Summer Learning Fun
It is time to think about summer activities that will prepare your child for the new school year. Children like one-on-one attention from adults, and one day you will treasure the memories of working with your child while he or she was young. Grandparents can do most of these activities as well, so make them family goals.
Depending on your childʼs age, read or have your child read to you for about 15 minutes a day. Then discuss what was read. Ask questions. Youʼll probably be able to pick up on your childʼs strengths and weaknesses from the answers. That way, you will be prepared for any comments the teacher may make after the first month or so of school. You may also be able to find some activity that will reinforce the strengths and help correct the weaknesses.
Math is my favorite subject. I am pleased to say, that even students who come to me claiming to not like math, start getting excited about doing the problems in class. Students, whom I am told are afraid of math, will volunteer to go to the board to try a challenging problem.
Here are some summer math ideas that wonʼt take more than a few minutes. While driving in the car, give out two single digit numbers and have your child give you the sum or the product. One parent had two sons, and she had the oldest give the product and the younger one give the sum. She is a pretty remarkable mom, and managed to drive and check their answers. I donʼt suggest that the driver give the problems. I like drivers to concentrate on the road. You have a very valuable cargo, worth more than a few problems.
While waiting in a restaurant, I would put some change on the table. My daughter, and much later, my granddaughters would have to count the number of pennies, nickels, dimes or quarters. Sometimes they would add the pennies to the dimes, etc. The activities depend on the age of the child. When a child is able, have them give you the values of the coins, then move the value of a set of coins. For fourth graders, you can have them add up items on the menu and tell how much things would cost without tax. Or have them tell you how much change they could get back from a $5 bill or a $10 bill, if they purchased one item from the menu.
The most important factor will be remembering not to be critical. If you give your child problems, and they give the wrong answer, donʼt say something negative. Show them where they made the error and how to correct it. Remind them that mistakes are just a step in the learning process. Donʼt praise where it isnʼt appropriate, but never be negative.
Reading and math are the two areas where I would focus most of my time, but there are some great science ideas that are fun to play with. Steve Spanglerʼs web site, sells science activities, but it also gives demonstrations that you can do at home with items that you probably already have. Take time to do the demonstrations with your child. If
your child will be coming to my class next year, I will be happy to allow them to do a favorite demonstration or two for the class. We can then discuss how or why it works, or doesnʼt work. Even if they do it, and a problem arises, we can learn from the problem. We like do make hypotheses at the beginning of the year. An important lesson is that your hypotheses does not have to be correct for you to learn from it. Mistakes are just a step in the learning process. We learn quickly not to tease a classmate for making an error. We can all learn from the mistakes of others as well as our own mistakes.
There are a lot of sayings that suggest that “a smart man learns from his mistakes, a wise man learns from the mistakes of others, and a fool never learns.” I tried to look up the author, but it appears that this version of the saying is credited to unknown. I encourage my students to be either wise or smart, and to recognize mistakes as a learning tool.
Playing with maps is always fun for me when we travel. Our fourth graders will be doing an extensive unit in geography. The comics have been pointing out that Americans are not very savvy in geography. Iʼll do my best to help correct that in the fourth grade, but we canʼt cover it all. So if you get a chance to play with maps, I think you will find it enjoyable and rewarding for all. One of the games that is popular in class is to find a place on the map that I donʼt know and see if I can locate it. I donʼt mind letting students know that I donʼt have all the answers, and that I love to learn something new.
Weʼll be looking at places on the map when we do our international project. The fourth graders do one major project. It is based on the settlement of America by emigrants from other countries. Two common themes for the settlement of America are the “Melting Pot” or the “Salad Bowl”. Both include the nationalities that have become Americans. We combine geography, history, language arts, and computer skills (research and keyboarding) to do a number of paragraphs on different topics from various countries. Then we set up displays and invite the whole school and our families and friends to come view what we have learned. This project requires a lot of time and a lot of skills, but it also provides a lot of good memories.
