Students at Crooked River Elementary continue their studies with the Solar System storyline

by: KEVIN SPERL - Third-grader Megan Harkey draws a picture of Jupiter in her journal.

Their hearts and stomachs may have been preoccupied with Valentine's Day, but their minds were firmly embedded in space.

Last Friday, students at Crooked River Elementary continued their storyline investigation of the Solar System, intently studying the planet Jupiter.

In Amber Freeman's third-grade class, students wrote in their journals, titled "My journey through the Solar System," describing their favorite planetary facts.

"Write your topic, along with three detailed sentences, followed by a conclusion," instructed Freeman.

One of her students, Taylor Joyce, was quick to offer a topic.

"Here are some facts you might want to know about Jupiter," she suggested, "before you visit."

Students found it interesting that Jupiter is the largest planet, has 63 moons and rotates around the sun every 10 hours.

Over in Stacy Stringer's fifth-grade class, student Teagan Freeman was surprised to learn that Jupiter was a gaseous planet, composed mostly of Hydrogen.

"I didn't know that Jupiter didn't have any ground to stand on," she said, adding that the planet was 1,300 times larger than Earth.

Amber Freeman noted that all grades continue to integrate the storyline into their curriculum.

"All of our writing is science based, and we have incorporated distances into Math," she said, adding that students are also learning how to do research and record facts in reading class.

And, the storyline continues to hold the students' attention.

"There is a lot of buy-in from students that have struggled in the past," said Freeman. "We have seen a lot of improvement in them over the past few months, which is very encouraging."

Teagan Freeman wasn't sure that all of the students would like the program.

"At first people didn't think this was going to be any fun, saying 'Oh, we're just learning about things we already know,'" she said, "but, there is a lot of stuff that we have learned."

Amber Freeman said that studying the solar system is something the students are very interested in, and have even brought the topic home to their families.

"There has been buy-in with the family as well," she said. "We love anything that gets parents involved."

Students in Stringer's class are beginning to wonder about the possibility of life on other planets.

"I totally believe there is life out there," said Dallen Nixon, "and they may not require water and air like we do."

Nixon admitted to always liking science, saying, "It's fun for me to learn about the planets. I like watching videos about the Solar System and taking notes like a real scientist."

Nixon's classmate Amelia Tanner noted that the ice on Jupiter's moon could mean that life existed at one time, adding that it would be cool if science does discover other life forms.

Studying the Solar System has certainly piqued her imagination.

"I like to learn new things; I never knew Pluto wasn't a planet, that there were 140 moons in the solar system, and that 1 million earths could fit inside the sun," said Tanner. "It's crazy. And, if you can imagine it, you can travel through space in your own mind."

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