University School IB Newsletter December 2020

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Whether we are at home or in the school building, it has been a semester of inquiring, learning, and taking action on new knowledge.

December 2020

Pre K What is a map and how do we use them? By finding and creating symbols on maps, we strengthen our literacy and pre-reading skills. This is part of our How We Communicate Unit; Signs and Symbols Tell Us About People, Places and Things. We have already created our own road maps and described what they represent. Next week, we will each make a story map and use it to retell Going On A Bear Hunt, by Michael Rosen. We will end the month by reading a variety of gingerbread books and then creating story maps of where each of our gingerbread people go after jumping out of the oven. Creating and sharing these story maps allows us to become authors of our own Gingerbread stories.

Kindergarten Where do chocolate chip cookies come from? Through our “Who We Are in Place and Time: Harvest” unit, kindergarten classes began investigating where food comes from. They discovered that our food (like a chocolate chip cookie) doesn’t simply come from the oven, the refrigerator, or the grocery store.

We learned that it is only because of the many farmers, producers, scientists, shipping workers, and grocers that we can enjoy a variety of foods from all over the world! We engaged in conversations about food sources, different types of farms, and how foods are produced and distributed. (Wouldn’t it be so much easier if our food was delivered by the weather, like in the story, Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs?) Our unit will culminate with a mini-research project that allows students to explore where their favorite food comes from.



First graders explored the elements of maps and their usage. As we learned the continents and oceans, students drew a world map. They cut out the seven continents and arranged them nicely on a paper plate. Students also pretended to be pirates. After hiding their treasure, they made their own treasure map and “unplugged� coding directions to guide others to find what they hid. Another line of inquiry we explored was how peoples’ lives and places change over time. We read books about how life was different long ago. Many students wrote that they would love to try some of the things that people did in the past such as riding a wagon to school. After exploring the concepts of past, present, and future, students learned to read timelines and they made their own timelines! Students were excited to see how their lives had changed over time!



Second grade explored Elections in our Who We Are unit of inquiry. We searched to answer the questions: What is voting? Why should people vote? How do our personal opinions and beliefs influence the way we vote? We learned all about our government and how voting works in the United States. Each second grade class held their very own Candy Bar Election to simulate the voting process and experience. Students engaged in a primary election, creating campaign posters, creating campaign speeches and finally voting. Second Grade is currently in our How We Express Ourselves unit of inquiry, where we are learning about States Of Matter. Students have learned all about the scientific properties of solids, liquids and gases and are now applying that knowledge to explore why certain solid materials are used for building houses. Students are looking at different types of houses (and building materials used) from around the world and thinking “outside the box� about types of materials that can be used for building (such as using plastic waste repurposed into building material). Our unit will culminate in a STEM activity where students will choose solid materials to design and build their own mini houses.



The third graders discussed immigration in our Where We are in Place and Time unit. We started the unit off by exploring the reasons why people immigrate. The students came up with many reasons including war, jobs, religion, or in search of a better life. We discussed whether the reason was a push or a pull factor. We read a picture book that explored each reason so we could gain a better understanding of different immigrants' perspectives on their journey to a new country. After the students gained an understanding of what immigration was and why people had the desire to leave their home country, they did an activity where they had to choose a color, symbol, and picture to represent immigration.

Grade In our How We Organize Ourselves unit, University School's fourth grade learned about Indiana’s government and our nation's elections. We focused on the concepts of responsibility and connection along with structures of government. Leading up to the elections, our students researched local and national candidates to further their background knowledge and become more responsible citizens. Our fourth graders were intrigued by the interactive electoral map during elections and couldn’t stop inquiring about red/blue states and how this ever changing process worked. Our class discussions covered inquiry questions such as, “How do communities form?” “Why do humans need structure?” and “Should a government be able to change?” and all students were engaged in the U.S. election process. Students took action by identifying a problem in our local community and writing a local government official about the problem and offering up solutions.