So please help your child read this summer. Fifteen minutes a day is plenty. Try to work in some fun math activities and play with maps. You might combine the two with some distance problems. See if you can find a fun science activity or two that you will all enjoy. Donʼt stress over mistakes, instead help your child learn from them. Enjoy the time you can spend with your child and help them retain what they have learned over the summer.
May God watch over all of you, and keep you safe.
4th Grade news
Summer Learning Fun
Our fourth grade has a large collection of magnetic fraction cards that we have made and added to over the years. A fun way to reinforce equivalent fractions is to put the cards on the board and have students take turns selecting a pair of equivalent fractions. If the same fraction is on the board more than once, they are not allowed to pair it with the exact fraction. 1/2 and 1/2 can’t be paired, but 1/2 and 5/10 can be paired.
When time is up, each person counts the number of pairs that they have collected. Sometimes the students are rewarded with extra bonus points to add on to a math test, and sometimes we can come up with a small prize if one or two students are able to collect more than the rest of the class. However, we remind the students that the real prize is to help them understand which fractions are equivalent and why.
When a student makes his or her selection, we say if it is correct or not. If it isn’t we explain why, if it is they are asked to give the ratio of the fraction. Is it a 1: 2 ratio or a 1: 3 ratio? Some of the cards are very easy to match, some require that you really know your math facts.
Once we have learned what equivalent fractions are, this is a great game to play when distracting events are at play, like just before a holiday or special event.
Animals and Persuasive Writing
The fourth graders combined our science unit on animals and our language arts unit on persuasive writing. Each student researched an unusual animal, made a food web, and then wrote two advertisements to persuade us that we needed to have a typically not acceptable animal as a pet.
The students came up with some very clever ways to convince us that we needed pets like the Dumbo octopus, the fang toothed fish, a maned wolf, a star nosed mole, a mudskipper, or a Japanese spider crab.
A pet poisonous glaucus atlanticus can be useful if you go swimming among Portugese man-o-wars, because the glaucus atlanticus can eat the man-o- wars without getting poisoned. And you might want to have a maned wolf as a backyard pet to help keep down rodents and other animals in your yard, not to mention the fact that they are sure to scare off unwanted guests.
One student researched a hedge hog and then convinced her mother that she really did need one for a pet. We are going to see how that works out.
On March 31st, the 4th graders took a trip to Jefferson, Texas. We took the wagon ride through part of historic Jefferson. We also took the bayou boat ride to learn more history and to learn about nature. There were enough of us that we required splitting into two groups, one rode the boat, while the other did the wagon. I was very pleased when the gentleman, who owns and does the guided boat ride, told me that both groups were well informed and well behaved. St. James tries to teach the whole child, and that includes how to behave.
The trip included items that we could relate back to what we have learned in the classroom this year. On the boat ride the guide mentioned the Civil War, we saw a bridge that was started in 1907 and finished in 1908. We have talked about the Civil War in history and are now discussing it while reading Jean Fritz’s biography of Teddy Roosevelt. Teddy was President of the U.S.A. during the 1907 -1908 building of the bridge. When the tour guide heard we were interested in Roosevelt, he told us a story of Teddy coming through Texas on train. It seems Teddy insisted on being the engineer for a section of the trip.
We also saw a 1940’s washing machine, like the one mentioned in The Year of the Boar and Jackie Robinson. Some of the animals mentioned on the boat ride went well with our projects on odd animal pets, and one girl noticed ants eating a dead bug and pointed out that the ant was a decomposer (food web unit).
The museum was filled with things that related to early Texas, and some of the items depicted Shirley Temple, another person we learned about in The Year of the Boar.
We took a lunch break and then went to the historical museum. We were scheduled to go to the Time and Measurement Museum, but one group was running later than the other, so only one group went. We finished up at the General Store and then returned to Texarkana in time for regular dismissal.
God was watching over us. The weather was really nice, and since it was sandwiched in between stormy days, we knew we were blessed. We are also grateful that no one was ill, and all seven vehicles made it to and from Jefferson safely.
Black absorbs heat and white reflects heat.
