Mrs. Black's Class Blog

where learning, creativity and fun go hand-in-hand!

Bridge-Building and Explanatory Writing 2014 Project

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As a culminating task in our Pulleys and Gears (Grade 4) and Forces Acting on Structures (Grade 5) science units, students worked together in teams to build bridges out of popsicle sticks, straws, paper clips, toothpicks, string, elastics, paper and tape.

The class worked with Mrs. Black to define the requirements and Success Criteria for these projects.  The goal for Grade 4 students was to build a 30 cm lift bridge and swing bridge, using at least two pulleys. The goal for Grade 5 was to build a 50 cm bridge that could hold at least eight math textbooks.  Students made two attempts, building on the success of their previous attempt to improve their designs.  They kept detailed lab notes explaining their thought and building processes. Their lab reports became their explanatory writing pieces for literacy.

The following photo collage depicts the fun students had with this project. Click on any photo to enlarge it.

With this project, students had a great time learning some principles of design, through trial and error, and by building upon the knowledge they gained in their first trial.  They also learned how to write up detailed explanations using a standard lab report format.

Thank you for visiting our class BLOG.  If you have any questions or comments, feel free to e-mail me (Margaret Black):  [email protected] or to add a comment to this page.

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Curriculum-based Community Service 2014-2015

For the third year in a row, my class is engaging in a number of outreach projects that meet Ontario curriculum expectations while benefiting others in the school, community and beyond.

Throughout the school year, we will be adding outreach projects to this overview, with links to blog posts about particular projects. Check back from time-to-time, to see what’s new.


Here is a list of our projects to date:

  1. Food drive for orphaned wildlife
  2. Writing project in support of Habitat for Humanity
  3. Math project to inform school decision-making
  4. “Book Character Dress Up Day” in support of polar bear conservation
  5. “Hometown Heroes” art, literacy and outreach project
  6. Food drive for The Sharing Place food bank


Project Details:



Orphaned baby animals being raised for release at wildlife rehabilitation centres need to be fed natural foods from the environment to ensure that they receive appropriate nutrition and also so they know what foods to look for after they are released.

Building on last year’s “wildly” successful two week food drive in support of two local wildlife sanctuaries, this year we expanded our campaign to three weeks, and provided food for overwintering orphaned animals at Aspen Valley Wildlife Sanctuary, in Rosseau, Shades of Hope Wildlife Refuge, in Pefferlaw, and Woodlands Wildlife Sanctuary, in Minden.

Our class organized and promoted the food drive, inviting students from Kindergarten through Grade 8 to contribute acorns, pine cones, maple keys, black walnuts, apples and sumac. In terms of curriculum, the project met expectations in math, science, literacy and character education.

We collected 217 kgs. (almost 500 lbs.) of acorns, eight big boxes of pine cones and numerous boxes of the other food items on the list above.

These are links to blog posts about the food drive:



Habitat-for-Hunanity-Canada-300x211During the month of October, students in our class are authoring short explanatory writing pieces as a school project, and then entering them in a national writing contest.

The topic for this writing project is “What Home Means to Me.”  For every entry received, builder Genworth Canada will donate $5.00 to Habitat for Humanity. Our class is hoping to raise over $100. with our writing.

This is the contest website:

On October 24th, we had a representative from Habitat for Humanity, Gravenhurst, at the school to share the organization’s vision and work with Grade 4-6 students.

More to follow…



IMG_5560This year, as part of their Data Management math unit, our class is conducting surveys for real purposes. The baseline data they collect, graph and analyze will be forwarded to the appropriate adults within the school community, to help inform decision making about the possible initiation of a breakfast program, the promotion of waste-free lunches, and the purchase of sports equipment for use at recess and during Daily Physical Activity breaks.

More to follow…



polar-bear-wwfOn Thursday, November 13th our class will be inviting students from Kindergarten through Grade 8 to come to school dressed as their favourite book character.  Students who wish to participate will be asked to donate a toonie (the coin with polar bears pictured on it), in support of polar bear conservation.

Our class will be engaging in several literacy activities that day, around the book character theme.

