"One can never consent to creep when one feels the impulse to soar." ---Helen Keller

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Santa and Science

Who says you can't teach science the week before Christmas break. Miss Hypothesis has found a way in her post, Exploring the Science of Santa's Season.  I just purchased her teachers pay teachers unit for I-Can-Be-a-Scientist-Exploring-Santas-Favorite-Season. It is fantastic...loaded with 138 pages of math and science. Some of the topics covered are living and nonliving, magnets, and path of movement. It is definitely worth the $8.00.


Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Bird Watching

Last weekend, I was driving by Pensacola Bay when I noticed a group of senior citizens all huddled up with their binoculars along the shore. I immediately told my family that I wanted to do that kind of thing when I retired. Their responses?, well... I think heard geeky in there somewhere. I think that is my future though:)


What does bird watching offer children in your science classroom?



Phyllis Whitin, in the article, First Flight,  has written about a  kindergarten classroom station/center that involves a yearlong scientific study using bird watching. She states that she chose bird watching to develop the students' awareness and appreciation of the natural world. (SC.K.N.1.2 Make observations of the natural world and know that they are descriptors collected using the five senses.).
                                        
 While participating in the station activities, the students learned how to observe closely, keep records, use science resources, and collaborate with each other. The following is a summary of what she did, and the results of her work.


 She set up a "bird station" in the classroom by placing a bird feeder right outside the classroom window. In the classroom near the window, she added...

In the beginning, the students used blank paper to draw what they saw, and then used the books as reference guides. She describes how most of the initial visitors were finches, but one day a cardinal stopped by.



*This part had me  remembering my own experiences in the classroom at Kenwood, where I had my own bird feeder outside the classroom. The children loved it. The birds visited regularly and at times we just had to stop as a class and watch. I shared with the students my particular love of cardinals. Well, the illusive cardinal finally showed up, however I was absent. Oh, how the kids were excited to tell me the cardinal had visited our window. What fun!!!



In the article, Ms. Whitin describes how she signaled for the children to stop and listen, because "scientists listen." After it flew away, she had the students describe what they saw and heard. The cardinal's visit began the process of "I want to know more!

By mid fall, she added a daily sharing piece from their drawings and from their research in the bird books. Can't you just see an excited bunch of kindergarteners ready to share what they are finding in the bird books? This became a very important piece of the learning process, because it helped pique the curiosity and gave them time to talk and teach each other. (LACC.1.W.3.8 With guidance and support from adults, recall information from experiences or gather information from provided sources to answer a question.) 

She shares how the students taught each other how to use the Stokes Beginner's Guide to Birds. With the use of this reference guide, their knowledge of bird characteristics increased, and they shared with each other. (SC.K.L.14.3 Observe plants and animals, describe how they are alike and how they are different in the way they look and in the things they do.)

Guest speakers were invited and nature walks were taken. The amount of learning that took place that year in the classroom from their observations is quite amazing. You can read the entire article in the book, Start Young! Early Childhood Science Activities. Their observations, research skills, descriptions were remarkable by the end of the year. They had become good little scientists.

Backyard Bird Feeder
http://spoonful.com/crafts/backyard-bird-feeder

                                                              
 

Thursday, December 6, 2012

Finding a Different Path!

Curiosity can lead us down a different path!!!


This video provides food for thought. I first saw it on Venspired. It isn't necessarily a teacher video, but a great message as Venspired points out. Are we making an effort to make things new and different to capture interest for our students?

And... if that video wasn't enough to motivate you, check out the site... The Fun Theory!


Sunday, November 25, 2012

ARKive -

ARKive is a website worth visiting. It contains teacher resources for teaching about the Earth's wildlife. Tons of photographs and short videos from around the globe.


Under the heading Explore, you will find photos and videos galore for all categories of animals. These would be great for whole class viewing or student research.


Under the heading Educate, you will find various topics with lesson plan ideas, power points, color sheets, etc.

It is definitely worth checking out when you get to your animal and plant units.

Friday, November 16, 2012

Sid, the Science Kid (website)

Primary teachers, here is a resource you might like to use with your students. It is Sid, the Science Kid. It is website produced by PBS media. Sid, the main character loves to observe, question, and then investigate. There are videos to use that could go along with what  you are teaching in science.






For the classroom, select video on the top bar. You may then choose from clips, investigations, songs, full episodes.

