Archive 2008-09

May 31, 2009  
It's a  Solarbration!

May 14, 2009
Outstanding work!  Gabby, Robert and Alex took second place in the "Shine like and Energy Star" video contest! read more
Read about it on Triblocal -   See our solar panel data in action and visit us on Illinois Clean Energy's Solar Schools website!

5th grade continues their interactive Pico Board projects - you'll have to wait until Challenge Night to see them - they are truly unique!
3rd and 4th a also rehearsing for Challenge Night with a different type of theater format.

May 6, 2009
Check out the 5th grade amazing mazes gallery - and 6th grade mazes programmed in Scratch.

May 1, 2009
Annie Reiser created a wonderful project for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) to help students not only learn about  the Earth's internal structure, but also about the felting process.   
We were so fortunate and thrilled that she was able to send us some Wooly Magma kits to do this project!  Each kit contains a rubber ball and colorful, dyed natural wool strips that will be felted into layers around the ball.  In the felting process, students added adding alkalinity (soap), heat, and agitation to tighten natural wool fibers and create a really cool model.  Third graders cut open their 3-D Wooly Magma Earth to inspect the layers created in the felting. Afterwards, students used a compass to draw a 2-D diagram with labels of the layers.
Sixth grade is looking into adding interactivity into their programming projects by adding external sensors and testing innovative interactions with a touch sensor, slider, light sensor, sound sensor and various resistances.  We hooked a damp cotton ball to the resistance sensors and programmed mini games that played  different sounds or moved at different rates depending on how much the cotton ball was squeezed.

April 24, 2009
Fifth and sixth grade students are programming their maze games.  There are some very clever aspects to these games - I will post them as soon as I gather their files.  Seventh graders are almost finished writing storyboards for their special effects lab and video that will show us we are all superheroes who can save the earth from wasteful and excessive carbon emissions.  Eighth grade is exploring flight - how does a plane get off the ground and stay in the air? The four forces of flight lift, weight, thrust and drag.  Speaking of flight - why do you suppose birds fly in a  > formation?  There are actually a couple of reasons.

April 17, 2009
The solar panel has been installed over the break at the Middle School - the next step is to get it online so we can see the power it generates in real-time.

April 10, 2009
The 8th grade collaborated with the Philippine students from the Philippine Science High School to create the Ocean Commotion website that tackles the global impact that fossil fuels are having on our oceans.   Super  job everyone!

April 3, 2009
Earthquakes!  3rd and 4th grade were given 2 sheets of newspaper and a very small segment of tape to build the largest stable structure they could.  It took a bit of time for the teams to figure out how to construct the structure with such limited materials -  -eventually, ideas started emerging.  Some structures reached over 60cm without toppling!  We then tested the stability with our home-made shake table by measuring the amount of displacement the structures could withstand.  Those that stood the shake table test were those built with a wide base.  
The 3rd grade was able to erupt their volcanoes - they were awesome!  Three days later, my classroom still smells like vinegar...  : )

March 27, 2009
Programming in Scratch is the focus for the fifth and sixth grade classes.  The Scratch programming environment is perfect for students to get started learning the logic within programming.  The program has a low floor allowing all students to get started with a successful first-time experience and a high ceiling to that will allow users unlimited advanced exploration.

We explored volcanoes with a virtual volcano that allowed us to set he magma viscosity and gas content. Afterwards, the 3rd grade built volcanoes based on the type of volcano (stratovolcano, cinder cone and shield) they were most impressed with.   We chose the right size container to fit inside to act as our magma chamber, then shaped foil over the container to create the shape.  Finally, we covered it with plaster, painted, and sealed it.  Next week, we will test them out!

8th grade finished up their documents to send to the Philippine students - we hope to hear what they will come up with for the website.

March 20, 2009
3rd and 4th grade explored and constructed Pangaea.  The animated
graphic was created by Liam and Clayton who carefully took stop motion photos of their Pangaea puzzle.  We also tested various conditions with online volcanoes before we started exploring earthquakes.  The United States Geological Society website shows the last 7 days of earthquake activity around the world -  the Ring of Fire is very clear. 

This weekend: Jonah V., Ethan R., and Michael S. will participate in the Chicago Metro History Fair.  The students did an awesome job in bringing alive the history of the not-so-well-known individuals who had a big impact in Chicago history.

