Fabulous 5th Grade Jazz Band

5th grade jazz band performing in the cafeteria.We were hearing music all around the school. We wondered what it was. We  listened to the beautiful sounds of the trumpets, piano and drums and even more instruments. We decided to investigate where the sound was coming from and discovered it was Mrs. Berry and the Jazz Band! We thought we would interview Mrs. Barry to learn more

We wondered why Chickering School has a Jazz Band. She shared, “I wanted to allow 5th grade kids who wanted to have more of a musical challenge and to improvise, to play that style of music.” Mrs. Barry wanted the students to be prepared for 6th grade if they wanted to play for the Jazz Band, called the Eclipse.

We have been hearing all the instruments together. Picture highlighting the instruments played in the Jazz band.But, we couldn’t tell what instruments they were playing. So we asked Mrs. Barry what instruments they played. She shared,  “All the instruments in the regular band, from flutes all the way down to trombones and everything in between. We also get to add, guitar, piano and drum set.”

Then we wandered how Mrs. Barry got all the instruments for Jazz band. She quoted “Well, Luckily I didn’t have to buy anything; a lot of it was already here. Before I came to Chickering we already had a great drum set. All the other instruments the kids either the kids provide them or rent them, Yeah, so luckily we don’t have to buy anything.”

We wondered how many students were in the Jazz Band.  She shared, “I’d say we have about twenty-five kids in the Jazz Band.”

Who plays in the Jazz Band and is there a limit to the number kids who may play in the Jazz Band? She answered “We have only fifth graders and there’s really no limit, I keep it open. It’s not an audition group, it’s for anybody who wants to do it. It is a little challenge because we meet before school, unfortunately some students that it might just be a little tricky for them to get here but we try to work out a carpool if we need but there’s really no limit.” 

We wondered how Mrs. Barry decides what music to play in the Jazz Band. She relayed, “Well, I like to pick a Rock piece or, of course, a Jazz piece, so one that is fun to play has more syncopated rhythms but ones that I know that the students can play because this music is more challenging and I want to be sure I don’t pick something that is too hard for them to be able to do. Sometimes I have to adjust a little bit depending on what I pick.”

We wanted to know if she played in a Jazz Band when she was a student.  She said “I did play in a Jazz Band when I was in Middle School and when I was in High School. And I played piano.”

What was her favorite piece of music. She shared, “I remember playing Twenty-Five or Six to Four by Chicago that was one we really liked to play. And there was another one named, Weekend in Monaco and we played that at the high school and that was a really fun piece.”

When we left school, we thought the music was so good. We could listen to it again, a thousand times over and over!!!


Will you trade me a pound of butter for a pound of sugar? Bartering was a common means of purchasing and selling items during the Colonial time period. The colonists had currency but most bartered. Eight years ago Chickering began Barter Day to help 5th graders learn more about Colonial times.

We talked to Mr. Wadness, a 5th grade teacher, to learn more about Barter Day. He shared, “Barter Day is a day in which students have to make something that other students want. And why we do that is because, it’s just like when Colonists came to America and there was no monetary system. Some Colonist in their home might need food or a piece of furniture. And they didn’t happen to have that so what they had to do was either make something that they could make or if they were farmers they had food that other people wanted but they might not have had furniture. So they would have to trade or barter, that’s what it’s called, it’s a form of money really, a form of exchanging goods that people think of are equal value. You might be able to exchange a bushel of corn for a desk. So that is what bartering is. We practice that so students make something hopefully that other students want so they can get something that they want.”              

Mr. Wadness explained why we have Barter Day. “So the reason why we do it is because it’s a great way for students to have a hands-on experience of bartering. And to experience what it’s like to exchange something without using money; making something and exchanging it for goods. And it allows them to experience what it was like back in the 1700’s.”

Chickering began Barter Day, for 5th graders. “ We have been doing Barter Day for probably about 7-8 years. Once the fifth grade began teaching about the Colonies, and that part of US history; we thought Barter Day would be a great way for students to experience bartering. The same way they did many years ago, as a form of exchange of goods,” informed Mr. Wadness.

We were curious to know what the most unusual item he has ever seen brought in for Barter Day. He shared, “Wow! … when duct tape things were in vogue, the first year, duct tape wallets and duct tape items were so cool.  Even things on pencils. I still have a pen flower that some student made with duct tape at the end and it was like a tulip and I thought that was actually pretty cool. I knew it took them a long time to make some of those wallets. Um, some people made some real [pet] rocks and decorated them. And they really made them so cool a lot of kids wanted them and I think in my last year’s class, a student made 5 pillows and really did great needlework on them and everyone wanted them but there was only 5 of them so not everybody could have one. So she had to be really thinking about what she wanted because she only had 5 items, the girl who made the pillows. But I thought those were some of the neater things people might have made.”

What was the most popular item for Barter Day?

