South Orangetown Central School District

What’s inside a black box? Cottage Lane Elementary School fifth-graders in Anne O’Brien’s class are working together to explore the hidden contents of these boxes through research, collaboration and hands-on discovery as part of their Earth Systems: Geosphere Unit!

These fifth-grade scientists have been learning all about the layers of the Earth, exploring the components of the geosphere and how it interacts with other spheres – measuring system models and scale, proportion, and quantity. To model how challenging it is for scientists to study the makeup of the Earth, students developed conceptual models of what might be inside the black boxes – working in partnerships to collaborate in order to come to a consensus within specific fields of research.

This afternoon, students were given an empty black box, a marble and cardboard pieces in order to build physical three-dimensional models to test against the original black box to determine if their theories are correct or need adjustments – revising and gathering new evidence.

“This activity ties in perfectly to our ongoing unit, allowing students to take on the role of scientists as they develop a model of an unknown construct like the Earth,” said O’Brien. “Through working with their peers, these students must communicate with one another effectively to finalize their designs and their conclusions based on their research.”

Students explore black boxes