Grade 3 students from Woodstock and Phoenicia Elementary Schools are learning how to be “Science Detectives.”
“The students have been learning about some of the tools that scientists use to observe and measure the world around them, and are learning the basics of how to use these tools themselves,” says environmental educator/watershed youth educator Matt Savatgy, from the Cornell Cooperative Extension of Ulster County, who runs the science enrichment program with teacher in the library Shelley Savatgy. While in the past the program was only offered to select students (who had been recommended by their teachers), this year all Grade 3 students are cycling through a five-week learning unit with the husband-and-wife Science Detectives team.
During a recent class at Woodstock Elementary School, students Madeline Gaddis and June Neden used a ruler to measure a cow’s tooth, while nearby, Jefferson Umana-Rodriguez and Jonah Schachter used a digital caliper to measure the dimensions of a fossilized shark’s tooth. Later, the entire class worked on identifying the various components of two kinds of microscopes. Duo scope microscopes, they learned, would allow them to view microscope slides as well as three-dimensional objects such as insects.
Previously, students at Phoenicia Elementary School – who had already completed their introductory lesson about microscopes – used the devices to examine various items, including salt, pepper, insect legs, plant stems, dragonfly wings and even a penny. “They had to find two Abe Lincolns on the penny, which was difficult without a microscope,” Savatgy recalled. “Using a microscope, they found the statue of Lincoln that is in the center of the Lincoln Memorial!”
As part of their lesson, the students took notes about what they saw through their microscopes and translated their observations into scientific drawings. “This bug is hairy and brown. I had one in my house this morning,” wrote one of the Phoenicia Science Detectives. “This salt is blue and cool up close!” exclaimed another.