Warm air rises and cold air goes downward.
Molecules move faster and take up more space as they are heated.
The fourth graders demonstrated these three scientific facts by taking a large black bag, filling it with air, and letting the sun warm the air inside of the bag to make it float.
The black bag absorbed heat, thus warming the air inside the bag. As the air inside the bag became warmer, it moved more quickly taking up more space and making the bag inflate even more. Since the air inside the bag was warmer than the air outside, the bag began to rise.
The fourth graders wrote poems to present on Grandparents Day. We looked at a number of famous poems and discussed different types of poetry. Each student wrote a haiku, a cinquain, a short descriptive poem, a comparison poem, and a set of couplets. All of our poems were about grandparents. We handed printed copies of the poems to grandparents during the open house session. Here are some of the poems that were read:
Cookies, ice cream, love
That's my Dadada alright.
I love my grandpa
Is a soaring eagle flying across the clouds.
Other times he is a cozy room that makes me
feel happy and safe.
Works, Helps, Supports
Brings me to the park
My Poppy Bear
My granny was so sweet, like a sweet art.
She is like the warmness in my heart.
She is in Heaven baking cookies.
I love my grandparents, ask me why.
Because they are kind.
Because they are caring.
Because they are not shy.
Because they do not lie.
That is why, I love my grandparents.
My papa is a giant who likes to build.
Also, he is like an explorer
who likes to find things with me.
I love my Mimi, ask me why.
Because she never says, "No".
Because she'll paint my toes.
Because she loves me.
Because she loves to see me.
That's why, I love my Mimi.
Protecting Loving Travel
I love my grandparents
Mr. Harp brought some examples of valuable minerals and gemstones to help enrich our science unit on rocks and minerals. He kindly shared a lot of knowledge with us and showed examples that we can't usually afford to see. Mr. Harp also explained how he can take a gemstone or older piece of jewelry and transform it into a new piece of jewelry. Thank you, Mr. Harp!
The fourth graders held their International Project on January, Friday the 13th. Everything went well. The main goal was for the 4th graders to learn how to do research, rewrite what they learn in their own words, no plagiarism, and then present the material to the whole school and our families. This unit goes with our socials studies unit on immigration to America. We discuss both the "melting pot" and the "salad bowl" terms used with the settlement of the U.S.A. It also works well with learning to write a good paragraph, punctuation and capitalization.
Every students at school came through the exhibit. In the afternoon, we had a large number of parents and grandparents, some traveling a long distance. Our students are very fortunate to have such wonderful, supportive families. I was very impressed with the behavior and work of our students, and of the wonderful support from our faculty, staff, and our students' families.
The fourth graders are taking turns reading to Ms. Claire's class in the library. Each week, six fourth graders will go read picture books to Ms. Claire's four-year-olds.
The fourth and fifth graders walk the pre-school students to Chapel on Tuesdays. So the younger students already know the fourth graders and are comfortable sitting with them in the library. This is another way that our middle-school students can help on campus. The fourth graders are able to practice some of their reading skills, such as reading with expression, while working with the four-year-olds.
The fourth graders are studying the skeletal system. We are learning the names of some of the major bones. After we assembled and labeled paper skeletons, played some games, and completed a number of worksheets, we removed bones from owl pellets. We then tried to identify the bones to see if we could reassemble the skeletons.
The fourth graders wrote, thanked, and mailed letters to 28 veterans as part of our Veteran Day activities. The fourth-grade families submitted names and addresses of those to whom we would like to send a thank you letter. Then the students wrote a rough draft before typing the letters on the computer. We reviewed the parts of a friendly letter and made sure that we included all of them in our assignment.
We will also design thank you notes to give out to all of the veterans that attend our school's Veterans Day program.
The middle school was fortunate to have Molly Quinn come visit. Molly was in town as the celebrity at the survivors' breakfast at the Race for the Cure in Texarkana. Molly stopped by to visit with her St. James classmate Ms. Orr and with the students and teachers in the middle school. Molly told the students about attending St. James and was very positive about our school.
