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Explore – Develop – Apply

October 26, 2021 | Ms. Jonker

In three separate, 4/5 combined cohorts, students are learning about the scientific method and properties of materials. In order to learn the many concepts associated with those things, we are using this learning cycle process: Exploration, Concept Development, Application.

We’re doing this on micro and macro levels. On a macro level, we are having the students explore and define concepts (e.g. solubility) in a very teacher-guided way for three weeks before allowing them to create their own experiments about those concepts. We are currently in week 3 of these teacher-guided classes. Starting next week, students will apply their learning in a project that they have a lot of choice about.

We are doing the learning cycle (explore, develop concepts, apply) on a micro level too, because students currently do it on a weekly basis. Below I’ve described how we’ve going through this process each of the past 3 weeks. Interspersed are some quotes from students about STEAM.

Week 1:

In our first experiment, students explored how M&Ms interacted with water. Later that week they developed concepts by researching vocabulary like “solution” and “variable.” In their follow-up experiment, they applied their learning and did an experiment seeking to answer this question: “Do some M&Ms dissolve faster than others?”

“Something interesting was that if the m&m dissolves just enough it looks like a colorless skittle.”

“Blue m&m’s spread slower [while dissolving in water] than orange m&m’s.”

“I enjoyed testing out and experimenting different variables.”

Spoiler alert: The mystery liquid was water. A few of us thought it was saltwater at first and had to re-test some things!

“I observe that [the liquids] look the same but they act differently.”

“I learned that every thing has its own properties”

“In STEAM, I like that you get to learn and be with other people [besides our own class & teachers].”

Ms Buckley taught us a lesson last week about how to draw our observations well! It was a great lesson and students were very engaged. They enjoyed looking at a water droplet up close on the screen.

Week 3:

In this third week, students have been observing properties of materials. The have been sorting materials according to properties/rules like “Is it buoyant?” and “Does it dissolve in water?” They will research these properties more this week and then conduct a follow up engineering project that requires them to think about physical properties: “What makes a successful grocery bag?”

“The hardest part of STEAM has been writing down observations.”

Weeks 4-6:

Starting next week, students will begin their own experiments. This will be a chance for them to apply their new understanding of scientific method and properties of materials in a new context. Students will write their own scientific questions to experiment about. We can’t wait to see the questions and experiments they come up with!

Kat Jonker

Teacher, Grades 4

Kat Jonker is energized by how passionately Mustard Seed School nurtures each student to blossom into the person God has made them to be. She’s honored to teach and learn beside the fourth and fifth grade students here.

Ms. Jonker’s always been surrounded and inspired by dedicated teachers--including her mother! When she began teaching private violin lessons as a high school student, Ms. Jonker began to think about teaching as a career. Soon she realized her passion for teaching and learning as an Elementary Education with an integrated science major at Calvin College. There she flourished as an assistant teacher at Calvin’s middle school chemistry camp. She also led elementary nature programs at Calvin’s ecosystem preserve.

Music remains one of Ms. Jonkers passions and you’ll sometimes get to hear her playing in worship. She’s an avid violin player and spent a disproportionately large amount of her college life in string quartet rehearsals. She listens to music constantly and likes to keep it eclectic, so if you have any music recommendations, send them her way.

Grand Rapids, Michigan, is Ms. Jonker’s home town. Through God-gifted communities of faith there, she found her roots in grace and a life of service.

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