6th and 7th Grade began exploring laser technology.  When the laser was created,  no one was really sure how it would be used. Some say it was a solution waiting for a problem. 
Solutions came and after 30 years, we are using lasers in many everyday products.  Students experimented with lasers and mirrors to create designsby accurately placing mirrors to accommodate the 90 degree angle of the beam.  They learned how to play Khet, a laser game in which they strategically move theirmirrored pieces in an attempt to destroy their opponent's Pharaoh.   Students also tested out various mirrors and beamsplitters with an online laser Flash program and learned more facts on lasers and masers at Nobelprize.

March 12, 2009
Eighth grade had a bit of a change in plan with our partner school in the Philippines.  The Philippine students suggested that a focus on fossil fuels would be a universal global issue to tackle and stated that they would work on alternatives to fossil 

The 8
th grade decided that sticking with the ocean theme would be a good idea so they would not have to scrap all of their work. This change in plan means that we need to understand ocean acidification - a problem associated with the burning of fossil fuels.  We are now conducting tests on artemia (brine shrimp) by growing them in different pH environments.

February 19, 2009
Secret Formulas was the topic for  elementary Challenge students this week.  Starting with with a virtual visit to a quarry we then discussed what minerals we find in our everyday life- such as toothpaste.  The history of toothpaste is fascinating!  We concocted out owntoothpaste formulas by carefully measuring and recording ingredients such as calcium carbonate, baking soda, glycerin, and various flavors and colors.  Some students had to start over several times to get a product that tasted, looked, and smelled like something they might want to use.  

February 5, 2009

This week 6th and 7th graders took a trip to the Chicago History Museum to check out Chicago History and to examine how curators of the museum display history.  Some of our students got a behind the scenes look at the construction of the Lincoln exhibit - very cool!  

Grade 3, 4 and 5 visited the Adler Planetarium to learn more about the night sky.  There are many other exciting interactive exhibits such as: the Mars rover, a crater maker, a space visualization lab, and kids can even feel what it is like to take a lunar jump.

January 27, 2009

Elementary students used their knowledge of constellations to construct their own grouping of stars that seem to form a picture.  The students could to create anything from these stars!  This took some imagination and creativity to also come up with a story of how the animal, object or whatever they saw got up there!

The purpose of this lesson was for students to apply their knowledge of constellations into the constructions of their own group of stars that seem to form a picture in the night sky. Afterwards, students chould see that the way constellations are connected is arbitrary.  Anyone can play connect the dots and come up with a constellation.  Today, people  don't really use constellations to tell a story... astronomers use the them as boundaries for different regions of the sky.

January 20, 2009

The Field-Stevenson students watched intently as the 44th President took the oath of office.  In viewing this historic event, we are all a witness to history that we can pass on to our children and grandchildren.  Channel 9 News covered the event and Field-Stevenson School and we also have some of our pics on the Trib_local site.

January 15, 2009

After listening to Greek myths about how the stars came to be, elementary students created stories about their own constellation. The stories were presented to the class along with their drawings.  It is amazing how many different things we can see from the same constellation.
The stories were absolutely wonderful!

January 9, 2009
Happy New Year!
Black Holes were the focus of elementary classes this week - students had the opportunity to learn and ask question and get answers from our expert visitor from the University of Illinois Extension School.  Kids also created their own black hole and measured the mass/volume ratios.
6th and 7th graders reviewed the Chicago Metro History Fair research topic selection, research requirements and steps it takes in becoming a history fair historian.  Don't forget your topic and summary next week.
8th grade is beginning to use Flash for creating internet content. This week we started with creating symbols and keyframes, and using motion, fading, and tint.
December 18
Homework over Winter Break!  Exploring Space will be the focus of elementary classes for the coming weeks - please prepare by visiting the following space links page... (try the black hole simulation)
6th and 7th grade: please see these superior history fair projects from the Chicago Metro History Fair.  The theme this year is:
“Individual in Chicago/Illinois History: Actions, Legacies” visit the link to learn more about this theme and think of ideas.  Please remember that the theme “The Individual in History” is not a biography - - it is about what a person did, why, and how their actions are a part of history.
8th Grade: don't forget to log into the Nicenet area to post your ideas and suggestions for you topic.  Do not forget to respond to ideas from our partner school in the Philippines.
December 6

This week, Gr.-5-8 got their hands gooey with paper mache while working to build globes.

  The project, Cool Globes, is a visual art project to raise awareness of global warming and to inspire others to see solutions.


