Thursday, 29 November 2018

Epic Song Pproject

The students (and Bevan) have been working hard at putting together a song. It is finished and is amazing. The music and lyrics were a collaborative effort. So good to see the learning come together like this. Well done guys and well done Bevan!

Click through to the schools music blog to view it.

Wednesday, 21 November 2018

Study skills

We are having a mini exam for the purpose of learning some study and memory skills. There are lots of ways of studying and we are exploring some of them and practicing them together as a class. Here are a few things we have discussed:
  • UNDERSTAND If you understand what you have learnt you will remember it and be able to use it. Go through your notes and highlight parts you are unsure on. Exams do encourage you to check if you have understood what you have been taught. Ask yourself possible test questions and go and get help from videos, books, your teacher, or your friends. 
  • TALK When we talk about learning it forces us to think about how to explain things. It is so helpful to study with other people. It also helps us identify information we missed or didn't understand. Use notes from what you have learnt and come up with possible test questions to discuss. We noticed today that when we came up with possible test questions, other people came up with ones we hadn't even thought of.
  • WRITE and DRAW. Writing helps you learn how to express what you have learnt and it cements the learning in your head. We remember pictures well so drawing is also really helpful. Highlighting important information or using different colours for text can also work well.
YOU ARE TRYING TO CREATE PATHWAYS IN YOUR BRAIN so it is easy to remember and use information. If you focus on understanding, talk lots about your learning, and write or draw things about your learning you will turn pathways into highways!

We have looked at how we can create visual images in our minds and use acronyms and mnemonics to remember information.

Parents, if you have any tips for studying please pop them in the comments section below.

Wednesday, 14 November 2018

Classifying materials

This week we have looked at classifying materials. The students examined a bike and identified all the products used to make it. This included everything from the paint to the foam inside the seat.

We then looked around the room and classified as many things as we could into the following categories:

  • Organic Plastics/synthetics 
  • Composites 
  • Ceramics 
  • Metals 
  • Natural fabrics 

We took a deeper look into metals. We examined a variety of metals and then the students researched a particular metal and shared back their expertise. The students looked into the metal's melting point, conductivity, malleability and all sorts of other information. Mercury was a fascinating metal to look into as it is one of the only metals that is liquid at room temperature.

An interesting question is what actually is a metal. What makes something a metal? This is a definition of a metal:

Any chemical element that is an effective conductor of electricity and heat can be defined as a metal.

Some definitions:
  • Alloy - a metal made from a combination of metals, e.g. steel (iron and carbon), brass (copper and zinc), Bronze (copper and tin).
  • Galvanized - coated in a protective layer of zinc.
  • Stainless steel - steel with a high amount of chromium which stops it from corroding.
  • Malleability - how easily its shape can be changed. 

Monday, 12 November 2018

The lungs of the world

Today we looked at the chemical reaction that happens in photosynthesis. Trees are amazing! They take what we are creating too much of - Carbon Dioxide (CO2) - and they break it into oxygen and food for the tree. The problem is we are cutting down the trees and at the same time creating more CO2.

We looked at this fascinating video on the CO2 levels in our atmosphere over a year long period. It was amazing to see the change between when trees lose their leaves and gain them again. It raised many questions, like: What places create the most CO2? What things cause the most CO2? What would happen if all the evergreen trees were cut down?

Thursday, 8 November 2018


We have looked at what combustion is. Simply put, it is the burning of something. In more detail it is the rapid chemical combination of something with oxygen. When this happens heat, light, and exhaust is produced. Oxidise means to combine chemically with oxygen.

We looked at some examples of spontaneous combustion, such as linseed oil when it is exposed to oxygen. We also did an experiment combining potassium permanganate and glycerine which combusts.

The most important ingredient for combustion is oxygen. The main product of combustion is carbon dioxide (CO2) which is not good for our environment. There are other products though.