Molly had other connections with the fourth graders. She had attended their kindergarten graduation, so many of them already had a picture taken with her from that visit. One fourth grader is a cousin of one of Molly's best friends when Molly was a fourth grader. Another fourth grader has one of Molly's cousins as a babysitter. It was an exciting day.
Molly is still a wonderful young lady, and a great example of the quality of student that graduates from St. James. We had a great time visiting with her and her mother.
Our teachers are fortunate to have the opportunity to work with such wonderful young people. We need to start trying to get other alumni back for a visit. Having Ms. Orr on campus is a plus, because she is a daily reminder of what our school is all about.
Some of the fourth-graders helped Ms. Denise clean up the campus. Unfortunately, trash is sometimes blown on the campus driveway. Ms. Denise had some fourth graders volunteer to give up recess time to help her clean up the campus. Over half of the class volunteered, but Ms. Denise chose just a few. This demonstrates to me my students' commitment to our community and their implicit understanding of civic engagement and service. It also lends itself to teaching about being eco-friendly and taking care of our planet.
The fourth graders community project this year will be to help sponsor a refugee child in Turkey. Ms. Orr volunteered at the refugee school this summer and was impressed with the work that they do. Since our school’s policy is to not ask parents to donate money to other organizations, we have set up a way for our fourth graders to earn some money.
Our first project is extra math problems. Students may do math problems at home or in their free time at school. The parents will donate $1.00 for every 100 extra problems that their child does before the Christmas holidays. At a penny a problem, each student gets extra math practice and earns money for our scholarship project. This seems like a win/win for everyone. It is a good deal for the parents, the students, the school, and a child in Turkey.
We discussed what the idiom “Starting off on the right foot” means. And then we went out and tried tested our balance by leaning against the wall to see if we could raise our right foot. We also balanced peacock feathers out in the commons, after discussing why the feather’s stem is hollow, that most birds bones are hollow, and that everything has a center of balance.
Note that we have our “Owl About Me” posters in the background.
We tested our ability to follow directions by reading directions, listening to directions, and trying to follow directions that were being done visually. Some of us are better at one type than another. We have been assessing our learning styles and our first of the year skills.
Ms. Jan Orr came and introduced us to some biology. And we did some of the more traditional classroom work, like reading and math.
The Cottingley Fairies
We watched a movie based on a true story about two young girls in 1917 England. It takes place right after World War I, and the people of Europe are looking for spiritual relief. The two girls take some pictures of fairies for their mother / aunt. The mother thinks the fairies are real and shares them with others. Soon most of England know about the pictures of fairies.
Sir Arthur Canon Doyle wants to believe they are real, because if fairies exist than so could angels. Doyle and Harry Houdini both go to meet the girls and check out the story.
The girls waited until they were elderly women before they told the newspapers that the fairies were made out of paper, except for one that they think was real. I guess we'll never know.
Along with watching the movie, the fourth graders constructed small fairy houses out of things found in the environment. We also discussed World War I, Houdini, Doyle, Eastman Kodak, and the ravages of war. We also discussed how we might want to reat people who have an obvious injury, such as burns or scares.
Zoe M.’s dad came to the school, first to help the sixth grade class with their bottle rocket exhibit, and then stayed to do demonstrations with air pressure for the fourth and fifth graders. He showed us the Bernoulli Principle. Each student was given an airbag to try and inflate in three or four breaths.
How does it work?
The long bag quickly inflates because air from the atmosphere is drawn into the bag from the sides along with the stream of air from your lungs.
For you science enthusiasts out there - here's the technical explanation... In 1738, Daniel Bernoulli observed that a fast moving stream of air is surrounded by an area of low atmospheric pressure. In fact, the faster the stream of air moves, the more the air pressure drops around the moving air. When you blow into the bag, higher pressure air in the atmosphere forces its way into the area of low pressure created by the stream of air from your lungs. In other words, air in the atmosphere is drawn into the long bag at the same time that you are blowing into the bag.
