4-5 students recently embarked on feats of creative engineering. After a thorough study of simple machines, students examined everyday problems in their lives, formulated solutions, and crafted inventions. With testing, troubleshooting, and peer feedback, their projects went through many iterations and were finally celebrated at the 4-5 Invention Convention on April 11.
Thematic studies are designed for interdisciplinary immersion in an age-appropriate, high-interest topic. Students acquire and employ skills in a wide range of disciplines and have many opportunities to extend and enrich their learning through open-ended exercises.
4-5 students were recently immersed in the thematic study of the westward movement of people in the mid-to-late 1800s. Students learned about the Native Americans who lived out west (and the impact that settler movement had on those communities), about our country’s geography and landmarks, and the ecosystems of the West. Using historical fiction novels, students learned about the culture of the time period and grappled with the real-life questions of the time. “What does it mean to make a new beginning? What are the challenges that people face when leaving the familiar and moving to the unknown?” Geography, history, reading, writing, physical education, art, technology, and physical and social sciences were all incorporated in the experience.
As part of the “People’s Movement West” 4-5 study, students created their own board games to play during our celebratory Prairie Day and with their K-1 buddies. Reading Jean Craighead George’s The Buffalo are Back, students began to understand the importance of all parts of an ecosystem, and the historical reality of how 1800s settlers of the West disrupted the balance of the prairie. They learned key ecological terms like “habitat,” “predator,” “adaptation,” and “disturbance.”