Seventh-graders Can’t Be Out-clevered

Students Dayle Brushaber, Kaylee Diamond, Maloryn Mrozinski and Austin Snyder try to out-science a clever craftsman

Some 300 seventh-graders became authenticity sleuths recently during a science class experiment dubbed “Cracking the Case of the Clever Craftsman.”

Students were presented with a real-life example of a king’s crown being made from a material other than gold, and how many were fooled. After being given a pair of clay-like balls that science teacher James Grulke told them had identical properties, students worked in groups of four “to see if he’s lying,” said Maloryn Mrozinski. Piped in classmate Dayle Brushaber: “If he’s lying about the volume, density and the mass.”

Dayle Brushaber and Kaylee Diamond weigh a clay-like ball on new balance equipment paid for through a grant from the Lowell Education Foundation

The project met science standards of both content and inquiry, where seventh-graders are expected to understand different types of chemical and physical properties. Grulke said both state and national science standards place importance on inquiry as a way for students to develop their science understanding and overcome misconceptions.

Grulke and fellow science teacher David Strejc made the experiment possible thanks to a $1216 grant from the Lowell Education Foundation, which paid for eight electronic balance equipment already common in high school and college science classrooms.

Grulke said the new equipment will be used in several volume and mass experiments throughout the year in grades six through eight. The units already have been used in ways unanticipated during the grant request process, he said: to weigh cotton in an eighth-grade social studies class to give students perspective how much had to be picked by hand by slaves, sharecroppers and farmers to earn a living.

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Morgan Jarema
Morgan Jarema is a Grand Rapids native and a product of Grand Rapids Public Schools, including Brookside and West Leonard elementaries, City Middle/High School and Ottawa Hills. She found her tribe in journalism in 1997 and has never wanted to do anything but write. For 15 years she was a freelance journalist for The Grand Rapids Press, covering local schools and government, religion, business, home & garden and lifestyles. She and her husband, John, think even those without kiddos should be invested in their local schools and made to feel a part of them. Read Morgan's full bio

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