peshtigo science class

Teacher Nancy Smith helped Peshtigo students with their fragile fossils recently in Peshtigo.

PESHTIGO—Peshtigo sixth-grade science students made fossil molds and casts recently.

Peshtigo students learn science curriculum through the Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS). “Students have been learning about life science, with a large focus on the basic building blocks of life, cells,” according to teacher Loretta Rich.

Cell development and genetics has led to students learning about evolution. Students learned fossils have been formed through carbonization, mineralization, as well as molds and casts.

“In sixth grade, my goal is to dabble in concepts students will learn more about in middle and high school,” Rich said, adding that she sees her role as pre-teaching concepts to “pique interest in other classes and future careers, too.”

To improve learning Rich aims to “connect to the real world, make learning relatable and applicable.”

To create hands-on learning experiences, students created their own fossils using sand and plaster of Paris. Students created molds using wet sand and created a mold of their finger indentations. Next, students filled their molds with plaster.

After drying, “students acted like paleontologists, gently unearthing their fossils. They were surprised at how their impressions had been formed into fossils,” Rich explained.

“Students are excited and curious about the content we’re learning,” she said.

Rich said you can tell students are responding well based on their “sense of inquiry and questioning.” Sixth graders, Rich explains, “are learning more independence.” She says they’re “taking more control of their own learning and they get really excited about it.”

The previous lesson involved teaching students about genotypes and phenotypes of dog breeds. She was impressed by some students working beyond the basic requirements.

One student, Jimmy Baumgarten, showed impressive creativity by creating a slideshow that was interactive with other students. “He added hidden pictures and words on each slide.”

Rich tells that Jimmy created dialogue bubbles showing humor in his presentation. Rich knew she was teaching correctly when students would say things like, “Can we do this again?”

With the constantly changing scientific discoveries and new technology available today, it is more important than ever to prepare the students for future challenges. Rich sees her role as “providing building blocks to encourage students to ask questions and always want to learn more. I also hope their experiences enable them to be problem solvers and proactive citizens in our future society.”