Fun with FOSS Kit at Keota and Burlington

by Rosemary Peck, GPAEA Science Specialist

In late September, I visited pilot classrooms at Keota Elementary (Keota) and Blackhawk Elementary (Burlington). The teachers in these two buildings are implementing the FOSS kit curriculum in a pilot program establishing a partnership between

2nd grade students using earth materials to make bricks

2nd grade students using earth materials to make bricks

VAST Center (Van Allen Science Teaching Center) at Grant Wood AEA, the Eastern Iowa Science Consortium and GPAEA. More information about this partnership opportunity will be shared with Great Prairie LEA administrators in the coming months.

During my visits to the classrooms, excited, engaged and enthusiastic students were making observations, asking questions, planning and carrying out investigations, analyzing data, writing in science journals and making connections to what they were learning in the classroom to the world outside, in their local schoolyards.

Kindergarten students of Mrs. Wax (Burlington), Mrs. Hart and Mrs. McClenahan (Keota), studying FOSS Trees and Weather are observing their “adopted” tree throughout the school year, learning basic characteristics and needs of trees, predicting the changes that will occur, and connecting the seasonal weather changes with the impact those changes have on “their tree” and other living things. Mrs. Wax commented “We are very excited to be learning about trees this year.  We were even more excited when a tree showed up in our classroom.  We will watch our tree through the seasons and see what happens to it.   We also took guesses to see how big our tree will be by the end of kindergarten and when we are fifth graders.”

Student constructed parachutes were being observed interacting with the air inside and outside the classroom as the first grade students of Mrs. Sprouse, Mrs. Hahn (Keota) and Mrs. Livingston (Burlington) are studying FOSS Air and Weather. Students also make observations of weather and the patterns visible objects in the sky (Sun and Moon) as part of this unit.

In the 2nd grade unit, Pebbles, Sand and Silt students investigated and used physical properties to classify pebbles, gravel, sand, silt, and clay particles in the classes of Mrs. Lyle, and Mrs. Anderson (Keota). While, Mrs. Ford’s (Burlington) class learned that the physical properties of some earth materials makes them commonly used in building materials as they constructed their own bricks from a mix of grass, soil and clay.

Water is the FOSS unit being explored in the third grade classes of Ms. Miller and Ms. Herman in Keota. The students were constructing their own thermometers while experimenting with the properties of water as it was heated and cooled.

4th grade FOSS Soils, Rocks and Landforms students in Mrs. Russell’s (Burlington) and Mrs. Draisey’s (Keota) classes  were investigating the physical and chemical weathering of rocks and minerals as well as how erosion and deposition shape the surface of the land. The students then went outside and found examples of erosion and deposition in their own schoolyard.

Mrs. Johnson’s (Burlington) 5th grade class is studying FOSS Weather on Earth and are busy investigating properties of the atmosphere and hydrosphere. During one student designed investigation, experiments were done in the schoolyard to test the heating of different earth materials by the sun.

5th Grade students in Mr. Hill’s class (Keota) are looking toward the sky in FOSS Sun, Moon and Planets. The day of my visit students were outside several times to gather data by measuring lengths and angles of shadows and analyzing their data to relate the shadows to the position of the sun in the sky.

Keota middle school students in Mr. Hill and Ms. Hobbs classes will use the FOSS Weather on Earth, which focuses on the relationship between Earth’s atmosphere, weather and water.

I asked students at both schools what they thought of studying science this way. It was unanimous – they loved it! They talked about how they get to do investigations almost every day, and how they really help them to learn, and going outside helps them see it in the real world.

Originally posted at

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