Block 2 – Where We Are In Place and time

We finished our learning journey in Block 2 right before Thanksgiving. Even though we say “finish,” we’re never really actually finished with discovering new things about learning topics. Sometimes, we find a natural ending point and then move on. That’s what we did with this block.

One of Mrs. Baldwin’s favorite things to do with us is ask us what we learned during each block. We think about the new things we learned, how we connected those things to what we already know, and even what we learned about LEARNING!

In Block 2, we focused on the statement, “The way people live and work change over time.” When we first thought about that sentence, we immediately began discussing technology and all the ways it has made life different. We have grown up with different technologies that Mrs. Baldwin didn’t have when she was a kid, like cell phones, the internet, and even cars with automatic locks and windows! That conversation helped us think about different types of transportation and how they have changed over time.

First, we had to define “transportation.” We know that the word includes cars and trains, but we learned that it is really about some way of moving people, animals, or “goods” from one place to another. We created a list of different types of transportation that we already know, and then we did some research about transportation from the past. We spent a lot of time learning about older transportation that people made with their own hands – canoes and wagons were some of the first kinds!

As we moved forward, we asked why transportation changed. We know that inventions made transportation easier to go farther and farther, and as more people lived in certain areas, there were needs for transportation vehicles that could move more goods and more people. Some of us know that there are trains in Denver called the “Light Rail,” and they were built to help move people around. Buses do that, too. If more people are on trains or buses, then there are fewer cars on the roads. That means less pollution, too.

When we learned about older kinds of transportation, we learned about water power, steam power, gas power, and electric power. We visited the Forney Museum of Transportation (our blog post about that visit here).

We wondered if transportation looks different in different areas? For instance, would a person who lives in a desert need different transportation than someone who lives on snow and ice? Or how about someone who lives in an area that is completely surrounded by water? We decided to do a little research, but then got into teams and built our own ideas. Some were vehicles that could skim the surface of sand. Others were snow vehicles with a “digger” on the front to move quickly through snow. The water vehicles were powered only by water, so that they wouldn’t pollute the air or the water. (photos in the Storify link below)

After we built those vehicles, we also thought about mass transportation for those same areas. You can’t just make the mass transportation vehicles – you also have to create stations for the people to FIND the mass transportation! We knew that because some of us have been to stations for the Denver Light Rail. This created some new questions for us. How could we build a station that floats on water but is always in the same place? That water team thought about using anchors and buoys to build their station. The snow station team designed a base that was like a giant snowshoe. They also thought that maybe they should include heaters, doors, and windows, because they don’t want people who are waiting to be too cold! That helped the desert team think that they should have air conditioning in their station AND inside their mass transportation vehicle.

We had so many questions during this block! As we studied all the different types of powering vehicles, we kept hearing “internal combustion engines.” We wondered what that meant. We found a lot of videos that helped explain the 4 stage process of an internal combustion engine: Intake, Combustion, Power, Exhaust. It was so cool to see how that makes an engine go!

During the block, we tweeted off and on about what we were learning. You can read about it in our Storify about “Transportation:”

As we thought back about our learning, we noticed we had to do a lot of exploration and research. Some of us read books about transportation, and we all watched a lot of videos that helped explain these ideas in ways that we could understand. We also noticed that we learned better when we were able to build our ideas. We used LEGO and Duplo blocks a LOT in this block!

We wonder what YOU think about transportation? Do you like to build to learn? What other types of learning are best for you?

Forney Museum of Transportation Tour

We are currently in Block 2 at school: WHERE WE ARE IN PLACE AND TIME. Our statement right now is “The way people live and work has changed over time,” and we are focusing on how transportation has changed and impacted the way people live, eat, and travel.

On Thursday, November 3, we were very fortunate to visit the Forney Museum of Transportation here in Denver. Our tour guide was Damion Cope, and he explained all of the very interesting types of transportation that are housed at the museum.

As soon as we walked through the doors into the museum, a lot of us were very excited! We kept saying, “Best learning trip ever!”

