Category: Science

Smartphone Apps for Solar Eclipse Day!

Dear Parents,

First, I can’t tell you how thankful I am for your willingness to send in Capri Suns for our solar eclipse viewing party! One of my only concerns about the day is thirsty kids sitting out in the hot sun.

If you are still willing to send in Capri Suns, I’ll take them! I’d rather have too many than too few — and anything that we have left over, we’ll use for other team events during the first quarter.

Second, if your child has a Smartphone or a tablet with a data plan, can you think about putting the following two observation apps on their devices in the next week:

NASA’s Globe Observer App: NASA has a neat app that people can use to submit observations about the world around them. They will have a special section for eclipse observations going live later this week. Data submitted is then used by researchers to confirm the accuracy of other evidence being collected by the agency. This is a neat example of "citizen science" — regular folks like you and I making observations that can later inform practicing scientists conducting research around the world. Available for Apple or Android Devices.

Google’s Science Journal App for Android: If you have an Android device, Google has put out a cool little app called Science Journal that is designed to let kids use the sensors in their phones to make observations of the world around them. Most helpful for our eclipse viewing party will be a light meter — which we can use to track the drop in light coming from the sun as the eclipse occurs. Only available on Android devices.

Both tools will be fun to tinker with while we are observing the eclipse. Neither is required — I have them on my phone and will be calling out the data to the kids during the course of our observation. But if your child does have a Smartphone and a data plan, this could be a good time to show them how their devices can be used for more than just watching YouTube videos!

I’ll be talking about the apps in class on Friday — so if this sounds good to you, please see if you can add the apps to your child’s device by then.

Hope this helps,

Bill Ferriter

Science Open House Information

Dear Parents,

If you are coming to tonight’s Open House, I’ll see you in just a few short minutes! Remember that the evening starts in the Gym at 6:00.

If you can’t make it to tonight’s open house, you can check out my slide deck here. You can also find a brief summary of what we are covering here.

Hope this helps,

Bill Ferriter

Supplies Needed: Eclipse Day

Dear Parents,

As you know, we will be taking the students outside on August 21st to view the solar eclipse together. We would like to have a BUNCH of drinks on hand in case the day is hot. To pull that off, we will need some donations. If you think you can help, please use the Signup Genius below to sign up to send something in.

Signup Genius: Solar Eclipse Day

Thanks in advance!

Bill Ferriter

Solar Eclipse Glasses and Eclipse Saftey

Dear Parents,

First, thanks a TON for being so generous in helping to provide solar eclipse glasses for all of our students! I’ve been blown away by your response and appreciate you more than you realize.

Second, I’ve had a few questions about whether or not the eclipse glasses have passed all the necessary saftey inspections. That’s a legitimate concern — and I’m sure that you’ve seen reports on the news about companies that are selling glasses that are "knock offs."

Rest assured: We have been looking carefully at eclipse safety ever since we started planning this viewing party!

The glasses that we’ve purchased for sixth grade students were produced by two companies approved by NASA: Thousand Oaks Optical and Rainbow Symphony. Those companies also appear on the "Reputable Vendor" list published by the American Astronomical Society.

If you aren’t comfortable with using those eclipse glasses, feel free to pick up a pair on your own and send them in with your child! Using our glasses is not required by any means.

And if you have any questions, please let me know.

Be well,

Bill Ferriter

Can You Donate a Roll of Paper Towels?

Dear Parents,

In science class next week, we will be starting our first lab.  In that lab, we study the traits that make a paper towel absorbent.  To pull that off, I’ll need a BUNCH of paper towels!

Do you think you can send in a roll that we can use for our lab?

If you pull one out of a package or send one in without a wrapper on it, please just be sure that your child knows what brand they are bringing in.  We often like to compare the absorbency of different brands of paper towels.  If your child knows what brand they are bringing me, I’ll write the brand name on the end of the roll with a sharpie.

Thanks in advance for your help,

Bill Ferriter



Team T-Shirts and Solar Eclipse Glasses

Dear Parents,

First, here’s to hoping that the first few days of school have been a great start for your kids! At least here at school, we are pretty darn impressed. Your students have been active participants in class, they have worked well in small groups, and they are handling middle school challenges (read: Lockers!) that can be really tough for some groups.

