Fifth grade scientists embarked on their study of the ocean this month, a topic that will carry them through the winter term. This unit is particularly fascinating to students as they discover the essential role that the ocean plays in our environment and its unexpected complexities. This month, students compiled what they had learned about how the ocean impacts our lives and why we should care about it into posters. “It’s a chance for students to reflect on why we’re taking the time to learn about the ocean,” says Lower School science teacher Cecilia Owens. As the unit continues, students will continue to learn about currents, water pressure, and ocean layers. They will explore them in class with models and demonstrations that allow them to experience concepts first-hand.
Students start by learning about the ocean’s properties and mapping the ocean floor. They learned about the cameras and sonar equipment that scientists use to explore the ocean’s unique topography, which includes the longest mountain range, tallest mountain, and deepest place on earth. After the break, students will learn about the adaptations that animals have developed to survive in different parts of the ocean. They will dissect squid to see the unique adaptations that allow them to swim quickly and camouflage themselves from predators.
A floating egg experiment shows students how the salt content of water affects its density. In fresh water, the egg sinks to the bottom of the container, but as students add successive tablespoons of salt, the egg starts to float. Students will also be mixing warm water, cold water, salt water, and freshwater in tanks to see how the layers of the ocean work and produce currents.
Later in the term, students will embark on an engineering design challenge working in teams to design submersibles that can retrieve an object from “the bottom of the ocean.” They will have to apply what they have learned about density to their design as they try to design an object that can sink and then rise with the retrieved object. Students can use vials filled with different things in their design and will work in groups to determine which ones they should use and why. “The ocean unit gives students practice using models, learning information, and then applying that information to different real-life scenarios,” says Cecilia