Our First week back was fantastic! It was so good to see everyone and for our new group to come together in our new space. We spent some time getting to know each other on the first day and spoke about teamwork. We learned about our classroom and began to dive into our lessons for the year.
What makes a good team? In Upper El, we start with a simple exercise where I tell everyone to write their name on some computer paper. I elaborate that I want them to write their name but to do so in an artistic way that speaks to them. The instructions are meant to be simple and a bit vague to allow interpretation.
Then we talk about what we learned from this. No one has the same picture. Yes, the names are different, but the approach to the "problem" and the artistic flair brought about are unique. That's the first thing that makes a great team. Understanding that every voice, every idea, from each person on the team is worth taking in. The more ideas, the better our solutions will be.
The second part of teamwork is all about communication. So, we played a bit of "telephone" with a twist. Rather than repeating a phrase around a circle to see how well we could pass along the message, I changed things a bit. I gave the first student instructions on a picture I wanted to be drawn. Next, they whispered a single instruction to the student next to them of something to draw. They couldn't say, "draw a house," but could say, "draw a square." And then what needed to be drawn and the pad were passed along.
We started simple with a house and then progressed to an Owl on a branch and a Helicopter flying under a bridge. Communication can sometimes be challenging, but it's an essential key to great teamwork, and that was the whole point of our first day.
Thursday, we started with a visitor—Ms. Paula! Students asked her questions about all the plants in our classroom and on our porch and how best to care for them. Our Plant Committee received a lot of great information, as did everyone else. Thank you, Ms. Paula!
Then, we set up our Chromebooks and introduced a bit of what we'll be talking about this year. One thing we're going to keep our eye on this year in UE is any news and current events around our space programs. I feel it is such an interesting time in history regarding this that we'll spend some time this year talking about it and learning about what's happening and why. To start, we spoke about NASA's Artemis program, which is set to launch on Monday, 8/29, beginning a journey to return Astronauts to the Moon! How are they doing this? Should we do this? Why? What are the challenges?
Friday was all about our central unit of the year: Energy. Since we're starting with Gravitational Energy, I thought we'd first begin with something more familiar, and that's the force of gravity. What do we all know? I challenged our group to come up with their own rules for gravity.
"What comes up must come down," was immediately stated, and then it was hard to get passed that. So, I asked some more questions.
"How do these things come down? Straight? At an angle?"
Eventually, we arrived at a few more rules.
Gravity always pulls and never pushes.
Objects get pulled straight down.
All things with mass have gravity (man, I was impressed that we got here so quickly!)
Objects fall at the same rate? (Wait, that's a question!)
The last one was a statement by one student that became a debated question, and that's exactly what I wanted them to ask! Have to love it when things work out like that.
We will do Galileo's famous experiment of dropping objects of different weights from a tower... except we'll use our porch! However, this is easier said than done. I challenged UE first to predict and make a hypothesis of what we'd discover. The class was about split on this. The objects will hit the ground at the same time, or they will hit at different times. The next step was to consider our experiment design. What questions do we need to consider?
This group was great at finding the questions we needed to ask. What do we drop? Should we worry about shape? Size? How do we release the objects at the exact same time? How do we record when they hit the ground? Could weather play a role?
Our next step will be to answer these questions and discover solutions. We're secretly walking through the Scientific Method together (even if a little out of order). We will come back and do some research before performing the experiment.
As I said, I think we're off to a pretty incredible start in UE, and I can't wait to have a whole week with this great class.