Students experiment at Booker T.

Published 9:58 pm Wednesday, May 10, 2017

Fifth-grade students at Booker T. Washington Elementary School on Wednesday built watershed models with sponges and modeling clay, made models of cells using bread, peanut butter, marshmallows and cereal and acted out the process of pollination of a flower.

The event was a preparation for the science Standards of Learning test the students will take on May 24. SOL testing begins at the school Monday, and the students are having spirit week activities this week, including a pep rally on Friday.

“The pep rally is to get them geared up for the SOLs,” said Patricia Hawk, a fifth-grade teacher at the school. “The younger kids have been making signs for us to support us.”

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The 57 fifth-grade students spent Wednesday reviewing some fourth- and fifth-grade knowledge that scores on previous benchmark tests have shown they need to improve.

Students reviewed the seasons, the structure of plants, animal and plant cells, molecules, the states of matter, the process of scientific investigation and how watersheds work, all with fun activities.

“We’re doing this because we want our scores to go up,” Hawk said. “Last year, we missed it by literally one student.”

Students got their hands dirty in the watershed lab, where each student crafted a watershed in an aluminum pie pan with the goal of reducing pollution in the “ocean.”

The students had access to various materials, including sand, different sizes of gravel, potting pellets, cotton balls and sponges to craft their watershed. When they were done, Dr. Catherine Walsh placed the pie pan on an incline, put several drops of food dye at the top and then made it rain with a salt sprinkler filled with water.

The goal was to get clean water to the bottom of the tray, Walsh said. She made into a competition.

“They’re working quietly because they’re designing something,” she said. “It’s important because it’s teaching them to solve real-world problems and use what you have available to you to meet your need.”

Walsh is the supervisor of science instruction for Suffolk Public Schools. She came to help out with the science day.

“It’s the same material they’ve learned all along, just in a different way,” she said. “It’s the experiential learning.”

The lesson sat well with 10-year-old Messiah Singleton.

“We have to block the water from getting to the ocean, so it doesn’t get polluted,” he said.

In the scientific investigation lab, volunteer Brita Hampton, an educator at Newport News’ Jefferson Lab, dropped cloth bags on the table in front of each student. Some clunked, some jingled, some bounced and some made hardly any noise at all.

She then asked the students to hypothesize what the object inside could be based on the sound and how big the bag looked. Students then got to feel the bag and guess — and many guessed correctly. Inside were clothespins, measuring cups, marbles and more.

Hawk said the day turned out well.

“We want to refresh their memory,” she said.