Grade 7 Maps Water Quality of Ho Chi Minh City

As part of our final application of skills and knowledge in our unit on “Watersheds” the students have collected water around Ho Chi Minh City, tested it, and analyzed it’s health.

This has been a really exciting project made possible by Google maps and not only that, some classrooms around the world have expressed interest in joining us next year to collect and monitor water near school districts around the world. Although I have worked with teachers from different locations before, this endeavor is shaping up to be the largest collaboration and long-term data collection project of which I’ve ever been involved. Our base-line of data collection this year will serve as a starting point to show long term changes of the earth’s water quality over time.

As a final note, I want to thank all parents for their support in the science classroom this year. Every child has shown a distinct interest in at least one area of science and has grown in so many ways. I’m encouraging them to “Stay Curious” this summer!


Gary Johnston

MS Science Teacher

Saigon South International School


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Sixth Grade Creates Digital Stories to Learn about Earth’s History

The sixth graders have just finished presenting digital stories for our final project “Inside Earth”. Our study of earth and it’s history has taken us on a journey through many fascinating topics such as:

  • Earth’s Interior
  • The Rock Cycle
  • Igneous Rocks
  • Sedimentary Rocks
  • Metamorphic Rocks
  • Evolution of Life
  • Law of Superposition
  • What Causes Earthquakes?
  • Continental Drift

For our final project, students have chosen of these topics to investigate more in depth and produce a digital story to help teach it to others. Digital stories combine video and images with audio narration and sound effects to tell a more memorable, compelling story. The students have their work on their blogs which you can access at this link. Below are some class favorites.

To all my the parents of my students, thanks so much for your support this year, working with your children has been such a pleasure!

Gary Johnston

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Grade 7 Uses Digital Stories to Model Watersheds

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Grade 7 Learns about Watersheds through the “Grey Area”

The seventh graders have started their investigation of the “Grey Area’: a watershed environment wherein an environmental disaster has taken place and students have to perform tests and conduct experiments to figure out which parties are responsible.

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Grade 7 Learns about Watersheds

Grade 7 has been learning about watersheds. Below is our first mapping activity wherein students had to map a watershed from their home environment by indicating:

  • Divides: Mountain, Ridges, Hills
  • Tributaries: Streams that flow into larger rivers

Google maps will come in handy for our study and allow us to add multiple layers of information for analysis.

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Grade 6 Builds a Distillation Apparatus

The sixth graders have just finished building a distillation apparatus for our unit on chemistry. I’ve documented the process in a movie below. The students have uploaded their work to their blogs for reference.

Have a great spring break!


Students: Write a Short Paragraph on the Following:

  1. Do you think your device worked well enough to be considered for mass scale production? (Give examples)
  2. Do you think it’s easier to purify water, or to keep it clean? Why?
  3. How can countries grow and prosper without degrading the environment?
  4. How has this project made you think about water and our resources?
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Grade 6 Summative Lab: Does Food Coloring Mix Faster in Hot or Cold Water?

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Student Lab: Does food coloring spread faster in hot or cold water?



How does temperature of water (independent variable) affect the time it takes to mix food coloring (dependent variable)?


If  water is hotter (planned change in independent variable),

then the food coloring will mix faster (predicted change in dependent variable).

I think the food coloring will mix faster in cold water (restate relationship above),

because I know that the hotter it is, the molecules will be spread more apart, and so it would be easier for the food coloring to mix in with the water.


Method of Management and/or Measurement

Independent (Manipulated)


Temperature of water

The heat in degrees; using a thermometer.




