Earth Science

By: Sima Maryles, Jessica Segen and Verity Shaft
from The Fuchs Mizrachi School

Interdisciplinary Integration

Subject(s) of entry:
Art, Engineering, Halacha, History, Ivrit, Math, Mishnah, Science, Social Studies, Technology

Blended Learning, Design-Thinking Model, Experiential Education, IBL - inquiry based learning, Language Immersion, PBL - project based learning, Socratic Method, UBD - understanding by design, 21st Century Skills

Grade(s) to which this was taught:
1, 2, 3, 4, 5, Elementary school, Middle school

Grade(s) for which this will be useful:
1, 2, 3, 4, 5, Elementary school, Middle school

Working backwards from the physical and topographical design of Israel, the connection between Israel, Earth Science and Halacha, and the consideration of our (Fuchs Mizrachi Lower School’s) physical location in the world; this unit was designed to ask and answer six essential questions that take the students on a journey across many disciplines.

Entry Narrative

Interdisciplinary Integration

FMS Lower School:

Submitted By: Sima Maryles, Jessica Segen and Verity Shaft

Academic Year: 2017-18

Topic: Earth Science


The Fuchs Mizrachi Lower School defines and applies STEAM learning in the following way:

Science: The study of the natural world.

Technology: STEAM definition for technology is not only DIGITAL it also includes any product made by humans to meet a want or need; i.e. any product students create to solve a problem can be regarded as technology.

Engineering: The design process students use to solve problems.

Art: integration of Art education and production to support or represent the concrete objectives

Math: The language of numbers, shapes, and quantities that often seems irrelevant or out of context to many students.


Next and in considering that this annual undertaking is a divisional project the roles per grades are differentiated and defined as follows:

First, Second and Third: Students in first through third spend the start of their STEAM learning careers exploring how to ask and answer essential questions. Students learn how essential questioning can guide discovery while also acquiring scientific vocabulary and language until they become fluent in it. Students in these grades develop the ability to become independent in research and recording data to support a bigger objective. Every year the STEAM topic changes but the objectives and goals remain the same.


Fourth and Fifth: after three years of scaffold-ed support students become STEAM facilitators! Over the eight weeks of STEAM discovery and learning the fifth graders take on the role of “teacher.” Fifth graders must pre-teach themselves so that over the 8 week period, when the fifth graders are due to enter each LS classroom they are able to teach content, facilitate experiments and aid the younger students in data recording. Additionally, the Fourth and Fifth graders run the school wide STEAM fair helping to create and implement a truly student centered and curated experience for teachers, students and families alike.


Topic Development: (July-December)

–          General Studies Teachers and Administrator meet 2x over the summer for topic brainstorming sessions –

–          Between September and November – the General Studies team will further develop the topic and begin to educate themselves on applicable vocabulary, experiments and appropriate prospects for cross curricular opportunities – at this time teachers share resources and ideas freely and begin to hone the objectives down. (GS team meets on average 2-3x  a month)

–          November: The lead STEAM teachers meet with the resident artist and the Judaics staff to receive feedback on the topic idea and begin to create a framework for the art process and Judaics/Ivrit processes. Also by mid-month the lead STEAM team will take a professional day to start ordering books and materials that will be needed. All books are included here: title and authors in the links labeled: Student Lab Manuals – and “information rings” are differentiated means of information sharing for those beginning, struggling or non-readers – the information is directly from the books – these are generated in anticipation of student needs and are tailored for student success across levels.

–          December: STEAM breakout – showcasing what’s ahead for the students. At this point the lead STEAM team, the resident artist and a representative from the Judaic staff are hard at work on the student manuals. Manuals are ready for student use by the end of December.

Eight Week Teaching Schedule (January-March):

–          The 5th grade team remains at least one week ahead of the rest of the LS allowing for the optimal peer to peer learning experience. The 5th grade General Studies teacher with the input of her students will structure the 5th grade STEAM learning times – independent of the rest of the division – to ensure they are literally a step ahead at all times and ready to enter their assigned classrooms as the masters of information.

