Sunday, September 30, 2012

Scholastic's Paws for Reading Campaign

On Monday, October 1, your child will be bringing home information about Scholastic's fall reading community service project. Each year Scholastic teams up with different community service organizations to promote reading and help kids give back to the community through their Classrooms Care program.

This year Scholastic has teamed up with Paws for Healing Canine Therapy, Reach Out and Read, and Save the Children to donate books to children in need. Using the dogs vs. cats approach, your child can select a team, join the Paws for Reading website and log their minutes read. Participating in the program is NOT a requirement for your child, but since the kids are already reading each night anyway, I thought this might be additional motivation to get the kids reading. On top of knowing that they will help donate books to children who don't have any, the kids also have the opportunity to qualify for prize drawings and to get fun downloadables, too.

All of this is free and safe, all you need to do is visit the Paws for Reading website, register with your child, and get started reading and logging your minutes.

I'm excited to share this opportunity with you and the kids, and I hope everybody will take the chance to participate in this community service program if you have Internet access at home.

Monday, September 24, 2012

Did You Smell the Stinky Sticker?

Throughout the day today the 4th grades at Bear Creek were treated to an entertaining and informative presentation about energy and natural gas safety. The presentation, sponsored by UGI and presented by the National Energy Foundation, focused on a basic introduction to energy, the difference between renewable and nonrenewable resources, how fossil fuels are created, and what we need to do to be safe around natural gas in our homes and communities. This informative presentation included an experiment that showed the kids exactly how decomposing plants and animals give off gas that eventually becomes natural gas. All of these activities and discussions covered one of our 4th grade science standards, and several gave our kids a preview of topics that we will be talking about later in the year.

The kids also had the opportunity to think about what they need to do to be safe in their homes (one message was cleaning up the clutter - hopefully it works!!) and to learn a little more about the warning signs of a gas leak.

And that's where the smelly sticker comes in. Mercaptan is a chemical added to natural gas, which is actually odorless, so people will notice a leak before a situation becomes dangerous. The scratch and sniff sticker your child brought home gives you all a great example of what a natural gas leak would smell like. You can thank us at conferences for all the stinky smells you had to do tonight! ;)

If you would like to learn more about the National Energy Foundation, you can visit their website by clicking here, and you can learning more about today's program by clicking here. UGI also has a fun web based activity where kids can visit and learn more about energy safety. Check out Energyville and see how well you do conserving energy!

Thanks to UGI and the National Energy Foundation for presenting this program, and a special thank you goes to Mrs. Kimmel for organizing the presentation for the Bear Creek 4th grade classes!

Exploring the World

During the last week, we have started our map skills unit in Social Studies. The big question we're trying to answer is, "How are maps, globes, and GPS units important to people?" and the focus of our study is talking about how we find or locate places in the world.

Last year your child should have learned or been introduced to the continents and oceans in third grade. This year we'll specifically be talking about how to describe where those places are in the world, and right now we're on the basics.

Every map, globe or GPS uses a grid system, the lines of latitude and longitude, to identify each place on Earth. To understand this grid system, the kids need to understand where the Equator (0 degrees latitude) and the Prime Meridian (0 degrees longitude) are found on Earth and that they create the four different hemispheres. That is what we have been working the last 3 or 4 days. Tomorrow we will be having a "ticket out the door" to see how well your child is understanding these concepts. If I'm still noticing some areas of need, I will send home a note for you to practice those skills at home while we are reviewing and building upon them here at school.

Here's what you can do to help! Take some time to look at the map below. Ask your kids to show you the following things (you can click on the map to make it larger):

  1.  the line that is the Equator and the line that is the Prime Meridian
  2. the names and locations of the 4 hemispheres
  3. the location of North America, the Atlantic Ocean and the Pacific Ocean (some students are responsible for all 7 continents and 5 oceans - they know who they are!)
  4. Where the hemisphere overlap (for example, which part of the grid is the northern AND eastern hemisphere) or you can point to a continent and ask your child to tell you which hemispheres that continent is located in. Did you know Africa is the only continent in all four hemispheres?
photo credit - (

This is not a huge quiz, test or assessment, and you should not spend time trying to get your child to memorize all of these things tonight. We will constantly be reviewing and adding on these skills so I wanted to give you an update of where we were with our Social Studies unit and give you a fun little activity to do with the kids.

