Block 4 – How The World Works

We started with a statement:

Energy can be converted from one form to another allow us to use it in different ways.

We knew we had a LOT of questions right away, so Mrs. Baldwin started writing them all down. But first, we wanted to ask the most important question: WHAT IS ENERGY? We started with what we thought energy might be:

  • human energy
  • electricity
  • fuel
  • oil
  • fire
  • solar (sun)
  • hydro (water)
  • wind
  • food

From some early research, we heard:

  • sound is energy
  • heat is energy
  • there is chemical energy
  • gravity

We wanted to do some experiments to help us understand potential and kinetic energy.

Mrs. Baldwin gave us some rubber bands and asked us to stretch them and then freeze. She asked us what would happen if we let go of the stretched rubber bands. We said they would fly across the room! We learned that the rubber band has potential energy when it is stretched, and then kinetic energy when it flies across the room. Kinetic is when something moves.

We did a lot of experiments with potential and kinetic energy. You can read more here:


We performed solar energy experiments and learned that the sun is heat and light energy.


We did so many different energy experiments! Light waves, sound waves, reflected light, refracted light, heat, – and we learned so much about how energy travels and is converted.



We Went to Space!

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:

Bodie’s Blog of Wonder

Nathan’s Blog of Wonder

Ryan’s Blog of Wonder

Zach’s Blog of Wonder


Also, we tweeted often about what we were learning. One day, a NASA engineer helped us learn, too! You can read this Storify of all our space tweets –

Curious About Space


We are very excited to present how we “went to space” at the ISTE conference this June. We will be sharing our poster session on Tuesday, June 28. If you’re attending ISTE, we hope you’ll come learn what we did!



Our Trip to the Discovery Center

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!IMG_8113

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.IMG_8120

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!

IMG_8132 IMG_8133 IMG_8137

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:

Zach’s Blog of Wonder

Bodie’s Blog of Wonder

Nathan’s Blog of Wonder

Ryan’s Blog of Wonder


We are very grateful to the people at the Space Foundation Discovery Center. Thank you so much for taking the time to help us learn more about space!

Patterns of Learning

When we started our Inquiry Block 4, we began exploring patterns. We saw patterns in weather, climate, and temperatures; patterns in art, music, math, nature… we found patterns everywhere!

One day, we just started listing every pattern we could think of. Mrs. Baldwin asked us to choose a specific topic and explore the patterns. We traveled to the library to find some resources. We searched the web for more resources. We asked questions, found some answers, and then asked even more questions. Some of us were able to connect with experts* to ask questions about our topics.

Over a period of six weeks, we learned a lot. Some of what we learned was very specific to our pattern topics. We also realized we were learning other things, too:



Because we all chose patterns that interested us, our topics were very diverse:

  • Coding/Programming
  • Dubstep
  • Baking ingredients
  • Moon phases/Tides
  • Jet streams
  • Plant cycles/Nutrients
  • Therapy and Science Dogs
  • Plant growth in soil vs hydroponics
  • Electric fields

We held a Pattern Expo where we shared what we learned with our school community (students, teachers, parents). For each visitor to our “stations,” we explained what we had learned, how we learned, and demonstrated our findings. Some of us had experiments and products to share; some had videos and/or photos.

Each of us had a choice in how to share what we learned, so we could use the strengths and talents we have. Our only requirements were to share why we chose our particular patterns, share/cite our resources, and share main highlights of our research along with our demonstration.

One of the things we noticed about sharing at the expo is that we really had to be certain about what we knew to be able to explain it to others!

We hope you’ll visit our individual student blogs to read our reflections in learning about our patterns. You can find links in our sidebar!

We would like to thank our experts for helping us learn more, too!

  • Adam Bellow, CEO/Founder of eduClipper
  • C.T. Thongklin, Chief Meteorologist, RFD-TV
  • Chef Mark Kalix, Sur La Table
  • Pat Blocker, CPDT-KA, Peaceful Paws
  • Luca Formicola, Composer/Musician/Producer
  • Nate Polsfut, Pre-Service Teacher – thanks for listening to each of us share ideas about our projects early in the process!