Proceeds from our school’s dress up day will be donated to World Wildlife Fund Canada, earmarked for polar bear conservation.

More to follow…



hometown-heroThis is a multi-step project that meets curriculum requirements in visual arts, media literacy and writing, and also includes character education and outreach components. Students will reflect upon their character strengths, talents and abilities and produce a poster showcasing these traits. Then they will dream up a project they can/will do to help someone, and create an advertisement for a volunteer with their strengths to complete the project. The next step will be to produce a procedural writing piece describing the steps involved in the outreach project in greater detail. The highlight of this school assignment is the opportunity to become a “Hometown Hero” by completing the outreach project!

More to follow…




This year, our class will be organizing and promoting our school’s annual food drive for the local food bank.  

As an added incentive, for every 100 lbs. of food donated, Mrs. Black will volunteer for an hour at the food bank, or Lighthouse soup kitchen, to a maximum of eight hours.

More to follow…


Thank you for visiting our class BLOG.  If you have any questions or comments, feel free e-mail me (Margaret Black):  [email protected] or to add a comment to this page.

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Wildlife Food Drive a Huge Success!

Rama Central’s “Second Annual Food Drive for Orphaned Wildlife” brought in an astounding number of natural food donations. Over a span of three weeks, we collected boxes and boxes of acorns and pine cones, and also received donations of maple keys, wind fall apples, black walnuts, chestnuts and sumac seeds. Our class would like to thank the entire Rama Central P.S. community for participating.

Four carloads of food have been delivered to Aspen Valley Wildlife Sanctuary, in Rosseau, Shades of Hope Wildlife Refuge, in Pefferlaw, and Woodlands Wildlife Sanctuary, in Minden. (Click on any photo in this BLOG post to enlarge it.)

Mrs. Black’s car is now loaded for a second delivery to Shades of Hope Wildlife Refuge:


This morning, we engaged in some math problem-solving involving the food drive. We calculated how many kilograms of acorns and boxes of pine cones we collected, in total.

IMG_5245We collected 217 kilograms (478 lbs.) of acorns and eight cartons of pine cones.

Then, using information we obtained earlier about how many acorns are in a kilogram and how many pine cones fit into a standard-sized box, we estimated how many acorns and pine cones we collected.




Here are the totals!

IMG_5249We collected approximately 58,590 acorns!

IMG_5254We collected approximately 7, 200 pine cones!

Afterwards, some students tackled a “challenge question” using consumption estimates provided by Woodlands Wildlife Sanctuary. Woodlands estimated that, if a young squirrel ate only acorns, it would eat about 30 in a day. Based on this information, students calculated how long our acorns would last one squirrel.

IMG_5255If a squirrel ate only acorns, the acorns we collected
would last that squirrel approximately 5.4 years!

This math problem led to a discussion about healthy eating (our current topic in health). Students learned that, like us, squirrels actually eat a varied diet, consisting primarily of nuts and seeds, and that a varied diet is what provides squirrels with balanced nutrition and ensures good health.

At the end of the food drive, students in our class polled the school to determine how many students participated in the food drive. We were excited to learn that 20 percent of students and 25 percent of staff brought food to school for the animals!  We distributed Certificates of Appreciation and I Saved a Life wrist bands (courtesy of Shades of Hope Wildlife Refuge) to everyone that participated.


food-drive-certificates1 Students in our class with their certificates and wrist bands

 This project has provided students with some wonderful hands-on learning experiences in math, literacy, science and character education, but the best part of the food drive is seeing orphaned animals at local wildlife sanctuaries enjoying the fruits of our labours!

A flying squirrel kit eating one of our acorns,
at Aspen Valley Wildlife Sanctuary.


Above and below: raccoon kits at Aspen Valley
Wildlife Sanctuary, enjoying our acorns.


SOH-squirrelA baby squirrel at Shades of Hope Wildlife Refuge
enjoying our acorns and pine cones.


