Middle School News

Fifth Grade Earth Science “Rocks” in Remote Setting!
Jim Morrison, director of student outreach and special projects


 


Toward the end of October, fifth-grade Earth Science classes completed the fall study of Earth’s composition and the rock cycle. Lead teacher Cristina Veresan and associate teacher Tim Vargas created a project to help students solidify their learning and set it in stone.

Students were asked to create models of the rock cycle using upcycled or ephemeral materials found in their homes. The project, Cristina said, struck a great balance between deep content knowledge, the practice of essential scientific skills such as modeling, and the freedom of creative choice which allows Nueva students to thrive.

“We are all familiar with rocks as the most abundant features of our planet,” Cristina explained. “Yet rocks are formed, deformed, and reformed in a cycle that is largely not able to be observed firsthand, since many of its processes occur deep within Earth or on a geologic time scale.”

Before embarking on the culminating project, students had many opportunities to explore the rock cycle. They identified rocks based on physical properties in a virtual rock classification lab and used an online interactive site to visualize the cycle's processes.

“Developing models is an essential science skill,” Cristina said. “Models can help us represent abstract ideas and complex explanations, and they can enable us to make predictions or determine relationships in a system.”

In their models, students recreated geologic processes such as lithification, metamorphism, and crystallization. This exercise in  thinking through the details of geologic processes allowed students to grapple with their lingering questions about how rocks form over time.

Student Avery C. liked the opportunity to explore how rocks transform.

“I wanted to highlight the main types of rock, the entire process of how one rock turns into another, and why there are certain characteristics of different types of rocks,” she said. “For instance, why do extrusive igneous rocks have air holes, but intrusive igneous rocks don’t? I wanted a way to visually represent the rock cycle in a creative and unique way. I think that some people may view the rock cycle as a bit uninteresting and dull, but a fun model like chocolate rocks may change their attitude towards the subject. Also, I love chocolate!”

Fifth-grader Bence O. also loved the chance to incorporate one of his favorite things. 

“I was inspired by my love of making and eating candy–my third grade passion project was about candy as well,” he shared. “Some candies actually look very similar to forms of rock. For example, chocolate marshmallow looks a lot like pumice, the extrusive igneous rock. In terms of color and the air bubbles, formed because the rock is extrusive, they are related.”

Raya I. explained, “I was inspired to tell the story of the rock cycle in the way that I did because as soon as Cristina and Tim announced the project, I immediately thought, ‘Diorama!’ I knew we had old shoeboxes in our garage, and soon the whole thing just came into my mind: I would make a paper river and volcano, rocks out of clay, and type up little blurbs to explain each part. I would include an arrow for gravity, a paper sun, and the Earth's core." 

In order to share their work with the community, students created short videos showing off their models and explaining the geologic processes and energy transformations involved in forming each of the three rock types (igneous, sedimentary, and metamorphic).

While some aspects of the unit were challenging due to being remote, the constraints all provided an opportunity for students to be resourceful and creative. 

“I'd say the Modeling the Rock Cycle project was actually enhanced by the remote setting because students could utilize a variety of resources in their homes,”Cristina said. “They cooked ‘rocks’ in their kitchens, scoured their recycle bin for materials, and repurposed their toys to tell a geologic story. It was a powerful learning experience; They totally ‘rocked’ it!”



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Fifth Grade Earth Science “Rocks” in Remote Setting!

Toward the end of October, fifth-grade Earth Science classes completed the fall study of Earth’s composition and the rock cycle. To help students solidify their learning and set it in stone, students created models of the rock cycle using upcycled or ephemeral materials found in their homes. 

“Poem-Worthy Noodles” Connect Community to History and Each Other: Jennifer Lin-Liu, Author of On the Noodle Road ‘Visits’ Nueva

After school on Thursday, October 21, about 40 students and teachers gathered on Zoom to enrich and extend their current interdisciplinary study of the Silk Road. They were participating in a noodle-making workshop by author and restauranteur Jennifer Lin-Liu that covered centuries of history and was generations of cross-continental journeys in the making. Organized by Jennifer Paull in conjunction with the seventh- and eighth-grade humanities teachers, this event is one of many the new Humanities Center will showcase in the years to come.

Catching Up with . . . Sarah Powell

We sat down with Sarah Powell, middle school student support specialist, to hear about her passion for supporting gifted students, particularly during this challenging time. In this interview, Sarah shares how she helps to create pathways for students’ academic development, and she provides insight into the importance of relationships between parents, teachers, and students—and superpowers!—in our middle school support program at Nueva.  

Nueva Students Welcome Families to the Mid-Autumn Festival

This month, students in Weixia’s class celebrated 中秋节 or zhōng qiū jié (the Mid-Autumn Festival), a traditional event celebrated by many East and Southeast Asian people. With their parents, students watched the full moon, recited an ancient poem, and gave their parents a handmade card of appreciation. These activities were part of their process of immersing themselves in Chinese culture, an important part of learning the language, and they also offered an opportunity for students to share their learning with their families.

Middle School Students Explore Social Justice in Lit Clubs

Founded in 1982, the Nueva Lit Club curriculum has provided middle school students with many opportunities over the years to practice reading strategies and literary analysis. This year, students have been faced with a challenging and changing world—in all of their classes, Nueva students have engaged in complex conversations and have raised important questions about race and social justice issues that were reignited this past summer. 

Catching Up with...Karen Tiegel

About one month into this unprecedented 2020–2021 school year, we sat down with new interim head of the middle school, our own Nuevan Swiss Army Knife, Karen Tiegel, to hear her thoughts about the start of the year, learn a bit more about our continuously evolving middle school electives program, and provide a space to reflect on moments—both past and still to come—that are at the heart of her Nueva experience.

The Great Nueva Zoom-School Plant Project 

Eighth-grade biology students have dived straight into an exciting study of genetic variation. One of the major themes of eighth-grade science is to understand humanity’s relationship with the living world. So, the teachers asked their students to grow Wisconsin Fast Plants to discover for themselves why plants produce offspring with variation. This led to a discussion about how humanity has modified species for food and other purposes. 

So What is the Nueva Middle School Tutorial?

Nueva middle school teachers are excited about student-led tutorial sessions this year. Introduced last fall to help students to get caught up after absences, ask questions about assignments, and ask for more challenging extensions on their work, tutorial has expanded to offer far more during remote learning.

Middle School Assembly Celebrates the New School Year

For more than two decades, Nueva's lower and middle school students have gathered together weekly during assemblies to share ideas, entertain each other, and be entertained. While assemblies look different in remote learning, Division Heads Megan Terra and Karen Tiegel still see great value in assembling together. So during the first week of school, they made sure their students gathered on Zoom.