A few updates:

Team T-Shirts: Order forms went home for team t-shirts on Monday. They were in a stapled packet photocopied on blue paper. T-shirts are optional — but they are a great way to show some team spirit on special activity days. If you are interested in ordering a team t-shirt for your child, you can find the order form online here. Orders are due no later than August 19th.

Solar Eclipse Day: I’m not sure if you’ve heard or not, but there is going to be a once in a lifetime solar eclipse happening on Monday, August 21st. While we won’t get a TOTAL eclipse here in Raleigh, 93% of the sun will be blocked by the moon. Coverage of the sun will start at 1:15. The sun will be almost completely covered by 2:45. We are planning on having a viewing party here at school — complete with solar eclipse glasses, moon pies and Capri Suns! I sent home a permission slip for you to sign today — and I am asking that you send in $2.00 to help cover the cost of the eclipse glasses and moon pies.

On a related note, if you have time that you can take off of work and are looking for a REALLY cool experience, think about pulling your child out of school that day and driving to South Carolina.

That will be the closest place that you can go to see 100% coverage of the sun.  It’s on what is called “the path of totality” — and while they are predicting pretty serious traffic on I-95 and while many of the smaller towns in South Carolina may be swamped with people, it really IS a once in a lifetime opportunity.  You can Google “South Carolina Solar Eclipse Events” to find museums and farms and towns and stadiums that are opening their doors to the public for the event.

We will have a really cool experience here in Raleigh – but nothing matches the excitement of being in the path of totality.

Hope this helps,

Bill Ferriter

Update on Science EOG Exam.

Dear Parents,

Your children completed the science end of grade exam today in class. The VAST majority of the students that I had in class today felt really confident about their performance — so that’s good news!

I’m not exactly sure how scores will be reported, but I THINK your students will get a percentage score for the science and social studies exams and I think we will be sending those scores home at some point next week.

That’s similar to how grades have worked on our team all year long, but very different from how performance on Language Arts and Math end of grade exams are reported. A percentage tells you how your student did against this year’s version of the exam. The scale scores (1, 2, 3, 4 or 5) that you receive for Language Arts and Math end of grade exams are drawn from ranges that are determined based on the average performance of students who have taken the test in previous years.

In many ways, I think reporting percentages alone can be deceptive. For example, a child that is used to making all As in class might feel really bad about earning an 83 on the science EOG because it is a lower mark than they are used to earning. But if the statewide average on the exam is a 63 and the county average on the exam is a 66 — which was the case the last time that Wake County gave the sixth grade science end of grade exam — an 83 would actually be a great grade.

To better understand your child’s performance on this year’s science exam, I will share as much information with you as I can. That way, you will get a better sense of how your child’s performance fits in as compared to other sixth grade students taking the same exam.

And to better understand your child’s performance in science this year, I’d encourage you to look at more than just their end of grade exam scores!

They’ve earned dozens and dozens of grades, completed dozens and dozens of assignments, and taken a bunch of quizzes and tests on the content in our required curriculum. All of those individual marks are just as important in making an informed decision about how will your child is mastering sixth grade science content.

Hope this helps,

Bill Ferriter

Science Extra Credit, Grades, and EOG Exam Updates

Dear Parents,

Just a reminder that students can turn in extra credit tomorrow to raise grades in science class. Any score below an 80 can be raised up to an 80. This may be the last time to turn in extra credit this quarter, so please be sure your kids take advantage of it if they have an average that you are disappointed with.

The best way to do extra credit is to find a Brainpop video connected to the topic of the assignment that they are trying to raise. For example, if your child had a low grade on their matter test, they can do a Brainpop video related to matter, take the quiz for the video, and complete one of the activities for the video. Quiz scores that are an 80 or higher are worth 3 points and activities that are completed accurately are worth 7 points.

Also, please know that our science grades are close to complete. We are likely to have one or two more practice tasks related to our space unit — but those tasks will do little to change your child’s overall average in class. So if you check your child’s grades in Powerschools now, you will get a pretty accurate picture of what their fourth quarter average is likely to be. Missing work will be accepted until June 19th.

Finally, please continue to encourage your child to spend 20 minutes per day studying for their science EOG exam. The test is probably the hardest EOG exam that they will take because it is mostly a remembering test — and students are expected to remember content covered over the course of the entire school year.