–          Each Monday for one hour fifth grade students are tasked with introducing and facilitating that week’s STEAM objective. Each 5th grade student is assigned to a classroom and a group of students – this task has aided the fifth graders in their curation of the actual fair – we noticed that the more autonomy given to the 5th grade students in their own learning and inquiry process the better peer teachers they become.  Often, the fifth graders will ask their assigned classroom teacher for the chance to come back on Friday to either complete something or to pre-teach their groups in anticipation of the next week. By allowing the 5th graders enough time to teach themselves and their younger peers the more ownership the 5th graders have and the connection to the learning becomes deeper.

–          General Studies teachers are responsible for ensuring that they support and review what the 5th graders teach on Mondays over the rest of the week. Teachers are given autonomy on how they use their teaching time for this.

–          Hebrew and Judaic teachers agree on a specific time framework that compliments and remains apace with their general studies counterparts. One Judaic representative works closely with the STEAM team ensuring context and content remain attainable and complimentary from 1st – 5th grade.




Over the 2017-2018 school year and in preparation for the annual STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Art and Math) fair, the Fuchs Mizrachi Lower School engaged in a multi-week study of physical and earth sciences. As per our yearly tradition, this study culminated in a student curated STEAM fair. On display were the final projects, hands on opportunities, ideas, hypotheses and processes that the students engaged and participated in. By the time the day of the fair rolled around the students were able and tasked with the responsibility of sharing their knowledge and experiences with their families. As always the fair was a great success and we hope you enjoy learning about our learning and the final product and reflections that we have to share!

While the Lower School participates in this division wide initiative every year, each year is reflected upon so that the student learning, student engagement and familial experience can be enhanced and maximized. Some of the things we actively sought to enhance further – which we heeded from parent feedback from the 2016-2017 survey monkey, teacher reflections and student reflections were:

–          Utilize art as an opportunity to create a single division wide project that still represents each grade and their own learning – albeit in one final piece.

–          Further integrate Judaic studies by creating in class opportunities to incorporate Halacha, Language and Jewish History into the existing standards so that the information base is fully contextualized across curriculums – ie truly integrate disciplines across language, content and experience.

–          Be creative in parent involvement  – the preceding years complimented the parent body and their careers and talents – knowing that we would be studying an area that was less prevalent to our parents we wanted to ensure that we maintain the level and standard of parent involvement already created – and so, we knew we had to be proactive in this area.

The disciplines integrated were:

–          phonics/language,

–           science,

–          math,

–          history,

–          Ivrit,

–          Halacha,

–           Israel / Zionism

–          Jewish History

–          Tanach.

This means that every teacher, paraprofessional and special education provider in our Lower School from both the Judaic staff and the General Studies staff was involved in this initiative –




Part 1: Pre Teaching and Context:

Vocabulary: this section was limited to a “Sneak Peak” and as an opportunity to enhance the morphological work that was already happening the General Studies classroom as part of the Language Arts cohort initiative. For one week before the actual learning began teachers and students applied what they had already been learning about morphology / roots and affixes – to generate, decipher and define (on their own) prescribed scientific terminology meant to aid and guide the learning– (words were introduced to the students in morphological parts students were tasked with connecting each part into whole words to make meaning which they were then challenged to apply into their study of earth science) –

See pictures below of students in action building these words and terms! Students in each class began with one large mat of individual morphemes and through activities like hop-scotch started to identify common morphemes which eventually evolved into students attaching morphemes to create, define and eventually apply the vocabulary words below:


Earth Science





Scientific Inquiry

Student Vocabulary Engagement:  Morphology Morphology 1 Morphology 2 Morphology 3 Morphology 4, At the Fair: Vocabulary, At the Fair: Vocabulary 2


In turn, the following eight weeks were guided by these initial terms – laying a strong foundation for an intense eight week study designed to build and answer the following SIX essential questions:

The Essential Questions:

Working Backwards from: the Topographical Make-Up of Israel and the Connection between Earth Science and Halacha, in conjunction with our (The Fuchs Mizrachi Lower School’s) physical location in the world, the unit was broken down into these six questions:


  1. What are rocks and where do they come from?
  2. What is water and where does it come from?

Essential Questions 1 and 2: Student Lab Manual

This part encompassed: scientific inquiry, research, observation, and classification

First, students created their own sedimentary rock to observe over time:

Example of Student Hypotheses: Hypotheses 4th Grade

Student Rocks: Rock in a Cup 1, Rock in a Cup 2, Rock in a Cup 3,

Making Rocks at the Fair, Making Rocks at the Fair 2, Making Rocks at the Fair: 3

Students Classifying Rocks / Not Rocks and by Rock Type:


Classification 2,

Classification 3,

Classification 4, 

5th Graders Teaching How to Classify Rocks

At the Fair: Classification,

At the Fair: Classification 2,

At the Fair: Classification 3

Discovering the Properties of Water and Building Molecules:

Research: Hands on Discovery, Primary Research

Creating a Molecule: H2O 1,

H20 2,

At the Fair: Making Molecules,

At the Fair: Water Molecule

  1. What is the rock cycle?
  2. What is the water cycle?

Essential Question 3 and 4: Student Lab Manual

This part encompassed: scientific inquiry, hypothesis, research, record, observation, and classification and Interdisciplinary Integration: (5th graders connected Morphology in Ivrit, Science, History, Current Events and Zionism in order to understand the water cycle in relation to Israel today and Israel at the forefront of desalination and how this translates as a Geo-Political tool for Israel. – SEE VIDEO BELOW)

Recreating the Rock Cycle:

Students were tasked with taking an “igneous” rock – breaking it down to “sediment” and then recreating the intensity of heat and pressure to create “metamorphic” rock: *one way we maintained parent involvement was to illicit help with this experiment – in order to create heat that mimics lava we needed more adult supervision – this kept our parent engagement standard up and provided parents the opportunity to experience the benefits of experiential learning*

Igneous to Sediment,

Sediment under Pressure,

Sediment under Pressure 2,

Sedimentary to Metamorphic,

Parent Involvement,

At the Fair: Rock Cycle,

At the Fair: Rock Cycle Curator,

At the Fair: Rock Cycle 2


Understanding and Recreating the Water Cycle:

Water Cycle in a Jar,  

At the Fair: Water Cycle in a Jar,

At the Fair: Water Cycle in a Jar 2,

Evaporation as a Precursor to EQ 5: Salt Water

Evaporation and Erosion: Evaporation and Erosion,

At the Fair: Evaporation,

At the Fair: Evaporation 2

Integration: Fifth Grade:

5th Grade News Video: Science, Ivrit, Zionism, History and Current Events,

At the Fair: Watching the Fifth Grade News

  1. What is weathering?

This part encompassed: scientific inquiry, hypothesis, research, record, observation, classification and Interdisciplinary Integration: Geography, Hydrology, Topography, Mapping, Tanach, Hebrew Language, Jewish History and Halacha

Essential Question 5: Student Lab Manual

Ivrit, Tanach, Halacha Choveret

Students were challenged to synthesize the rock and water cycle into every day knowledge – while students researched, recreated and explored how both cycles contribute to the physical make up / topography of the world around them

weathering: 5th grade facilitators,

weathering 1,

weathering 2,

making landforms,

landforms 2,

landforms 3,

topography / geography match it!

Students using the PP as a MATCHING challenge,

At the Fair,

At the Fair: Geography Match It,

At the Fair: Look Inside Volcano,

At the Fair: Look Inside Volcano 2,

At the Fair: Look Inside Volcano 3,

At the Fair: Weathering

At the same time, students were also acquiring the Hebrew vocabulary for these landforms and topographical orientations in their Hebrew classes.  Once students were comfortable with the topographical terms in both Hebrew and English, the students were given specific pesukim from the Tanach that either described, defined or utilized the vocabulary to delineate specific locations in ancient Israel –

Tanach and Topography,

Tanach and Topography 2,

At the Fair: Tanach and Topography,

At the Fair: Tanach and Topography 2

Inspiring the students to recognize that across time and place the science behind the physical make-up of their current geographical location AND the ancient locations they are constantly learning about remains the same.


