McKay Elementary

Bioblitz! (10/7 and 10/11 NATURE Lessons)

This week, students got connected with their local environment through a Bioblitz! What is a bioblitz? Great question! When we introduced the word, the students figured out that “bio-” means life and “blitz” means a fast, all-out effort. At Donald McKay, we tasked students to go out into their school’s garden and look for interesting foliage that sparked their excitement! At Maverick Landing, rain cancelled our plans to go outside, but the students engaged in a marine bioblitz, exploring shells and marine life. 

On Friday, students at Donald McKay had the opportunity to explore the school’s garden in depth. They got a close up look at flora and fauna of all sizes, from tiny aphids to enormous chard leaves. Garden treasures also included some tasty treats like ground cherries, mint leaves, and chives. NATURE teachers walked around the garden as kids ran up to us to show us the plant and bug life they found. 

One girl was excited to show us how she figured out how to open a spiky pod (safely) to find small black seeds inside. Another student figured out that leaves could be crushed up and used to make a green paint. When we brought the foliage back to the classroom to look at it more closely, one boy noticed that there were small aphids crawling around a particular leaf and passed it around so all his classmates could see.

While the students entered the garden without specific instructions or guidelines of what they would be learning, each student found something new that excited them! Instead of giving students answers, NATURE facilitators asked questions to help students figure out why some plants had spikes, some leaves had holes, and why some plants (flowers, chard, tomatoes) had bright colors while some had more dull colors. We facilitated the activity, but the learning was entirely student-guided.

While it rained on Wednesday night, students at our Maverick Landing Community Center location had a fun night indoors rotating through several fun marine biology themed stations. They explored the role that shells play in marine ecosystems by taking a look at the little creatures that live inside of them. At a different station, students made guesses about the relationships between different animals and discussed the concept of food webs.

McKay Elementary

Apples around the World! (11/1 NATURE Lesson)

This week we focused on a New England staple: apples! From the life cycle, to the geography, to the taste, students explored many aspects of this tasty treat. At one station students discussed how in the world a tiny seed turns into a fully grown apple. Using this information each student colored one stage of the life cycle of an apple and arranged the stages in chronological order.

At another station we learned where apples are grown and how they are transported. Students enthusiastically played several rounds of “Apples Around the World” a game in which apples are passed in a circle with nothing but your elbows! After the game the students discussed how much energy it takes to transport apples and the benefits of eating local produce.

At the final station students learned about the anatomy of an apple and scientifically analyzed apple slices using the five senses. Some popular adjectives were “sweet,” “fresh,” “crunchy,” “smooth,” and “like-an-apple!”

McKay Elementary

Food Preservation at McKay Elementary! (10/18 NATURE Blog)

This week, students learned about preserved foods through a fun exploration and tasting activity! We started out with a simple question: what exactly is food preservation, and why do we need to do it? Everyone had a different story to tell about food that had gone bad, from cake left in the fridge to bread in a Ziploc bag. We learned about why food spoils in the first place- as some kids suggested, bacteria, germs, and mold spores in the air all work to break down food and make it inedible. We even explored how some germs are good and some are bad- like the bacteria in yogurt that helps our digestive system.

 Students tried to guess different ways to preserve food: many kids suggested washing food before storing it, putting food in glass containers and sealing it, or putting it in the fridge. Ultimately, we learned that there are a few ways that people have been preserving food- drying, heating, cooling, pickling, cheese-making or butter making. We went on a tasting adventure through these different methods, starting out with dried fruit. 

Through prunes, dried apples, pineapples, peaches, and apricots, students tasted the difference between fresh and dry fruit, and investigated why taking the water out makes the products last so much longer (ten months versus a few weeks). The key, it turns out, is that dehydrating fruit means that even bad mold, yeast, or bacteria can’t grow. 

Moving on to pickling, we learned about how salty water is also used to dehydrate products like cucumbers or olives. After giving everyone a chance to try an olive, it was clear that opinions differed widely on its taste! While some asked for more, others were surprised at the rather unfamiliar taste. Students in some classes also helped to make butter by shaking a glass of cream, and also were able to look at fresh cheese to see how even milk can be preserved. 

All in all, we explored together the different methods that can be used to preserve food, and how those processes impact how that food looks or tastes. We definitely have some more appreciation for all of our canned and preserved foods now!