Mr. Montano and his assistant, Zoe, did a number of other experiments that demonstrated the use of air pressure. It was a lot of fun and educational. We are very fortunate to have such talented parents who are willing to share their knowledge.
The fourth graders took a large black bag out to the field. Working on the theory that warm air rises, we filled the bag with air. Because black absorbs heat, the air in the bag warmed more quickly than the air outside of the bag. The bag then began to rise. We found other bags of different colors and different sizes and hypothesized what might happen. We then tested our hypotheses.
Ms. Denise is traveling for the next two weeks. We didn’t send a troll or Flat Stanley along with her, but she is sending us directions so that we can follow her travels on a road map. She is also sending photos of places she passes and close-ups of things that she is doing. We not only need to use our map skills, but we also are to use our knowledge and logic skills to guess what the picture clues are showing.
Ms. Denise is one of our favorite people; she helps make the exercises/lessons more personal and fun.
The fourth graders are fortunate to have two volunteers who present a program on engineering each year. Ms. Dana and Ms. Katie do a great job of explaining what engineers do in general and what they do personally.
This year they started with an overview and discussion in the computer lab. They explained all the steps that an engineer follows when trying to solve a problem. Then the students were given specifications on a project that involved creating a table using only eight sheets of newspaper, some masking tape, and one small piece of cardboard. The table had to be at least eight inches high and hold a very heavy specification book without collapsing. The students were given some information and encouraged to follow the steps that engineers follow.
There were other great activities that required reasoning and listening skills. We are very grateful to these two wonderful ladies who give us the benefit of their knowledge each year.
On the first day of school we balanced peacock feathers, nature’s balance toy, and discussed that we would be working with balance later in the year. It is now later.
One of our teachers is having a birthday, so the 4th graders decided to make her a gift tree. It requires balancing the items on the tree. This was a great item to include with our unit on balance. It gave us a purpose to learn how things balance.
We looked at purchased toy balance birds. There are weights on each side of the bird’s wings that lets it balance on any item. We then began to construct our own balance toys using popsicle sticks, washers, and wire. It took some students a long time to figure out how to get them to balance, while others seemed to be naturals at getting the even distribution of weight.
We discussed how math equations that use an equal sign must have equal, if different components on both sides. When we weigh things on a balance scale, we need equal weights on each side to get the scale to balance. And when assembling a mobile or a three dimensional project, we need to have it balanced to stand upright.
Just for fun, we also found the center of balance on a number of objects, tried to stand with one foot and one shoulder against the wall and lift one leg, and discussed how a long stick helps a tightrope walker keep his or her balance.
We’ve had such pretty weather this year, with springlike weather in February, that the fourth graders have been able to go out and fly kites. One student's father will be doing a presentation on air pressure this later in the year, but we went ahead and flew kites this month and then researched for a good answer as to what makes the kite go up in the air and why it stays there.
February is the only “themed” month that the fourth grade does. It is our “Mystery Month."
We read a mystery book, The Westing Game by Ellen Raskin. It is an award-winning book, and it is a good way to introduce the mystery genre to fourth graders. This book is also great for discussing character development.
Along with reading the book, we will be working on how to phrase good questions, how to form good clues, and how to do some deductive reasoning. These activities can be used to reinforce what we have learned about classification.
Among the activities that we do is “Mystery Valentines." Each fourth grader writes clues, going from very general to specific. These clues are sent one a day to an adult on campus, who has volunteered to join in the activity. The adult tries to guess which fourth grader is sending the clues the adult is receiving. The game ends on the last school day before Valentine's Day. The fourth graders take a gift and thank you note to the adult with whom they were partnered, and receive a Valentine in return.
The fourth graders must be doing a good job of interacting with the adults, because each year when we ask for volunteers, the adults who have played in the past offer to play again. This activity is also good for getting the students to feel a closer relationship with the faculty and staff. We are very fortunate because our volunteers include the head of the school, office personnel, teachers, and maintenance staff. Some of the teachers allow their classes to help them analyze the clues and help with their guess. It is all in fun and has some good lessons and social skills included.