It is very engaging...


The Welcome page directs you to more resources and ideas for the week. It also has games that you could use at your computer station.

Check it out.

Monday, November 5, 2012

Are you too negative?

Are you too negative? Listening to the news, thinking about teacher evaluations, and dealing with the stressors of life can find us all feeling drained and negative about what each day offers.



I would like to offer some thoughts that I heard in a message at church a couple of weeks ago. You may not be religious...don't worry, this message is very practical no matter what your beliefs.


Statistics says that the average person is guilty of speaking in a 6:1 ratio of negative comments vs. positive comments. That made me stop and think! Am I guilty of spreading a negative attitude in a world that I believe is dying for encouragement and hope? I know I need to  hear more positive comments to stay afloat, and I don't think I am alone. I don't want to be found guilty of that ratio, rather the reverse. I believe that goes for when I am dealing with my coworkers, as well as the children that I come in contact with each day.



Students come into our classrooms each day with baggage that we can't possibly see inside completely. We have no idea what went on before they left for school. I hope that we will all meet them with a smile first. Just think about it...we are all driven by a need for encouragement. Truett Cathey, founder of Chik-fil-a, has built his business around several principles, one of which is, people need encouragement. He says, "if they are breathing they need encouragement." I believe that is soooo...TRUE!

Today, think about what comes out of your mouth. Take time to make sure your ratio of comments is more positive than negative. Avoid those negative people. Offer a positive, uplifting comment before you leave. If nothing else, you will feel yourself less drained.

Eric Jensen in his book, Teaching with Poverty in Mind: What Being Poor Does to Kids' Brains and What Schools Can Do about It, he mentions that children need hope. If you take away their hope, their efforts will decline. We have to do things in our classroom that build hope and encouragement.

Let positive words flow from our mouths, and let a smile be the first thing people notice.

Saturday, August 25, 2012

An American Hero



Me...at age 8 and 1/2 ... July 1969.

That is me in July of 1969...the same month Neil Armstrong stepped out onto the surface of the Moon. I was completely and totally captivated by the event. 

We lost a great American hero today! I am sure much will be said about Mr. Armstrong in the upcoming days, so I thought I would share my take on him too.

I found myself as a young adult thinking... why didn't he talk more, do interviews, be more visible in public? Age has left me looking at those ideas from a different prospective. I have come to appreciate the way he handled the media and the attention that could have been lavished on him. He treated something that was an absolute marvelous feat of mankind with humbleness, something not seen too much these days. I believe he realized how much had gone into the trip to the moon, that it was not the work of one man, but the hard work of countless people who came together for an incredible mission. I like that he shunned the spotlight, and kept it from being about one man, but about the incredible adventure and hard work of many.

I am sad today that it seems our country has lost that "spirit of innovation" and "can do attitude" that made America a proud nation. The world stopped one day in July of 1969 and looked at something greater than just one person. They saw what we can accomplish when we work as a team with a goal in mind. Wouldn't it be great if we could recapture that attitude of exploration. We have been a country of countless "pathfinders" before us. Let us remember Neil Armstrong today and get back to making this country great.

Ronald Reagen said..." There's no limit to what a man can do or where he can go if he doesn't mind who gets the credit." 




Teachers, let us work hard to inspire this young generation to greatness. We are leaving them with some difficult tasks ahead, so it is our obligation to give them a spirit of hope.

A few years ago, I read First Man by James R. Hansen. It is probably in my top 5 favorite books. If you are anywhere close to the space nerd I am, it is worth your time.


Ironically, I am waiting on a possible hurricane. That same year in August of 1969, Hurricane Camille hit the Gulf Coast. Those are two events and the images that are emblazoned on my mind. I do sincerely history chooses not to repeat itself with the hurricane.

Friday, August 24, 2012

Go Away Isaac!

Hopefully next week, we will be talking about hurricanes visiting somewhere else (not that I am wishing troubles on anyone else). I just don't want to have to deal with it myself...Just sayin...

Either way, as the winds pick up, and everyone is talking about it, just thought I would throw out a couple of places to go for information about hurricanes.

You may remember this post on the website called Weather Wiz Kids. It is great place for any weather related items. The author of this website also has another outstanding website called Exploring Weather. You might want to check it out.


