Turn Up the Heat...Then Learn to Cool it Down

Danny Stock

Learning Progression Spotlight: Temperature

In a new series, we are spotlighting a learning progression across the divisions within a specific content area or with a multidisciplinary lens. Our hot topic in this article is temperature.

In Lower School, students first learn what temperature is, how to measure it, and the impact of changes in temperature on the world around them, including ongoing explorations into the three states of matter, weather, climate, and how they might dress for recess in January if they want to prioritize comfort over style.

Most recently, for example, 1st graders learned to read thermometers and are now studying the water cycle. Their excitement about water vapor is not to be mist.

In Middle School, students manipulate temperature, observe phase changes, and learn to document rigorously. Science teachers Michael Desautels and Jon Vanegas led their 8th graders through a lauric acid lab, their first lab experience following their test on safe Bunsen burner operation. They guided student observation of the melting/freezing point of the acid, talked about temperature during phase change, and answered some of their burning questions.

Understanding temperature goes beyond the labs in Middle School; 8th graders also dug into global warming issues and the impact of severe storms on the environment as well as neighboring communities. They learned what others are already doing to slow the effects and will begin to develop plans of their own. The 7th grade Conservation Corps had their first field trip in partnership with the Anacostia Watershed Society after which Daniel ’27 noted that DC’s sewage management system is connected to the Anacostia River, which causes problems for communities and habitats downstream. 

Classmate Reagan ’27 said, “After heavy rains, trash and sewage washes into the river. There are also playgrounds nearby, where people have parties, and small children will leave things behind that also get washed in.” Maya ’27 added, “Invasive plants are taking over the native woods.” There are also native plants, like poison ivy, that are thriving and growing more potent as a result of climate change.

In High School, as part of Bill Wallace’s Research Methods class, senior Nolawit Elias is investigating the ability of bacteria to tolerate heat in a series of experiments, exploring both growth response and protein changes. 

Also, the agenda of the Environmental Task Force (ETF) is heating up. They are taking climate advocacy into their own hands, developing climate-conscious action plans around education, art, food, school and lifestyle waste, and healthy living. They are also leading an initiative to earn an eco-certification for GDS as well as flexing their lobbying muscles with regards to environmental legislation. Below this article, you’ll find a full update from the ETF.

Curricular scope and sequence at GDS transcends division and spirals towards mastery, sending graduates out into the world who are not only perceptive and passionate but also equipped with the STEM skills to make an impact.

Some readers may find our temperature puns rather cool, and, to a certain degree, they’d be right. Still, right now, the study of temperature and global warming are really hot.

Full update from the Environmental Task Force

Thanks to Asha Adiga-Biro ’23 for sharing this note:
This year, the Environmental Task Force (ETF) is partnering with the Student Action Committee to help make a change in the GDS community. Every meeting that a member of the GDS community attends is eligible for one hour of community service. Our biggest goal for this year is for GDS to become an eco-certified school through a program called Eco-Schools USA. To get certified, GDS needs to complete three out of ten environmental pathways. The three pathways the ETF will tackle are transportation, waste, and energy. In addition, the ETF has different sub-committees: education and art (led by Sadie Foer ’23 and Deepa Bhargava ’23), food (led by Annabel Williams ’22), school and lifestyle waste (led by Luke Cohen ’23), and healthy living (led by Asha Adiga-Biro ’23). Some goals for this year under the education and art committee are to make a mural for the LMS using repurposed materials and to plan environmental field trips for the whole school. The food group is working on launching “Meatless Mondays” in the GDS cafeteria. The school and lifestyle committee’s main priority is accomplishing the waste pathway to help earn eco-certification for GDS. A goal in the healthy lifestyle committee is to create more green spaces in the Lower/Middle school. Lastly, the ETF is working on becoming more politically active this school year by lobbying for environmental legislation in DC and in the U.S. All in all, the ETF has a busy schedule ahead of us this year and is hoping to complete all of its goals.