Sunday, September 23, 2012


Each day 4th graders participate in BEAR time. This half hour block prior to lunch is a chunk of time when the students participate in a variety of different clinics. Some students participate in clinics specifically tailored to meeting their reading needs in the areas of accuracy (decoding), fluency and comprehension. Other students participate in math, word study and reading comprehension clinics to review skills that have been taught and preview upcoming skills. These clinics take place every cycle Day 1 - Day 5 from 12:10 - 12:40.

On Day 6 the fourth graders get a brain break and get to participate in Free BEAR! Each teacher or group of teachers provides different activities in which the students can participate. The students, if they have completed all of their homework and classwork and have followed the Code of Conduct throughout the cycle, are able to choose the activity they would like to attend. Our current Free BEAR activities are:

  • group games in the gym
  • foreign language club
  • nature walk
  • arts & crafts
  • reading, drawing and computers
  • computers
  • Chess & strategy games
  • board games
  • team challenge
In team challenge groups of students work together to solve a problem. This week's problem? Move a ball down our entire fourth grade hallway. The catch? The students could not touch the ball with their hands, the ball could not touch the floor, and the tools that the students were given could not touch each other. It took the group several tries, but eventually by using team work, problem solving and some creative thinking, they made it to the doors at the end of the hall! We started working on moving two balls down the hallways but ran out of time before we were successful. The group is excited to come back next week and wants to add to the challenge by seeing if they can go all the way down the hall and come back! Please check out the slideshow below to see the kids working together to Pass the Ball!

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

The Scientific Method - Rap Style

Over the last few weeks we have been learning about the scientific method by actually putting it into action! We've done several different experiments and talked about each step as we completed them.

Know that we have some background knowledge about using the scientific method, we started to talk more about what each step actually means. To help us learn and remember the different parts we learned a scientific method rap.

You can play the rap and view the words by visiting this link!

Mrs. Towsen and I hope that you can learn a little bit about the Scientific Method by listening along with your child!

Monday, September 17, 2012

Bair / Towsen Math Homework

Tonight Mrs. Bair's and Mrs. Towsen's math classes started a new type of homework assignment. Each week your child will be bringing home math puzzles. These assignments cover the various skills we did  in class in the past and the skills we are working on that week. Each night for homework your child may choose any two boxes on the puzzle side of the paper and any one or two patterns on the back of the paper. Problems involving rounding, forms of a number or place value should use the "Number of the Day" to solve that work.

For example, if the number of the day says 5,322, your child would write that number in standard, written or expanded form. Or he or should would round to the tens, hundreds and thousands place in that number if that's the box chosen.

This is all your child needs to do for homework. Even if it seems easy for your child, please only have your child do the work that was assigned. We do not want your child to spend an extraordinary amount of time on their work because we want them to put their best effort into the problems they do. As the year goes on the number of problems may change for your student, and we will be sure to make that clear for them each day before they go home.

There is a space at the bottom of the paper for questions. If your child cannot explain what he or she needs to do for one box, they can pick another. If they are stuck on the whole sheet please simply jot us a note at the bottom and one of us will work with your child individually before or during math class.

Thanks for your support of your child as we try this different type of math homework!

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Strengths and Interests

On Friday morning and Monday morning we talked a lot about our strengths and interests, and we found out a lot of interesting information about our classmates. We also learned that in addition to doing experiments, special kinds of scientists can collect data and learn information about people. We collected data by checking boxes about activities under each of the 8 different smarts (read about Howard Gardner's work on different intelligences) and then graphing our results. Your child should have brought their survey and their graph home on Monday so you can talk about their strengths and interests with them.