The most popular item for Barter Day, in past years, Mr. Wadness explained, “ … are definitely small or handmade things. Someone made candle holders, and actually bought candles to put in them. Again, once the duct tape wallets because popular, almost every year someone made some items utilizing duct tape. Beading or bead work, there are some people who enjoy making necklaces and wrist bracelets out of beads. Another thing people made were bookmarks, some made them out of paper, some made them out of duct tape; those were really popular items. Almost every year some, people sew things together to make creatures or small pillow or even balls and out of stuffing that they made themselves. Some people, of course, do bring in some food. But we try to discourage the food aspect because if everyone did that there would not be much bartering. So we really don’t want them to bring in too much food items, even if they made that themselves.”

It wasn’t surprising that almost all of the students in our class liked Barter Day. Several students thought that Barter Day really brought Colonial times to life. Pie Chart showing 89.5% like Barter Day.A couple students thought it was fun to see what people made and traded. Others thought it was fun to see all the different ideas for items to be traded. People especially enjoyed trading for objects others made. A lot of people thought it was simply fun and creative as well as exciting to experience something new. A couple of students didn’t like Barter Day because they weren’t able to trade for what they wanted or were absent.  

Everyone had amazing creative items to bring in that they thought a lot about; what would be successful for Barter Day. Lots of students thought sewn articles or stress balls were going to be popular, and others thought baked goods would be key. Everyone who brought in baked goods thought they would be really popular, like delicious brownies, Panda cupcakes and Rice krispie treats. Other people brought in things like, things made of fleece like blankets which were very popular and pillows and some other things. There were amazing crafts such as fake brains, cards, Perler beads, Morph Cups and 3 people made stress balls out of balloons. Overall, the students had really imaginative items for Barter Day.
It was interesting to see and experience  how Colonists used bartering as a means currency of during the 17th and 18th centuries.

Reported by: Paige, Bella and Ashley

Geniuses In Fourth Grade

In our classroom with Mrs. Grady, we have Genius Hour. We wondered why she has it in her fourth grade classroom. Mrs. Grady loves kids being excited about learning and when she heard about Genius Hour two summers ago she thought it was a great idea. Genius Hour was an idea started by Google. It gave 20% of their employees’ work time to do whatever they were passionate about, which would lead to a product that would benefit the company. Mrs. Grady introduced Genius Hour last year to her class and they researched one question they were passionate about. This year we have done Genius Hour all year and will have completed 3 “Passion Projects.”

We created a survey to query what the students thoughts about Genius Hour in our classroom. All the students in our class took the survey except one who was absent. The first question we asked was if they liked Genius Hour.

Pie Chart showing 100% of the students surveyed in Mrs. Grady's class like Genius Hour.

Clearly, Genius Hour is a favorite in Mrs. Grady’s class! We were curious to know why they liked Genius Hour.

Pie Chart showing the reasons why Mrs. Grady's class like Genius Hour: topics of interest, fun learning, sharing interests, follow passions, learning!

We asked our class what was their favorite Genius Hour project and why. “How is NASA Preparing for the Mission to Mars” was a project by one of Mrs. Grady’s students. He picked the topic, “Because I love learning about space and this is the chance to do it.” The Battle of Gettysburg was another favorite of a student. He picked the topic, “because his cousins went to Gettysburg College and he wondered about the battle of Gettysburg.” A third student shared,  “Why are Starfish Becoming Extinct? She wrote, ”Because I learned the most information during the process of making it.” It seems clear from these few statements, that the students adore Genius Hour because they can follow their passions.

The survey queried whether other teachers should do Genius Hour. Pie chart showing 95.2% thought other teachers should do Genius Hour in their classroom. 4.8% said no.From the chat below you can see that there was a resounding “YES!” The single “No” vote was because the student shared, “I want my class to be the only one doing this special event.”  

The reasons students felt that it should be done is in the chart below.

Pie Chart showing reason to add Genius Hour to your classroom with the four reasons being: learn topics of choice, topics they love, fun, learn skill and fun, and others learn as well.

We asked the students if they wanted to change anything about Genius Hour; four students said YES, and the 17 left said NO!

Pie Chart showing 81% said they would not change anything about Genius House and 19% said would.

In addition they answered why they would like to change it and here are the answers! Lists means Ex. Top 10 list Baseball Cards. Here in Mrs. Grady’s class we base our research off of questions, such as, How is NASA Preparing for the Mission to Mars?, instead of just NASA.

Pie chart showing reasons to change Genius Hour: More time, Research topics not just questions and research lists of things.

One question we asked was “If there was a chance to do one more Genius Hour project what would you do?” One student added “How Stars were Formed” was a topic that intrigued them. Another interesting topic that someone would choose is “When would SWAT Units Respond?” Other ideas are “Exploring the Apple Company” and “Habitats of Meat-eating Plants”. We wonder what projects will be investigated next year in Mrs. Grady’s class.

Genius Hour is a favorite tradition in Mrs. Grady’s fourth grade classroom. Having Genius Hour is a great way to learn something you have never studied before. Other teachers should catch on and provide this experience with their class. To add to that we discovered that 17 people would not like to change anything about Genius Hour but 4 others would disagree about that. Thanks to our friends, Google, who came up with  the idea of Genius Hour. Have fun researching!

Reported by Andrew, Andy, and Alia