended the trip by helping Robin compose a song about a bear who ate a skunk and had eventful dream. Our students had so much fun and learned a great deal! When they returned to school, they reflected on their trip in their journals.

Posted in field trip, Lower Elementary, McGuffey, music, Primary


Social Studies is moving south! This week our study of the world moved to South America. Our first country is Chile, a long, skinny country on the west coast.

Chile is unique because it is so long. At the top of the country it is warm, while the bottom of the country sits close to Antarctica. There are even penguins on the southern tip of Chile! The Andes mountains span much of Chile and are home to the Andean condor, the Chilean national bird.

This week children are having the opportunity to build with Spanish blocks and other Chilean materials such as copper, lapis lazuli, and a traditional mate cup.

The children were especially excited about our Moai sculptures. Moai are monolithic sculptures that reside on Easter Island, a territory of Chile that sits 2,300 miles west in the Pacific Ocean. Nearly 900 of these sculptures were crafted between the years 1250 and 1500. Students were also thrilled to paint their own mini Moai and made them much more colorful than the originals!

Posted in Primary, social studies, Uncategorized

Solids, Liquids, and Gases

This week in Primary we have been talking about matter. Matter is anything that takes up space, and it can present in several states. We discussed the three most familiar states of matter—solid, liquid, and gas.

Using a hula hoop, students packed themselves inside to show how atoms are packed together when making a solid. It was impossible to move around in there! By removing a few friends, we could let everyone move around a little better, thus showing how the atoms are arranged with a liquid. Finally, we left only one student in the hoop to show how much room there is around the atoms in a gas.

We looked at some ice cubes and decided they were solid. Solids hold their shape unless a force exerts a change. Then we put the ice cubes in a pot and heated them, turning them into water. When we add energy to a solid, it begins to lose its structure and the particles pull apart, resulting in a liquid. Liquids take the shape of whatever container they are in. We kept heating the water until it had all evaporated, which meant the particles had broken apart completely and now roamed freely. Our liquid had become a gas!

We spent this week exploring the works on our shelves—shaking ping pong balls to represent a gas, pouring liquids into different shape containers, and painting with salt water so we can watch a liquid become a solid. Finally, we made bread with liquids and solids, discussing how yeast adds gas when baking to make the bread rise. It was the most delicious of our works! While waiting for the bread to bake, a few friends re- enacted the entire morning meeting outside, including making the bread.

Posted in McGuffey, Primary, science, Uncategorized

1800s Day!

A few weeks ago the Primary and Lower Elementary classes went back in time. We took a trip back to the early 1800s, a time without most of the modern conveniences we enjoy today.

Throughout the day, students have a chance to experience the school day through a different lens. Our day begins with chores—rounding up firewood, starting a fire, and preparing the noon meal. Children also spent time sewing and doing laundry. We took a break from our work to sing and dance with Papa Joe who dressed in period clothing and brought his banjo to provide some entertainment.

By lunchtime, we were starving! We all sat down to a meal that had been prepared by the class. In the afternoon, we had several lessons using chalkboards and pen and ink. And when you take a break to go to the bathroom, make sure you take the lantern!

At the end of the day, the children had a chance to reflect on their experience. Although it was really fun, could they imagine what it was like living that way every day? This day is always such a fantastic learning opportunity.

Look for photos of the Primary students on the McGuffey Instagram page.

Posted in Lower Elementary, McGuffey, practical life, social studies


We continue our exploration of North America, with a journey north to Canada! We discussed the many ways Canada is the same and different when compared to the United States. We talked about the Canada Goose and learned about the Arctic and arctic animals. We saw maple leaves on many things on our social studies shelf.

We also discussed the indigenous people of Canada, including the Inuit and the First Nations. As with the United States, we help our students understand that there were many groups of people who lived in North America before European settlers arrived.

A fascinating element of the Inuit history are inuksuit. An inuksuk is a single stone structure that was historically built as a marker, navigational tool, or a point of reference. We talked about these amazing structures, and then took some time to build some on our own on a much smaller scale, considering what each structure might communicate.

As luck would have it the Director of Hockey for Miami University, Mike Norton, came to Oxford from Canada! Mike joined us to talk about growing up in the city of Montreal. He discussed the province of Quebec which we would call a state here in the U.S..

During our visit we got to discuss temperature and weather. Mike shared that he practiced Hockey on frozen ponds and lakes when he was a boy. And, much to our surprise, he let us know that LaCrosse is actually the number one sport in Canada! Mike brought all the necessary gear to wear to play Hockey. When one of our students had all the gear on she looked ready to hit the ice!

Special thanks to Mike for teaching us about life in Canada and Hockey!


Posted in Primary, social studies

The String Family

In order to deepen their knowledge of the string family, second graders were treated to a visit by McGuffey parent Luciana Caixeta. Luciana is a professional violinist and brought all sorts of goodies with her. Second graders first played egg cartons to learn how the bow should feel riding between the bridge and finger board. Then they graduated to playing a real violin. Thank you Luciana!

Posted in music, Uncategorized Tagged

Fall is Here!

Our next season has arrived–fall! We noticed that many of us brought a sweater or light jacket to school today. The temperature is getting colder!

Over the next stretch of time we will be observing that changes that we see around us. The leaves will begin to change color, many birds will start to fly south, and we will see squirrels and other animals gathering food for the winter.

In the meantime, we are reading books about fall. We are exploring all kinds of leaf activities—sorting, matching, punching, and making crayon rubbings. We’re assembling puzzles about the seasons.

We can’t wait until the leaves begin to fall, as leaf piles offer all kinds of fun in our outdoor classroom!

Posted in Primary, science

Chemistry in McGuffey’s new Science Room!

Thanks to a very kind donation, McGuffey was able to finish converting one of the Main Building’s upstairs rooms into a science lab this summer. We are enjoying all the facilities to the fullest while studying chemistry this semester – sink refrigerator, new floor, new glassware, balances, and new chemicals.

Posted in Uncategorized