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!

Flower Parts and Cell Reproduction

We investigated cell reproduction through reading, looking at flower parts and watching a Brainpop video on mitosis.



Bacteria live about 20 minutes. Then they reproduce. In 6 hours, one can turn into  over 260,000 bacteria!

Flowers make pollen (on stamens) and collect the pollen on sticky pistils.  Seeds grow in ovules below the pistils.


A Flat Earth?

How do cartographers make flat  maps from a spherical earth? We experimented with grapefruit to find out!

And the finished products on  display….

It turns out to be challenging to make a flat map from a spherical object. Afterward, we looked at Mercator Projections, Peter’s Projections, and Robinson Projections, as well as a few that were a bit more radical, like on by Buckminster Fuller that looked a lot like our grapefruit rinds!

Histology Slides

We had a visitor in class on Friday for more mad science. Thank you to real world scientist (and Logan’s mom) Helene Cousin for coming in to share her histology slides with us and to tell us a bit about her work with animals as a veterinary science professor at the University of Massachusetts.


She brought a more powerful microscope than any we have in school, and the students were able to get a close up view of the prepared slides she brought. We wrestled with a mystery or two (how do crows eat poisonous frogs?), asked good questions and thought like scientists about how the world works.

Samples of the slides we saw!

Parent Teacher Conferences continue this coming week, and Tuesday is Dress Like a Book Character Day (sometimes also known as Halloween!).

A preview of my book character… can you guess the book?!?

Brushy Mountain!

The weather was perfect today for our ascent up Brushy Mountain and our journey back in time! We started on the field on the Town’s Consolidated School (LES).  We listened hard for sounds of the past: oxen bells, children playing, trees being cut, farmers plowing, sheep baa-ing, horses neighing, the box factory down the road…

Then it was off to the woods to look at hemlocks, white pine, striped maple, white and red oak, cedar, chestnut saplings…

We found fungi, flora and fauna…


Then we were off the Glazier house (1790), where we asked if we could join them for lunch.  They accepted our invitation and we explored the foundation of the house, discovered their well, and found an unexpected geo-cache!

Thanks to Kim, there are a couple of photos of the teacher too!

We traveled from the Glazier’s house to Mason Pike’s, then off to the dam and the old mill pond…

We hustled down the mountain and the students learned the phrase: Don’t spare the horses!

Thanks so much to Noah for sweeping and being a pack horse at the end, as well as for his sense of humor and attentiveness to the dreamers who took their time.

Thanks to Kim for taking pictures (and the video) and leading us fearlessly to the bus (at the eleventh hour!).

Thanks to Steve for joining us for the day, asking great questions, and keeping us on track.

And many, many thanks to Brooke Thomas for leading us through time, over mountains, and through the winding woods once again!  What a great field trip (B-E-S-T field trip EVER! according to (the imitation) Brooke (who may be leading these trips herself one day based on her enthusiasm today!).


Strange Science

Some might even call it mad science!  Worms, fungi, maggots, oh, my!  How does food decompose?   How are living things classified?

Our mold experiment has ended.  Petri dishes will either find their way home (sealed!) or have been thrown in the trash.  Bon voyage, spores and moldy, slime colonies!

Morse Hill Adventures!

Our field trip Friday to Morse Hill was action packed! We started with games and a secret Grade 5 handshake.  Then we moved on to orienteering, with a lesson on compasses, finding distance through paces, and then a scavenger hunt to find puzzle pieces.

Next up was raft building!  We broke into three teams to create rafts and then set sail on Lake Wyola!  Each craft paddled out to a waiting canoe, where the students high-fived their teachers.  There was a bit of splashing and a whole lot of fun!

Design and build…



High-Fives all around!

Then we were off to the high ropes for the Sling Shot!

Thanks to Victoria, Mike, Nick, parents, and the Leverett PTO for making this incredible day possible!

Adventure Program and our first Field Trips

Next Friday, September 29, we will spend the day at Morse Hill as part of a launch of our Adventure Program journey!  We will do group problem solving activities, orienteering skills, games, and a pond challenge.  Kids should come dressed to get wet!

We will continue to do Adventure Program activities once a month, and there will be no fees for the program.  We will go Monday afternoons and plan to eat lunch at Morse Hill. Students may buy school lunch those days. We will be spending three hours on Monday afternoons in the fall and spring and two hours in the winter.


Our culminating trip will be a canoe trip in June. We raise funds at the Harvest Festival by selling burritos and cider (hot and cold).


Look for a permission slip to come home soon for a hike up Brushy Mountain too! We will aim for peak leaf time. Parents are welcome to join us on the October hike and the June paddle!