Wednesday, March 14, 2012

MacGyver Goes West

Last week I noticed that one student's abandoned science experiment had taken an unexpected turn. After being observed for signs of oxidation, the chunk of pepper and half a kiwi went through another change. As the water evaporated from it, it became a shriveled mss of dried pepper, and a kiwi slab, that, when we examined it today, many students mistook for a mushroom.

"What foods have you eaten in dried form?" I asked.
Kids answered: apples, cherries, cranberries.
"Anything that isn't a fruit?"
"Dried meat," one student said, and when asked, identified it as jerky.

From there we discussed why dried foods would be a good thing to bring along if you were moving west in the 1800s.

This was the kickoff for our new unit on the period of Westward Expansion. After our short discussion, I had table groups rotate through four stations. The first three were brainstorm stations. On chart paper they had to record group answers to questions:
  • Why do people move?
  • What do you think it was like moving west in the 1800s?
  • What do you wonder about the westward movement of the 1800s?
The fourth station was a collection of apples and those cool apple peeler/corer machines. My goal was to have every student peel up one apple for us to dry. I've been envisioning this for about a week, but it wasn't until ten minutes before lunchtime ended today that I looked around my room and tried to decide where to hang the fruit while it dries.

My class includes many active, exuberant types, so I needed an out of the way place. I chose behind my desk area so that the apples would be placed away from any high traffic or boisterous behavior. With only some string and a box of thumbtacks, I put together a drying lattice that I think MacGyver would be proud of.

If he was heading west. And drying fruit to get ready.

Don't concentrate on what a mess it is, please. I promise to clean it up after my parent conferences are done on Friday. Can you find the drying apparatus?

Here's a close-up, if you didn't find it in the last picture.
Check out that really awesome curlicue in the bottom right.
I know it looks like it's about to fall, but don't worry!
There's a pan underneath the whole mess just in case.

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