Science: Mapping Earth’s Features

Standards Met: NGSS 4-ESS2-2; CCSS.Math.Content.4.MD.A.2

What You Need: Continental maps showing geographic features, rulers

What to Do: Divide your class into seven groups, one for each continent. Before passing out maps, have students brainstorm what geographic features they might find—deserts, volcanoes, mountain ranges, rivers, and so on. Next, hand out maps showing different parts of the continents. Select maps that have easily identifiable terrain types on them, such as the area of northern Africa that shows a large desert (the Sahara) or a map of mountainous Switzerland for Europe. Students will be responsible for identifying each feature on their part of the map. Then, have them check to see which ones they expected to see that were actually depicted. If any of those listed weren’t found, have students explain why they couldn’t find them on their map and in what part of the world they might find them. To add a math angle, challenge students to make a path for an explorer to follow from one feature to another, using larger area maps, if necessary. Have them use the map scale to calculate how many miles there are between each feature.


Technology: Glowing Circuits

Standard Met: NGSS 4-PS3-2

What You Need: LED lights, wire or other conductive materials, copper tape, lithium button batteries, paper lunch bags (optional: folding instructions for an origami fish, non-metallic origami paper)

What to Do: Fifth-grade art teacher Joanna Elliott, of Edmunds Elementary in Burlington, Vermont, electrified her classroom by teaching her students how to make a simple circuit, or closed loop, that electricity can flow through.

To begin, Elliott, who blogs at Art with Mrs. Elliott, demonstrated how to make a simple LED circuit. Using two pieces of wire, she connected each leg of an LED light to opposite sides of a lithium battery (positive to positive and negative to negative) to light up the LED. She explained that conductive materials—like copper tape, wire, or anything made of metal—allow electrons to flow and complete a circuit.

She then distributed materials so students could build their own circuits to light up paper bags. First, she had them wrap the wire around each leg of their LED and attach it to the battery. They used copper tape to secure each leg to the bag and the battery to one side of the bag’s bottom flap. When the flap was folded over and pressure applied, the circuit was completed and the LED lit up. Elliott then recreated the circuit with other conductive materials—a metal key and a paper clip, for example. “If you have never used LEDs before, it’s okay. Just dive in and learn with the kids!” she says.

Extension: For a more artful way to house each student’s circuit, have them make simple origami fish with eyes that light up! First, Elliott showed her class how to fold a traditional origami fish. Once completed, they poked small holes where the fish’s eyes would go and threaded the wires connected to the legs of the LED through the holes. Strips of copper tape were used to secure the wires, and the battery was attached to the fish’s tail. When the tail was folded over, the battery connected with the copper tape and the LED lit up!


Math: Batches of Fractions

Standards Met: CCSS.Math.Content.5.NF.B.4; 5.NF.B.5

What You Need: Various trail mix recipes, measuring cups

What to Do: Divide your class into groups and assign each a different trail mix recipe. Most recipes call for fractions of a cup for various ingredients. Challenge students to alter their recipes to make double or triple batches, which will involve multiplying fractions by whole numbers. Explain that for a triple batch, for example, each ingredient measurement needs to be multiplied by 3. A half cup of pretzels would become 1½ cups, or 3 x ½. Note that for a double batch, they’ll need twice as many ingredients, and so will multiply all ingredients by 2.

After they’ve altered their recipes, give each group a different measuring cup. Ask them how they could use their measuring cup to get the right amount of ingredients even if the cup doesn’t show the correct denominator. (Example: A group that needs to measure ¼ but is assigned a ½ measuring cup could show that ½ of ½ is ¼, so they will fill the cup just halfway to get the right amount.) You could also challenge your students to halve or even third a recipe, which will involve ratios and multiplying fractions.



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Photos: Courtesy of Joanna Elliott