Grades 5 and 6

Overview

At Lesley Ellis, you will find middle school students immersed in a variety of exciting hands-on learning activities throughout the day. They may be found in their classroom or at the Museum of Science studying solar and wind energy, in the art studio working on a Mayan pottery project, taking swimming lessons at a local pool during gym class, or at The Farm School for three days of working and living on a local farm with their teachers.

At the fifth and sixth grade levels, Lesley Ellis students become adept at working on independent research projects, playing a leadership role in the whole school community, and mentoring younger children as they work with “buddy” classrooms. At this time students are building organizational and time management skills for middle school and beyond. Fifth and sixth graders organize and lead monthly all-school assemblies, run the school recycling program, use the computer lab independently, and work collaboratively with classmates. They study literature, play leading roles in the spring musical, study the ancient cultures of China and Greece, delve into over 100 years of US immigration, the battle for civil rights and begin to investigate science topics in the news, such as global warming and alternative energy.

Teachers and students at Lesley Ellis use technology as a way to differentiate instruction and enrich learning. Each student is issued an iPad at the start of middle school, which may be used to research topics and vocabulary in different subject areas, for independent work on math and spelling, a weekly creative blogging activity and other assignments.

Learning Looks Like This

Walking into the science area, groups of fifth and sixth grade students are working on a study of cells. Having learned about cell structure through text and on-line resources, they work in teams to make "big cell" diagrams of plant and animal cells on poster board. After reviewing the similarities and differences between plant and animal cells using an iPad virtual cell app., they are now making models of these two cell types. Using a variety of everyday materials (from yarn to beads) suspended in gel, in a plastic bag "cell membrane", this 3-D modeling activity helps students grasp the complex internal structures of cells.

Over the next few weeks, fifth and sixth graders study light and lenses, making their own pin-hole cameras, and learn how light microscopes work. Students are excited to master the skill of using a microscope and to view both prepared slides and living, single cell organisms that they `hunt' for in pond water culture. As they learn how microscopes provide the needed magnification to view such small building blocks of life, students utilize math skills in handling very small numbers. Their ability to see cells through the light microscope is enhanced by the use of an optical microscope fitted with a digital camera, compatible with both the teacher’s laptop and the classroom SMART board. Through wireless connection to their ipads, students are able to compile a collection of cell images captured with the digital camera. Learning the history of Microscopy, they are presented with a clear demonstration of the close relationship between science and technology, and the positive influence of science on countless millions of lives, through the development of vaccines and antibiotics. 

Moving from cells to DNA, fifth and sixth grade students are amazed to be able to extract DNA from strawberries and to see the `molecule of life’ with their own unaided eyes. As they are introduced to genes and the basis of heredity, students make the connection to DNA fingerprinting, which they investigated in an earlier forensics unit. Students become immersed in the fascinating study of genetics, through the investigation of simple inherited human characteristics such as “tongue rolling” and predicting the outcomes of crosses in "Kitten Genetics".