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Fourth Grade Tumbler's Manual

School: Alice B. Beal Elementary

City/State: Springfield, MA

Grade(s): 4

Format(s): Instructional manual

Subject(s): English Language Arts, Science and Technology

Project Overview

This manual was created by 4th grade students at the Alice B. Beal Magnet School in Springfield, Massachusetts, during a learning expedition on rocks and minerals.

This district-mandated topic was expanded and deepened into a full learning expedition. The expedition included fieldwork to local geological sites and to museums. Students worked with local geology experts and did hands-on lab work in the classroom.

With the use of federal magnet school funds, teachers bought two tumblers and rough rock stock. Students were taught the complex process of rock tumbling by an Expeditionary Learning School Designer (school coach), and a school-based magnet resource teacher. 

Students learned a lot about using the tumbler and they thought that if they created a manual, future classes would understand much better about the tumbling process. The instructions that came with their tumbler were not really kid-friendly and did not adequately describe the process. In the course of running the tumblers, students discovered many tips about what worked, and what did not, that they felt were important to pass on. 

Their manual included written descriptions of all of the steps, diagrams of several of the different steps and a few color digital pictures.

The following year, attempting the same project, a new group of students used the tumbler. The teachers and students had to rely on the student-written manual, as the teachers had forgotten much of the process. It served them well!

With the use of this tumbler, students created many batches of polished semi-precious stones and they made jewelry out of some of these stones. As a means for displaying and selling their creations, students set up and ran a store. The money earned went back to the school for project work. 

How This Project Can Be Useful

  • Shows an example of a student-written instruction manual, which can be used with any piece of equipment or machinery that a student might encounter
  • A productive way for students to share what they’ve learned
  • Highlights an example of students writing for other students in a way that is engaging for anyone to read. For example, on page 7 students say, “…fill at least four medium size buckets and two large buckets half way to the top so that they are not too heavy to carry. If the buckets are too full, you might hit it with your leg and spill water in the hall.”
  • Highlights an engaging project that sustains student interest over time – one that yields tangible results and can generate income for a class or a school
  • A creative and effective format to address, enliven and deepen content required in state curriculum frameworks and district science requirements

Common Core State Standards

Standard Long Term Learning Target
  • I can explain the main points in a historical, scientific, or technical text, using specific details in the text.
  • I can explain how visual or graphic information helps me understand the text around it.
  • I can write informative/explanatory texts that convey ideas and information clearly.
  • I can conduct a research project to become knowledgeable about a topic.
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