Last fall, we watched news about possible evidence of water on Mars, and our curiosity about space began with a lot of questions! In January, we watched a BrainPOP video about space travel. We had a LOT of questions! During that time, we were learning about Culture and Story, but we kept wondering about space. Mrs. B helped us download a NASA app to our iPads. From that app, we could watch videos, look at photos, and read about some of the things NASA was doing. We were already learning a lot about the Mars Rover. It’s called “Curiosity.” Did you know there’s a Mars Rover app, too?
All the while we were interested in space, many really interesting things were happening!
Commander Scott Kelly was on the International Space Station, and he was planning a return trip home after 340 days in space!
The New Horizons space probe took photos of Pluto on its way through the solar system. We loved seeing those photos!
We kept reading about how Curiosity took photos on Mars and about NASA scientists explaining the photos showing evidence of water that could have been on Mars.
Some people at CalTech believe there is another really large planet at the edge of our solar system. They call it Planet Nine.
When we started Block 4 (How the World Works), we started thinking about space even more. We started with this statement:
Earth is a unique planet and part of the solar system.
We started asking questions about that statement and some of the things we already knew:
What’s a solar system?
What makes Earth unique from the other planets?
What are the other planets in our solar system?
How do the planets move?
Why is Pluto not a planet anymore?
What are asteroids? How are they together in a belt?
What is the Kuiper Belt?
Where does the ISS orbit?
We started investigating by watching videos, visiting the Space Foundation Discovery Center, using our NASA app, reading books about space, and searching on different websites to find some answers. These investigations helped us answer some questions, but mostly it helped us to ask even more questions!
Sometimes, we investigated together as a class. Sometimes, we investigated in small groups. When we follow our curiosity, we notice that we aren’t always interested in learning the same things that our classmates want to know. Every once in a while, we got to investigate on our own! Some of the things we investigated:
What are the differences in asteroids, meteors, meteorites, and meteroids?
What do satellites do?
Why does the moon look like a circle sometimes, and other times it looks like a banana?
Why do some asteroids move and some stay in the asteroid belt?
Why did Scott Kelly grow two inches in space?
What are different kinds of spacecraft?
How many rovers have been on Mars? What are they supposed to do?
How did scientists “discover” Planet Nine if they have never seen it?
What is gravitational mass?
To help us learn more about what we learned, we did a lot of different activities! We chose to make models of planets. We built space station modules in Minecraft. Some of us built in a space mod called Galacticraft in Minecraft. We really liked being challenged to find the materials to go to the moon and Mars! We used chart paper and sticky notes to write some of the things we’ve learned in our investigations. We drew illustrations about what we learned and recorded voice narrations to explain what we created (some of these were on paper, and some were in our Seesaw app).
It was really great to be able to spend a lot of time on these investigations! We focused on space for about 14 weeks! Mrs. B wondered if we were getting bored with learning about space, but we weren’t! Every day, we came to school excited to talk about a PBS show we watched about Scott Kelly or to talk about how we watched the ISS fly over our homes when the sky was dark.
Some of the older kids in our class wrote blogs posts to share some of the things they learned:
On Thursday, February 4, we traveled to Colorado Springs to visit the Space Foundation Discovery Center. We had such a great time learning about space! We are very grateful to the staff of the Discovery Center for helping us learn more about our solar system.
When we first arrived, we walked into a very dark room. There was a giant sphere with some very tiny wires holding it from the ceiling to the middle of the room. We also noticed four projectors in the room in four different corners. Our guide told us that those four projectors would project images on the sphere, so that the entire sphere would be covered. It was a 360º image! This is called “Science on a Sphere.” Our guide showed us all the planets on the sphere. We thought it was so cool!
As we looked at all the planets, we learned something unique about each one. When we started to look at Saturn, our guide was able to rotate the planet on the sphere so that we could see the top of Saturn. Did you know Saturn has a storm on its top? We noticed that the storm is 6-sided, and that is called a hexagon.
After we finished in the Science on a Sphere room, we walked around the Discovery Center gallery. We noticed a lot of space suits, examples of food that astronauts eat, and some scale models of rockets, rovers, and other spacecraft.
After our tour, we spent time in a classroom at the Discovery Center learning about scale and planets. We got to use some modeling clay – 3 pounds! – to create scale models of the planets in our solar system. When we finished, we noticed how huge Jupiter and Saturn are. We added Pluto, even though it got kicked out of the “planet club.” When we finished with our scale model of the solar system, Pluto was a tiny little crumb!
Here are some things we thought about our learning on this trip:
JF: I learned that Jupiter has a big red spot. It’s a storm.