8th Grade continued with the Fibonacci explorations in nature.  Fibonacci numbers are not only present in flowers but also the human hand and body.  The Greeks used cosmic math - (The Golden Ratio) in the construction of their statues. 

After measuring "The Spear Thrower'" by Polyleitos of Argos, the 8th graders measured and compared the ratios of two classmates to see who had the most "classical" Greek body type.  Of course, some bodies, attain "Greekness" as we get older.



November 20


4th grade participated in a live video chat with the United Nations called CO2 Kick the Habit.  After reviewing the briefing papers on the Kyoto Protocol and climate issues, our class was invited to speak with UN Information Officer Daniel 

Shepard of  the Department of Public Information on climate change. This chat allowed students the opportunity to ask questions learn about the threats posed by global warming and what we need to do to stablize the concentration of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere.


Elementary students began filming their video and will be editing next week.

 6th and 7th grade continued to work on their various projects while 8th grade began to look closely into Fibonacci numbers

 and their relationship to nature.


5th through 8th graders will create our own "Cool Globes" solutions for global warming when we return from break. 





November 13


The projects are coming along nicely for middle school students -

8th graders finished wiring/insulating the house and labeling items of interest.  

Some 6th and 7th grade students took the initaitive to really explore the 3-D Sketch-up modeling program at home and were able to create some amazing energy-efficient designs!  Way to go!  The second proposals / projects are due next week.


Elementary students continued to develop storyboards for their podcasts.  We viewed a "Cool Fuels" story which documents a man and his dog traveling across the country in various vehicles without using any gas.  The segment we watched showed us how geothermal, solar, wind and micro-hydropower were used to "fuel" his various vehicles. 

3rd grade finally had the opportunity to test the solar ovens- at 32°with a wind chill of 17, the solar ovens heated up in 20 minutes to 230° and higher!


The November 6

Students in the grades 3 and 4 created storyboards - - graphic organizers for their video project.  Students began to research, map out the direction of their project, and incorporate and key points they want to get across in words and pictures.  Next week, they will begin filming and piecing together their presentations.  There are lots of great ideas - I can't wait to see how they turn out!

6th and 7th grade completed their planning sheets for their projects and began working.  Student projects and approaches include: using publishing software to create brochures to promote recycling, exploring 3-D software to create energy homes, building model homes, creating usable art from recyclable material and using 

presentation software to take a stand on global warming.  

Link to recycled art projects at: Trash Matcher

8th grade created origami furniture, added windows, and solar panels, and solar water heating to their energy house (our solar motor for the ceiling fan will need to be re-soldered next week) - Some students tried to edit the 3-D house replica for a future walk-thru tour - we used Sketch-up design software.

October 30


This week Middle School students had a  guest speaker, Mr. John Van Horn, from the University of

Illinois Extension School to discuss global warming.  The contributing factors discussed on this issue included: interglacial periods, variations in solar output, as well as, fossil fuel usage.

Mr. Van Horn presented some compelling evidence from both sides of the issue.  He helped students to really examine data since charts often show data which is misrepresented in order to prove a case.

<<Picture: Mr. Van Horn shows students the US at night - showing so much wasted energy just going out into space.




 Elementary classes began to test out their renewable energy machines and make modifications as necessary. They are going to research their renewable energy topic (history, capture designs and current/future designs) and then create a storyboard for a presentation on their topic.

Fourth graders (below) tested  a solar car and a water-powered pulp mill. 

October 23


After finishing up photovoltaics studies, Middle School students focused their attention on the issue of global warming this week.  Next week, we will have a guest speaker, John Van Horn, from the University of Illinois Extension School who will further discuss and investigate the issues relating to climate change.  Get informed!

I have attached some great links on global warming in the sidebar and here is another one from theNational Wildlife Federation.


5th Grade finally had  a sunny day to test out  their solar ovens - The temperature 

Solar Ovens

was a brisk 47 degrees; however, the oven design transformed the sunlight to over 200 degrees!  The s'mores melted within 20 minutes.  Students are still working on their renewable energy machines and most of them will be ready for testing next week.

One group project is ready: a solar-powered rock tumbler design by Justin and Paris (see video)  After several modifications - the tumbler now tumbles at a  slow but steady rate. 

