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Essential Science for Teachers: Physical Science

Rising and Sinking Featured Classroom: Monique Brinson; Jamaica Plain, MA

Monique Brinson; Jamaica Plain, MA

“Science was a subject area that I greatly enjoyed as a youngster and I want to open the door to the joy of scientific inquiry and processes for my students as well.”


School at a Glance:
Young Achievers Science & Mathematics Pilot School
Jamaica Plain, MA

  • Grades: Pre K-8
  • Enrollment: 301
  • Students per Teacher: 20
  • Ethnicity:
    62% African American
    22% Hispanic
    13% White
    2% Asian
  • Percentage of students receiving free or reduced-price lunch: 63% versus a state average of 30%

From its inception in 1995, the Young Achievers Science & Mathematics Pilot School (YASM) in Jamaica Plain, Massachusetts, envisioned a math and science emphasis for urban children in Boston. Its mission statement reflects the school’s belief “that every student can learn algebra and understand the concepts of biology, can plot the course of a beam of light, and come to grips with the vastness of the stars.” The scope of the science program at YASM includes teaching three to four units in life, Earth, physical, and technological science during the course of the school year.

Monique Brinson was a founding teacher of the YASM pilot school, and she has worked in the Boston Public Schools system for 11 years. For the past nine, she has taught science using units from National Science Resource Center’s (NSRC) Science and Technology for Children and the Education Devleopment Center’s (EDC) Insights kits, She augments each unit with learning centers and hands-on activities, as well as texts to support learning. “My first year of teaching at a traditional Boston public school, I was not required to teach science. Although it was not a requirement, I worked directly with the science-only teacher to develop activities that supported the themes and concepts I was teaching my students… Science was a subject that I greatly enjoyed as a youngster and I wanted to make sure I opened the doors to the joy of scientific inquiry and understanding for my students as well.”

Lesson and Curriculum

Challenges with Sinkers; Insights

Lesson at a Glance:
Curriculum: Education Development Center, Insights, Liquids Unit
Grade: Third
Topic: Challenges with Sinkers

Nearing the end of their study of the EDC Insights “Liquids” unit, Monique’s third graders are attempting to make shapes from two materials that sink slowly — aluminum foil and clay. Prior to this lesson, the last of five on floating and sinking, the students had experimented with a variety of materials that sink and float in three different liquids.

In this lesson, Monique encouraged the class to manipulate all of the possible variables in order to make “slow sinkers” out of the foil and clay. In the process, the students revealed many of the ideas that are common to children of their age group, about the role of air and the placement and position of the object in rising and sinking. After the lesson, Monique commented, “What surprised me was that by this lesson, through keeping extensive journals with diagrams and text, my students were able to interact with the materials in a systematic manner, and engage with each other with very little modeling. Going forward from this lesson they will have had a wealth of experience with the macroscopic properties and behaviors of different materials in liquids.”

Series Directory

Essential Science for Teachers: Physical Science


Produced by Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics. 2004.
  • Closed Captioning
  • ISBN: 1-57680-749-5