Hopewell Elementary School’s fifth graders recently visited the Watershed to collect evidence for environmental science lessons that align with Next Generation Science Standards.
With hands-on activities, the students worked in small groups and explored the characteristics of Earth’s complex system that work together: rocks, water, air and life. On the global scale, each part can be thought of as a sphere — roughly the same size and shape as the planet.
The four parts are called the geosphere, hydrosphere, biosphere, and atmosphere. At farms where food is grown to feed people, for example, the four spheres interact as plants draw water and nutrients from the soil, and release water vapor into the air.
“The students collect evidenced and later will return to their classrooms to design and create a model that shows how the four spheres interact with each other,” said Greg Hunter, the Watershed’s Teacher-in-Residence, who is on sabbatical as a science teacher at Timberlane Middle School in the Hopewell Valley Regional School District.
The students explored four evidence stations — three activities using models and one habitat hike guided by a Watershed naturalist.
In one of the activities, the students simulated being a water droplet, traveling through the water cycle as they tracked where they had been and where they were headed. In another, they explored the interactions of all four spheres in an Enviroscape, a replica of a small community, and gathered evidence on how pollution taints waterways as runoff and waste travel from farms, animals, and towns. Clipboards in hand, the students drew animal tracks, scat, and other natural observations. In each case, the students discussed the interplay of the geo, hydro, atmo and bio- spheres.
“The claim is the spheres are constantly interacting and the students are searching for evidence to support this and create an interacting model back in their classroom,” Hunter said.