Sunday, May 24, 2015

We LOVE STEM activities!
Our love of STEM activities grows with each activity we do.  The pompom launchers were a big success!  Here are the results of our launcheseach duo launched their pompom 5 times and found the average distance.  YahOOoooo!

Ella and Collin 129.2 inches

Jane/Jeffrey/Miles  (not reported)

Aidan and Dorien  155.6 inches

Jacob and Sophia  147.2 inches

Josef and Kristina  94.2 inches

 Elise and Colin  19.2 inches 

Sandy and JaVonte  108.4 inches

Max/Adam/Arjun  149.6 inches

Lexi and Richie  84.2 inches

Shantell and Justin  73.4 inches

Drake and Annalise  133.8

Nico and Johnnay (absent)

Saturday, May 16, 2015

Our Latest STEM Challenge!
Launching POMPOMS!  YahOOoO!
When they see STEM CHALLENGE on the schedule, they let out cute little screams of joy.  They don’t have any idea what they will be doing at that point, but it doesn’t matter.  They LOVE these challenges and I encourage you to try them at home this summer.  Google STEM CHALLENGES or check out PINTEREST for ideas.  They usually require materials that are easily found (you often will already have them in your possession!) and they learn a ton!
They LOVE this process.  We start out in community circle and make a list of the materials and I give them the chance to try and figure out what they are going to create.

The materials for this challenge were: 
1 large and 1 small pompom
1 toilet paper (or paper towel) roll
4 rubber bands
2 binder clips
5 index cards
2 pipe cleaners
1 spoon
1 small Dixie cup

You do NOT have to use all of your materials.  You may NOT use any additional materials, but you can cut the materials you have.  Nope, you can’t have any tape (289 kids wanted to use tape).
2 minutes were spent writing ideas all alone.  They did not know who they would be partnered with at this point, and needed to get their own ideas down on paper before meeting with their partner. 
5 minutes were given to work with your assigned partner.  They talked, sketched, and wrote about their ideas.
Once they had their materials, they had 25 minutes to construct their launcher.  Talk about fun!  I love wandering around the room listening to them figure things out, offer ideas, discuss what they are going to try, and diving right into design ideas.  They take this seriously and work hard the entire time.  I display a timer on the white board so they are aware of the time and how much time they have until they need to stop working. 

The ultimate goal: use your launcher to propel your pompom as far as you can.  You must have the launcher on the ground when launching (you can’t hold it in your hands) and you get two tries with each size of pompom to record your farthest launch. 

We will finish launching on Monday (we ran out of time on Friday) and I will post pictures and distances then!  Yay!

Friday, May 15, 2015

Our Butterfly Release

Thanks to Jeffrey and his mom Nancy, we were able to watch a beautiful butterfly take flight on Thursday.  Nancy and Jeffrey have raised HUNDREDS of butterflies!  Here’s what she had to say about Henrietta:
Henrietta is an Eastern Black Swallowtail butterfly. She has blue spots on her wings and small yellow spots on the edges of her wings. This distinguishes her from the males, who have fewer and smaller blue spots and larger yellow ones. She was raised on Queen Anne's Lace, a common weed (which is a wild carrot) that grew in my garden. The swallowtail also likes to lay their eggs on carrots, parsley, fennel and dill. She had 4 siblings that went into chrysalis and then hatched at summer's end. They can make a green or brown chrysalis, which they attach to a stick or stem of a plant (usually) using 2 silk straps their body makes. She decided to not come out and spent the winter in our garage, first in Sterling Hts. and then here. On May 6, we brought her indoors and put her in a sunny window. She hatched on May 12. She didn't fly off when we first released her because she was hungry and needed energy. She also wanted to warm up in the sun. We got to watch her drink nectar from some dandelions and then she flew off, sort of!

And, because I’m their teacher and can connect anything we do with a book we’ve read, Shantell became Velma Gratch from the book Velma Gratch and the Way Cool Butterfly by Alan Madison.  Henrietta didn't want to leave her finger!  

Thanks Nancy and Jeffrey!  What a wonderful experience.

Thursday, May 14, 2015


Great Lakes Education Program
Our day was chock full of wonderful experiences.  From the moment we boarded our super cool bus, kids were hooked.  Our adventure began on land, where kids learned about marshlands and investigated Lake Erie marshland critters.  What did they find!?  predaceous diving beetle larvae
water flea
water boatman
dragonfly nymph
mayfly larvae
damselfly nymph
They learned how to place a specimen on a slide and using the microscope, figured out what they were looking at. 
Kids learned about marshlands and the plants and animals that live within the marsh.  Mink, muskrats, snakes, turtles, cattails, grasses, and much more.

