Students Unearth Facts about Rocks and Minerals

Article excerpt

Byline: Christie Hart Daily Herald Staff Writer

Anyone who peered into fourth-grade classrooms at Naperville's Spring Brook Elementary School would've thought they'd stumbled upon a gathering of the world's most picky eaters.

The students sat hunched over individual chocolate chip cookies, concentrating on using toothpicks to unearth the sweet little morsels from the baked dough.

But that was just a first impression.

In reality, the kids were putting a little bit of science learning into practice, teacher Ann Wightman said.

The fourth-graders have been studying rocks and minerals in a science unit on geology. They've looked at how and where scientists find rock and mineral specimens and they've learned that sometimes it takes a lot of patience for scientists to dig out the samples they find.

Students got a taste of the delicate work with the cookie experiment, which was part of a celebration when they wrapped up the unit last week. The daylong rock festival also featured a talk with a geologist, a student talent show dubbed a "rock concert," rock games such as mancala, and activities such as personalizing a pet rock.

As the students studied rocks, they learned to run tests to identify the substances in minerals just like a scientist would. They worked with nails, pennies and other objects to find how easily their samples could be scratched; they used vinegar to see how the samples reacted to coming in contact with acid; and they learned to classify their samples based on the information they found.

Tuxedo junction

If you know a second-grader at Longwood Elementary School in Naperville, odds are you know a kid who's a little penguin-crazy.

The kids just can't seem to get enough of the formally attired Arctic birds.

Robyn Jamison's class has been studying penguins for a couple of weeks, making the birds the focus of a science unit that also ties into math and language arts.

In science, the students are learning everything from where the birds live to what they eat to what animals may be out to get them. They've even learned how oil spills and other environmental catastrophes can make life hard for a penguin, Jamison said.

This week, the students are discovering how penguins stay warm in the Arctic weather. The secret's in the blubber, Jamison said.

Students are putting a layer of shortening between two plastic bags to simulate the fat layer that protects penguins. …