River Classroom 2014-2015

The 2014-2015 school year is up and running and River Classroom is off to a great start! We have 20 kids from the Espanola School District this year. Many of these students participated in the program last year, so they have a good background in chemistry, ecology, and geology. Our new students are learning very quickly, and by the time we took our first trip to the Rio Chama they were nearly caught up!

This year our curriculum will focus on energy. It’s a complicated topic that many adults don’t fully understand. What is electricity? Where does it come from? How do we transfer it from form to form, and how do we use it? How does energy cycle through the ecosystem? We will address all of these questions and more.

On our first day of class, we reviewed the Periodic Table. Our students from last year were quick to show off how much they remembered and soon everybody could draw an element based on its atomic number. This was followed by modeling atoms using apples (the nucleus), wooden skewers, and raisins (electrons).

After lunch we transitioned to talking about energy. We briefly explained kinetic, gravitational, chemical, mechanical, thermal, and electrical energy, then students went outside to test out these types of energy. Half of the students began by using catapults and the other half tested out the types of energy involved in throwing water balloons.


Chemical energy drives your arm muscles, and mechanical energy pushes the balloon. As it rises, its gravitational energy increases. At the top of its climb, its kinetic energy is 0 as it stops just for a moment, and the gravitational energy is at a maximum. As it begins to fall, its gravitational energy decreases and kinetic energy increases.


It was a very hot day, and catching water balloons was definitely a relief!

These concepts will be utilized later in the year when we move on to building motors and talking about where energy comes from.


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