page contents

Science Always Starts With a Question …




Friday, January 25, 2019



Interested in Current Classroom News:

Take a look in the 2018-19_TMS  Renick Science Shared Google folder, there's definitely a few new photos! You can, also, see current news on Twitter, @6Renick-iSTEM there’s no account necessary to take a sneak peek.


And, check out the big news - 2 of my students from last year (MS Poetry Category) and a teacher - that’s me - (Sponsor Recognition) were recognized for our 2018 TMS Bow Seat Ocean Awareness accomplishments. Woohoo, we are all making a difference to speak up for a healthier ocean! Want to see all the fabulous collective efforts, head over to Bow Seat 2018 Winners - Click each photo below or the links above for more info.


Happy New Year… I can still say that since we’re in January, right?

January has come and it’s almost gone. The school year is definitely moving along at a rapid pace. With all that is happening, I hope you and your family make time to relax, disconnect and spend time with those who are important.


As the door closes on one year and opens to another, I want to reach out and say thank you. I have always loved coming to work each day, and this year is no different. The smiles on ‘my’ students’ faces, their enthusiasm and energy are contagious. And, working side by side with them each day is made even easier because of your open communication and support. As your child’s teacher, I truly appreciate your time, commitment and involvement in your child’s education.


Earthquakes… Shakin’ It Up!

Now that the students understand the structure of Earth and how it’s constantly in motion, it’s time to consider the effects.


This upcoming unit will let the students delve into the engineering design process, as well as, explore various fields of engineering. Throughout Earthquake-Resistant Structure Challenge, students will learn about earthquake engineering and work to solve an urban tower design challenge. They will use real-world data sets in context to help make meaning of their learning, design a model earthquake-resistant building, and write their own building codes.


After testing geometric shape strength and specific structural design strategies to determine how they perform (and what scale to size actually means), students will be asked to select their own building materials.


Engineering teams will be selected next week, and the design process will begin. At that point in time, a ‘shopping list’ will be created of necessary building supplies. It’s important to know, the materials must mimic real building components and be utilized to replicate a scaled-down version of industrial materials. For example…


      1. Balsa wood (¼ x ¼), wooden bamboo skewers, wooden/plastic coffee stirrers, or toothpicks - NOT 2x4s or steel bars!
      2. Paper clips (twisted make fabulous L-brackets!), straight pins, fishing line, string
      3. Cardboard, styrofoam, foam board, tagboard (cereal boxes work well) - NOT plywood!



Bonding agents will be supplied, but will intentionally be in limited supply by the Head Engineer, that’s me! The idea is for the students to focus on engineering the best structural design elements - tension ties (L-brackets), cross braces, gussets, base isolators, tuned mass dampers, etc. instead of relying simply on duct taping or gluing it all together. We will follow the theory, form follows function.


Also, if you have expertise in earthquake engineering, earthquake disaster relief, or earthquakes in general, please let me know…. So much can be learned from a guest speaker!


Operation Genius / TMS Science & Engineering Fair Update

The classroom may seem a bit chaotic at the moment, however, it’s all with hopes of facilitating a culture of learning, and one that…


  • offers students the chance to explore their interests and passions connected with STEM

  • allows students to gain a real depth of knowledge

  • turns the ‘game of school’ and simply learning for grades into Experiential and challenge-based learning that puts the mastery back into the student’s hands

  • models lifelong learning, with the understanding there is no real way to fail a project in which “learning” is the end-goal.


Today the students met their first milestone - Research Plan ✔ and initial research gathered (3 articles, highlighted) ✔.


The next step, an ‘Elevator Pitch’! On Friday, February 1, the students will pitch their idea to the entire class, to share what they are working on. Publicly announcing what they are trying to accomplish makes the goal real. Students get to see what their peers are working on and want to make sure their project stands up to the rest of the class. Regardless of a grade being attached to the project, this makes for students going the extra mile.


Have questions about the project? All Google presentations and documents are located in OnCourse Resources.



