Science Buddies: Second and Seventh Graders Study Microorganisms

Frequent opportunities for cross-grade learning are an intentionally-planned and essential element of the Mount Madonna School (MMS) program. Every grade at MMS pairs with another, and sometimes students will have both older and younger buddies – providing each with the learning experiences of being both mentors and mentees.

“Buddy classes,” for example, can pair preschoolers with fifth grade students; and fifth graders with ninth grades students to share learning and community service efforts. For a project earlier this spring, MMS second and seventh grade students utilized natural, outdoor spaces on the school’s 375-acre campus to learn about microorganisms.

Working in buddy pairs, students collected grass, a variety of dead plant material including leaves, and a little soil and placed it in a container. They were instructed to collect biotic, once living items, as opposed to abiotic items, things that were never alive. Students then added enough water to their containers to cover the materials and the put a lid on the top to seal it.

Three weeks later, students explored the contents of the water in the containers using microscopes. Seventh grade students taught the second graders how to prepare a wet mount slide and how to use a microscope. The buddy pairs were given a guide to microorganisms and were asked to identify and draw any organisms they could find. Following this lab activity, students and teachers discussed where the organisms came from and about the concept of dormancy.

“Second graders are so receptive to learning when it involves their older peers,” commented teacher Prema Gammons.” When younger students can collaborate with middle and high school buddies to understand the complexity of such topics as microorganisms, each student benefits from this dynamic learning process.”


Contact: Leigh Ann Clifton, director of marketing & communications,

Nestled among the redwoods on 375 acres, Mount Madonna School (MMS) is a diverse learning community dedicated to creative, intellectual, and ethical growth. MMS supports its students in becoming caring, self-aware, discerning and articulate individuals; and believe a fulfilling life includes personal accomplishments, meaningful relationships and service to society. The CAIS and WASC accredited program emphasizes academic excellence, creative self-expression and positive character development. Located on Summit Road between Gilroy and Watsonville. Founded in 1979.


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