And the Winner is… Cinnamon!!!

The results of our attempts to defeat mold are in, and the clear winner was a surprise spice from the sub-continent of India!
Salt came in second, and sugar showed early promise. Rice did well for a while, and vinegar seemed to destroy the plate as well as inhibiting the early growth in some molds. Surprisingly, pickling salts seemed to do little to stop mold from growing, though one group found a bit of success with the apples preserved in pickling salts.  Wet leaves, we were surprised to discover, did not promote the growth of mold too much. Baking soda shocked us all by seeming to promote swift mold growth in bread! It probably came in third overall though, in limiting mold growth.

Molly Snedden said she was “…surprised, intrigued and thrilled” to learn of our discovery and was interested in seeing the cinnamon plate for herself.  The first two photos below show the cinnamon plate, one with the bread turned over to reveal a complete absence of mold!

Mad science!

More Mad Science with Worms!

Our Life Science journey continues with an exploration of stimulus and response with worms. So far we have tested whether worms prefer light or dark areas and whether they are attracted to moist or dry surfaces. Students will be designing their own worm experiments when we return from the Thanksgiving break. (No worms will be harmed in the performance of these experiments.)


Our goal was to change one variable that would either increase or decrease the amount of mold we grew in our plastic bag petri dishes.  Our five foods were: bread, cheese, orange, apple, and banana.

Our independent variables were: sugar, salt, cinnamon, rice, vinegar, baking soda, pickling salts, and wet leaves under the foods.

We’re about halfway through the experiment. Time for a visual update!


Narrative Writing Celebration

Congratulations to the Fifth Graders for publishing their personal narrative pieces and sharing them with their Kindergarten reading buddies and then parents, Grade 4, and the school and town community!  After reading the whole narratives to our Kindergarten buddies, we read teasers to our more mature visitors and enticed them to read the pieces we had written.  We received wonderful, thoughtful feedback on the writing and then enjoyed light refreshments while discussing the writing. Thank you to parents who brought or sent in snacks and drinks!  The celebration was a grand success!

Morse Hill!

We truly had an Epic Rain Adventure at Morse Hill!

We started with a full value agreement, where we discussed and committed to:

  1. Find the fun in unfamiliar or new activities.
  2. Offer constructive, concise, positive feedback to others if we want them to change their behavior.
  3. Follow the Platinum Rule: Treat others how they want to be treated (ask them!).
  4. Keep ourselves and others safe, physically and emotionally.
  5. Know when the group’s needs are more important than your needs and when your needs are more important than the group’s needs.

Our next tasks were to achieve more skill with compasses by entering headings, putting the red in the shed, and finding reference points. Then we mastered pacing by walking with consistent strides. We found buried treasure, then went on a scavenger hunt.

Our next task was to learn to tie ropes and use them to assemble rafts. The rafts had to be sturdy because we were about to paddle them out onto Lake Wyola!  Success!

Mrs. B and Mr. Stewart also paddled around the lake and gave high-fives to Mike and Owen in the canoe.

Our last stop was the high ropes course for a ride on the Sling Shot!

Even Mrs. B got a turn!

Sundials and Compasses

First we built compasses to discover where north was. We magnetized paper clips, then needles. We tried suspending them with thread and floating the needles on small pieces of cork. Floating worked better.  We used the compasses to find magnetic north.

Once we knew where north was, we built sundials! We used the sundials to determine the time… once we had waited more than two weeks for a sunny day!  The sundials were pretty accurate and we were also able to use the sundials to determine direction once we knew what time it was. The sundials will be coming home today!

Mad science!

Brushy Mountain Hike!

Many, many thanks to Brooke Thomas for joining the Fifth grade class once again for our hike up Brushy Mountain! The weather was perfect, the company was good, and nature was bountiful in sharing its treasures with us. We traveled about 4 miles of distance, but we also traveled back in time, from the period of time when parts of what is now Leverett were linked with North Africa, to the time of the dinosaurs, to the glacier era, to the formation of Lake Hitchcock and the creation of Rattlesnake Gutter and its caves!

We visited the Glazier and Pike homesteads, found their old wells, and had lunch among the artifacts.  We sang in the Mill Pond and followed the former M and M trail (no sign of M&Ms, sadly… we think the birds must have eaten them all).

Thank you to the homeowners and private property owners who allowed us to cross their land. Thanks to Sheffra, Charley, and Mr. E as well!  It was a grand hike!

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!