Wednesday, December 5, 2018


Science Update


Parent/Teacher Conferences:


I want to thank you all for attending parent/teacher conferences. I realize it’s a whirlwind meeting, however, it is so important to touch base and chat face-to-face. As we move through the year, please reach out if you have questions or simply want to check in. When we’re all on the same page student-teacher-parent life is much smoother!


Earth Unit Introduction:


If you’ve followed along on Twitter**, you’ve noticed we have started a new unit, Dynamic Earth, our second unit. There is a constructivist theme to the unit as students began by looking at maps of the earth over its history to search for patterns and predict how the continents could have moved over time. Each day, students have been learning a new piece to the puzzle. They are now investigating Earth’s internal structure and processes to explain the occurrence of earthquakes and the formation of surface features such as young mountains and volcanoes. Examining the relationship between Earth’s interior and exterior systems is a key part of understanding how the Earth has developed over its history. by utilizing online geology resources, and National Geographics MapMaker Interactive the students discovered  -


  • Most earthquake epicenters and volcanoes are located in the same geographic areas on earth’s surface, plate boundaries

  • The type of interaction between plates and the relative density seems to determine what kind of geographic features are found at those


The students will continue to strengthen their skills of observations vs. inferences, making predictions/hypothesis, analyzing data, and communicating experimental findings to help them explore the ideas of Unit Two.


Important learning activities that will drive this unit are:


  1. Map investigations of Pangea maps vs. present-day maps, as well as ocean floor maps indicating crustal ages, maps that show fossil evidence, and maps that indicate earthquake and volcano locations

  2. Calculating the density of Earth materials to identify the layer of origin

  3. Exploring heat transfer - applying this to the movement of the interior of the earth through conduction and convection and drawing connections between the movement in the interior of the earth to the movement on the exterior of the earth

  4. Plotting locations on a map using lat/long coordinates – comparing maps of the location of earthquakes and volcanoes to the maps of earth’s tectonic plates

  5. Drawing connections between the movement in the interior of the earth to the movement on the exterior of the earth – and the effects it has (earthquakes, mountains, volcanoes)

**Don't have a Twitter account, simply click on the shared Google folder, 2018-19_TMS and take a look at the classroom happenings!






October 25, 2018

Science Update


• EverFi Endeavors STEM Career Exploration

If you haven’t heard, all iSTEM Science students have a long-term science project due on November 7, which was assigned on October 9. Students have had some class time to work on it, however, this project is mostly considered an independent project outside of class.


As I spoke to you on Back to School Night, one additional focus being incorporated into the NGSS driven curriculum is for students to be given opportunities to explore different STEM careers to get an idea of the possibilities and to spark their interest. Within the EverFi platform, students are engaged with interactive content that reinforces key STEM skills while discovering some of the exciting STEM opportunities that await. But, EverFi also offers up real-world information about how technology (other than screens) is used to make products that can or do influence their everyday life.


Students explore four modules - Designing Ultimate Prototypes, Perfect Playlist, Home of the Future, and Medical Machines. Each module takes about 30 minutes to complete. There is a 10 question test at the end of each module and students can see their grade immediately. If understanding isn’t achieved the first time, students may redo the modules as many times as they would like until November 7th. At that time, the highest grade for each module will be inputted into my grade book. This is a 20 point project grade, each module is worth 5 points.


Last Friday in class I went over some hints and tips for students including:

1. The program does read to you if you have your volume up.

2. You should reread to make sure you understand.

3. You can take notes on a separate piece of paper as you are doing the module.

4. When you take the 5 question pre-test, you should make a note of the questions because those 5 questions are usually on the post-test.

5. If you are going to redo the test at the end, go back and review in the module, do not just open it and guess at the questions again.

6. A vocabulary sheet is available to help them, you simply need to ask Ms. Renick.


Please remind your student to do a little bit each day.