We learned about so many different types of transportation. Some of our favorites were learning about how transportation has changed over time. We saw examples of some of the very first motor cars – some were called “motor carriages.” They didn’t even have steering wheels! They just had levers to pull or push that would move the front wheels. Some people think that electric cars are new to the 21st century, but we saw an electric car that was built in 1916. That was 100 years ago! It was called the Detroit Electric Opera Coupe. It had 4 big batteries, and it could go forwards or backwards – the seats turned around on the inside.

We also some real trains – INSIDE the museum! One of our favorites was the Big Boy! It’s a huge, black train. We also got to walk inside part of another train and see some of the different types of cars on passenger trains. Did you know that some people actually lived on trains? They traveled all across the country and wanted to have rooms on the train for living space.

One of our favorite parts about the train section was “Aunt Peachey.” It was a train derrick that has a huge crane to help lift train cars, usually after a train went off the tracks.

We also saw a lot of different experimental types of transportation. We really liked the plane that was turned into a boat. There were other airplanes, motorcycles, and bicycles – even an electric bicycle! We saw covered wagons and trolleys – we couldn’t believe how many different types of transportation were in ONE museum!

Mr. Damion helped us sit inside a helicopter – for most of us, this was the highlight of our trip. Almost every single one of us said we wanted our families to bring us back to the Forney Museum to visit again! Did you know that the Forney Museum has an interactive timeline on their website? It helped us to understand when certain inventions were made.

It was fun learning about how transportation has changed over time, and it helped us to think about how we could invent new types of transportation for the future!

Highlights from the class:

HT: I liked the Big Boy the best!

CRC: I liked seeing the covered wagon. They had horses and people with the wagons. The horse looked so cool.

JF: My favorite was Aunt Peachy. If the trains go off the track, it can lift them up. There was a face with eyes painted on the crane.

KC: I liked the big train. It was called a steam engine.

EO: I liked Amelia Earhart’s car. It was yellow, and I drew a picture of it.

NK: It was fun to go inside the helicopter!

CM: I liked sitting in the helicopter, too!

SF: The train was my favorite. Damion showed us everything, and we loved all the stuff.


We journaled a lot about our trip, and then we decided to draw some photos of the vehicles we saw. You can see our drawings and photos of our trip in the photo gallery.

Our Trip to the Pumpkin Patch

On Friday, October 7, we went to the Denver Botanic Gardens- Chatfield Farms Pumpkin Patch!

Earlier that week, we started thinking about what we already knew about pumpkins:

  • Most of them are orange, but some can be white or bluish-green.
  • Pumpkins can grow in many different sizes!
  • Pumpkins grow on the ground, but we weren’t sure how.
  • We know that pumpkins have a LOT of seeds inside their “guts.”

We still had some questions – “How do they grow on the ground?” “After you plant a seed, what happens?” So, we watched some videos and did a little research. We discovered that there are 6 stages to a pumpkin:

  1. Seed
  2. Sprout
  3. Vine
  4. Flower
  5. Green pumpkin
  6. Orange pumpkin (or “adult” pumpkin)

We like to draw what we learn, so we drew each stage to help us figure this out. Here are some of our drawings:


We also found a really fun song by Brian Vogan called “That’s How A Pumpkin Grows.” We can’t stop singing this song! (You can follow Brian Vogan on Twitter !)

Finally, it was time to go to the Pumpkin Patch! We got to pick our own pumpkins… and since we learned they grow on a vine, we knew we had to use some force to actually pick our pumpkins. Mrs. B showed us how to twist the pumpkin on the vine and then step on the vine to separate the pumpkin. Some of our pumpkins ended up with long stems, and some were short.

We saw a lot of small pumpkins, medium-sized pumpkins, and some really, REALLY big pumpkins! Some were smooth, some were round, some were oddly shaped, and some even had some cool bumps on them. It was fun seeing all the different types of pumpkins.