Here are some photos from our Pattern Expo (click on the thumbnail to see the full photo):



A Temperature Survey

On Monday morning, January 6, we started talking about how we see patterns everywhere: weather, space, behavior, art, nature. Because we knew that most of the US was experiencing really cold weather, we started talking about different patterns in weather. We created a survey about temperatures. The questions were:

  • Where do you live?
  • What time is it?
  • What is the temperature right now?
  • What is your Twitter name (if you have one)?

Mrs. Baldwin shared the survey with her Twitter network and on Facebook. We waited until the next morning to look at the responses.

When we checked the survey on the morning of January 7, we found 171 responses! We were so excited!

This is what we found from the data:

  • 118 responses were below freezing.
  • 53 responses were above freezing.
  • We had responses from 34 different states and 6 different countries.
  • Time of day – 48 morning responses, 85 afternoon responses, 38 nighttime responses
  • The highest reported temperature was 82 degrees Fahrenheit; the lowest was -32 degrees Fahrenheit. (We didn’t include wind chill temps.)
  • The state with the highest number of responses was Missouri. The country with the highest number of responses (not including the U.S.) was Canada.

(all of this is represented in our graphs- see photos below)


This was a difficult learning experience. Mrs. Baldwin did not tell us exactly what she wanted us to do! When we first started looking at the data, we noticed that there were a lot of varying temperatures from a lot of different places across the U.S., and even a few from outside the U.S.! We decided that we should break into groups to look at different parts of the data: geographic locations, “freezing or below” and “above freezing,” and time of day that the temperatures were recorded. Mrs. Baldwin STILL didn’t tell us what we should do, except “look for patterns. What do you notice?”

In our groups, we were supposed to look at the information and decide what we should do with it. Some of us thought to make tally charts for our specific set of information. Some of us struggled, not really sure about what we should do. Some of us were really frustrated.

After a little while, Mrs. Baldwin asked those who were struggling and frustrated some questions that helped us decide how to look at the data. There were 171 responses, and that seemed overwhelming! After a few questions and some suggestions, we were able to figure out what to do.

We all made tally charts to group and categorize the information, and then we made graphs to show our information in a different way.

Things we didn’t realize we’d need to learn to analyze all the data:

  1. Some temperatures were recorded in Fahrenheit and some Celsius. We had to convert some of the responses in order to compare them accurately. Since we measure in Fahrenheit, it seemed like we should convert all to Fahrenheit so we would be able to compare the temperatures to what we know.
  2. When we were looking the times that responses were recorded, we noticed that the “timestamp” was from the Mountain Time Zone, but the response time was different. If respondents were from a different time zone and/or country, we had to learn what that time zone was.
  3. If we didn’t know where a location response was, we needed to look it up to decide if it was in a different state or country.

On Friday, January 10, each group shared the graph they made and explained their part of the data. When we heard from all the groups, we wrote some “learning statements” as a class:

  • The most responses were from the U.S. This is due to the facts that Mrs. Baldwin shared the survey with her learning network (on Twitter and Facebook), and most of her followers are from the U.S. Also, the survey was sent mid-morning from the Mountain Time Zone. Most of the people who were “awake” at that time were in North America.
  • The second highest response group was from Canada. This is due to the facts that the second largest group of followers in Mrs. Baldwin’s network are Canadian, and Canada is also in North America (same time zones as U.S.).
  • 118 of the 171 responses were below freezing. We know that the majority of those who responded live in the northern hemisphere and are currently experiencing winter. Also, our survey date (January 6/7) included one of the coldest days for the midwest and northeast states in the U.S.
  • Of the 53 responses that were above freezing, some were from the southern hemisphere or southern or Pacific states in the U.S.
  • More responses were submitted during the morning and afternoon times than night times. Again, this is due to the time the survey was posted and time zones.
  • Most of the freezing or below temps were recorded during the morning, early afternoon, or later night times. We know that it’s usually colder in the morning than late afternoon for most locations.


We also thought about all the different “areas” of learning we used for this activity: geography, math, science, social studies, critical thinking, communicating.

Overall, while we initially felt this was a really difficult activity, we learned a LOT, and we were surprised at how well we were able to communicate such a large amount of information!


Want to see a map of all the response locations? Look here! 


Our Photo Gallery from this activity: