Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Two weeks left until the end of the quarter and the middle of the year

Greetings again!
Last week was a flurry of skiing, plays, and MAP testing. The first big adventure was skiing. However, with this group getting there can be half the "fun."

Once there, some went tubing...

Others went skiing

By the end of the day everyone had a good time.

Then there was the play. When it was over, the principal complimented Pangaea house on how well we listened and participated.

And finally there was the MAP testing. We now have some new math scores and soon some new Language Arts test results to add to the other MAP testing data from this fall and years past. If you want to learn more or have questions your child's homeroom teacher should be able to help you. If not we will take some time during third quarter conferences to go over them and their implication.

Not to be outdone, Tuesday the 29th, students saw another play but things are back to normal... well "normal" may be a bit of an overstatement because this week is Spirit week so Monday was pajama day, Tuesday is school colors day (blue, green, and white), Wednesday is backwards / inside out day, Thursday is Twins day (someone else or the baseball team) and Friday is red, pink, black, white, (Valentine's Day colors) day as well as hat pass day and fancy dress day on top of all that Friday is also wear red for women day... phew, that is a lot for just one day.

So, back to the business of science class. First, this week I have returned a slew of student work and given students a grade update sheet so they know exactly what they have and what they need as well as how to get it. The first part of the week will include an activity designed to help students understand radiometric isotope dating. This method is used by scientists to determine how many years old a given layer of rock or fossil is. Some radiation is naturally occurring in all plants and animals. This material breaks down in a predictable pattern and once that pattern is understood, it can be interpreted and students or scientists can extrapolate (I love that word!) when the material formed give or take a hundred years. The latter part of this week and next week will focus on volcanoes and earthquakes. Remember that science notebooks are due to be graded at the end of this week. We have done several activities in which students record their data in them so they are worth more this quarter than last quarter. Check in with your middle schooler and ask them about it. If it gets "lost" it can cut a final grade in half so if there are any problems there is time to fix them if we start now rather than the last possible moment.

If you have any questions please feel email me at mark.russo@emid6067.net

Thursday, January 17, 2008

Next week's forcast... interesting

The year round schedule has it's share of breaks but January is the loneliest of the year with one holiday. Next week is Martin Luther King Jr. day and this holiday is just the start of some events that are guaranteed to keep things interesting (not that last week didn't have it's interesting moments as well). Wednesday there is a school ski trip, Thursday is a school play and Friday starts off a barrage of MAP testing that will take us into the following week! Through all this though students are still working hard and I am finding that the quarter is rapidly coming to a close (3 weeks left, YIKES!). That is not much time to finish up all the neat things we can learn about Geology, time to shift into high gear.

If you have any questions please feel email me at mark.russo@emid6067.net

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Science teacher gone, Sub holds down fort.

Hello there,
On Monday January the 14th I was at home with 2 sick little boys. They are so cute but kinda cranky at the moment. The substitute teacher took over my lesson plans but I had to do some juggling to make it work. Rather than have students continue to excavate their fossils using hammers, chisels and what we have affectionately dubbed "The double bladed ninja butter knife of death" (I picked them up at Ax-man, what a great store but nobody could tell me what these tools were originally designed for). I thought it better to put the fossils on hold for a day and have the sub move on to the next part of the lesson which is a brief history of how the Earth was made. This Discovery channel video does a great job of helping students get a sense of what happened to get us where are today and the discussion guide helps students document their understanding.
Things may look a little disjointed for a few days until we get everyone back on the same page but it should all balance out by week's end.

Mr. Russo

As yes! I almost forgot that I had the substitute teacher hand out some homework to start prepping students for the state tests coming up a few months. They are due on Wednesday and Thursday (depending on when your child has science) and if the sub forgot to mention it, #6 is extra credit. I will see if I can get generate a pdf and upload it to the blog. Eventually I want all assignments available online but need to learn how to make that work so this is as good a place to start as any.

If you have any questions please feel email me at mark.russo@emid6067.net

Friday, January 11, 2008

Sedimentary rocks and digging out your own fossils

Howdy folks!!!
Welcome again to the Pangaea House blog for Mr. Russo’s classroom. Monday and Tuesday of this week our students began to study sedimentary rocks. We began with a PowerPoint about the different ways these rocks are formed and how those layers can be pushed, pulled, bent, folded and broken. Students took notes in their science notebook and drew diagrams of horizontal, folded, un-conforming, and crosscut rocks.
The best introduction to fossils is to let students uncover them the way geologists do… with a hammer and chisel. I buried shells in a mixture of mortar and plaster of Paris. Shells are inexpensive and fragile like real fossils. Students use various tools to extract the shell from the snowball-sized rock and see if they can even get the imprint of the fossil on the surrounding rock. Students document their work by drawing pictures in their science notebook and I walk around and assess their progress to make sure everyone is using the tools correctly.
Next week we will finish up the fossil extraction and learn how scientists use fossils and other dating techniques to determine the absolute and relative ages of rocks and the fossils inside.

If you have any questions please feel email me at mark.russo@emid6067.net

Mark Russo

Sunday, January 6, 2008

Extra Credit opportunity

Howdy folks!

Students! Here is a quick extra credit opportunity for you! Follow the link to a pdf file that you can print out. The file has 4 sections each worth 3 extra credit points.

You may find yourself asking "But how will I answer these questions to get the extra credit I deserve?" ah-ha! The link with all the resources to find the answers.

When you are finished, turn it into the turn in trays just make sure your name is on it so I can give you all the points that you earned.

If you have any questions please feel email me at mark.russo@emid6067.net

Saturday, January 5, 2008

Happy New Year!!!
In class this week we are continuing our exploration of the rock cycle.

Just before the holiday break we used wax crayons to demonstrate the forces that create the three different types of rocks found in the rock cycle sedimentary (my favorite!), igneous, and metamorphic. If you are really interested in rocks and want to dig deeper than we have time for stop by http://imnh.isu.edu/digitalatlas/geo/basics/diagrams.htm for an "in depth" look at the rock cycle.

The first part of class was used to catch up on old business, namely checking our science notebooks. Some classes needed some lab time to finish up two specifics that I was checking for: crystal observations and the wax rock cycle. The crystals that students observed were sugar, sea salt, rock salt, Epsom salt, and compared them to the crystals that we grew in lab that looks more or less like this

In the future students will use their science notebook to help identify mystery crystals which should determine how well they observed and documented the ones they saw in class.

The next piece of the puzzle that we began in class but will not finish until next week is to have students experience what a rock would experience traveling through the rock cycle. In our case the rock's name is Little Timmy and his exploits will be documented and turned into a cartoon time-line to be displayed outside Pangaea house on the bulletin board. There are seven stations that students travel to on their journey: mountains, Earth's interior, clouds (weird huh?), Ocean bottom, river, volcano (Hot Hot Hot!), and soil. Each station has dice that they roll which instructs them what just happened to them in the 10,000 years that they were at that stage of the cycle. The dice then instruct the student to stay at that station or to travel to a different one. So far most classes created their dice and documented their travels but have not finished the cartoon time line that tells the story.

If you have any questions, feel free to email me at mark.russo@emid6067.net

Wednesday, January 2, 2008


Hi there everybody (but mostly Crosswinds students)
In an effort to make what happens in my science classroom more transparent, I thought that keeping a specific blog may be of some use... or it will become a total waste of time for all concerned. I am hoping for the former so in that vain look for updates that are specific to individual classes coming soon.

Wish me luck!