The time it takes

using a timer

Controlled (Constant)


1. amount of water

using the measuring cup

2. amount of drops

using the droplet thing (I forgot what it was called)

3. Beaker


Materials List:





1.)     Hot Water (I didn’t do the exact temperature, but you should be able to feel whether it’s hot or cold)

50 ml

4.) 100 ml Beaker


2.)     Cold Water

50 ml



3.)     Food Coloring

1 drop (for each)



1.  Get the two beakers. Fill one beaker with cold water, and the other one with hot. Fill with 50ml each.

2. Do the hot beaker first. Put one drop in it and time it.

3. Record the Data.

4. Now do the same to the beakers with what you did with the hot one.

5. Record and Compare



My hypothesis was supported because as I said, if the molecules are farther apart (which means that they are hotter) It would be easier for the Food Coloring to mix in and make the process faster. The Data shows that the food coloring mixed faster than the cold water by around 20 seconds, concluding that hot water mixes with food coloring faster than cold water. As I said earlier, I think the process of using heat, makes it faster because the way the molecules are, it would be easier to mix in. As for the cold water, if you make it too cold, it would turn into a solid, and the molecules of solids don’t mix.


I think the biggest weakness in this specific lab, is that when I was doing the cold water, my table ran out of food coloring, so I had to use a different food coloring from another table, and the dropper was a different size, so 1) the density might be different and 2) the amount I tried to put as equal as possible might not be equal. I didn’t measure the temperature, because I thought that it wasn’t necessary. Another weakness that relates to how I took the data, I started the timer a little late twice, but I don’t think it’s a big problem because it was only around 2 seconds late each. I still could’ve been more aware of timing it. If there are any strengths in this lab, it would be (I think. Correct me if I’m wrong) the fact that I can still label my variables, and I think that I had logic in my hypothesis (FIY: I got the molecule idea from watching one of those videos where the guy changes the temperature of solids, liquids, and gasses).

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Grade 7 Explores Tissues

The seventh graders had their first test of the semester and it was, a dissection. We had a debate about the moral imperative of dissection and whether they are helpful or hurtful. Following this, we had our first lab wherein students performed a dissection on a chicken wing in order to identify tendons, ligaments, bones and cartilage.

The students were quite engaged, although some opted out to be observers rather than actual dissectors.

Students: Choose one of the questions below to reflect on:

  1. What were your impressions/reflections of our “chicken wing” lab?
  2. What is you stance on the morals of dissection as a learning method?
  3. Write as if you were the chicken!


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Middle School Science Gears Up for Second Semester

Dear SSIS Parents,

Welcome back! I hope you all had a great holiday and both you and your children are feeling rested. I’m feeling pretty humbled to attend Google teacher academy last December before the holiday and have already started integrating some of the new tools I’ve learned there into my teaching practice.

Since we’re in our second week back, I’d like to appraise you of some of these new changes and how they’ll impact teaching and learning in the science classroom.

  • Better Digital Tools for Assessing and Giving Feedback on Student Learning. As you may have noticed from first semester, I take a lot of pride in delivering and assessing the science curriculum. I’ve learned some new tools that will create more personalized feedback following quizzes, labs and projects. This translates to your child receiving more specific feedback through the use of scripts based on assessment data and allow for students to be informed to any areas they need to improve. Like first semester though, I will continue to use ‘powerschool’ to indicate grades and may put a note on an assignment if it is incomplete and can be resubmitted.
  • Going Paperless. I was a little nervous about this one but I’ve learned about some tools that will ensure that all students have a digital copy of documents or labs. This ensures a number of things: they won’t get lost, they’ll always be able to access them, and I can always check on student progress in real time. Still, we have used scratch paper and post-it notes for formative activities and will continue to do so.
  • Moving From Pearson to Online Resources. With so much internet content out there, I am able to look at the curriculum guides and find media (videos, articles) that will shorten the time students spend doing science homework. Although one might think “more is better” if it takes half the time and students learn the same concepts, I owe it to them to simplify learning. Students will still have access to Pearson online and check out text books from the curriculum office as needed.
  • Student Blogs as Journals. Obviously, I am a fan of blogging. Since we have moved paperless and students are creating so much digital media, I’m having them use their blog as one big reflective journal that chronicles their learning throughout a unit. Rather than have a number of blog posts, they’ll have just 1, with embedded media they’ve created to help them learn, hyperlinks to labs and so on.

There you have it. If you have any questions or would like to schedule an appointment, don’t hesitate to call or write me.

Most Sincerely,

Gary Johnston

Middle School Science Teacher
Saigon South International School
Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam
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