Link to video of baby squirrels eating our acorns,
at Shades of Hope 


An injured adult porcupine dining on our acorns and pine cones,
at Shades of Hope Wildlife Refuge.

woodlands-deerWhite-tailed deer fawns enjoying our sumac, acorns and maple keys,
at Woodlands Wildlife Sanctuary.



One day, when we were a week into our food drive, the supervisor and students that attend the school’s before-school daycare came to Mrs. Black’s class to tell her they had found a flightless bird on the schoolyard.  Mrs. Black and Ben, a Grade 4 student in our class, contained the bird and brought him into the school. Mrs. Black e-mailed Shades of Hope Wildlife Refuge and they recommended that she bring the bird to them for treatment.

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The bird, a male finch, spent two weeks living in one of the aviaries at Shades of Hope, recovering from a wing injury. When Mrs. Black took Shades of Hope their second food drive delivery, she picked the finch up and brought him back to the school, for release. This morning, Ben released the bird, while the other daycare kids cheered the bird on. Here is the video of the finch’s release.

Link to high definition version of release video:

To thank the children for rescuing the finch, students involved in rescuing the finch received I Saved a Life wrist bands (courtesy of Shades of Hope Wildlife Refuge). The kids of Rama Central’s before-school daycare program are wildlife heros!




After the food drive officially ended the food just kept on coming, creating the need for a third food delivery to the closest sanctuary, Shades of Hope Wildlife Refuge!!!

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Thank you for visiting our class BLOG.  If you have any questions or comments, feel free e-mail me (Margaret Black):  [email protected] or to add a comment to this page.

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Wildlife Food Drive Update #1

This year’s “Food Drive for Orphaned Wildlife” is shaping up to be an overwhelming success!  Over the past two and a half weeks, students from Kindergarten through Grade 8 have been contributing a steady stream of acorns, pine cones, maple keys, apples and black walnuts, to feed animals overwintering at three wildlife rehabilitation centres.

(Click on any photo in this blog post to enlarge it.)


On Monday, students in our class solved a math problem associated with the food drive. They determined how many kilograms of acorns fit in a standard-sized box. They weighed a student holding a box of acorns, weighed the student again without the acorns, and then worked with a partner to devise a strategy for calculating how many kilograms a box of acorns weighs. 

The day we completed this math problem, Mrs. Black delivered four boxes of acorns to Aspen Valley, adding to the 29 kg they had already received. Students were asked to calculate how many total kilograms we shipped to Aspen Valley.


Altogether, Mrs. Black delivered 92 kg (203 lbs.) of acorns, a large box of pine cones, a small container of black walnuts, a box of sumac flowers, six pumpkins and two bags of peanuts in the shell to Aspen Valley Wildlife Sanctuary, in Rosseau.

This was delivery #1 (29 kgs. of acorns):


These are students helping load Mrs. Black’s car for delivery #2 (63 kgs. of acorns):


Delivery #2 ready to leave for Aspen Valley:


We have also shipped 57 kg (125 lbs.) of acorns and two medium boxes of pine cones to Shades of Hope Wildlife Refuge, in Pefferlaw:


This week, we are collecting for Woodlands Wildlife Sanctuary, in Minden. On the weekend, Mrs. Black expects to take them approximately 57 kg (125 lbs.) of acorns. Woodlands will also be receiving two medium boxes of pine cones, two boxes of sumac flowers, a box of black walnuts, some pumpkins, farm-feed corn and peanuts in the shell.

Food that students collect on the last weekend of the food drive will be delivered to Shades of Hope Wildlife Refuge next week.

Aspen Valley staff asked Mrs. Black if she would write an article for the Parry Sound newspaper, explaining how students in three schools have conducted food drives this fall, to help Aspen feed orphaned and injured wildlife over the winter. As a media literacy/writing project, students in our class worked in groups to write their own articles about the food drive.

Students even got to pose for pictures to illustrate their articles:

Here are a couple of the articles we wrote about the food drive:



Mrs. Black used our articles as sources for her Parry Sound North Star column, and let our class help edit her article before she e-mailed it to the newspaper.


Friday, October 3rd Update

This is a link to the article Mrs. Black and our class authored, on the Parry Sound North Star website:



Next week, we will share three more math activities that are based on our food drive, and tell our blog readers how much food we collected during our three-week campaign.