We burnt a candle and put a spoon in the flame which got black all over it. We discussed how the fuel (wax) has carbon (C) in it and the wax doesn't completely burn up (incomplete combustion). Small particles of carbon are released which gather on the spoon or as black smoke. We also covered the candle with a container. The candle went out as the oxygen in the container got used up.

Fuels can be all sorts of things. A fuel is anything that likes to absorb/take on oxygen - e.g. gas, wood, wax, alcohol.

We also identified some common flammable things in the home. If something is flammable it easily oxidises/combusts.

Friday, 2 November 2018

Breaking up a molecule - chemical reactions

It is pretty complicated to break up an atom and the result is a nuclear reaction. But molecules are broken all the time. Today we split a molecule. This is called decomposition. We had hydrogen peroxide and separated it into water and oxygen. We used a catalyst to cause a chemical reaction to break them apart. The catalyst was potassium permanganate. We explored what both chemicals are and what they are used for.

Hydrogen peroxide (H2O2) - is a naturally occurring substance that can be found in every living thing (including people) as well as in things like snow, rain, lakes, and rivers. We use it for all sorts of things such as bleaching our hair and as a disinfectant.

Potassium permanganate (KMnO4)- is a substance created by scientists. It is used for things such as preserving fruit and treating water.

The reaction was quite spectacular. Because of the heat generated the water escaped in its gas form - steam.

We did a second experiment where we added detergent and water to the same reaction. The detergent trapped the steam and oxygen as it escaped creating lots of bubbles that looked like 'elephants toothpaste'.

We have looked at what a chemical reaction is. A chemical reaction is one where you end up with a new element or molecule. It is usually irreversible. There are clues to help you work out if it is a chemical reaction. These experiments today were chemical reactions. We saw changes in temperature, sound, colour and saw bubbles sizzling away. All clues of a chemical reaction.
There was quite a lot of heat generated (one feature of some chemical reactions). When heat is generated it is called an exothermic reaction.

Here is a video of the reaction as well as some other 'bigger' examples.

Monday, 29 October 2018

Imploding can

Today we did a few experiments to explore density. We explored how heat affects density and makes substances expand and retract because of temperature.

We put a small bit of water in an aluminium can. As it boiled it turned the water into a gas state which pushed out the air in the can. When the can was turned upside down in the cold water the gas quickly cooled and condensed back to a liquid pulling in the metal as it did so. A cool experiment! We write a procedure for doing this experiment and then an explanation of what was happening to cause the can to implode. We also watched a video of the same concept on a bigger scale.

We also looked again at how when atoms are heated they 'shake' more violently. We were able to see this in action when we dropped some food colouring into both cold water and hot water. The food colouring spread more quickly through the hot water as the atoms were more active.

Because atoms shake more when heated they need more space to move so they spread out. The more they are heated the more they spread out. They spread out so much that solids can no longer remain as a solid so they turn to a liquid. If you keep heating them they spread out more and the liquid becomes a gas. If you keep heating them then you will get plasma. When you boil water the bubbles that rise are actually the H20 turning into a gas as it is heated. They start at the bottom of the jug because that is closest to the heat.

So we have seen that heat affects density, but we also looked today at how different things have different densities just because of the way they are structured. We looked at how salt water is more dense than fresh water. This gave us lots to think about in terms of things like boats, swimming, survival in deep water, and free diving. Could you dive deeper in fresh water as it is less dense that salt water?

I showed them this photo of me in the dead sea in Israel to help explain differences in water density because of salt content.


Wednesday, 24 October 2018


Today we explored what a molecule is. This is a video that explains it really well.

 A molecule is two (or more) atoms that join and form a bond. This bond is formed by the atoms sharing their electrons.

Some molecules are quite simple like water which is H20 (2 hydrogen atoms and 1 oxygen atom)
  Some are more complex like table sugar which is C12H22O11.
We discussed how putting different atoms together can be just a mixture. It becomes a molecule when a chemical reaction happens. We looked at the following video to show how hydrogen and oxygen can be combined to make water.

