Mrs. Elizabeth Littlefield is a 5th grade teacher at Windsor Elementary School. I recently had a chance to visit her classroom and saw her students working in groups on math skills. They were in small groups, spread throughout the classroom, and using manipulatives to focus on solving math problems. Everyone in the classroom was sitting on the floor as they collaborated on the assignment. Yes, I said everyone. Over in one corner of the classroom I found Mrs. Littlefield crouched down on the floor herself while she was working with her students. I love to see teachers in classrooms where there is no boundary, real or implied, between the teacher’s space and the students’ space. It conveys to the students that the approach to learning is really going to be a team effort.
I asked Mrs. Lynn Briggs to stop by and get some video of Mrs. Littlefield’s class so I could give you a glimpse into her classroom. On the day of Mrs. Briggs’ visit, the class was learning the steps in scientific investigation. That includes creating a hypothesis, learning dependent and independent variables, collecting data and interpreting results. Like most teachers, Mrs. Littlefield had the students do an experiment to learn about scientific method. But not just any experiment. The students got to make ice cream! They placed milk in a plastic bag that they sealed. Then that bag went into another bag with ice. Each member of the group had different amounts of salt in their bag. After shaking the bag for different lengths of time, they measured the temperature of the ice-salt combination. The bags with more salt got colder and actually produced a soft-serve ice cream. Once the experiment was over, Mrs. Littlefield let all the students get more salt so everyone could end up with some ice cream.
Throughout the experiment, Mrs. Littlefield was always on the move, circulating about the room and checking-in with each group. She answered questions and provided guidance to the students as they moved through the steps of the experiment. It was obvious that the students had collaborated in small groups many times throughout the year. Everyone was engaged and on task.
I applaud Mrs. Littlefield for not just covering the standards, but for adapting her lesson to make it more meaningful and fun for the students. She definitely focused on the C’s of Creativity and Collaboration. I think sometimes we forget that learning can be fun. It’s often those types of activities where the students don’t even realize they are “learning” until the assignment is over. And how neat to enjoy some homemade ice cream as a result. See for yourself in the video below.
The Science of Ice Cream