What a great place we live. Vacation Paradise!!!! until a storm approaches:( Then I am on edge!!! Everyone be safe and be prepared.

Clouds as I left Eglin the other day. Kinda scary looking...huh?!

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Optimum Learning Environment


Much brain research has been done on how our environment affects our feelings, behavior, health, etc. The classroom is no different. The classroom decor/look has certainly changed since I first started teaching, some of which has been for the better, but maybe not all (possibly a little bit cluttered these days). As teachers, we spend so much of our time there these days, that it is quite natural to desire to make it little more like home and to reflect our personalities.

I read a wonderful book last spring by Eric Jensen. He has done so much in the way of brain research and how it affects learning. The book is titled Environments for Learning. It is only about 50 pages, but full of interesting tidbits on how the classroom environment affects the learning process.

It begins with what I believe to be very true. When we walk into a room, whether consiously or unconsiously, we look around, listen, breathe, and form judgements about the environment.

It is a great read, and I will not do it justice with this post, but I thought I would share a few tidbits that I picked up while reading. I will arrange them by the senses.

Feel 

One of the first things we notice when entering a room is the temperature.

  • 68 to 72 degrees Farenheit is the range of comfortable temperatures.
  • 70 degrees F. is ideal for most learning situations where optimal focus and concentration is required.
  • reading comprehension declines when temperatures rise above 74.
  • math comprehension declines above 77.
  • up to a point the cooler the brain the more cognitively sharp you are.

Sight 

Lighting

  • Sunlight enhances mood (that would be me...I can't stand being in a room with no windows.UGH!!!)
  • Bright natural sunlight is best. Take them on a walk if you are in one those windowless rooms. TRUST ME on that one. I am that kid.
  • Sunlit rooms produced 26% higher reading test scores in one study.

Color

  • Best color for classroom is sky-blue tinged with red for thoughtful study, but also alertness.
  • Add color to presentations and visual display for better recall.

Visuals 

  • Post visuals on side walls above eye level. Don't purposely draw attention to them, but allow students to discover them.
  • The week before students are ready to learn a new concept, post the wall display featuring a very simple rule about it. It will subconsciously embed and build foundation. How often have we thought about this? We put things up there for all year. It might be interesting to try it!!!
  • The front of room should be kept neat and simple.

Hearing

  • Quiet when taking exams or mental tasks are required.
  •  Music should be used purposely and judiciously. No more than 5 - 20% of a class period.

Smell, Taste, and Breathing


  • Plants not only make the air cleaner, but they enhance the environment.
  • 4-9 plants per square foot.
  • Keep the kids hydrated.


I truly didn't scratch the surface for all the cool facts Eric Jensen touched on, but it is something to think about when we look around our rooms. Are we providing an environment conducive to learning? There are some things you can't change, such as uncomfortable chairs, but you can add a plant.


Friday, August 10, 2012

Help them believe!!!

It is our duty to inspire the next generation. We have to show them America is still a place for opportunity and ingenuity.

Look at this video if you need proof that we still have what it takes.



 AMAZING!!!

Thursday, August 9, 2012

Get Inspired!


I wish I had written this post. It is a must read for the coming school year! http://venspired.com/?p=3221


http://venspired.com/?p=3221


Reread the last two paragraphs when the talk of common core, testing, or the stress of too much at one time hits... and remember to just teach and love on those kids.

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Classification Lesson with Shoes & more...

Here is an idea for teaching how scientists classify living things. Scientists classify living things into 5 kingdoms; animal, plant, fungi, protist, and monera.  They try to group them according to like characteristics. As an opening to the lesson, you could do a demonstration using shoes. Bring in a variety of shoes from your family. Display them at the front and then have students create ways to categorize the shoes. You can have them start with something that will make large groups such as dressy vs. active wear or closed-toe vs. open-toe. Then have them get creative with their groupings, but always justifying what they have in common.

Here is a sample of what you could bring...



You could look for things such as, what is their purpose; colors, sandals, athletic shoes, and the list could go on and on. I am sure they will discover that some shoes could fit in both categories, but just like those animals and plants one group wins out over the other. You could have them see that some categories would contain more shoes than others. The possibilities to this lesson are endless. It is good way to get them thinking though, so that when they look at the classification chart in their textbooks they do just more than glance at it.

MORE to do...

