Stock out!

We released 93 healthy brook trout into the Saw Mill River today (an LES Fifth Grade record for survival!).  The habitat looked great for trout fry. The water quality was excellent for Fifth Graders too!

Slow motion hair flipping was also very popular! (Plus there is bonus macro-invertebrate video from our trip to the UMass Fisheries Biology labs).

And one more fun hair flip group video, also in slo-mo…

Have a great summer!

A Day in the Life of a Fisheries Biologist


Wow!  What an amazing experience we had on Friday with the UMass Fisheries biologists! A huge shout out of thanks to Matt Devine, Alyson Roy, and the team of undergrads, grad students, and post-docs who volunteered their time and energy to take us on a guided tour of field research at Roaring Brook in Leverett, followed by lab work and research in Holdsworth Hall at the University of Massachusetts.

Roaring Brook stations: river sediment and substrate, bank conditions, and river speed:

Macro-invertebrate collection and identification:


And fish identification:


Then we went back to the labs for fish dissection:

Microscope investigations using dichotomous traits (a kind of scientific choose your own adventure) to

identify macro invertebrates:

We also looked at different types of nets that are used to capture fish (Vanessa and baby Wyatt helped with this station!):

We investigated preserved herring (alewife) and looked at 3-D printed models of herring at different

life stages (more dissection photos too!):

A thousand thanks to all of the UMass Fisheries Biologists who volunteered their time, expertise, and enthusiasm to help make this an amazing field trip!  Thanks especially to Matt Devine and Alyson Roy for coordinating it all! Thanks to Vanessa Bergmann for scouting the sites with Matt, working behind the scenes to make it all happen smoothly and including us in the project. And special thanks to 11 month old Wyatt for helping out and being so incredibly cute! What a wonderful experience for the Leverett Fifth Graders!

Story Theater

We performed two short plays today based on picture books: “The Old Woman Who Named Things” and “Wilfred Gordon McDonald Partridge.”

We invited the Pre-K and K, their teachers, parents, and siblings.

Bravo Fifth Grade performers!



Wilfred Gordon McDonald Partridge:

Whoooo Knows What’s Within?

Today we got to live up to our name, the Grade 5 Barn Owls, by taking apart owl pellets!

We started with a mini-lesson on these myserteous birds and then went to work dissecting pellets. We got rid of the hair and focused on the bones. We have some good detectives (and maybe future paleontologists!) in this class!

Next, we assembled a virtual vole. If you want to try it for yourself, go to:

We worked on our endangered species reports and and the next thing we will do in class is to reassemble a skeleton from the owl pellets we dissected!

Mad Science!


quinzhee or quinzee /ˈkwɪnziː/ is a snow shelter that is made from a large pile of loose snow which is shaped then hollowed. This is in contrast to an igloo, which is built up from blocks of hard snow, and a snow cave, constructed by digging into the snow.

At Morse Hill we had fun in the snow today while learning a skill that could someday save a life!



Valentine’s Fun

We celebrated February by being kind to others and revisiting our secret friend activity.  Someone left me an orange with a puzzle attached. I have to wait till Friday to find out who!

This week we went to two field trips (both on Monday!), the first to see a powerful performance about the life and times of Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.  Then we were off to Morse Hill!


We did a science mystery recently too, investigating how much much fresh water is on earth. The exercise was a blend of science and geography, as we looked at satellite maps of earth divided into grids showing fresh, frozen and salt water bodies.  The students first predicted how much more salt water than fresh water there is on earth. Most were shocked by the graphs we made!

Valentine’s day is today. Tomorrow we will be holding a mock trial of Mae Tuck from Tuck Everlasting. All students have roles and we will decide whether or not Mae acted in self-defense when she hit the Man in the Yellow Suit.  The students will become the jurors at the end of the trial and decide Mae’s fate!


Friday is Chinese New Year, the Year of the Dog!  Gong hay fat choi!  We will be parading through the school with our Kindergarten Reading buddies wearing our dragon masks and carrying the dragon the Kindergartners have reconstructed!

Brook Trout Eggs have Arrived!

About 100 brook trout eggs arrived in Grade 5 this past week! We set up the tank and set the chiller to 54 degrees Fahrenheit.  We spread gravel along the bottom of the tank and got the filter running to oxygenate the water.

We removed four eggs that turned white within the first few days. And we watched as the eyes became more and more visible.

Now the eggs have begun to hatch!

We will watch them closely until they get ready to eat, then feed them!  We’ll need to monitor the water quality to keep the fish healthy. Then, in May or June, we will stock them out into the Saw Mill River!

Fun in the Snow!

Happy New Year!

We are finally back to school after a long winter break followed by a short day of school and two quick snow days. Before we left for vacation we visited Morse hill again for some sun in the snow. Our next trip up there will be later this month. Please be sure to dress warmly in lots of layers!  If there is enough snow, we may go snowshoeing!

As the photos attest, we had fun last time without snowshoes!


Reading Minutes and Pages

So far, outside of school, 5th grade students have read an estimated total of 32,425 pages!  They have spent roughly 38,138 minutes reading, which is more than 635 hours, or more than 26 full days reading so far this fall!  Each morning in school we record our estimated minutes and pages from the weekend and/or the night before. On Friday we tally the weekly individual totals and then combine them for a whole class total.

Educational research shows that sustained reading of books that are a good reading level match for students is one of the most effective kinds of homework. Fifth Graders are expected to read 30 minutes a night from a just right book (fiction or non-fiction, either is OK). Graphic novels and comics can be read on top of that 30 minutes. In school we describe graphic novels and comics as dessert. We want students to read a balance of different kinds of books, as they would eat a variety of healthy foods. Comics can be the dessert.

We spend about 60 minutes reading in school too, so Fifth Graders are getting lots of opportunity to read, but some of that in school time is spent discussing literature, responding to non-fiction text, or doing targeted skills work (like the Lexia program, which everyone is scheduled to do 30 minutes a week in school, but which they are also encouraged to do at home. It could count for their 30 minutes of reading at home once or twice a week).

When we reach 100,000 minutes or 100,00 pages, we will have a reading celebration in school. At the rate we are reading, we should get there by early spring!