Students began assembling our compost bins this week. They will build a wooden chest to house buckets to collect food scraps as well as a wooden worm bin for composting. Before building, we needed to measure the width of the buckets to ensure the storage unit provided enough space. We then determined the size of the pieces needed for the base and the walls. From here, other students measured the pieces and cut them with the chop saw. This project provides students with an authentic opportunity to apply their estimating and measurement skills.
After our initial "Where is 'Away'?" project, we noticed that many items were being placed in the wrong containers, with recyclables heading to the landfills or recyclable materials not being properly washed out, and thus becoming unable to be recycled. Since we were in the midst of beginning other academic projects, this became a mini side project for interested students (thanks Mila, August, Dillon, Thomas, Chandler, Merlin, Cruz, and Steven!) We took this problem and asked ourselves: How can we get information out to the SK community in a bold, creative, and above all, simple way? Rather than an informational poster, students decided to convey new information on a recycling truck. To keep it simple, they posted two questions on the truck: 1) Is what you are throwing away recyclable? (Examples provided) and 2) Have you washed it out? Head to our atrium to check out this awesome installation, basically made in the spur of the moment! It will be hung on Monday 5/20.
This week we had our first ever 3rd and 4th grade game night--inspired by the students themselves! They came to us asking if we could organize the event and hold our first (and hopefully, annual) game night. HUGE thanks to Itzel and Jessica for organizing this event and providing the cozy and magical tent in our courtyard!
Students finished their individual work on informational chicken posters last week! The posters are extremely diverse, from topics to designs. Check them out in the atrium and outside of the chicken coop area! Topics include safety/procedures, how to "speak chicken", anatomy of chickens, the deep litter method of coop maintenance, food for chickens, the story behind SK changing the law, and the breeds of our 5 hens! We are very proud of the final drafts each team was able to create.
To aid our exploration of genetics, students recently visited the Oakland Avenue Urban Farm in Detroit to learn more about The Cosmopolitan Chicken Project. This project originally began in 1999 in Belgium by artist Koen Vanmechelen. Attempting to make a statement on the importance of global diversity and national identity, Koen took the national chicken of various countries around the globe and began cross-breeding them. With each successive generation, he created a cosmopolitan chicken with global genes, and found that the more diverse their genetics were, the more resilient and healthy the chicken was. Students were able to see and hold the newest breed of this project. You can read more in-depth about the project here.
In preparation for a field trip next week regarding the cross-breeding of chickens, we began exploring the science of genetics. We started with this introductory video which walks students through the structure and function of DNA. We then zoomed in on specific sections of our DNA, known as genes, using this video as a starting point for our discussion. Students spent time individually or with partners creating their own models of DNA strands through an origami exercise.
Students also explored samples of their own DNA through an experiment involving an activity where the students were able to extract and view strands of their own DNA. After swishing around Gatorade and collecting that in a cup, the students added dish soap, pineapple juice, and rubbing alcohol to the solution. The salts in the Gatorade, as well as the enzymes in the pineapple juice, helped break down the cell membranes. Because the detergent molecules have two different ends, one attracted to fat molecules and one attracted to water, it was added to help separate the pieces of membrane from the DNA. Finally, the rubbing alcohol was added because DNA does not dissolve in alcohol, thus making the DNA visible. Should you be interested in trying this at home, a link to the activity can be found here.
The students explored some of the properties of eggs this week, including how lecithin, a fat like molecule (phospholipid) found in the yolk can serve as an emulsifier, bringing together oil and water mixtures because of its hydrophilic head and hydrophobic tail.
We began by observing how water and oil interact (or don't) in mason jars in small groups. After shaking them the students noticed that the oil and water immediately separated. We then watched this video which explains why water and oil don't mix. The video used the metaphor of dancers on a dance floor. Another video explained how lecithin works as an emulsifier. The structure of the lecithin forms a barrier that prevents the fat droplets from coming into contact with other droplets. With this knowledge in hand, the students were asked to tell a short story through images and/or words, creating characters for oil, water and lecithin and describing how lecithin was ultimately able to bring the two together.
We also added egg yolks to our initial oil/water mixtures but noticed no matter how hard we shook them, the water and oil would separate. Thinking we needed more yolks, we continued to add but the results were the same. The next day, we combined the mixtures with a small hand blender and our emulsion was complete.
This week the students conducted The Naked Egg experiment. In small groups, they immersed an egg in vinegar, letting it sit for 7 days, changing the vinegar in the jars once. When the egg was first exposed to the vinegar, they noticed bubbles forming on the surface of the eggshell. After, they were asked to make predictions about what they thought would happen. Once the week passed, we removed the eggs from the vinegar and observed the changes. They noticed that the shell had dissolved and that the egg itself felt rubbery, like a bouncy ball. It was also translucent.
We discussed the difference between a physical reaction and a chemical reaction as well as the specifics about what occurred here, with the acetic acid from the vinegar reacting with the calcium carbonate of the shell, dissolving it. The reaction also produced water and carbon dioxide, the latter being the bubbles they saw on the surface of the egg. The excitement surrounding the changes prompted them to propose further experiments involving eggs and a variety of other substances including varying the strength of the acids or parts of the egg used in the experiment.
This semester we will be digging into the science behind all things chicken! We began the project by researching what we call "the recipe of a chicken". We don't mean this in terms of how to prepare a chicken for dinner. Rather, if students had to compose a chicken from scratch (think: Franken-chicken), what are all the parts, inside and out, that they need to include?
First, students spent time researching the internal/external features of the bird and illustrating these. Next, students were able to connect their research to the real thing through a hands-on exploration! Thanks to Mary Perrin and Jean Marie Rouillard for sharing their birds with us! Students absolutely loved this activity. We were able to trace the digestion tracks, hold chicken lungs, and even see eggs in various stages of development with the shells still in the process of forming.
Finally, Jill Keller, SK parent and Clinical Assistant Professor in the Unit for Laboratory Animal Medicine at the University of Michigan, joined the class to discuss more in-depth, specific anatomical systems of the chicken, such as the skeletal system and digestion system.
We are SO proud of our 3/4s for these final detailed and colorful posters tracing the journey of where our waste goes. The posters were a collaborative effort where each student was able to add their specific style to the overall product. These will hang in the atrium above our waste bins for students and the SK community to learn more about what happens when they toss their items "away".