By MAUREEN DOHERTY
LYNNFIELD — The school district’s K-12 Science Department was the focus of last week’s presentation to the School Committee called “A Glimpse into the Classroom.”
The series, instituted this year under new Superintendent of Schools Jane Tremblay, brings both students and educators to a school board meeting on a regular basis to give a presentation on a specific subject area.
“The objective is to have a presentation that will allow everyone to have an idea of what is happening K-12 according to one or two standards from Mass. Frameworks,” Tremblay told the Villager.
The thoroughness of the presentations made by the third graders, eighth graders and high school students impressed the board members.
Elementary Math/Science Curriculum Director Christina Noce brought third graders Adrianna Pascuccio and Michael Savio to give presentations. They are students in Nicole Kinney’s room at the Summer Street School.
Eighth graders Zoe Chen and Joseph Fabrizio represented the Middle School.
LHS Science Department Head Scott Gordon had three students from his Environmental Science and Sustainability class give presentations, Nick Miller, Katherine Harrison and Chris Bartolotta.
Raised bed gardens utilized
LMS Math/Science Curriculum Director Katie Ambroise gave an overview of the life sciences curriculum to the board and the myriad ways students study plants throughout their schooling.
“Beginning in kindergarten, students are taught that plants need food, water and air to survive. In addition to studying in the classroom, students grow plants with seeds at home,” Ambroise said.
“Last spring, Green City Growers based out of Somerville partnered with the Summer Street School to help them grow plants on their raised beds that were built at Summer Street.
“The group has come out bi-weekly to work hands-on with the third-graders. The program will begin at Huckleberry Hill next year. The harvest has been used in third-grade lunches this year.
“The Middle School continues the study of plants where students learn about photosynthesis and other important plant processes,” Ambroise said, adding, “About four years ago the high school started two gardens to study plants in chemistry class. Now there are 16 raised beds at the high school primarily funded through multiple grants from LET (Lynnfield Education Trust). The students had a great harvest for Thanksgiving.”
“Once a month we go to our garden at Summer Street. We harvest vegetables, plant seeds, weed the garden, thin plants to make more room for growth. We also moved plants that weren’t growing fast enough to make some space for new plants,” Pascuccio said.
“We learned about good bugs for the garden and bad bugs for the garden. They taught us to make a solution from alcohol and soap to keep the bugs away. They showed us how we can take out seeds from the plants that weren’t growing to save to plant for next season,” Pascuccio added.
Now that the weather is colder with winter on the way, Pascuccio explained that “Green City Growers put a cold frame over the garden so they could grow a little longer.”
Savio talked about the various experiments he and his classmates did and how they developed hypotheses and recorded their observations in their journals.
Once students enter fifth grade, LMS student Joseph Fabrizio said “we planted bean plants and made formal observations every three days, drawing and describing that plant at each stage. We also learned how to take care of plants throughout the stages of their lives.”
Presentations made to their peers were also part of the curriculum, Fabrizio said. “We created a persuasive presentation about a plant part. We had to write two important functions of the part,” he said, explaining that they were required to “use vocabulary terms and information learned in class to support our argument.”
By seventh grade, students are expected to conduct more in-depth analysis and were required to “fit plants into ecosystems,” Fabrizio said. Their powerpoint presentation gave one such example of students needing to describe “how relationships among and between organisms in an ecosystem can be competitive, predatory, parasitic and mutually beneficial and that these interactions are found across multiple ecosystems.”
Chen described how seventh graders also designed “a native garden for a school project.” The garden was required to include both “hardscape and water features to go along with the landscapes. We selected plants that were durable and helpful to one another,” she said, added that the design had to be “handicap accessible.”
As eighth graders, these students are conducting more in-depth laboratory studies, such as constructing “a scientific explanation based on evidence for how environmental and genetic factors influence the growth of an organism.” They’ve also conducted experiments to study photosynthesis and plant respiration using plant materials placed in a solution of carbonic acid in test tubes and other experiments with grow lights.
Miller said they had also planted sun gold heirloom tomatoes grown from seeds that cost $30 per gram. When some of the tomatoes went bad, he said they learned to salvage the seeds, which saved them quite a bit of money.
Harrison said, “The growing season would have been over for months now but we put low tunnels over eight of our gardens and this picture was taken today of our garden, so as you can see, our white Russian kale is still growing and flourishing.” The tunnels also provide students with an opportunity to conduct thermodynamic studies of the interior and exterior temperatures and then to graph the profile.
Bartolotta said they also grow plants indoors using “earthboxes and UV light.” This method has enabled them to keep both basil and spinach alive.
A “hydroponic system is being constructed by three students,” Miller added.
Harrison said through an arrangement with UNH the science students will soon have “access to a scanning electron microscope” with one million times magnification “in real time.” The students have donated some of their harvest to the school’s taco shop and hope to partner with a farm to school program and food banks in the area as well as build a large greenhouse.
School Committee member Dorothy Presser said it was “a great presentation” that made it “very clear how the study of plants bridged many different disciplines – biology, chemistry, English/Language Arts, community service – that we hope kids are learning about at school.”
Board member Jamie Hayman praised the students’ public speaking skills and poise, noting that it is “hard for adults” to speak in front of a board.
Tremblay said that during her recent visit to science classrooms at the high school she was very impressed by the level of engagement she encountered among students as they discussed the subjects they were studying.