7380 Girard Avenue, La Jolla

Gillispie School / Elementary  / Specialty Spotlight: Science

Specialty Spotlight: Science

The most engaging, memorable, and successful activities are those which demand that we approach them from many points of view, solving challenges with various parts of our minds and bodies. An example of this at work is the Island Projects the sixth graders have been working on for several weeks.

In teams, they dreamt up an island and sketched it, but that was just the beginning. Each team carefully sculpted its island from clay, and the clay islands were placed onto the vacuum forming machine.

The resulting thin plastic shell was reverse-painted and lettered (requiring difficult mental gymnastics) to make a relief map. Meanwhile, the clay version was cut into even slices which were traced onto paper, one by one, to create a topographic map with altitudes labeled on each slice-traced line.

The written element of the project asked for each of the island’s eight required geographical features to have its own separate documentation, including researched descriptions of how such a feature is formed in nature as well as fictional content such as how this particular feature got its name.

Finally, the team composed a “context paragraph” explaining the history, location, habitation, economy, and ecology of their island, fitting their fictitious landmass into some existing body of water from our real world.

Once finished, the islands will be further used to investigate how sea level rise of different severities would affect their islands.

It’s been a pleasure to watch the students’ problem solving, collaboration, artistry, research, and writing skills weave into their final presentations.


About Gillispie School: Gillispie is an independent toddler through Grade 6 school in La Jolla, CA. We believe that learning is a journey in which children are active participants. Our students partner with teachers to further their academic, creative, and social growth, and we balance a child-centered approach that does not rush childhood with well-researched academic programs that demand higher-level thinking. Click here to learn more about our school.

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