From the data, we were about to CONCLUDE (a science word that means figuring out from the data!) about our class:
  • A few of our friends found that they had similar scores in many different intelligences.
  • Most of our friends found that they had one area where they were much stronger.
  • Our class really likes nature because it had the highest number of people for a strengths and the fewest number of people under weaknesses.
  • Here's how our class looks in terms of strengths:
    • Word Smart - 0
    • Logic Smart - 2
    • Art Smart - 1
    • Body Smart - 4
    • Music Smart - 2
    • People Smart - 1
    • Self  Smart - 5
    • Nature Smart - 9

These results helped us see that we all have special things that we like and are good at, but we also talked about the fact that some times we want to push ourselves and try things in our weaker areas. I'll use the information from our surveys to plan lessons that include lots of different activities to reach everybody's areas of strength AND push them to try new activities.

Science Fun Results!

Friday morning our science groups got together and planned out how we were going to test our hypotheses that answered the question, "What happens to a bag full of water when you poke it with a pencil?" Some of them included:

  • Nothing will happen and the water will stay in the bag.
  • The water will leak out around the pencil.
  • The water will gush out of the bag.

Some groups chose to use one bag, other groups chose to use two. Some groups decided to leave their pencils in, others decided to take their pencils out. And some left the pencils in one and took the pencils out of the other. We were excited to carry out our experiment so Friday afternoon we talked about how to do the test safely, and then we went outside and had some fun. Who knew scientists have so muchfun????

After we finished the experiment, we made a TON of observations! They included:

  • If you left the pencil in the bag the water stayed in the bag!
  • If you pulled the pencil out, the water came out but it only leaked it didn't gush out.
  • Even if you poked the bag just a little bit the water would drip out the tiniest hole.
  • The only way the water would gush out of the bag was if you squeezed it.
  • After you took the pencil out, if you put it back into the exact spots the water stopped leaking.
We used this data to come up with some solutions about what you could do with plastic bags that got holes in them. One group said that you could just throw them away and get a new one, but others didn't like that idea because it's not good for the environment. 

Another group said that you could patch the bag, and several friends chimed in with different materials you could use to patch the bag: scotch tape, packing tape, and duct tape were some suggestions. This led to people chiming in that we could do another experiment to see which one worked best.

Finally, a group said that we could double up the bag, but then a friend mentioned that if the top bag leaked your sandwich would still get wet. So he wanted to test different ways to double up bags to see which ones worked the best.

For Mrs. Towsen, Miss Conrad, and I the most exciting part of our first experience with the scientific process was that our students got a first hand look at how one experiment easily and seamlessly leads scientists to tests other things. So if your child came home and asked to punch some holes and tape them up with different things, he or she was just being a scientist! 

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Science Fun!

Today we started really looking at the scientific process we talked about the different parts of the process and got a brief overview of what each part means. They are:

  • Observe ~ look at things all around you
  • Ask Question ~ why? what? 
  • Hypothesis ~ make a prediction to answer your question
  • Plan ~ figure out the steps to an experiment you can do
  • Perform the Experiment
  • Analyze ~ look at the results and see what you've learned
  • Draw Conclusions ~ do the results match the answer you thought you would get? Why or why not?
Over the next few days we're going to be doing several different experiments to practice these steps and get better at using science vocabulary. If your child asks you if they can poke some pencils through a plastic bag filled with water, it's okay. It's the experiment that we're doing tomorrow, and some of the kids were VERY excited to see what the results might be. If you'd prefer they not test this out tonight tell them not to worry - everybody will have a chance tomorrow!

*Update - we didn't get to do our actual experiment today. We all created our hypothesis about what we think will happen when we poke a bag of water with a pencil. We decided to wait until tomorrow so our groups would have more time to brainstorm how exactly we wanted to do our experiments. Check back for pictures of our experiment tomorrow after school!