Thank you for visiting our class BLOG.  If you have any questions or comments, feel free e-mail me (Margaret Black):  [email protected] or to add a comment to this page.

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2nd Annual Wildlife Food Drive!

Welcome to our class BLOG for 2014-15!  This year, our Grade 4/5 class will engage in a variety of projects that fulfill curriculum expectations, while providing outreach that benefits the community and beyond.

Our first outreach project is a “food drive” to assist three local wildlife rehabilitation centres, by providing natural food for orphaned wildlife that will be overwintering with them before being released back into the wild.  Orphaned animals need to be provided with the food they will eat in the wild, so they know what to look for after they are released. Our food contributions will go a long way toward educating and sustaining baby animals throughout the winter months.

Our class is taking the lead in advertising and organizing Rama Central’s 2nd annual food drive for wildlife. Students from Kindergarten through Grade 8, as well as school staff, are encouraged to collect and contribute items such as acorns, pine cones, maple keys, apples, sumac, black walnuts and corn to the cause.

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On October 6th, the deadline for bringing in food, our class will begin a multi-faceted math project that will involve estimating how many of each item we collected, based on weight and/or volume, and calculating how long our food will last if fed to particular types of animals.

When the math project is complete, Mrs. Black will drive our food contributions to Aspen Valley Wildlife Sanctuary, in Rosseau, Shades of Hope Wildlife Refuge, in Pefferlaw, and Woodlands Wildlife Sanctuary, in Minden.

Here are some images of students counting flyers and preparing announcements, posters and our hallway display, to advertise our food drive. (Click any photo to enlarge it.)

Here are some of the beautiful posters students created, to decorate the school. (Click any photo to enlarge it.)

Day 1 of our food drive, and the contributions are already coming in!  Today we received a bucket of acorns and several dozen pine cones.  (Click any photo to enlarge it.)

Thank you for visiting our class BLOG.  If you have any questions or comments, feel free e-mail me (Margaret Black):  [email protected] or to add a comment to this page.

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Sharing our Social Studies Models with Younger Students

This year, sharing group assignments with younger students has been a great source of pride for many of the students in our class.  Yesterday, we invited three classes to come and see the models our class had constructed for Social Studies, and learn about the cultures and buildings that inspired these projects.

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These are other Grade 4 students visiting our class (click on any photo to enlarge it):

This is the Grade 3 class at our Social Studies Fair:

And, these are Grade 2 students learning about our models:

Thank you for visiting our class BLOG.  If you have any questions or comments, feel free e-mail me (Margaret Black):  [email protected] or to add a comment to this page.

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Social Studies Models: The Finished Products!

An earlier BLOG post explains our Social Studies model-building project.

Student have worked collaboratively on their models every day for the past two weeks. The results are really impressive!

Here are some close-ups of students putting finishing touches on their work:

These are the finished products! (Click on any photo to enlarge it.)

Medieval Caste, by Grade 4 students Garett, Grace and Mae:



Medieval Village, by Grade 4 students Ella, Elora and Rosa:



Viking Ship, by Grade 4 students Aiden, Cohen and Colby:



Viking Settement and Ship, by Grade 5 students Derek, Eden, Ethan G. and Kait:



Jacques Cartier’s Ship, by Ethan W., Kristal and Liam F.:



Blackfoot First Nation Settlement, by Grade 5 students Emily, Kai and Tinja:



Inuit Igloos and Dog Sled, by Grade 5 students Brendan, Liam B. and Maddy:



Parliament Hill, by Grade 5 students Bella, Connor, Paige and Vaughn:

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Next step:  Groups will present information about the topics they portrayed in models to our class and then hold a Social Studies Fair for y0unger students.

Thank you for visiting our class BLOG.  If you have any questions or comments, feel free e-mail me (Margaret Black):  [email protected] or to add a comment to this page.

