Earth science captures attention of sixth graders at Confluence Academy-South City
Earth science captures attention of sixth graders at Confluence Academy-South City
Posted on 11/29/2012
South City Derber

Gathered in pairs or groups, sixth-grade students scrutinize what – at first glance – looks like a handful of rocks. The rocks are minerals such as biotite, calcite, feldspar, galena, quartz and many others. The assignment is to identify their properties, then determine the density.


In Lyndsey Derber’s class at Confluence Academy-South City, students are focusing on a unit in earth science.


“The properties that my students are using to identify the minerals are color, luster, fracture, streak, density and hardness, and special properties such as magnetism, optical properties, chemical reactions and fluorescence,” said Derber.

South City Derber
  Ajalae Tabb, Roberto Meza and Elias Espinoza weigh minerals in science class.


“In order to discover the density of the minerals, the students measure the mass of each mineral using a triple beam balance. They measure the volume of each mineral by water displacement using a graduated cylinder. To find the density, the students divide the mass of each mineral by the volume of each mineral.”


As part of the state of Missouri’s grade level expectations in science, sixth graders will focus on earth systems and ecosystems. Students will learn about the rock cycle and the internal and external processes that create rocks, said Derber.


“Learning about minerals sets the foundation for igneous, sedimentary and metamorphic rocks,” she said.


Some subjects can be overwhelming, and it may be even harder to understand if you’re studying by yourself. Derber explains why she encourages her students to work together.


“I believe that working in groups helps my students to better understand the lesson for several reasons. First, if a student is stuck on a concept, there are other students in the group to help. Second, working in groups allows different perspectives and they have to work together to achieve their common goal. Finally, working in groups helps to build self-confidence. For example, a student who may be afraid to speak out in front of the whole class is usually willing to share with a few students,” said Derber.

South City Derber 4

  Lyndsey Derber, sixth-grade science teacher, helps Yiery Cruz through an assignment.


Her students also keep a science journal. It is used to take notes, answer questions, draw scientific illustrations and insert worksheets.


“Each day, when my students enter the classroom, they have a Do Now question to answer. It is a question they have to search through their science textbook to answer. That way, the students are already getting a preview of what they will learn about in class that day,” she explained.


“Writing in class helps with understanding the material by allowing students to apply what they are reading or listening to in their own words, which will make the material more concrete for them.”


“What makes science integral to a child’s education are the possibilities that can be covered in the content area, as well as how it ties into other content areas. For example, science correlates with math when the students are using formulas to find the volume, area and density of objects, as well as temperature conversions, metric conversions, measurements and graphing,” said Derber.


“Science is one of the two main areas where students will read nonfiction literature on a daily basis. Science is one class that the students get to submerse themselves into hands-on, inquiry-based activities and experiments that can be more challenging, fun and rewarding for a child’s education.


“I hope my students will become lifelong learners of science and engage themselves in a science related career,” said Derber.


Derber is in her sixth year as a teacher with Confluence Charter Schools. She has been an educator for more than nine years. She taught math and science in Illinois.