Ocean Deep

Well, winter is almost over, and has just about passed us by! It has been very pleasant passing a winter without interruptions to the schedule caused by snow and ice. We added more snowflakes to our door than we actually got on the ground!
Here in life skills we started our New Year talking about goals. Each of the students chose (or had chosen for them!) a goal that they need to work on improving, either at school or at home. Some are working to improve an academic goal, some a social goal, and some a behavior goal. Some of the students are making really great progress on their goals. Others still have some work to do!
In science we have started studying the ocean. We are currently talking about the ocean bottom. We’ve learned that the bottom of the ocean has some of the same geographic features that exist on land, like mountains, volcanoes and canyons (trenches). We have also talked about the continental shelf and slope.
We have looked at sand through magnifying glasses and talked about how sand particles are pieces that have been broken from rocks and shells by moving water. We made sediment bottles to look at how pieces of different sizes settle on the bottom.

Sediment Bottles

We have also talked about the properties of salt water, showing that it is easier for things to float in salt water by watching a piece of potato sink in a glass of tap water, but magically float in a glass of salt water.

Currently, we are talking about some of the things that live on the ocean floor. We are learning that there were once animals that lived in the beautiful shells we find on the beach. We have talked about clams, whelk, and hermit crabs. Crabs, horseshoe crabs, lobsters and shrimp are yet to come. We have started an ocean mural on the wall outside the classroom. It’s not too terribly exciting right now. So far, we just have the ocean floor (with the continental shelf and slope), and some enthusiastically colored shells scattered on the ocean floor. As we study each new element, that will be added to our mural, until we have an ocean full of creatures!
                                      A mural that will soon be teeming with ocean life!

We also had a special treat last week.  We were able to visit the Mobile Science Ag Lab that was visiting the school. It is sponsored by the Pennsylvania Farm Bureau.

The topic was healthy snacks vs. unhealthy snacks.  The students worked in pairs to examine the amount of fat residue left by various foods in order to determine the healthier snacks.  They really felt like real scientists!

                                            Smearing food samples onto card stock.

                                                   The snack foods that were tested.

                                                            Drying the samples.

                                                          Examining the results.

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Busy Elves


This month, we said good-bye to our second student teacher, Miss Perez. In her remaining time with us this month, she continued teaching science lessons about air, but relating it to weather. She talked about precipitation, demonstrating how water makes it into the clouds through evaporation. She heated water and showed how air will carry water vapor upwards and condense on a plate. She went on to talk about how air pressure can impact when and how much water falls from the clouds. After poking holes in the bottom of an empty soda bottle, she poured water into the bottle, and the water ‘rained’ out of the bottom. When she put her finger over the open top of the bottle, changing the air pressure inside, the ‘rain’ from the bottom of the bottle slowed. When she lifted her finger, the ‘rain’ picked up again.

We spent the week after Miss Perez left us being Santa’s elves, frantically finishing up Christmas projects. We made a Hidden Valley ranch mix to give to the principals, counselors, nurses, secretaries and librarians.

We also made a treat for the students to bring home to you. We hope you enjoy it. We also spent some time wrapping the gifts the students bought from our classroom store. We apologize for any rather odd gifts. Our selection is somewhat limited, as our store is stocked primarily with donated items. Though at the holiday we do supplement it with items students can buy for gift giving. Having to use their money to buy things for other people, instead of for themselves, is a very big deal for some of the kids. Some of them buy willingly for others. But many of them need to be made to purchase an item for all of the people on their list. It can be really hard for them. But it is important for them to be able to reach beyond their own wishes and do something for others. They have to understand that it’s not all about them.

We are looking forward to everyone returning, refreshed and relaxed in the new year! It will be good to get back into routine. With the distractions of the holidays behind us, we are sure hoping for few disruptions from any frozen precipitation for the remainder of the winter!
Wishing you all an enjoyable holiday season with friends and family!

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Trees, Owls and Air

I hope all of you had a wonderful Thanksgiving with family and friends! The students are all rested, relaxed and ready to be back.

We had another busy month in November. We have had a great time working on art projects to add to our new door display. We have made our tree an oak tree so we could add some acorns. We have also talked about owls being birds of prey and have added a couple of unfortunate mice to our display.

The week before the holiday break, we got together with Mrs. Rodkey’s 6th grade class to do a cooperative activity. This is the same class we worked with to decorate our doors in October. This time we divided the students into small groups, placing a few of my students with a group of hers. They made this Blessing Mix. Each group added an ingredient to the mix. One of my students and one of her students came to the front of the group to tell about the meaning behind their ingredient as they added it to the mix. They also let their creativity fly and colored feathers to add to some paper bag turkeys. All of the students really seemed to enjoy spending time together.

In science class, Miss Perez has been talking about air. She has found some really, really great activities do with the students! First she demonstrated a way to be able to see that air is present, even though we can’t see it. She put a tissue inside a cup, and then lowered the cup, tilted, into a container of water. The tissue got wet. She then put another tissue in a cup. This time she lowered the cup, upside down, straight into the container of water. The air that was trapped between the water and the tissue kept the tissue completely dry.

Next, she talked about air pressure. To demonstrate the power that air pressure can have, she showed how air pressure can suck an egg into a bottle. She lit a match, dropped it into a bottle, and set a peeled hardboiled egg on top of the bottle. As the match went out, and the pressure inside the bottle changed, part of the egg was sucked inside the bottle.