WG: Saturn has a storm that’s shaped like an eye. I liked that we were making a model of the solar system, because it helped me learn what the sizes of the planets are actually like.
CRC: I liked seeing the planets (on the sphere), because I’ve never seen the planets before.
EO: I liked Neptune (on the sphere), because it’s all blue. I like blue!
NK: I learned that Saturn has a storm, because I didn’t know that.
Some of us wrote blog posts and drew illustrations of what we saw at the Discovery Center:
For Block 3, we learned a lot about how we express ourselves through STORY.
When we first began our inquiry unit, we talked about the different ways people can tell stories. Our class came up with the following:
people can write books
clothes – what we wear can tell a story about who we are
We looked at several works from many artists. We listened to a lot of stories. We listened to many different types of music. We watched the Nutcracker Ballet. We even made our own stories through music, dance, and drawings.
After a while, we explored our inquiry statement: Cultures express themselves through story.
We thought about how we could learn about different cultures through their art, music, dance, etc.
Mrs. Baldwin showed us some art work by a man named John Nieto. We loved all the bright colors in his paintings and noticed that much of his work was of animals. After reading about the artist, we learned that John Nieto was born in Denver (!) and raised in New Mexico. His Native American and Hispanic heritage inspires his work. As we studied his paintings, we thought about the stories they told. We created some of our own Nieto-inspired art work.
Inspired by John Nieto
We started asking a lot of questions about the history of Native Americans and wanted to learn more. We asked questions about the importance of animals – many of the works of art we saw from different Native American artists included animals. A lot of the stories we read also included animals.
At the Denver Art Museum
We know that asking questions and investigating those questions leads us to even more questions! Sometimes, we take learning trips to help us investigate more. We toured the Denver Art Museum to visit the American Indian Art Collection. We loved looking at the decorations on clothing and drawings on tipis, and our tour guide, Ruth, helped explain the stories in all the art work.
While we were at the museum, we learned that some of the exhibit came from Plains Indian tribes. We started to look at videos of ceremonial dances from Plains and Southwest tribes. Then we found photos and videos of longhouses and learned a little about the Iroquois tribes.
As we continued learning more and more, we stopped to think about the differences in these cultures. Also, we knew that we don’t see people living in tipis and longhouses now. What we had been learning was the historical culture of these tribes.
One of the things we learned was that the Native peoples lived in North America long before the Europeans came to this land. We were very sad when we learned how their land was taken from them, and we tried to understand what it would be like if strangers came and just took our homes away. It’s difficult to understand something that has never happened to us, and we wanted to be able to meet someone who could share more about Native American culture.
We were very fortunate to have a visit from Rose Red Elk, also known as Red Feather Woman. During her visit, she shared stories with us, talked to us about her regalia, taught us a song that she wrote, and helped us learn a round dance. Rose Red Elk answered a lot of questions, and we loved having her visit. She helped us to understand a lot about how STORY plays a part in her life. Rose Red Elk shares her stories to honor her culture and heritage.
With Red Feather Woman
Some of the stories we read or heard through storytelling were called legends. As we thought through these stories, we noticed that most of them either taught lessons or explained how something began. We loved the story that Red Feather Woman told us about Wind Eagle! We also heard a story called “The Little Boy And Girl In The Clouds.” It was a great story, and the hero is an inchworm. We noticed that it had a similar lesson to some other stories we know: “The Lion and the Mouse” and “David and Goliath.”
We love music, so Mrs. Baldwin brought out some instruments and taught us a song called “Ho Ho Watanay.” We practiced keeping a steady beat with the drums, and used rattles to emphasize the rhythm of “wa-ta-nay.” After we finished learning and performing the song, Mrs. B asked us if it sounded like a song that would be sung at a war ceremony. We didn’t think so! BC said it sounded like a song that helps you go to sleep and then remembered that those songs are called “lullabies.” That’s exactly what the song is! It’s an Iroquois lullaby.
This is a video of us practicing the song:
This was a really great block of learning for us! We made so many connections to things we already know and have experienced. We also really loved learning about Native cultures, and we are grateful to those who helped teach us this block!
*Note from Mrs. Baldwin: I do not edit the students’ blogs for content or conventions. This helps us see students’ writing progress through the rest of the school year. Any notes from me will be included in [brackets].
We’ve been working on winter stories for quite a few weeks. We started reading a book called Winter: The Coldest Season of All! from Cantata Learning. We noticed the art work in the illustrations, and how winter scenes use a lot of white and different shades of blue, grey, purple, and even some black.
