Category: Science

Quick Science Update

Dear Parents,

First, here’s to hoping that you are well and happy as we move into the end of September and beginning of October! Track out is around the corner and I’d be lying if I said that I wasn’t looking forward to it! I’m sure you are, too.

Second, here’s a few things happening in science:

We have moved into our study of matter. Specifically, we’ve been talking about the characteristics of matter and the structure of matter this week. We also began a short lab experience designed to introduce kids to density — one of the characteristic properties of matter. The kids usually dig our matter unit because there are lots of short, hands on experiences that go along with the concepts. To learn more about what is covered in the unit, you can look at this unit overview sheet.

I am making short review videos for our units. You can find them posted online here. The videos come out between two and three times a week and they are designed as a refresher of things that we have been studying in class. Consider checking the site out if you want to know more about the science that your kids are learning — and have your kids check them out if you want them to get a quick review of what they’ve been learning in class.

Hope this helps,

Bill Ferriter

Science Quiz on Friday

Dear Parents,

Just a quick heads up: Your kids will PROBABLY have a quiz on Friday on scientific method vocabulary.

It might be pushed until Tuesday because we’ve had a bunch of technical issues in the county over the last few days and it has been difficult to study for the test here at school.

Regardless, your students are required to know these words and definitions.

They can use this Quizlet to study, if you have internet access at home.

Hope this helps,

Bill Ferriter

Science Vocabulary Quiz on Friday

Students will have a quiz on scientific method vocabulary on Friday during class.

The complete vocabulary list can be found posted in a Quizlet that can be found in Google Classroom.

Hope this helps,

Bill Ferriter

A Word on Science Grades

Dear Parents,

I wanted to give you a quick update about the way that grades work in science class. Here are a few details:

A "C" represents average work: The most important thing to know about grades in middle school is that a C is, by definition, average sixth grade work. Any student making a C is producing work that we would expect to see out of the majority of sixth grade students. While most parents see Cs as "below average" performance, that’s just not the case.

A "B" represents above average work: Sometimes, the hardest thing for middle schoolers to get used to is the notion that a B is a good grade. Because many students have made straight 4s in elementary school, they automatically think they will be straight A students in middle school. The truth is that a 4 represents work that would run from a middling B score to a middling A score. So students who were making 4s in elementary school may be making Bs in middle school — and that’s worth celebrating.

An "A" represents work that goes far beyond expectation: If your students want to make As, they need to buckle down and go beyond the bare minimum on their assignments. If they aren’t working hard on tasks, they probably aren’t producing work that meets the expectations necessary for an A.

Practice tasks are worth 10 percent of your child’s grade: We do several assignments every quarter that are designed to give your kids information about their progress towards mastering important outcomes. Those assignments are called practice tasks. While they are a great source of information on what your child does/doesn’t know yet, they do not have a huge impact on your child’s average. That’s by design. I don’t want students to be punished as they are just learning content. Practice tasks will go in your child’s average, but they won’t do much damage to your child’s average if your child struggles on the task.

Summative tasks are worth 90 percent of your child’s grade: Summative tasks are either things that we spend a lot of time working on in class or things that your child had a lot of time to prepare for. They are designed to be a final measure of what your child knows how to do. As such, they are worth 90 percent of your child’s grade.

Students can rework any assignment that they score less than an 80 on: There are lots of different ways to raise grades that are less than an 80. Sometimes, kids will do a Brainpop video and quiz to replace a low score. Sometimes, they will do a second worksheet. Sometimes, they will make corrections to an existing worksheet. The point is that if your child has any score below an 80, they have the chance to raise that grade as long as they come to Spartan Time and ask for it.

Students will all have their own Powerschool username and password by Friday: That means starting on Friday, your child can look up their grades in all of their core classes on their own from the Internet. Consider asking your child to pull up their averages each Friday night and reviewing their scores with them. That’s an easy way to stay on top of the progress that they are making.

Hope this helps,

Bill Ferriter

Yesterday was AWESOME.

Dear Parents,

Just wanted to drop you a quick note to say thank you for all that you did to support our solar eclipse viewing party yesterday!

Whether it was donating Capri Suns or extra money so that every sixth grader could have a pair of eclipse glasses or just sending your child prepared with sunscreen, water, beach towels and umbrellas, I am super grateful because it helped to create a pretty amazing day for your kids.

As they were walking back to school for dismissal, SO many of them were full of energy and smiles and excitement. It was really, really cool to see. I’m pretty sure that they will remember their first eclipse for a long time to come, that’s for sure — and in the end, that was the goal of our viewing party all along.

Please be sure to ask them about what they’ve learned, too — because they know quite a bit about eclipses and how they work!

With gratitude,

Bill Ferriter

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