She went on to talk about how air can propel things, like airplanes. She threaded a long piece of yarn through a straw. She attached the ends of the yarn to opposite walls, one end low and one end high. Then she taped a blown up balloon to the straw. When she let go of the end of the balloon, it was propelled up the string as the air rushed to escape the balloon. While the experiment was very cool, the real highlight was using the Balloon Bear to inflate balloons! This very cool piece of equipment belongs to a certified clown!

Finally, she talked about how hot air balloons fly differently than airplanes, explaining that hot air is lighter than cold air, so it will rise. This experiment got the most ‘ooohh’s’ and ‘aahhh’s’ from the students (and staff!). She constructed a tube of paper to surround a toaster, and put a plastic bag over the tube. She popped the toaster down, and as the air heated, the plastic bag rose into the air. Very cool!

We have also had several delightful visits from Sophie, the Bernese Mt. dog who works as a therapy dog in a classroom just down the hall.  We love when Sophie visits!

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Monsters and Plate Tectonics


October has been a busy month. Our first student teacher, Arielle Slingwine, left us in the third week of October, and Wanda Perez took her place. We spent part of the month working with Mrs. Rodkey’s sixth grade class on decorations for the door decorating contest. The classes were divided in half, with one group working on our door and the other group working on Mrs. Rodkey’s door. The students decided on the themes for the doors. Mrs. Rodkey’s door had a haunted house theme. Our door had a monster theme. You can see the results of their efforts and collaboration on our door. We were one of the winning doors! We got to attend a movie and popcorn party during period 8 on October 31st. Our students had such a good time decorating the door, that we’ve decided to decorate our door for each of the holidays or seasons. We have started on some projects for the next door decorating project.

Our science classes have taken on a definite food theme lately. Miss S finished up her time with us by talking about the Earth’s layers. She simplified the concept by talking about just the crust, mantle and core. She demonstrated the concept by lining the inside of a bowl with a graham cracker crust. She then put red Jello in the bowl for the mantle, and made a hole for lemon Jello for the core. Then they dug into it and scooped the core, mantle and crust onto plates for a snack!

Next, they each peeled an orange. Once the oranges were peeled, they used toothpicks to attach the pieces of peel to the orange, to show how the pieces of the Earth’s crust fit together like puzzle pieces. And then, of course, they ate the oranges.

The next activity used frosting and graham crackers. They spread a bit of frosting on a plate and then broke the graham crackers into chunks. They laid the pieces of the crackers on the frosting, and then slid them around to show how plate tectonics work to cause earthquakes and form mountains. And then, you guessed it, they ate the crackers and frosting!

To finish up the month, we did some pumpkin science. We revisited the concept of floating by testing pumpkins and other fruits and vegetables for floating. We also measured and weighed two pumpkins, a large one and a smaller one, and compared them. Then we got messy. We cut them open, scooped out seeds with our hands and counted them. The students and staff unanimously predicted that the larger pumpkin would have more seeds. But we were wrong! The smaller pumpkin had 413 seeds, and the larger one had 393 seeds. Of course, such a small difference could be the result of a counting error!

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Welcome to Life Skills!

Room C-07


      Welcome to Wet Cement! This is a blog to keep you updated on the happenings in the Intermediate Unit 13 Life Skills Support class at Cedar Crest Middle School in Lebanon, PA. My hope is to make a new post every two weeks or so, updating you on topics and skills we have been talking about in class.  The blog’s name is from the quote above, “Children are like wet cement. Whatever falls on them makes an impression.” We here in life skills believe this is true of our students. This means that it is very important that the adults in their lives pay attention to the message we are sending them by our actions and choices for them. For example, if we do things for them that they could do, or could learn to do, on their own, then we are telling them that we don’t think they are capable, or that they don’t need to work to do what everyone else is expected to do. We work very hard to make our students as independent as they can be. It’s a process. It doesn’t happen quickly. But the first step is always the same. Set the expectation that they can, should and need to do things for themselves. That is the goal of any adult. And that is our job as educators and parents. To give our students the skills they need to build the most independent adult life they can achieve. For some of the students, that means helping them to see that they are not small children anymore, but young people who are quickly approaching the adult world. I’m telling you all of this so that you know where we stand in our philosophy and approach. The journey for our kids is much easier when we are all on the same page!
Now on to some of the fun stuff! Our student teacher, Arielle Slingwine, aka Miss S, has been presenting lessons on the topic of landforms. She has talked about maps, and had the students make a map of the classroom. They also spent some time discussing country, state and town, illustrating the concept with nesting boxes. Ask your child periodically what country, state or town they live in to keep the concept in their minds.                         From there she moved on to rivers, ponds, lakes, streams and oceans. See if your child remembers the arm movements she taught them to help them to remember each of the water formations. Next, she talked about sinking and floating, making predictions and testing various items to determine if they sink or float, and then comparing the result to their prediction. She explained that things float because they have air inside, illustrating the concept by showing that a flat zipper bag will sink, but when it has air inside it will float. They were then given the challenge of building some type of structure that would make a small rock float. They were given supplies like foil, paper, tongue depressors and various glues, but little other direction. They explored and experimented, testing their creations and making modifications until they had built something that made their rock float. It was great watching them think for themselves and use their creativity to solve a problem.

Two of the boats that made a rock float.

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Hello world!

This site is under construction.  It will log the happenings in the Life Skills Support Class for IU #13 at Cedar Crest Middle School in Lebanon, Pa.  It will not be up and running until Sept. 2011.  Please stop back then!

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