Opinion
Curriculum Opinion

Curricular Activities—Middle Grades

By Marsha Ratzel — February 26, 2007 1 min read

6th grade math and science teacher
Leawood Middle School
Leawood, Kansas

Every day, teachers walk a tightrope. We balance the need to address discrete bits of information likely to be tested against our certain knowledge that deep learning will benefit students most.

See Also

Engaging and exciting 6th grade science students through project-based learning is my best hope of tying the tested “indicators of learning” into something that makes information memorable and meaningful in their lives.

Soil is one of the tested areas in our state curriculum. Does this have “boring” written all over it? As a science teacher, I think soil is very cool, but judging from the groans when I announce this unit of study, I’m usually a minority of one.

Here’s what we do to make dirt worth digging into. Consider how many families travel or have visitors from far away over the holidays. It doesn’t take much effort to gather samples or ask visitors to do so.

This year my students have assembled a huge collection of soils from around the country. They constantly rush into my room with a new baggie full of dirt, shouting, “Look what I’ve got!”

They swap samples and create their own rough classification system. Using microscopes, they find commonalities, then argue over what they’ve found and what to call each sample. They trade e-mails with a soil scientist and a master gardener.

Eventually, up to our elbows in mud and sand, we come to understand that there are all kinds of dirt—and it does a lot more than get you dirty!

For our state test, kids are expected to plod through the steps of soil formation. But they are positively crazy over this hunt-and-gather approach. They’re excited about their new knowledge and much less likely to do a “brain dump” the minute the test is over.

The author is a member the Teacher Leaders Network, a nonprofit professional community of accomplished educators dedicated to sharing ideas and expanding teachers’ influence. For more information on the group, visit: www.teacherleaders.org.
A version of this article appeared in the March 01, 2007 edition of Teacher as Curricular Activities

Events

Classroom Technology Webinar Making Big Technology Decisions: Advice for District Leaders, Principals, and Teachers
Educators at all levels make decisions that can have a huge impact on students. That’s especially true when it comes to the use of technology, which was activated like never before to help students learn
Professional Development Webinar Expand Digital Learning by Expanding Teacher Training
This discussion will examine how things have changed and offer guidance on smart, cost-effective ways to expand digital learning efforts and train teachers to maximize the use of new technologies for learning.
This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Sponsor
Student Well-Being Webinar
The Social-Emotional Impact of the Covid-19 Pandemic on American Schoolchildren
Hear new findings from an analysis of our 300 million student survey responses along with district leaders on new trends in student SEL.
Content provided by Panorama

EdWeek Top School Jobs

Teacher Jobs
Search over ten thousand teaching jobs nationwide — elementary, middle, high school and more.
View Jobs
Principal Jobs
Find hundreds of jobs for principals, assistant principals, and other school leadership roles.
View Jobs
Administrator Jobs
Over a thousand district-level jobs: superintendents, directors, more.
View Jobs
Support Staff Jobs
Search thousands of jobs, from paraprofessionals to counselors and more.
View Jobs

Read Next

This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Sponsor
Curriculum Whitepaper
The Digital Transformation in Elementary Education
This white paper reports on the impact of this digital transformation, highlighting the resources educators are most likely to use, their...
Content provided by Capstone
Curriculum School Halts Use of Fictional Book in Which Officer Kills a Black Child
Fifth graders in at least one Broward County school were assigned to read a book that critics say casts police officers as racist liars.
Rafael Olmeda, South Florida Sun-Sentinel
5 min read
Broward County School Board member Lori Alhadeff listens during a meeting of the Broward County School Board, Tuesday, March 5, 2019, in Fort Lauderdale, Fla.
Broward County School Board member Lori Alhadeff listens during a meeting of the Broward County School Board in Fort Lauderdale, Fla. Alhadeff told the South Florida Sun-Sentinel that she does not feel like the book "Ghost Boys" is appropriate for 5th graders.
Lynne Sladky/AP
This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Sponsor
Curriculum Whitepaper
Empowering Teachers for Student Success
In this white paper, we highlight 6 best practices for using educational databases and highlight how teachers are effectively using these...
Content provided by Gale
Curriculum Opinion Introducing Primary Sources to Students
Five educators share strategies for introducing primary sources to students, including English-language learners.
12 min read
Images shows colorful speech bubbles that say "Q," "&," and "A."
iStock/Getty