Wayne’e report on his fifth grade program:
Late in February I finished my 12th one-hour session at Key Elementary School, working with all the 5th grade students (~95) on Longitudinal Waves and Patterns of Sound Waves. The highlight was students seeing and in some cases making Chladni Patterns on square aluminum plates by stroking them with an old violin bow; students saw how the sand sprinkled on top of the plate(s) moved about into the zero displacement regions. The patterns vary and can be striking. Now my goal is to get enough plates, 4-5 so that it becomes a full-lab activity for all students. Next year we plan to get photos. Students also had opportunities to hear audio patterns using resonating tubes…just ordinary cardboard ones.
Earlier I did a session with four classes of 5th grade students (~100) at Key where students produced and drew the resulting patterns when light passes through a prism, the reversal of color order when light is diffracted with a grating, an item which is ubiquitous in our everyday life. All students had the opportunity to see the effect of varying how tightly slits in the grating are squeezed together. That required the purchase of multiple 35 mm slide gratings with three different spacings between slits. There are enough left to do the same experiment next year. The data was the pattern—both order and spacing as measured from the straight ahead direction of the resulting color patterns. I have some invoices for you. The frosting on the patterns with light experience included working with polarized light to see how stress patterns in materials such as plastic, are made visible by inserting the plastic between two sheets of Polaroid film.
As is becoming the tradition at Key, following the temporal order of their science curriculum, all 100 5th graders worked on geology activities including: learning how to make a mineral streak and recording the streak of a set of minerals, measuring the relative hardness of some minerals after having practiced how to do a scratch test and testing minerals to see if they responded to a magnetic field; I need to invest in some old nickels, which are made of the metal by the same name for next year activities. Students will be surprised that they are attracted by magnetic too. We also talked about the production of minerals in tectonic and non-tectonic processes, which drew upon studies they had already done in class. I need three more pieces of lava with small (< 1mm) gemmy olivine crystals . To expand and follow my inclusive patterns in ——-a science topic (light, sound, and soon geology) my intent is for student to learn that a considerable number of science experiments/investigations are is guided by looking for patterns that repeat…..the underlying intent is to accustom students to always look for patterns in repetitive events in everyday life to have greater appreciation for and to gain a better understanding of what causes them. Now the data is the pictures or the patterns seen…when they are in 12th grade and beyond they will be ready and accustomed to looking for patterns in data…data which is now numbers….although extreme high energy physics is back to observing pictorial patterns to understand the fundamental nature of matter and the universe. Then, some day one of them will integrate science and literature as they pen, An Ode to Patterns.