We also hone our skills with some “mystery numbers," “mystery rocks and minerals," and “mystery characters," along with some logic games and activities. Mystery Month is one of the favorite fourth grade activities.
Our International project was held the first week of January. This was a culminating activity for a unit that combines social studies, language arts, and technology. Each student chose a country or culture and researched it. We developed our writing skills while doing some short reports. Then we created display areas and invited the rest of the school and our families to share what we had learned.
ʻTis the season for getting and giving gifts. We want to make sure that we are properly thankful for the gifts that we receive. They will come in many forms: material gifts, kind words, physical help, delicious treats, fun experiences, and more. Earlier this week, we took a trip to see Clydesdale horses at the Runninʼ WJ Ranch. It is a place that helps people overcome some form of handicap, and the Clydesdales were being lodged there during their stay in Texarkana for a local parade. For a starter, we want to all send a prayer of thanks to God that, at this time in our life, we do not have a major handicap. We brainstormed all the people that helped make today’s experience a good one. Then we complied a list of those that we want to send a note of thanks. We started with Mr. Clem for inviting us to the Ranch and giving us this opportunity. Applebeeʼs restaurant deserves thanks for providing some of the food that we were offered. We want to thank the parents and chaperones who made transportation to and from the Ranch possible. If we can get an address, we’ll thank the people who provided the Clydesdale horses for us to view. We want to thank Ms. Brown and the school board for allowing us to take time from school for this event. We’ll send a note to the volunteers at the Ranch who gave us the tour and made us feel welcome.
One outing can result in a lot of thank you notes, so we are dividing them up. Groups of two or three people will compose and write one or two notes, then we will all sign them and send them out.
We are hoping that, by doing this exercise in class, each student will be more appreciative of the things that happen over the holidays, that they will realize how much effort, and sometimes how many people, are involved in the things that we often take for granted.
The fourth graders have begun their year-long unit of writing letters. Each month we do some form of a friendly letter. In September, we wrote to our grandparents. We asked about old toys, because we were reading a book set in 1947. Many of the grandparents wrote back. One great-grandparent gave a student a pair of old metal skates like the ones mentioned in the book. That was a real treat.
In October, we wrote to former President Jimmy Carter and his wife Rosalie. President Carter was in the news because he turned 91, was diagnosed with cancer, is still teaching Sunday school and stays after church so that guests can have their picture taken with him. He also still works with Habitats for Humanity, even going to sites to help hammer in the nails. He sets a very good example for others to follow through his Christian attitude, his great work ethics, his moral behavior, and his acceptance of his illness. We made colorful thank you notes, and mentioned that we did not expect a response, we just wanted to say thank you. Our cover letter was returned with a note on it. The note said, “Pat - please thank the children for me.” and was signed “Jimmy Carter”
This month, we went to the computer lab to write our friendly letters. Fourth grade families submitted names and addresses of veterans. We had 23 addresses, and we wrote 74 letters, which we mailed with a cover letter to the veterans. In doing so, we were able to learn a little about the military and the history of Veterans’ Day. We now know that a Purple Heart is given to someone who was seriously injured while in the military. Whereas, it is a true metal of honor, it isn’t one you want to try to achieve. The students found it difficult to find an appropriate way to phrase their thanks to those who earned one. We discussed that not all military personnel fight. Some are doctors, some work in the offices, some never go near a battle zone, but they all play important roles in the defense of our country. We hope that the veterans who receive our letters feel the love that went into them.
St. James tries to teach our students that community service is important and that they arenʼt too young to start volunteering. This fall, some middle school students volunteered their recess time to count and roll plastic bags and to count and string safety pins. These items were used to distribute materials to teams that are participating in the Race for the Cure.
On Pink Out Day, most of the middle school students remembered to wear a pink shirt or at least a shirt with pink on it. On their own time, some students made signs to hang in the middle school hallways reminding others to wear pink, and some put up pink ribbons. Many of our students will be at the fairgrounds on October 17th participating in some way at the Race for the Cure.
