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posted: Fri, Nov 17th, 2017

Researching life in the Plymouth Colony

Brielle Magrini researches the Pilgrims and the First Thanksgiving

Fourth-graders in Monica Beaumont’s class and Lauri Stokly class recently worked independently and learned about the struggles of the Pilgrims in the New World and the first Thanksgiving. The research was part of a problem-based learning assignment in which students worked in small groups to create presentations that defended the importance of Thanksgiving as a national holiday.

Using laptop computers, the students individually examined resources on the Scholastic website that described the Mayflower’s voyage, the challenges of the first year in the Plymouth Colony, and the Pilgrim’s celebration with their Native American friends of a successful harvest.

The students also explored the daily life of the Pilgrims. They learned about typical Pilgrim clothing, schooling, chores, and games. 

Worksheets guided the kids through the research process and prompted them to think critically about various pieces of information they had learned. For example, after learning details about the Pilgrim’s trip across the Atlantic, they were prompted to write about the reasons why they would or would not have wanted to be a passenger on the Mayflower during that time.

Each group used the knowledge it had gained to complete a compelling poster or PowerPoint presentation that defended the importance of continuing Thanksgiving as a national holiday.

This project-based learning assignment was part of Independence Day, a district-wide event in which students celebrated being independent learners by engaging in projects that allowed them to work with minimal direction from their teachers. It was a day that focused the kids on the control they have of
their own learning and
developed critical thinking skills, creativity, leadership, and the interpersonal
skills needed to work well with others.

Hands-on science

The CMS cafeteria was recently turned into a science lab as two classes of fifth-graders performed experiments to learn about mass, volume, and displacement theory.

After a brief introduction, small groups of students in Kristen Hare’s class and Britt Henricksen and Dani Marangon’s class used pan balances to measure the mass of cubes, water, marbles, and modeling clay. Then, they explored the different ways that the volumes of these objects could be ascertained. 

For the cubes, it was simply a matter of math: length x width x height. To determine the volume of the water, each group poured its container of water into a graduated cylinder and recorded the volume in milliliters. Then the marbles were added and another measurement taken. The difference was the volume of the marbles.

The students were then tasked with finding the best way to measure the volume of a hunk of clay using the information they had learned about the other objects. All of the results as well as comparisons and analyses were recorded on worksheets.

“The students enjoy activities that engage them, let them work together, and get them out of their seats,” said Mrs. Marangon, “They thought the experiments were fun, but more importantly, they were engaged in scientific thinking.”

The lesson was part of a new elementary science curriculum introduced this year that engages students with hands-on activities. After each experiment, students spend time reading more deeply about the science behind it. By completing the activity before the detailed instruction, students have a frame of reference that allows them to better understand the scientific principles at work when they explore them in detail.

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Chester M. Stephens Elementary School
99 Sunset Drive Budd Lake, NJ 07828
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Phone: 973.691.4002 Fax: 973.691.4030

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