Welcome to  Morgan McKenzie's page for Science Methods
(Spring 2015)!

Dear Parents:
My name is Miss Morgan McKenzie and I will be your child's teacher for the 2014-2015 school year. With a strong background in music and movement, visual arts, as well as performance arts, I feel that I bring a large amount of joy, laughter, and creativity to my classrooms. I am a strong believer in both child-directed and teacher-directed activities in which all members of the classroom are fully thriving and engaged. I have lived here in Reno for almost my whole life and have been working with children since the age of 13 when I became an assistant cheer and dance instructor. Ever since then, I have held a passion for teaching. I am looking forward to spending the year with your children and watching them grow. Please feel free to contact me with any questions or concerns you may have throughout the year! I will be sending home monthly newsletters and weekly picture journals where you can keep up with your child's progress in our classroom. I look forward to meeting each one of you, and getting to know your children.
All my best,
Morgan McKenzie

Here are a few links for science content readings that you and your child can enjoy together!

Below you will find a copy of our calendar for the next three months in which I have asked for you to do a few science-related activities outside the classroom with your child. These activities are stress-free and very fun and engaging for both you and your child. These activities will not only strengthen their passion and understanding of science, but they will also strengthen the bond they share with you!

Example of Learning Cycle
(Found Online)

Water Cycle: A Learning Cycle Lesson

In this introductory 5E learning cycle, students will explore what occurs in the water cycle through a simulation in which they role-play a drop of water.

Teacher Background:

Water covers 71 percent of the Earth, and can exist in liquid, vapor, or solid forms. Water is constantly moving; for example, it evaporates from oceans into the atmosphere, condenses to form clouds, falls as rain or snow, and eventually returns to the oceans through a system of streams and rivers. Scientists describe this movement of water in a model called the water cycle. Energy from the sun, which allows evaporation, is the driving force that powers the water cycle.


Elementary student understanding of the cycling of water in and out of the atmosphere serves as a prerequisite to learning about climatic patterns during middle school years. Therefore, it is important that students have a firm grasp of these concepts and clarify common misconceptions. The national standards documents provide insight into understanding what elementary students may think about the water cycle prior to instruction:

Students are familiar with the change of state between water and ice, but the idea of liquids having a set of properties is more nebulous and requires more instructional effort than working with solids. Most students will have difficulty with the generalization that many substances can exist as either a liquid or a solid. K-4 students do not understand that water exists as a gas when it boils or evaporates; they are more likely to think that water disappears or goes into the sky. Despite that limitation, students can conduct simple investigations with heating and evaporation that develop inquiry skills and familiarize them with the phenomena. (National Science Education Standards)

Students' ideas about conservation of matter, phase changes, clouds, and rain are interrelated and contribute to understanding the water cycle. Students seem to transit a series of stages to understand evaporation. Before they understand that water is converted to an invisible form, they may initially believe that when water evaporates it ceases to exist, or that it changes location but remains a liquid, or that it is transformed into some other perceptible form (fog, steam, droplets, etc.) (Bar, 1989; Russell, Harlen, & Watt, 1989; Russell & Watt, 1990). With special instruction, some students in 5th grade can identify the air as the final location of evaporating water (Russel & Watt, 1990), but they must first accept air as a permanent substance (Bar, 1989). This appears to be a challenging concept for upper elementary students (Sere, 1985). Students can understand rainfall in terms of gravity in middle school but not the mechanism of condensation, which is not understood until early high school (Bar, 1989).

Link to Standards:

The activities in this learning cycle will support understanding of the larger learning goal for a K-4 unit focused on the water cycle. According to the National Science Education Standards (1996), “Materials can exist in different states--solid, liquid, and gas. Some common materials, such as water, can be changed from one state to another by heating or cooling.” According to the Benchmarks for Science Literacy (1993), elementary students should develop understandings about the physical setting (in this case, the Earth):

The Physical Setting: Section B. The Earth

  • (K-2) Water can be a liquid or a solid and can go back and forth from one form to the other.
  • (3-5) When liquid water disappears, it turns into a gas (vapor) in the air and can reappear as a liquid when cooled, or as a solid if cooled below the freezing point of water.

