Making Science Purposeful and Important
By Kelly Smith, Sixth Grade Science Teacher
Our class project was a cumulative effort from all of the sixth grade students for the benefit of our school’s farmyard. Farmyard teacher Mr. Jeff Clashman presented the start of our project in August of 2020. He casually mentioned, “Ask your students for ideas to keep farmyard animals cool during days of excessive heat.”
This challenge happened to fit naturally within the sixth grade learning standards and it grew from there. What a perfect opportunity to connect sixth grade science content with a relevant and purposeful problem facing our school’s farmyard. As a teacher for more than twenty years, I’ve learned that if something is purposeful and important, student motivation is increased.
Throughout this experience I have observed and recognized quite the learning journey of students. Like them, I am humbled as there is so much more to learn not only about our farmyard creatures, but the others who have been visiting, too. Neither the students or I expected that the result of our class project would involve the ducks and not the chickens. We also didn’t expect predators to steal any of them. One project led to another and another. It just keeps on going.
Along the way we have learned things large and small: “Goat proof everything." Okay, back to the drawing board. Set up any and all tests nowhere near any of the goats! But we were surprised most by the preferred shelter chosen by the farmyard birds.
Even though we haven’t solved all of the current problems facing our school’s farmyard, my students learned and they continue to learn! To me, this is what matters most.
Sixth Grade Projects
Farewell Feathered Friends: Southern Arizona Drought and Temperature Extremes - Class project by Ms. Smith’s 6th grade science class
SARSEF Grand Award: 1st Place
Classroom Project: Success in Engineering
Critical Thinking Excellence in Science and Engineering
Excellence in Scientific Research
Innovative Thought in Engineering or Science
Slow Gravity - project by Maximus Domin ‘27
SARSEF Grand Award: 2nd Place
Do geometric shapes with similar volume of a parachute ‘s canopy affect the speed of descent from deployment to landing?
Changing the shape of a parachute canopy affects the time from deployment to landing. When I was testing a more basic parachute project during science class, I noticed that Da Vinci’s square shape vs my circular shape design might float differently and thereby have differing times because of their shape. I wanted to know more about this, so I decided to conduct a more formal experiment.