A number of our students entered the tee shirt contest, and Austin Millerʼs design is the one selected to be displayed on the youth tee shirts this year. I ordered a childʼs size large tee so that I could have Austin sign it.
Without help from their parents, most ten- to twelve-year-olds canʼt make financial contributions or pay to participate in charity events. But with a little knowledge and help from others, they can find ways to make a contribution from the heart to community projects.
The fourth grade went to see a science / magic program at the Perot Theater. The magician, Bill Blagg, came out into the audience to choose a student assistant for one of the acts. He chose Alayna. You can never tell how a child will react in a situation like this, but Alayna made us all proud. True, her shirt had come untucked when he had the audience jumping up and down to get rid of some of their energy. Once on the stage, Alayna was well-mannered, confident, poised, and a real performer. She almost stole the stage from him. After the performance one of our third grade parents complimented her ability on stage. I would like to think that any St. James student would do the same if chosen, but in the future, I don’t have to guess how Alayna will conduct herself. She looked like she had rehearsed her part of the act and made our school look really good.
Before school started, the 4th grade students were asked to look up polymers. We did this for two reasons: first, because we are going to play around with polymers; and second, so that students and parents would realize how difficult it is to research independently on the fourth grade level.
After we learned a few characteristics of polymers, we did a couple of demonstrations. One used white glue, water and liquid starch. It created a slimy polymer. The other used white glue, water, and a borax solution. It created a rubbery polymer. We discussed the difference between a demonstration and an experiment. We plan to brainstorm some ways to turn these demonstrations into experiments. Then we will select a few that we can safely do in class.
This project also goes along with the book we are reading. In The Year of the Boar and Jackie Robinson is set in 1947. During WWII, scientist were trying to discover a way to make an artificial rubber. SIlly Putty was an attempt that failed but later became a fun toy. Rubber is a natural polymer; SIlly Putty is a man made polymer.
An integral part of education at St. James is about making good decisions, helping others, acting as good Christians, and empathizing. To this end, the fourth graders engaged in a card-making project, which not only (hopefully) brought joy to others but also allowed our students to build emotional intelligence and model positive character traits.
As a class, we read a news article from the local paper about President Carter and his recent cancer diagnosis. We discussed how the Carters have set a good example for others to follow. The students tried to do some research on President Carter using the internet as well as books from the library, but it is difficult to do much independent research on the fourth-grade level. When we finished our discussion and research (such as it was), each student made a card for the Carters, trying to show the Carters how much they admired and appreciated them. The students demonstrated their artistic talents, their language arts skills, and a whole lot of love in making these cards. We hope that the gesture has brought a little cheer to them during this time.
On the first day of school the fourth graders played around with peacock feathers. It was a good warm up activity. We talked about the center of balance and did some balance activities to test what we discussed. We will play around with the center of balance again during the year, including making a balance toy one day.
We introduced bones, which will be part of our big science unit on the skeleton. Bird bones, like the peacock feather’s stem are hollow. When we dissect the owl pellets, we always look for hollow bird bones among the rodent bones.
After briefly introducing the center of balance and the skeletal system, we took nature’s balance toy, the peacock feather, out to the commons and played around. Students were told that the best way to keep it balanced is to watch the eye of the feather at the top.
While the students were working on their balance and watching the feather’s eye, I was observing the students. This is a good activity to watch for students who are easily frustrated, a little too daring, shy, creative, easily distracted, focused, overly focused, confident, cooperative, competitive, and coordinated, among other traits. Most students appear to fit within the normal range of a fourth grader, but sometimes the behavior of a child or two will indicate that I need to watch for certain characteristics.
For the students, it is all just great fun. They balance the feather on various body parts, try to toss and regain the feather without losing the center of balance, and generally enjoy the first day of school.
Note: Birds have many bones that are hollow (pneumatized) with criss-crossing struts or trusses for structural strength. The number of hollow bones varies among species, though large gliding and soaring birds tend to have the most.