Fifth grade is currently studying How the World Works. In this unit we are studying living systems, Grade natural resources, and the impact we as humans have on the world. This unit starts with our understanding of how the American Indians first used the resources available, as well as how plants and animals use the resources available to them. We make the connection that everything is dependent on everything else. Students will study a biome of their choice, and then create an Organism (Plant or Animal) that could survive in their environment. One class asked the questions, What adaptations would WE like to have as humans? During this project, students will also create encyclopedia-like entries about their organism. This unit is typically topped off with a grade exhibit in the cafeteria. The fifth grade teachers are working out details to modify this exhibit due to Covid-19. During this unit we also do a little hands-on science and observe worm habitats. The in-person teachers currently have worms living in their classroom closets. No need to worry, they are in closed systems!



Sixth grade is engaged in our second IB theme, How the World Works. The central idea is that models provide an understanding of intangible systems. We are looking at models and discussing how they make it easier for us to understand our world, but that in some cases models can be deceiving and can lead to misconceptions. Having a critical eye and knowing what questions to ask can help us to fully understand what the models we use tell us.


Throughout this unit, we have been looking at governmental systems in the Roman Republic and Empire and how those structures are modeled in our own government today. After the fall of Rome, Mediaeval society developed the feudal system as a model for both governmental and economic structures due to needs of the time. That structure fell apart as people started specializing in guilds, and new models and systems were created. In science, we have been creating models to explore planetary science; physical and chemical properties and changes; energy sources, forms, and transfers; and radiant waves (transverse) vs sound waves (longitudinal) through modeled simulations, experiments, and demonstrations. We have been using tables, graphs, charts, and scale dimensions to model the mathematical components of some of our science lessons. Finally, we are learning about fictional character and setting archetypes, plot structures, and common themes and conflicts as we look to mentor texts as models for our own writing. Throughout the next two weeks, students will work on a culminating project where they choose one of the models studied in reading, writing, math, science, or social studies to personify. Research will be embedded in creative writing as students write fashion show scripts and movie trailers. Students will then use technology to visually represent and bring the characters in their scripts and movies alive.



Second graders in PE class discussed how the properties of sports equipment can affect what is chosen for different activities and why. This connects with their classroom unit on matter and understanding solids, liquids, and gases. We compared a beach ball, a basketball, and a medicine ball.


The beach ball has a thin cover but the inside is all air. The students recognized this as a gas. Medicine balls are extremely heavy and dense and used for strength training. The students recognized this as a solid. But then we discussed further that you couldn’t really play basketball with either one. The beach ball is too light, and the medicine ball is too heavy. So a basketball’s properties include the right balance of gas and solid that make it ideal for the sport.

Art Our Symbols of Unity are exhibited in the art hallway and on backpacks and shirts throughout the school and at home. During this project studentartists planned, drafted, critiqued with peers, and created their final drafts of their own Symbol of Unity-something to show that we are together, even when we are apart. All of the symbols were made with a variety of materials as the artists were using material they had on hand. Everyone’s symbol is different because we are all unique. Together we can reach the stars… Student-artists have been thinking about how we can use our unique perspectives to make change. Through narrative art, student-artists first considered their unique views of the world based on what they know, what they love, and what they are good at doing. Then, using that perspective, they came up with a character who could help them tell a story with a moral. Student-artists designed a story with an introduction, rising action, a climax, falling action, and a resolution. Finally, the story became a comic when the student-artists designed at least one panel for each part of their story. The creators worked diligently to be sure their “composition” was great, their panel outlines and margins were clean, their panels were in order, and their artwork had a clear lesson. All of this, they completed, to be sure that their comics actual made an impact on the readers and, therefore, the world. In the upcoming weeks our student artists will be deep into exploring color and earth. Look out for artwork that shows how the world works.


By Ava, grade 6

UNIVERSITY SCHOOL Bloomington, Indiana

Our mission: We at University Elementary School work together to encourage our students to become inquiring, reflective learners who value others in an inclusive community and around the world.

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