Because they occur where the dry land meets the water, wetlands play a critical role in the management of our water based resources.
Acre for acre, wetlands produce more wildlife and plants than any other Michigan habitat type. Wetland species also comprise a critically important segment of these species. For example, Michigan boasts about 2300 native plant species; 50 percent of these are wetland species and over 25 percent of the wetland species are threatened or endangered. More than 40 percent of the 575 vertebrate (with a backbone) wildlife species in Michigan live in or utilize wetlands. This includes 10 to 15 of the 66 mammals, 180 of the 370 birds, 22 of the 28 reptiles, and all of the 23 amphibians.
Here are a few other things that wetlands do:
  • reduce flooding by absorbing runoff from rain and melting snow and slowly releasing excess water into rivers and lakes - a one acre swamp when flooded to a depth of one foot contains 330,000 gallons of water
  • filter pollutants from surface runoff, trapping fertilizers, pesticides, sediments, and other contaminants and helping to break some of them down into less harmful substances, improving water clarity and quality
  • help recharge groundwater supplies when connected to underground aquifers
  • contribute to natural nutrient and water cycles, and produce vital atmospheric gases, including oxygen
  • provide commercial or recreational value to our human economy, by producing plants, game birds (ducks, geese) and fur bearing mammals - many fish are directly connected to wetlands, requiring shallow water areas for breeding, feeding and escaping from predators
  • when wetlands occur adjacent to the Great Lakes, inland lakes or streams, they serve as nutrient traps that then enrich the larger body of water of which they are part
The extent of wetland habitat was once controlled by natural processes. Marshes along the Great Lakes and drowned river mouth lakes vary in size, depending on rainfall trends and Great Lakes water levels. The natural filling of old glacial lakes with plant remains and sediment will create bog habitat. Eventually through continued succession, open water may be eliminated, replaced with a continuous sphagnum bog or a wet meadow. Floodplain swamps may shrink or increase with the normal changes in a river's channel over time. Over the long term, such natural change is inevitable. Wetland areas in Michigan have been growing, shrinking and re forming according to natural cycles since the last Ice Age and before, and these cycles continue today.
The last century has seen a greatly increased rate of wetland loss due to filling and drainage by man. Prior to World War 11, drainage to expand agricultural lands accounted for most of this loss. Recently, much wetland destruction has been caused by commercial, industrial, and residential expansion. The estimated 11 million acres of Michigan wetlands existing in pre settlement times has now been reduced to less than 3 million acres. Recent legislation has slowed the loss rate somewhat but threats to these habitats, particularly the smaller wetlands, continue in many areas. 
Information from Michigan Department of Natural Resources  (

The Clinton
Our boat!  What an adventure.  There are four stations on the boat and after the kids have been outfitted with a life jacket, they go to their first station. 
Station 1 (bow): Marlinspike (marine knot tying)
Sailors use knots to make their jobs easier and safer.  Kids practiced a variety of knots while on the boat.

Station 2 (Front table):  “Beat the Teacher” Game Marine Debris
Marine debris, is human-created waste.  Yuck.  Protect our lakes!  How long does it take to degrade or decompose?
Paper Towel: 2-4 weeks
Cotton Rope: 1-5 months
Apple Core: 2 months
Plywood: 1-3 years
Plastic Grocery Bags: 1-20 years
Foamed Plastic Cup: 50 years
Tin Can: 50 years
Aluminum Can: 200 years
Disposable Diaper: 450 years!!!

Station 3 (rear table): Navigation (maps!)
What way does water flow through the Great Lakes?
Water flows downhill from Lake Superior into Michigan/Huron, then Erie, next through Ontario and eventually into the Atlantic Ocean.  How long does this process take!?  (200 years!)

What are the blue markings between open water and dry land, mostly on the Canadian side of the lake?

Why aren’t there many wetlands on the U.S. side?
Coastal development

What do the black numbers on the water represent?
Water depth

What do the purple and green teardrop shaped objects represent?
Navigation buoys

Station 4 (stern): Plankton
Plankton is AWESOME!  Plankton forms the base of the aquatic food web.  Zooplankton is animal plankton.  Zooplankton can swim on its own, but is largely carried from place to place by currents. 
Phytoplankton is plant plankton.  Phytoplankton is green because of the chlorophyll it contains, and like other green plants, it makes oxygen.  Most of the oxygen we breathe comes from phytoplankton in the oceans!

Exploring the BOTTOM Habitat
The bottom dredge takes a bite out of the bottom, and brings it up to the boat in order for kids to examine it. 
The underwater camera allows kids to see what is beneath the schoolship.  What did you see!?

Water Clarity
We measure water clarity using a Secchi Disk.  Putting the disk into the water you can see through the water to measure the clarity, depending on how deep you can lower the disk before you are unable to see it. 

pH is a measure of the power of hydrogen ions in the water.  It is represented by a small “p” and a capital “H”, as H is the symbol for hydrogen.  Most groups found the water to be around 7.5.