The best way to study for the test is to watch 2 Brainpop videos per night, take the quizzes associated with those videos, and complete one activity for each video. Brainpop videos do a nice job covering the biggest concepts in the required curriculum in short, semi-entertaining videos. Brainpop also creates a record of the concepts that students have mastered and the concepts that they are still struggling with. Students can find a list of all of the videos in Brainpop that are connected to our curriculum and sorted by unit posted in Google Classroom.

If students don’t want to use Brainpop to study, there is a practice test posted in Socrative, there are Quizlets (vocabulary practice activities) for every unit posted in Google Classroom, there are individual lessons posted by unit in Discovery Education, there was a vocabulary review sheet passed out in class on paper, and students can write review questions for our end of the year Quiz Bowl. All of those study tools can be helpful too.

To make this studying possible, I am not sending any homework home between now and the EOG exam. All required work for our ongoing unit will be completed during class time. Also, if students don’t have time to study at home, they can study during Spartan Time here at school.

Hope this helps,

Bill Ferriter

Science Update / Extra Credit Available

Dear Parents,

Here’s what’s happening in science:

Finishing our energy unit: We spent this week talking about sound and light waves and how they transfer energy from one place to another. We also started talking about how heat energy transfers between objects of different temperatures. We will finish talking about heat on Monday and that will mark the end of our heat unit. There will be no unit test for energy simply because we need as many days of class time as possible to work through our Space unit.

Starting our space unit: We will spend the last two weeks before EOG exams studying space. Our unit covers two big ideas. The first is how the earth, moon and sun work together to create things like seasons, phases of the moon and tides. There is also a quick review of how we get day/night and years. The second big idea in our space unit are the characteristics of habitable planets. We study each of the planets in the solar system — but through the lens of, “Why are these planets NOT able to support life?”

Extra credit available and being collected on Thursday: If your child is unsatisfied with his/her fourth quarter average, they can turn extra credit in on Thursday of next week. The easiest extra credit to do will be to complete Brainpop videos, quizzes and worksheets on topics from our matter, energy and space units. For every quiz that students score an 80 on in their FIRST attempt, I will add 3 points to a low grade. For every worksheet completed accurately, I will add 7 points to a low grade. You can find a list of all of the videos connected to the matter, energy and space units in our EOG review handout.

The key here is that students must score an 80 on the video quiz on their FIRST attempt. It’s not uncommon to see students take the quiz 3 or 4 times before earning an 80 and then asking for extra points. Instead, have your students watch the video 3 or 4 times before taking the quiz — and consider encouraging them to take notes and/or complete worksheets BEFORE taking the quizzes.

The goal for students doing extra credit is to prove that they’ve learned material that they originally struggled with. That’s a lot easier to do if they can show mastery on Brainpop quizzes the first time that they take the quiz.

Hope this helps,

Bill Ferriter

Science Update / Studying for EOG Test?

Dear Parents,

First, here’s to hoping that your Memorial Day weekend was restful and relaxing!  I was at the pool for the whole weekend, so I’m heavily chlorinated (and caffinated!) this morning.

Second, here’s what’s happening in Science:

Continuing to move through our energy unit:  We are right at the end of our study of energy.  We have looked at the ways that light and sound travel — and at the ways that our eyes interpret light.  Today, we’ll be looking at how our ears interpret sound.  Then, we’ll spend a day or two talking about the way that heat travels and we’ll be at the end of energy!

Moving into a unit on Space:  Once we are done with energy, we’ll move into a study of space.  Specifically, we look at the earth – moon – sun system (things like tides, day/night, seasons) and the characteristics of habitable planets.  There are tons of cool things to study during our space unit given all the space exploration going on right now — so the kids really dig this unit.

Studying for EOG test:  Are your kids spending 20 minutes a night studying for their science EOG?  If not, they should be!  The EOG science exam is really challenging because it is nothing more than 35 isolated facts from across the entire year’s worth of studying.  The best way to study is for students to watch two Brainpop videos, take two Brainpop quizzes and do two Brainpop worksheets every single night between now and the exam.  There is a tracking sheet listing all of the videos connected to our curriculum currently posted in Google Classroom.  I’ve been reminding students to do this every day during class.

A quick reminder:  You can also learn more about what we are studying by checking out this site — where I’ve been sharing short ( > 2 minutes) videos about our content and our curriculum almost every day.  You can also have your kids watch these videos for review.

Hope this helps,

Bill Ferriter