Stoddert students visit the Science Activity Lab every two weeks, visiting the outdoor garden classroom on alternate weeks. In the lab, science teacher Julie Schneider leads students in a variety of hands-on, inquiry-based lessons, aligned with DCPS science standards.
While DCPS standards are based on the widely-accepted Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS), DCPS is still in the process of building a sufficient foundation of hands-on science curriculum resources, appropriate for the elementary years. In the meantime, thanks to generous support from the PTO, Stoddert was able to purchase a top-notch science curriculum from Rice University called STEMscopes.
Ms. Schneider utilizes STEMscopes to inform and support hands-on, inquiry-based lessons and to provide supplemental reading, math extensions, videos, science career connections, and acceleration activities. Rather than acquiring facts from a computer screen, our students are engaged in real world exploration of, and experimentation with, scientific tools, natural objects, and engineering materials. On any given day, students in the lab might be engaged in standards-based activities such as:
- Exploring fossils and experimenting with which types of environmental/soil conditions produce the most detailed molds and casts (3rd grade);
- Engineering and building an effective hand-pollinator to mimic the function of natural pollinators (2nd grade);
- Making predictions, based on knowledge of tectonic plates, about where volcanoes are likely to emerge and noticing patterns in where they have already emerged (4th grade);
- Bouncing sunlight around the lab with hand-held mirrors to understand how the moon reflects light from the sun, rather than generating its own light (1st graders);
- Building “plant adaptation models” of plants with physical features designed for survival in their particular ecosystem (4th grade);
- Taking “core samples” from a model of Earth’s crust to decide how deep to place foundation posts for a bridge (3rd grade);
- Testing materials to design an effective membrane for a captive frog habitat to keep the frog moist but not swimming in standing water (1st grade);
- Experimenting with various chemical reactants and analyzing results to draw logical conclusions about the make-up of “mystery powders” (5th grade);
- Engineering and building windmill blades capable of doing “work” (4th grade);
- Testing materials and methods for cleaning up an oil spill in water (5th grade);
- Attempting to mimic the natural design and function of a Maple Tree “helicopter” seed using available materials (1st grade);
- Experimenting with transmitting digitized information over long distances (4th grade);
- Designing an egg container that can be dropped from our indoor balcony without breaking the egg inside (2nd grade);
- Using fossil evidence to piece together the continents into what might have been the shape of the Pangea “supercontinent” of 225 million years ago (4th grade);
- Exploring how wave motion can transfer energy from one place to another (4th grade);
- Playing a game to simulate the fluctuating dynamics of wild animal and plant populations, dependent on the resources available in their ecosystems (5th grade);
- Collecting, drying, and pressing leaves of various Oak Trees to compare their different inherited traits and how they help them survive (3rd grade)
These are a just a few examples of the kinds of activities that take place each day in the lab. Parents are welcome to share their own expertise and Ms. Schneider welcomes your questions, comments and ideas.
Through your dues and donations, STEMscopes is the type of educational material that the PTO is proud to make possible for each and every student at Stoddert.