We also looked at this video showing how a molecule can be returned to separate atoms.

The universe's ingredients!

Today we started to look at the periodic table - the ingredient list of all matter. We looked at how each element consists of a different atom. We explored atoms more and learnt that atoms are different from each other because of the number of protons in each one. Every element has a different number of protons (it is written on the table as the atomic number). Some elements have over 100 protons (most atoms also have the same number of electrons as it has protons). Currently there are 118 known elements. There could be more discovered but since they will have so many electrons/protons they will be quite unstable.

We looked at which elements we are familiar with and discussed questions like why steel is not on the table (it is a metal made from a combination of elements).

We discussed how humans have about 40 elements in their bodies but only 4 elements make up most of the  body - oxygen, carbon, hydrogen, and nitrogen.

It was so good to see the students curiously asking so many questions about the teeny tiny atomic level.


We started to discuss atoms yesterday - the smallest part of matter. We watched some great videos to help us get our heads around the size of atoms and their structure. We discovered that all matter is made up of atoms. Everything - trees, stones, air, eyeballs! Atoms are also constantly moving, so even a rock is constantly moving. We started to raise the question of how scientists know all about atoms when they are so small. A big question! We discussed how we can't see the wind but we can learn about wind by looking at the effects of the wind and how it affects objects in different situations. It is a bit like that with studying atoms.

The structure of an atom.
Atoms are ridiculously small. The photo on the right is a photo of the shadow of an atom. Scientists directed a laser beam at a suspended atom and this was it's shadow. The first visualization of an atom. We watched the below videos to help us get our head around how small they are and how they are structured. 

We also noted that electricity is when the electrons in atoms flow (swap) between electrons in other atoms.

Tuesday, 16 October 2018

Is there anything in the box.

Our inquiry this term is on the material world and we started off by looking at whether a box with no object in it is actually empty. Is air something or nothing? We learnt that 'matter' is the world all around us. We can tell if something is matter by whether it, TAKES UP SPACE and WEIGHS SOMETHING. So we tested this with air and found that, yes, it does take up space and it does weigh something. Here is a video of some of the things that helped us learn this. Sophie helped us see that it is impossible to blow up a balloon in a bottle as the air in the bottle has nowhere to go. We shrink wrapped some students to explore how air takes up space and we used some balloons to see if air weighs anything.

 Wonderings: I wonder if there are places with no matter at all? Does air weigh the same when it is polluted? Or hot?

We have also had a great discussion around which of these (below) are matter and which are not. The ones that really got us thinking were smell, electricity, anger, heat, and a shadow. A great discussion for helping us understand what is matter and what is energy.

We are going to explore all sorts of other things about the material world, including zooming into the particle level of atoms and molecules.
Well we finally made it to some snow. After a few mountain postponements we made it to Snow Planet. It was so good to see so many first timers progress through the day to being confident going down the slope. Well done guys for persevering and taking on the challenge. It was also great to see the more experienced ones learning new skills too. Thank you to the parents who helped make the day possible. 

Thursday, 27 September 2018


Well done Ruma Kokako! Great team work, great acting, great props. You guys can all be really proud. Each time you got more confident and produced a higher quality performance. The video below is of our class skit.

Wednesday, 5 September 2018

Same Same But Different

Same same, but different is a saying you will often hear in places where they sell fake products. 'Are these real Nike shoes?' "Ahhh same, same, but different.'

We have been looking lots at culture and how we are shaped by it and how it helps make up our identity. Today we did a task where we looked, not at the differences between all people and cultures, but what is actually common between all people. How are we all the same? In what ways are we all just like each other? It was fascinating to see the discussions develop from surface things to deeper things.

Similarities included: we all have a belief in what is right and wrong; we all have rules we follow (or don't follow); we all have a desire to be connected to a family; we all have goals or things we want from life; we all experience emotions.

We followed this up with some art which combined a variety of very different looking people into one portrait. Here they are: