Essential Science for Teachers: Earth and Space Science
Every Rock Tells A Story Featured Classroom: Laurie Wicks; Middletown, DE
Laurie Wicks; Middletown, DE
“Children are natural scientists, and they ask a lot of great questions. They’re not intimidated. I think as we grow older, we become intimidated, and we’re afraid what people will think of us if we ask certain questions, or if we give certain answers. Children are not afraid of that.”
School at a Glance:
Silver Lake Elementary School
- Location: Middletown, Delaware
- Grades: K-4
- Enrollment: 735
- Students per Teacher: 16
16% African American
- Percentage of students receiving free or reduced-price lunch:
18% versus a state average of 40%
In college, Laurie Wicks abandoned her pursuit of a degree in elementary education for one in business economics, which is how she started her first career at one of the major banks in Wilmington, Delaware working with, as she puts it, “adults.” “Even when I was majoring in economics, I took all my electives in education — there was just a love there,” explains Wicks. And so, while engaged in her “second career” — staying at home with her children for a few years — she worked to become certified for her third. Laurie is now in her eighth year in the classroom, and fifth year teaching third grade.
Laurie shares two homerooms with a partner, and the two of them have developed what she calls a theme-based instruction program. The two select a theme, and then center all math, science, English, and social studies instruction around it. “We’ve invented the particular schedule and method,” explains Laurie, “and as far we know, there ’s nobody across the country doing exactly what we do.”
Lesson and Curriculum
Lesson at a Glance:
The theme of the lesson that Laurie’s third graders worked on was that rocks tell stories. Working with the Earth materials kit from the FOSS curriculum, which Laurie says has a strong focus on hands-on activities, the children looked at a number of rocks that contained fossils, and tried to decide what stories those rocks were telling them.
The video features the second day of a two-day lesson. On the first day, Laurie distributed the rocks and asked her students to imagine that they are geologists and have just received a new, fascinating sample. She asked them what they would do as scientists to analyze this fossil and rock. The children took their work seriously, taking measurements, examining their rock’s properties, studying the fossil, and taking rubbings of it. “They came up with some rather fascinating things, experiments they wanted to perform,” Laurie said after the lesson.
In day two of the lesson, Laurie had her students think about the data they collected the previous day, and asked them to do research to determine what kind of rock and fossil were in their samples. “Hopefully they have enough research materials between the Internet and research books that they will try and use the data that they compiled to match to their fossil and to figure out what type of fossil it is, and hopefully what kind of rock also.”
Laurie hopes the students learn to be self-reliant when they’re exploring their world: “If they can walk away this year and feel good that they can do this independently, that they don’t feel intimidated when asked a question, that they know where to go to find answers, not to go always to people, but how they can start investigating something on their own. That ’s all we need.”
Session 1 Earth’s Solid Membrane: Soil
How does soil appear on a newly born, barren volcanic island? In this session, participants explore how soil is formed, its role in certain Earth processes, its composition and structure, and its place in the structure of the Earth.
Session 2 Every Rock Tells A Story
How can we use rocks to understand events in the Earth's past? In this session, participants explore the processes that form sedimentary rocks, learn how fossils are preserved, and are introduced to the theory of plate tectonics.
Session 3 Journey to the Earth’s Interior
How do we know what the interior of the Earth is like if we've never been there? In this session, participants examine the internal structure of the Earth and learn how it is possible for entire continents to move across its surface.
Session 4 The Engine That Drives the Earth
What drives the movement of tectonic plates? In this session, participants learn how plates interact at plate margins, how volcanoes work, and the story of Hawaii's formation.
Session 5 When Continents Collide
How is it possible that marine fossils are found on Mount Everest, the world's highest continental mountain? In this session, participants learn what happens when continents collide and how this process shapes the surface of the Earth.
Session 6 Restless Landscapes
If almost all mountains are formed the same way, why do they look so different? In this session, participants learn about the forces continually at work on the surface of the Earth that sculpt the ever-changing landscape.
Session 7 Our Nearest Neighbor: The Moon
Why is the Moon, our nearest neighbor in the solar system, so different from the Earth? In this session, participants explore the complex connections between the Earth and Moon, the origin of the Moon, and the roles played by gravity and collisions in the Earth-Moon system.
Session 8 Order out of Chaos: Our Solar System
Why do all the planets orbit the Sun in the same direction and why are the planets closest to the Sun so different from the gas giants farther out? In this session, participants gain a better understanding of the nature of the solar system by examining its formation.