After we read the story, we created a word bank of winter words:
We have been talking a lot about how we measure – length, distance, weight, and much more. Two days ago, we we learning about how we measure temperature. We knew that we could use thermometers to see what how cold or how hot it is. Some of us knew that you can measure temperature in Fahrenheit. WG knew that most other countries (outside the US) use Celsius to measure temperature.
We have learned about the Earth’s orbit around the sun, and we also know that the northern hemisphere is tilted away from the sun. It’s almost winter for people in the northern hemisphere, but almost summer for the people in the southern hemisphere. We wondered what the temperatures were and decided to ask people through Twitter to complete a survey for us.
After two days, we received over 275 responses! We know that means we have a LOT of information to look through. In the meantime, we wanted to share a map of the 202 unique locations from responses. We were VERY excited to see all the different places on the map, especially from other continents!
In the next two weeks, we’ll be looking at this information to see if we can discover some patterns, and we’ll be making some graphs to help us understand the information better. After looking at the temperature data, we definitely noticed that it was a pretty warm day for most people in the United States. That was a surprise for us.
Stay tuned for more information, and we hope you enjoy our map!
On Tuesday, November 3, we took a trip to two different places in Colorado to learn about dinosaurs. Our first stop was the Best Western Denver Southwest hotel. That might seem like a very strange place to learn about dinosaurs, but this is no ordinary hotel! Greg and Meredith Tally own this amazing hotel, and they have just completed a $5 million renovation to share their very unique collection with visitors. Their exhibits include interior and exterior murals, dinosaur fossils and casts, sandbox digs, and other curiosities. Our tour guide, Chenoa, shared so much information with us. We even got to touch some of the fossils! We are so grateful to the Tallys for welcoming Anastasis again to tour their hotel and learn more about fossils, dinosaurs, and ancient Colorado!
If you’re interested in learning more about the Tallys and the hotel, you can follow them on Twitter – @BestWestDenver.
The second leg of our trip was a visit to the Morrison Natural History Museum in Morrison, Colorado. We learned about the number of fossils found near Morrison, and we were able to see actual baby Stegosaurus footprints! We even had a chance to work with one of the paleontologists on a large stone with a fossil inside! We learned so much about different dinosaurs, and we can’t thank the staff of the museum enough for all their expertise and willingness to help us learn.
In Block 1, we asked ourselves, “How do questions help us learn?”
In our reflection time, we thought about this a lot and made some interesting conclusions.
helps us learn new things
helps us learn to ask more questions
can start conversations
helps us know ourselves and others
helps us to stay curious
We talked a lot about questions and answers during this block. We wondered about questions that don’t have a right or wrong answer and how we learn to deal with those. We decided that, most of the time, those types of questions lead to a LOT more questions. At first, it was hard for us, because we want all questions to have a right answer. It’s also hard for us when Mrs. Baldwin says, “I don’t know,” because we thought teachers were supposed to have all the answers. (That made Mrs. Baldwin laugh.) In the end, though, we learned that sometimes the answers we think we know as fact can be wrong. If we always remember to ask more questions, we learn that facts can change sometimes.
Very early in the block, we asked questions about WHO WE ARE and how do people get to know us? We played a game where we got to ask each other questions and then had to share with the whole class what we learned about our partner. We also painted pictures of the emotions that live inside our heads. At first, we could only think about a few emotions. But we asked questions: “What other emotions do we have?” When we thought about it, we came up with jealousy, embarrassment, satisfied, and a few others. This really helped us think about how we’re feeling each day, and how we can express ourselves better when we have those feelings.
We also practiced asking questions by having a weekly #whatisit photo. Mrs. Baldwin said we could write/ask as many questions as we wanted, but we could not ask what was in the photo. NS said that is so hard, because our brains just want to know what it is! We got really good at asking questions, especially when we stopped to think about what we could NOT see in the photo. Sometimes, we asked what the item was made of or how the photographer took the photo. We got really good at asking better questions!
During this block, we explored how we know if facts are true or not. One day, we asked a lot of questions about fall: how do the leaves change colors? Why do leaves fall off the trees? Why do some leaves turn red, some orange, and some yellow? Mrs. Baldwin showed us three different videos, and we were able to answer some of those questions. But then Mrs. Baldwin asked us, “How do you know that the information we saw/heard in the videos is TRUE?” At first, we were confused. We thought that Mrs. Baldwin would only show us information that was true. She asked us if we have to trust the person who is giving us the information, and we said yes. After a little more discussion, we were also able to decide that the information was true because we heard the same facts in each video. Today, we reminded ourselves that we have to find a trusted source for information, as well as check with other sources to see if they all agree.
