On Poetry and Digestion

As systems go, the digestive system really is one of my favourites, as it has to do with food and strange sounds.  This doesn’t necessarily make it everyone’s favourite to study, pertaining as it does to, well, digestion.  Anyway, it’s in the curriculum.  So, I thought we should review our learning by making a Class-Size Working Model of The Digestion System (which is a Caldwell Grade Five tradition).   Once it was working smoothly, we invited students from other classes and digested them.  Nobody said digestion was pretty, or quiet.

Some of the students think I am making a special effort to bring disgusting topics to class but I’m really not–it just seems to happen naturally.  Call it a gift.  For instance, we are studying poetry–what is more likely to be beautiful than poetry?  So, because yesterday was Robert Burns Day, in which the national poet of Scotland is celebrated by Scots and their descendants everywhere, I thought I would share the poem that will be recited at these celebrations, accompanied by the uniquely Scottish national dish it celebrates: haggis My reason was to demonstrate that in many places poetry and poets are considered vital parts of the culture.  But once I told students what a haggis is (ask them if you dinna know), they seemed to miss my point.  Anyway, here it is: 

Don’t feel bad if you don’t understand this–it’s mostly in Scottish.


How big are your brain cells?

This might seem like a rather personal question.   But, just in case you were thinking it’s all snails and wheelbarrows in our class (see the previous post) fear not:  also rat brains!

This post appears by special request (Abdul among others) on the heels of our latest visit from Meaghan and Olivia at Queen’s BrainReach.   Today the theme was brain cells, featuring four kinds:  neurons, microglia, astrocytes and–I’m really only telling you this because of this word–oligodendrocytes!   Bonus points to anyone who can point to their longest “axon”!!  And yes, they brought in the aforementioned rodent brains in little vials.  (Feel free to have very mixed feelings about this; I do).  As usual, great, probing questions from many students today!

Below is a link to a cool interactive model of just how small cells are relative to other very small things.  (Brain cells do not appear, but apparently are about the same size as red blood cells).:


And, just because, here’s a review of the astonishing miracle of neurons:

Cell! Cell! Cell!

We are beginning to explore Human Organ Systems, probably the unit of study with the greatest gross-out awesomeness potential.  Yesterday and today we discussed cells.  Not an easy topic, and not central to our study (they’ll com back to cells in Grade 8), but it will keep coming up so it seemed a good idea to try and look at some.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.


Brain Awareness Begins

Here in Grade 5 we’ve been hearing for some time about brains and their theoretical uses, but today the good people at Queen’s University–in this case Mandy and Olivia from the Neuroscience Department–helped us to see that these things are really important.  They will be visiting our class monthly from now until May.  Then we will go to Queen’s for Brain Awareness Day and meet lots of different people doing brain research.  Here is some photographic evidence.

(Easy) task between now and their next visit:  record any “brain” questions we have.

img_0905 img_0908 img_0910 img_0911 img_0912 img_0913 img_0914