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Drama: Building a Community

Over the past two months, our class engaged in a team-building and drama activity that was developed by the Council of Ontario Drama and Dance Educators. The unit plan can be found here:

The class was divided into two random groups, by drawing coloured cubes from a bag.  Each student was asked to develop a role for him/herself, within his/her community. Then each group was given several tasks to complete, including making up a name for their town, identifying a mayor and town council, designing a map and flag, and developing a town philosophy and list of special features.  Mrs. Black displayed the community profiles on foam boards (click on any photo to enlarge it):

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After community profiles were complete, students were told that the Ontario Government had identified the area between the two towns as a potential new landfill site for refuse from Toronto. They were told that the forest area between their towns would be clear cut, a highway would be built south of the two towns, and an interchange and access road would provide dump trucks with access to the landfill site.  Students were told that the towns would be financially compensated for any inconvenience the project might cause, and that the highway would likely bring them more tourists.

Residents of both towns were then invited to dress in role and attend a large group discussion about the landfill and highway project. A lively debate ensued. Students saw few long term benefits, but identified many negative possibilities associated with the project:

  • loss of important wildlife habitat due to clear cutting of the forest between the two towns
  • noise from the highway and dump trucks
  • potential for accidents and spills involving dump trucks
  • pollution of the land, air and water by materials in the landfill
  • loss of revenue, because the forest to be clear-cut supports Maple Ridge’s syrup industry
  • unsightliness that would drive away tourists
  • potential for crime in their small town, because of easier access from the city
  • loss of revenue due to the need for greater police presence, to deal with increased crime

In the end, the class reached consensus; every student felt that no amount of short term financial gain could adequately compensate them for the hardship the project would entail. When the government representative came to the meeting to address any concerns, she (Mrs. Black, in role) was peppered with hard questions and comments about the landfill and highway project. On behalf of the government, Mrs. Black reluctantly agreed that the towns’ environmental concerns may have some merit and agreed to order an environmental assessment.

Students were congratulated on their role-playing and debating skills, and told that they did a fine job identifying potential issues with the proposed project!

Thank you for visiting our class BLOG.  If you have any questions or comments, feel free e-mail me (Margaret Black):  [email protected] or to add a comment to this page.


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Social Studies Models, Part 1

Students are currently working in groups to produce models and presentations about various aspects of this year’s Social Studies program.

Here are the success criteria students created together, as a class:

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The eight models being constructed are as follows:

Grade 4

  1. Medieval castle
  2. Medieval settlement
  3. Viking ship

Grade 5

  1. Leif Erikkson, settlement and ship
  2. Jacques Cartier’s ship
  3. Blackfoot First Nation settlement
  4. Inuit settlement
  5. Parliament Hill

Here are the models, under construction (click on any photo to enlarge it):

In a future BLOG post we will showcase the finished products.

Thank you for visiting our class BLOG.  If you have any questions or comments, feel free e-mail me (Margaret Black):  [email protected] or to add a comment to this page.

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The Great Spring Reading Challenge!

In mid-March, students in our class were challenged to complete 1,000 minutes of home reading by June 1st.

This reading was intended to provide material for five reading response projects, which were to be completed in the same time frame. (The reading response projects were showcased yesterday, at a literacy fair.)


Students tracked their reading on weekly time sheets and their progress was recorded on a classroom graph. Three Grade 5 students took turns tabulating the information on the time sheets and updating the graph (HUGE THANKS to Vaughn, Bella and Connor for their help!!)


Students were given a choice of rewards as they reached particular milestones. The class developed this reward scheme for the challenge:


The entire class participated in our home reading challenge. Fifteen of twenty-six students read for at least 1,000 minutes. Five students completed over 2,000 minutes of reading. The class total was an impressive 26,774 minutes of home reading!

Today, we invited our librarian, Mrs. Torrey, to help one of our students present a certificate of achievement to each student in the class:


Here are the students that met or exceeded the challenge, pictured with Mrs. Torrey and one of our students. Each student’s minutes of home reading are shown in red:

What a great bunch of readers!!


Thank you for visiting our class BLOG.  If you have any questions or comments, feel free e-mail me (Margaret Black):  [email protected] or to add a comment to this page.

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