Finally, Students then began to explore how Halacha and Topography relate – they were even challenged to look at the red peppers in their local grocery store to make this connection!

Rabbi Pinchas and the Mice


  1. How does this relate to my life right now? (yes, In the Cle, it is still snowing in March…)


This was a BONUS question completely asked, answered and facilitated by our 5th graders at the actual STEAM fair:

The students wanted to explain Lake Effect Snow in regards to the water and rock cycles and in relation to where we are physically in Cleveland, Ohio – additionally, the students researched how weathering and erosion initially shaped Lake Erie via an Iceberg and explained why parts of Ohio and three of our boarding states are considered the “Snow Belt.”

Lake Erie Effect Snow,

Lake Erie Landform Vocabulary,

Lake Erie History Research,

At the Fair: Lake Effect Snow,


ART: Art is offered once a week for 45 minutes in the Lower School. We had about nine total opportunities, (seven total hours), to meet the challenge of: ONE, single division wide project – that would still provide each grade a chance to create something individual – and WOW did our students, art teacher and resident artist do it! The final project encompassed the following disciplines: Geography, Topography, Math, Tanach, Personal Experiences, Engineering and Science.

Students and artists alike were inspired by a vivid topographical map of Israel to create our final project:

The Inspiration: inspiration

First, the resident artist and our 4th and 5th graders used home insulation boards to sketch and carve a topographical map of Israel – to scale:

Scaling: Sketching and Carving to Scale, progress

Here is a grade by grade breakdown of what each group contributed to the final product. Along with the students’ documentation the art teacher offers her reflections as the project progressed, these are in red below each class’s breakdown – our fabulous art teacher’s success is evident in her reflections and how the project itself changed course a few times to ensure a meaningful experience in conjunction with an amazing piece of art!

Process and Reflections

Student Samples – second grade

Final Project: Final Project,

Final Project 1,

Final Project 2,

Final Project 3,

Final Project 4,

Today, the 3D, topographical map lives in Camp Stone. The map remains on permanent display as part of the experiential summer learning that happens there – we were so excited and flattered to have been able to share this piece of work with Camp Stone – and we look forward to our students who go to Camp Stone to continue to use their final project for many years to come as part of their Zionist learning – go visit and be amazed!!

Along with contributing to one final Project each class utilized 3d imagination and technology to create additional artifacts for display:

3rd Grade: Student Sample,

Student Sample: 3rd Grade 2,

1st Grade: Student Sample,

Parent Involvement:

We knew we had to be creative for this unit when it came to the school-home connection and parent involvement piece- So, we threw the question onto the parents: What does Earth Science Have to do With You? We had “Mystery Guests” who taught us about composting and the importance of worms: Compost 1, Compost 2, Compost 3, composting parent. Additionally, we had a parent panel comprised of: an Aerospace Engineer who compared and contrasted moon rocks and earth rocks for us, a Geologist from Case Western University, an Organic Chicken Farmer, an urban planner who focuses on neighborhood resiliency and sustainability and lastly a Rabbi who explained how and why it is important for us to use Hashem’s creation.

Please check out the slides to see the questions each class generated for the panel participants:

Student Questions for Parent Panel

Thanking the Mystery Guests at the Fair


The Fair:

FAIR Photos

The eight weeks culminated in our final, student curated STEAM fair. In this write up, I have included specific photographs from the fair by each Essential Question. Above is a complete set of photos – please note, the student facilitators (not a teacher in sight!!)– You will recognize these facilitators as the ones in blue and white!


Student Lab Manual: Complete:

STEAM Student Lab Manual 2017-2018

Entrant Bio(s)

Sima Maryles, Jess Segen and Verity Shaft teach 4 out of the 5 General Studies classes in the Fuchs Mizrachi lower school. Together, they have evolved the annual Lower School STEAM learning and have placed a focus on true interdisciplinary integration to maximize the learning experiences of their students. Under the guidance of Malkie Ginsburg they continue to hone progressive educational approaches that allow for integration across disciplines and a mutual love and respect between the Judaics and General Studies deprtments. All three teachers are excited to share the Lower School STEAM initiative of the 2017-2018 academic school year!