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Science and Math Go Outdoors!

In late-May, the Grade 6 students in our class started work on their final Science topic of the year:  "Biodiversity."  In case you are not familiar with this term, it is word first used by scientists in the 1980's.  They created the word by combining "biological" and "diversity." Biodiversity refers to the diversity of living things in an environment.  The more diverse an environment is, in terms of its living organisms, the more balanced, resilient to stressors and healthier it is.  The Ontario Ministry of Education added biodiversity to the Grade 6 curriculum in 1998.  In order to raise awareness of the need to protect environments and species, the United Nations declared 2010 "The Year of Biodiversity."

A large component of our biodiversity study is field work.  In our outdoor sessions, we are studying the biodiversity that exists in four different biomes within our schoolyard.  We are then researching how the organisms that live in our schoolyard and local area interact with and depend upon each other for survival.

The culminating task for this Grade 6 unit involves writing a research paper comparing two different organisms that live in the Washago area, in terms of appearance, food, housing, niches in their biome and seasonal coping strategies (i.e. what does it do in the winter?), etc.

This month, the Grade 5 students in our class are continuing their study of Human Organ Systems, with some field work observing the impacts of exertion on their heart rate, in various weather conditions.  The culminating task for their Science unit is a research paper discussing how our organ systems work together, how best to care for our bodies and what might happen if we fail to do so.

 

Our entire class is also involved in some math problem solving in the out-of-doors.

  • Students are estimating the percentages of sand and various types of flora in random sample areas on the schoolyard, and tracking changes over time. After surveying several areas, students calculate the mean percentage for each element they found in their samples.  They then graph the means.  Students conduct a new survey each week and add the data to their graphs. This week, every group's graph showed a decrease in live grass and an increase in dead grass over the previous week.  This illustrated, in a concrete manner, the impact that little rain for several weeks had on schoolyard vegetation.  It will be interesting to see what results next week's survey yields, after the rain on Friday and the weekend.
  • This coming week, we will go outdoors and I will ask students to think up a way to estimate, through calculations, the number of leaves on a small tree (Gr. 5) or needles on a pine tree (Gr. 6).  They will most likely solve this problem via multiplication.
  • Students will also be using a map or satellite image of the schoolyard to calculate how many bags of grass seed one would need to overseed the grassy areas of our schoolyard.  To determine this they will have to divide the schoolyard into regular polygons, calculate the area of each polygon, add the totals, and use the coverage information on a bag of grass seed to determine how many bags one would need to cover the yard.
  • I will then pose a division question:  if the students in our class were to do the overseeding, how many bags of seed, or what size of area, would each student have to cover in order to share the work evenly?

Hands-on problem solving, such as the above, really helps students to consolidate and apply the learning they acquired in math throughout the year.

 

All students in our class who conform to the rules about proper use of equipment and respect for living things are welcome to use our nets and bug keepers at recess.  Students are also invited to bring specimens from home or the yard into class for further study.  These "classroom guests" must be housed in secure, humane enclosures and (in most cases) be released where they were found the same day they were captured.

 

Here are some recent pictures related to our field work.  Click on any picture to see it full-sized and then click the back button on your browser to return to this page.

Thank you for visiting our class BLOG.   If you have any questions or comments, feel free to e-mail me:  mblack@mail1.scdsb.on.ca or to add a comment to this page.

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