• OnCourse Check 👍 … the end of the marking period is fast approaching. Each week my science students have been asked to check their ‘Academic History’ link and look over their assignment grades and my comments, which can be located in two places, 1) Academic History, and 2) on the document itself.


This week your student should have brought home a Quarter 1 Progress Report with a grade reflection attached. It was his/her job to look over and indicate any work missing or needing improvement. As per the syllabus, students are entitled to two 2nd Chance Learning opportunities each marking period in science, however, I often ask students to iterate classwork assignments to gain a better understanding of course content. If you have any questions about your student’s progress please reach out.


• L.U.N.E.R. Eggs-Prize Engineering Design Challenge

What a fabulous deviation from the curriculum to recognize World Space Week 2018. Simply the idea of space exploration ignited a curiosity and motivated students to take on the real-world of protecting a payload from planetary descent and landing with the intent of exploration. Although yes, it was a competition amongst all three 6th-grade teams - Cyclones, Hurricanes, and Tornadoes, the focus was on reinforcing the engineering design process (specifically planning and design) and teamwork collaboration and communication. In all aspects, it was a success… the proof is in the photos, so take a look - 



iSTEM 6th Gr. Science L.U.N.E.R. Eggs-Prize Challenge


iSTEM 6th Gr. Science L.U.N.E.R. Eggs-Prize Challenge

• CER – Claims, Evidence, and Reasoning

The students are continuing to focus on strengthening their observation skills. The focus has been on slowing down, observing in ‘chunks’ instead of always as a ‘whole’, using our senses (all but taste) and being specific. We’ve learned that observing is easier than reasoning – the proof why the evidence supports the claim. For example, many classrooms have posters on the wall, so having posters isn’t evidence of a specific type of classroom. However, posters depicting the Engineering Design Process directly connect to the Next Generation Science Standards, which have been implemented by the state of New Jersey and HVRSD, thus support the claim that C-15 is an iSTEM science room; a stronger piece of evidence than simply a placard indicating science room on the outside of the door.


* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * 



 Supplies Wanted


September 22, 2018

Science News


→ Hurricane Florence couldn’t have picked a better time… what better way for a science teacher to start the school year off than with relevant news, and lots of it? There were five named storms in the first two weeks of September, three of which became hurricanes – Florence, Helene, and Isaac. In the Pacific, the strongest storm of the season, Typhoon Mangkhut, developed and caused extensive damage in the northern Philippines and southeastern China. Real events spark thought-provoking questions and allow for some insightful observations. Woohoo, the year is off and running!


→ I’m looking forward to meeting everyone Tuesday, September 25th at TMS’s Back to School Night on, however, before then a few ‘housekeeping’ items…


  • If you haven’t done so already,

    • please review TMS’s Student Behavior Agreement with your child, sign and have your child return it by Monday.


  • Read and discuss the Renick iSTEM Science Syllabus with your child. Then sign, and have your child return it by Tuesday.

  • The Cyclones Team would like to show some team spirit with a team shirt for this year’s Triple T Day (aka - Timberlane Teamwork Tasks), Cyclone Team Days and field trips. Fifteen students created and submitted designs, the students voted, and Phoebe Gunn’s design was the winner - Congratulations Phoebe! Order forms were passed out on Friday. We will submit the order to Aztec Graphics, a local company, on Friday, September 28th. All students will receive a t-shirt; if the cost of $9.10 is a hardship, please contact me.


→ Want to feel connected to your student’s middle school experience? Check out @6Renick_iSTEM on Twitter, or go to the Renick website where you’ll find continual updates about class happenings!

I’m looking forward to a fabulous year of learning!


 * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *


Ms. Renick's 2018 Summer Learning

Privileged to have been selected for Texas A&M G-Camp. Over 18 days, I traversed Texas, New Mexico and Colorado with 35 educators and 7 professors, all passionate and motivated to identify the processes that form and shape the surface of the Earth with the end goal being to create virtual field trips and inquiry-based activities to take back to the classroom.