Later, we read a book called How Big Could Your Pumpkin Grow by Wendell Minor. This book helped us to learn different words for “really, really big:” giant, enormous, gigantic, immense, and colossal. These are fun words to say, and now we don’t have to use “very” or “really” when we want to describe something “humongous!” (This was a fun word that CM shared with us when we read this book. We like it, too!)

After we read this book, JF asked what the biggest pumpkin in the world would be. We all liked that question! We did a little research and found that the 2016 world record for biggest pumpkin in the world is 2,623 pounds. The man who grew that pumpkin is Mathias Willemijns from Belgium. That pumpkin weighs almost as much as Mrs. B’s car!

We learned a lot about pumpkins, and we’re still reading more pumpkin books and singing pumpkin songs. It seems to be the right time of year for that!

Day of Dinosaurs!

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.

You can follow the museum on Twitter – @MorrisonMuseum

ZR wrote:

I lrnd at the hotel that a brd is a Dinisor. We got Dinisor fossils then we left I had a good time.

NS wrote:

We wnt to the Morison muesam. We so a T Rex hed. People found a Stagusoris Futprint.

BC wrote:

We went to the moreosin museum and we soo a T. rex had and lined about the ice age.

We went to the dinosaur hotel and lined about the ageis of the dinosaur.
This is a photo gallery of our visits to the “Dino Hotel” and the Morrison Natural History Museum:






Our Day of Play

On Friday, October 4, our school participated in the Day of Play, inspired by the Caine’s Arcade and the Cardboard Challenge. This was our second year to participate, and the kids absolutely love it.

Earlier in the week, we had decided that our focus could be a Rube Goldberg Machine theme with cardboard as the main building focus. As I talked with my kids about Rube Goldberg, they grew more and more excited to create their own. We watched a LOT of videos about Rube Goldberg Machines (RGM), including these:


From one video in particular – Andrew’s Rube Goldberg Simple Machine – my kids heard some simple machines vocabulary. Some of the students had been exposed to this language before, and some had not. They started asking some really good questions about levers and inclined planes. I asked them if they thought it might be helpful to learn about simple machines before we started planning our own RGM. They agreed and starting researching different types. They broke into small groups, each taking a different component, and even built prototypes to share with the class.

After we shared our discoveries, I asked the kids to start designing a plan for our RGM. As is typical for my class right now, there were a lot of leaders, and not enough “listeners.” When it came time to actually have a plan, there were a lot of great ideas, but no plan. I agreed to act as facilitator, since we were limited by time- being ready for Friday’s Day of Play.

On Friday morning, we jumped into a learning lab room and used a whiteboard to sketch out our major plan. We had decided that 5 components in our machine would be a good limit, since we only had a few hours to build and test the machine. Additionally, we knew that we would connect ours to Miss Nancy’s class machine, and that her class had already planned for a ball to roll down an inclined plane to then initiate OUR machine.

The kids chose to stick mostly to inclined planes and levers for our RGM. This is the design we started with:


After spending most of the day building, we were able to get a few good tests in before we had to share with the whole school. A couple of components failed, but the connection to the other class’s machine did function properly, and the end of our machine worked exactly as we had planned! (The last part was a chain reaction of books – levers – falling onto a Hoops & Yoyo button that made a lot of noise.)

Building our Rube Goldberg Machine

Building our Rube Goldberg Machine


Some of my students were upset.

“It didn’t work!” “We failed!”

I asked them if they thought they could fix the components that failed if we would have had more time. They all agreed that they could easily fix those pieces.

“So, then did we really fail, or did we just run out of time?”

What a lesson that was in that short conversation! On Monday, they’ll write some reflections about what they learned last Friday, their favorite part of the activity, and how they feel they could improve the next time. We’ll probably write a class song about the machine we built. My kids think differently about their learning when they put it into verse, especially with a kickin’ beat in the background.

I was so proud of these kids for their hard work, perseverance, and attention to details! This was a very difficult task, and they rocked their Rube Goldberg Machine!


UPDATED: here is the video of our school’s Day of Play: