Jordan-Elbridge fourth grade students delve into the guts of learning

(From left) Fourth graders Emma Morrell, Kendall Shaw and Paige Lane.

(From left) Fourth graders Emma Morrell, Kendall Shaw and Paige Lane. Provided

— Dissecting frogs or earthworms is usually a rite of high school science, but in the Jordan-Elbridge Central School District, getting into the guts of how life works isn’t just for older students.

Fourth grade students get their hands dirty, too.

Elbridge Elementary teacher Michael Fixler said at the beginning of every school year, his students ask if they will get to dissect anything, and many teachers, especially those who might be a bit squeamish, often say, “No, and I’m glad!”

Actually, once a year J-E fourth grade students do “dissect” something. They recently wrapped up a science unit called “Plant Life Cycles.”

“It’s a hands-on unit where they grow plants from seed, learn about the ways seeds disperse, and observe some of the key features of trees in the environment,” Fixler said.

“One of the more engaging parts of this unit is when each student gets their very own flower to dissect and then carefully glue the parts onto a ‘live flower diagram’ that shows the names and functions of the different parts,” he said.

From this study of the real flowers, along with texts that portray this process, students are now able to more fully explain how the individual flower parts help the plant to reproduce.

Students need to be scientists with the unit on flowers, Cindy Cannata, another fourth grade teacher, said.

“The observations they make in the beginning of the unit with trees and leaves show their background knowledge and help introduce the concepts covered. The observations of their growing seeds and dissected flowers really give them a chance to describe and show what they have learned throughout this unit,” she said.

This year, teachers are beginning to implement the Common Core Learning Standards – a state-driven nation-wide change in how students are taught.

The Common Core requires students at all levels to spend more time reading non-fiction material and explain the relevance of that text to classroom lessons. After creating the live flower diagram, students had an opportunity to demonstrate this understanding.

“Undoubtedly this new Common Core curriculum has changed the way we teach and learn, but there’s still no question that students need to be engaged with the real live materials,” Fixler said. “They love that part of learning the most.”

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