Home School Life Journal

Home School Life Journal
"Let us strive to make each moment beautiful."
Saint Francis DeSales
painting by Katie Bergenholtz

Science Investigations with Multiple Ages

In our home, we like to think of school as a family activity. We don't send each child with their own age-appropriate texts to their own corner to do their work alone. I don't find out how they are doing by correcting the test at the end of the unit. We, instead, all study the same topic, which leads to rich and interesting discussions. The topics are picked by the oldest student's material. That is not to say, of course, that I teach the same material to all the different ages and grades. We are just all on the same topics. For example, when we were studying how the structure of the cell helps keep plants standing in my oldest's student's work, it was easy to do the same experiment with all of my students, extracting out of the experiment what is best for their individual ages.
So, we set up the classic celery in colored water demonstration. You could use any plant, such as white carnations, as well.


January 2010
Even though it was the oldest's lesson, I began with the youngest student and worked my way up. I showed him the holes in the end of a freshly cut piece of celery... and ask him what they think will happen if...
January 2010
you make cups of colored water...
January 2010
and put the celery in them.
January 2010
Split one stalk in the middle and put the two ends into cups of colored water.
In a few days, I had him draw what he saw.
January 2010
That he understood that the plant draws the colored water up through these tubes is all that is necessary for my (at that time) Pre-K-2nd grade student.


January 2010
When I set up a science demonstration like this, I have all my student's present. It helps everyone be on the same page and it reviews concepts for the older students. Too often I have seen students learn for the test and forget it afterwards. This kind of subtle review keeps the concepts learned earlier fresh.

January 2010
For the middle school aged student, I included a wilted celery stalk, but I will talk about that later.

January 2010
For my older elementary aged student, when I showed them the holes at the bottom of the celery stalk, I had him imagine these holes running through the stalk and had him sketch what he imagined. In a few days, when they see the coloring in the celery stalks, you can talk to your upper elementary aged student about how the "veins" in plants are called xylem, and that the xylem takes water and minerals from the roots to other parts of the plant. You can also tell them that there are other tubes in plants called Phloem, which take the sugars (the plant's "food") created during the process of photosynthesis to other parts of the plant. Using this information, your child can add to their original sketch, adding color and labels. 
(This information is in Apologia's Exploring Creation with Botany, for 3-6 grade students.)

January 2010
Now back to the concepts I want my middle school student to learn. When they see that the wilted stalk stands up again, you can talk with the middle school aged student about how plant and animal cells are different. Animal cells are round and the nucleus, which contains the DNA, are in the center. Plant cells are more square in shape and have a cell wall. The nucleus is not in the center, but have something called the central vacuole in the center. This vacuole is like a water balloon and when the cells have plenty of water, this vacuole fills up and presses against the cell wall, causing rigidity in the cell. This rigidity in the cells makes the plant in general stand up straight. It is the water leaving the cells that make plants wilt. They can sketch what they have learned in their lab reports. 
(This is an experiment done in Apologia's Exploring Creation with General Science, a book for 6-8th grade students.)

One experiment; three levels of learning.

3 comments:

  1. You managed that one quite well. Multi-aged learning can be tricky - but rewarding, for sure.

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  2. One of the blessings of everyone being almost the same age is I haven't learned how to manage this, but I think it's also a weakness because my kids aren't getting as much constant review.

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  3. You are my role model for science. I'm so pleased you're hosting a link-up. Once I get around to posting again I shall be over here!

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