October 16


We will are rehabbing an old doll house to make it energy efficient!  This week 8th Grade Challenge decided what changes to the house need to be made to reduce its carbon footprint.  Students decided passive solar inclusions in the design (skylights) would be beneficial-- in addition, active solar lighting with the powered by solar panels on the roof.  Other green features considered are:  a recycling/composting area, insulation, solar powered ceiling fans, bamboo flooring, water collection, a green roof, energy efficient windows and doors, and solar water heating and radiant floor heat. 

The photo shows the house in 

"before" state- as you can see, it needs a lot of work.  To learn more about energy efficiency check out the interactive Energy Star house.


Grade 7 began their investigative experiments with their PV cells - testing the output in various conditions.  Grade 6 completed most of their PV investigations and will conclude with serial and parallel connections.   Next week, students will learn more about climate change and prepare for our guest speaker.  We will also select projects from a tic-tac-toe grid and complete a project proposal before getting started.

Grades 4 and 5 is began working on their alternative energy machines.  We looked at different types of gears and gear ratios that help our machines run as smoothly andefficiently as possible. 


group designs are different, so when we are done, each team will create a podcast presentation about theirrenewable
energy design.  There is much more building, research, and writing that needs to be completed before we begin the energy podcast.


October 9


Cooking with the Sun!  Grade 4 assembled a solar oven and carefully placed it outside.

We were not sure what to expect as the temperature outside was a mere 54 degrees.  By angling the
oven just right to capture
as much energy from the sun as they could, the oventhermometers reached as high as 260 degrees!  We were able to
cook s’mores while we worked on our renewable energy project designs inside. (more updates next week.)
Grade 6 and 8 began measuring the output of our class model photovoltaic arrays.  After receiving background knowledge on photovoltaics, we familiarized ourselves with the equipment and practiced measuring the DC output using a multimeter to measure the current and voltage (which are multiplied to give us our wattage).    Investigations include: How does light intensity (or angle, distance shadow, color, concentrated light source) affect the electrical output of a PV cell? Students, working in pairs, had to develop a design for the investigation, record/chart their results and make conclusions.








October 1


Grades 6-7-8 took a trip to the Museum of Science and Industry for a hands-on lab that allowed them to build fuel cell models.   Fuel cells are definitely in our nearfuture- however, they are costly.  It's not surprising - everything is expen$ive when it is considered new technology...computers, digital video cameras, HDTVs...but, eventually, the price comes down

We also took a tour of the Smart House - the technology for the

house is all really exciting and it is currently available - but it is costly! 

During our next Challenge  class, students will work on photovoltaics experiments. 

We will have a guest speaker from the University of Illinois Extension School on October 29th and 30th to talk to students about global warming.


Septermber 29


Students in Grade 3-4-5 took a trip to the Graue Mill in Hinsdale.  The trip

allowed students to see how energy was captured from flowing water and also learn about our local history.
We explored the engineering within the mill and learned some
of the interesting history of the mill and how it was used as a stop for the Underground Railroad.

Students also experienced first-hand how much physical work there was before electricity!  Chores were an imprtant part of life for a child. 

During our next

Challenge class,  students will brainstorm more about how we use energy from the sun, wind and water (past and present). They will have the opportunity to will build their own renewable energy machinery models such as: a wind powered corn grinder, a water powered pulp mill, and a solar powered rock tumbler.

September notes:
We are starting the school year off with explorations of energy. 
Experiments allowed students to experience first-hand these transformations:


  • Potential and Kinetic Energy - we gave a ball more energy by heating it up and measured the height of the bounce.
  • Reactions that produce heat: (exothermic) Calcium chloride and water
  • Reactions that absorb heat: (endothermic) Sodium bicarbonate and vinegar
  • Transforming light into motion-  radiometer
  • Transforming heat and electricity- motion powered flashlight
  • Explore "memory wire" (nitinol) that resumes it’s original shape when heated [thermal energy to motion] Bend a wire to produce heat – [motion to heat] Use a bi-metal bar to demonstrate differences in expansion/ contraction rates when objects are heated [thermal energy to motion]
  • Transform chemical energy into radiant energy usinghandwarmers.
  • Transform chemical energy into electrical energy. Lightsticks to show chemical reactions changing into light energy Experiment with an apple battery [convert chemical energy into electrical energy]
  • Transform electricity into motion. Transform motion into electricity and light.  Use a battery, copper wire and compass to change chemical energy to electrical energy to motion.  Examine and test a motor and its parts: copper wire coils and magnets. [electric energy producing motion]
  • Water wheels - Test the speed (rpm) of our sample waterwheel. Test the stalling force converting grams to newtons.