Physical, conceptual and mathematical models are commonly used by scientists to resemble what occurs in the natural world. Elementary students can begin to consider the usefulness of a model as well as its limitations. According to the Benchmarks for Science Literacy, K-2 students should know that:

  • A model of something is different from the real thing but can be used to learn something about the real thing.

By the end of the 5th grade, students should know that:

  • Geometric figures, number sequences, graphs, diagrams, sketches, number lines, maps, and stories can be used to represent objects, events, and processes in the real world, although such representations can never be exact in every detail.

Materials List

The Water’s Journey – a children’s book by Eleonore Schmid

Water Wonders stations and chance cards (Actitivty #44 in Project Learning Tree Curriculum Guide)

For each student:

Paper (to draw the water cycle)

Paper (to write about the water cycle)

5 Post-it notes (to record observations from the activity)

Goals/objectives of the lesson:

Students will develop the following knowledge and abilities related to processes, content, and understandings about science:

Science Processes:

Students will …

Science Content:

Students will describe how:

The Nature of Science

Simulate the path that water takes through the water cycle.

Draw inferences about the movement of water through the environment

The water cycle shows the cycling of water in the environment.

Water can take on many forms in the environment, including solid, liquid, and gas

Scientists develop physical, conceptual, and mathematical models to describe, explain, and predict phenomena

Engage/Encountering the Idea:

  • Ask students, “What is a cycle?” Invite them to name some cycles that are a part of their life (e.g., morning, afternoon, night; winter, spring, summer, and fall).
  • Ask, “How many of you have heard about the water cycle?” (Most students will probably raise their hand.) Begin by asking students to draw a picture of the water cycle.
  • Tell students that the water cycle is a model for thinking about the journey that water takes—explain that you are going to read a book that will describe more about The Water’s Journey.
  • Following the reading, ask students to discuss their drawings and ideas, and how these compared to those shared by the author. Is there is anything the author included in her description of the water’s journey that they omitted from their drawing and vice versa?
  • Invite students to pair up and share their drawings with each other, suggesting modifications to make in light of the story that was read.

Exploring the Idea:

  • What would it be like if we were a drop of water? What would that experience be like? Tell students you are going to play a game of chance, in which they will get to be a drop of water.
  • Introduce the seven stations to students (mountain, ocean, cloud, stream, groundwater, animal, and plant).
  • Divide students up into fairly even groups, and assign them to each station.
  • Students remove a strip from the envelope at their station. They should read the strip and record their step in the journey, and their destination. When you give the signal, students should go to their destination. (Repeat this at least 5 times).
  • Students should then return to their seats and write a brief story, from a water drop’s point of view, that describes the journey they just took during the water cycle.

Explanation/ Organizing the Idea:

  • Ask students to pair up and share their stories. How are their journeys alike? How do they differ?
  • Have students share similarities and differences between their stories and their classmate’s.
  • Write the names of the seven stations on the chalkboard, and provide each student with 5 post-it notes. Instruct students to create a post-it by each of the five stations they visited to create a class bar graph. Then, discuss the following questions:

1) In the game, which stations seem to be visited most? What can we infer from this?

2) Can you think of other parts of the water cycle that were not included in the game? (puddles, lakes, etc.) Where might they be included in the cycle?

3) What do you think would happen if all the Earth’s water stayed in the oceans? In the clouds? Why do you think water does not stay in one place?

4) How do you think the water cycle is important to plants and animals?

Extend/ Applying the Idea:

Ask students revisit their original drawings, considering it in terms of the pathways they and their classmates took during the game. Students can pair up and discuss their ideas together or in small groups to decide what they would change in order to more accurately represent the water cycle.

Have each individual student create a new drawing of the water cycle, and to write a description of how it differs from their original drawing (What did they learn?). Collect both the original and revised drawings from all students.


*As a summative evaluation, we will review the NAEP constructed-response assessment item – scoring, and student answers to a question about the water cycle. You will then revise the question applying understandings from the Miller & Calfee reading (“Making Thinking Visible”) to create a prompt for student expository writing. You will then modify the Science Writing Rubric provided by the authors.


Schmid, Eleonore. (1989). The water’s journey. New York: North-South Books.

National Research Council. (1996). The national science education standards. Washington, D.C.: National Academy Press.

American Forest Foundation (1993). Project Learning Tree Environmental Education Activity Guide: Pre K-8. Washington, DC: Author.

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