Amplify Science

Hands on Engagement is Foundation of New K-5 Science Curriculum

Ping pong balls are flying, bouncing and rolling all over Donna Dooley’s kindergarten classroom! The Increase Miller students have just made pinball machine models from precut cardboard boxes and big rubber bands. They are exploring how to control the way a pinball moves; it's instinctive to place a ping pong ball against the rubber band and pull. 

The first tentative tries bonk balls against the backs of the cardboard boxes. When one student’s ball flies across the table, it launches an era of innovation in rubber band placement and power pulls. One student even figures out how to send her ball backwards!

The kindergarteners are pinball engineers, experimenting with the forces of push and pull, cause and effect, and the design cycle, and having a great time. 

students step into a story and get to work

This year, Katonah-Lewisboro elementary students have been thinking like conservation biologists; biomimicry engineers, glue scientists and more. One of the most engaging aspects of Amplify, the district’s new K-5 science curriculum, is that it invites students to be scientists and engineers engaged in real-world situations. They step into a story and get to work.

“It’s a very hands-on curriculum,” said Melissa Brady, the district staff developer for sustainability and STEAM. "Students develop models or explanations in order to arrive at solutions." She highlights the curriculum’s focus on teaching students to think like scientists and engineers, grapple with core scientific principles and apply concepts that cut across domains.

“My students would be happy doing science all day long,” said fourth grade teacher Bebhinn Fahy. "They love it."

units develop over the course of several weeks

The maker space in Katonah Elementary smells terrific. Fifth grade teacher Lynn Garofolo and Staff Developer Brady have turned the room into a food lab stocked with lemons, olive oil, vinegar, honey, Dijon mustard and a variety of seasonings.

The students are food scientists for Good Food Production, Inc. Their assignment: to develop a salad dressing that won’t separate.

The previous week, the students had mixed oil and vinegar, and observed how the mixture separated. The fifth graders hypothesized that some molecules need emulsification and agitation to blend into a homogeneous mixture. They are testing the theory today. Each group of students creates its own recipe, adding honey or Dijon—or both, shaking the mixture well. They observe - and taste - the results.