When we were asking questions about the Mars Rover and evidence that water had been on Mars, we took our questions to our Twitter account, @TeamBaldwin to share with others. We were able to get some great answers from Bobak Ferdowsi (@tweetsoutloud) about the Mars Rover. We learned to ask questions of experts, so that we could learn even more than we could discover on our own.
Some thoughts from our class —
BC: When you’re curious and you watch a video or read something, then you get even more curious!
RS: “I wonder… ” is a good way to learn something new.
As a class, we decided that questions lead us to discover new things we like. Also, if we don’t ask questions, we don’t learn new things as well. It’s like building with LEGO. If our teacher does all the building for us, we didn’t really learn how to do it ourselves. If we don’t ask our own questions about what we want to learn, then we’re just doing what our teacher tells us to do.
When we first arrived, we couldn’t believe our eyes. Driving up to the parking lot, we saw bears, tigers, and wolves in fences right next to the driveway! Our orientation began with one of the many volunteers sharing some history and facts about the sanctuary. After that, we were able to start our self-guided tour.
Did you know that the illegal wildlife trade is a multi-million dollar business? Wild animals are sold to circuses, unlicensed zoos, private pet owners, and even as displays to bring in customers. One example – some of the tigers at the Wild Animal Sanctuary were rescued from cages at a truck stop. The owners of the truck stop thought that people would visit just to see the tigers. The tigers lived in small cages!
In many zoos around the world, especially unlicensed zoos, wild animals are on display in cages that are too small for them. They don’t get enough food or even the proper type of nutrition. Some of them suffer joint damage because they never get to leave their tiny cages. Sometimes, the enclosures are not properly maintained, and the animals escape into the public! Have you ever heard of the Muskingum County Animal Farm in Zanesville, Ohio? 48 animals had to be killed by local authorities because of this type of wildlife ownership.
We were surprised to learn how many people buy wild animals as pets. In many cases, they buy the “pets” to show off to their friends or because they’re really cute when they’re little. These people do not know how to properly care for a wild animal. These animals can be very dangerous to the public when an owner doesn’t know how to take care of it.
The Wild Animal Sanctuary rescues these wild animals. They are brought to a place where they can live in a more natural environment, free to roam, and they never have to worry about eating again.
At the Wild Animal Sanctuary, visitors don’t get to walk along the grounds at eye-level of the animals. It makes the animals nervous, and some of them would even become anxious or aggressive. Even though there are two sets of fences, the animals’ well-being is too important. The people who built the sanctuary created an elevated walkway and observation decks that allow you to move over several viewing areas – all outside – to view the animals in their “habitats.” This ensures that the animals can move around freely in their areas, instead of being trapped into a display area for viewers. They call it “Mile Into The Wild Walkway.”
We decided we would walk all the way to the end of the walkway right away. This led us to the Bolivian Lion Pavilion. We spent a lot of time observing the lions and learning about how they were brought to the sanctuary. Lions live in prides, and family groups are kept together in the sanctuary. There are over 400 acres just for lions!
On our way back from the lion pavilion, we also saw tigers, many different types of bears, arctic and timber wolves, porcupines, bobcats, and even more lions– all in their own living areas. We had time to just stand and observe these animals as they began moving around for the day. Some of them were starting to eat. We especially enjoyed watching some of the tigers and bears eat! It looked like “meatsicles,” different pieces of meat and other food all frozen together.
As we continued observing from the walkway, different volunteers would come to tell us the stories of the different animals at the sanctuary. Every animal has a name! We learned that every “enclosure” is a different size, depending upon the need of the animals in it. We wondered how the animals stayed safe during rainstorms or snow. One of the volunteers pointed out to us that each enclosure has several “den” areas: cement tunnels that are an opening and lead back about 50 feet into the ground. The temperature inside stays around 60-64 degrees Fahrenheit all year. He said that the animals are pretty acclimated to the weather in Keenesburg, but they sometimes head inside when the weather becomes severe.
We really enjoyed learning about all the beautiful animals that have been rescued by the Wild Animal Sanctuary, and we wanted to help, too. Each student in our class wrote a blog post about our experience, and we are currently working on a Public Service Announcement to help raise awareness about the illegal animal trade! (We’ll update our blog here when we post it!)
We hope that you will choose to get involved, too! Ways to help
Here are a few photos Mrs. Baldwin took during our trip. Because the enclosures are so huge, it’s difficult to get a close-up photo with an iPhone.
Notice: there’s a lioness named Tabitha who is the leader of her pride. This is very unusual, as most prides are a male lion leader with several females and younger male lions around him. You can see Tabitha sitting with the males in one of our photos.