Since you took the trouble to bring the shoes in, you could use them for a reading lesson on choosing a good fit book.  The link below is to a lesson done by the 2 Sisters with the Daily 5. Shoes are a perfect way to illustrate choosing a good fit book as well.
http://www.TheDailyCafe.com/Good%20Fit%20Books%20Article.pdf

Monday, August 6, 2012

Yes! Curiosity Landed

Touchdown spectacular!!! Curiosity has landed on Mars after 36 weeks of traveling. It began sending pictures two hours after landing.




NASA administrator, Charles Bolden,  said, "The wheels Of Curioisity have begun to blaze the trail for human footprints on Mars."

I am so excited. Maybe my dreams of seeing someone on Mars in my lifetime still have a chance. It definitely shows the American spirit of innovation that I have been worried about.

Friday, August 3, 2012

Two really good ideas for a new year

I know we are all gearing back up looking and thinking for all those new ideas. Summer is wonderful, because it allows us to reflect on things we want to improve on from the previous year. I have been blog stalking and reading! I thought I would share two ideas that I came across, although they aren't just science related.

The  2 Sisters have a new electronic Pensieve. It looks fabulous. I don't know how much longer you can look at it so hop over and see a preview of it. http://www.thedailycafe.com/public/2367.cfm If I were still teaching reading I would love that!!! On that note, I will sharing very soon some cool apps that I found useful.

The second really cool idea came from The Clutter Free Classroom. I love this site. She always has great room ideas with lots of photos. She has recently gotten rid of all her store bought posters. I nearly died last year just trying to pack up my classroom from nearly 30 years of stuff. I had an unbelievable emotional attachment to my stuff. She made some really good points in the  post called...."anchor chart planning and management (teacher tip #20). One of which was that she doesn't just act on something because someone says latest research. I posted earlier this summer on being open to try new things here, but I always like to try and think for myself. Through her personal experience in the classroom she has found that the kids pay no attention to those posters that we put up all year. They tune in more to the charts made in class together. I loved that someone else was like me on this. I just have to have NEAT!!! She had an idea to solve what she calls "the messy problem" when making anchor charts. She talks about rough drafts vs. publishing. At the end she writes rough draft on the chart they made together, then asks how it could be made to look nice enough to publish. Then she can redo it and I so would do that:)

Always looking for new things like a good pathfinder...

Thursday, August 2, 2012

Curiosity Set to Land

Curiosity is set to land on Mars Monday, August 6th. Here are some interesting facts about the Rover.

  • It is part of a long term robotic exploration of the "Red Planet". 
  • Its size is coined a "mini-Cooper". It is much bigger than the Sojourner that landed in 1997. Sojourner was part of the Pathfinder mission:) It was about the size of a microwave oven. Curiosity is twice as long and four times heavier than Spirit and Opportunity that landed in 2004.
  • Curiosity will land near the foot of a mountain taller than Pike's Peak.
  • It will use tools to examine rocks, soil, and the atmosphere. It has cameras to study things far off and to study items that it comes in contact with. There are also tools that will analyze the composition of rock and soil samples.
  • As the Curiosity lands, a parachute will deploy to slow its descent, then a rocket-powered backpack will lower the rover on a tether during its final moments. This is different from previous landings where they used airbags. Curiosity is much heavier, so they had to make adjustments for the heavier object.
Watching and waiting with Curiosity!!!


Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Blue Moon Time

August will give us a blue moon!

What is a blue moon? One definition of a blue moon is when you get two full moons within the same month. We will have a full moon on August 1st and August 31st. Most full moons occur every 29.5 days, so it is rare when it happens in the same month.

This link has some interesting facts about them. Blue Moons

Take some time to sit outside and enjoy the view!!!

Moon Ring


This picture was taken a few years back outside my home. My son called to tell me that I should go out and look at the moon. He knows my obsession with space. I researched this and found out it is called a moon ring. It is sometimes called a winter halo and is caused by refraction of the light from the full moon in the ice particles floating in the upper atmosphere. This is the opposite of  a rainbow where light refracts in the water vapor that makes up clouds.

So much to see and learn.


Monday, July 23, 2012

Old vs. New

First of all, when I wrote the post "Rest for the Weary", I didn't realize how much it was for me. I have spent time just resting my weary self. I am back and will try to get started on the upcoming school year. I have been reading, thinking about lesson plans, and having some fun. I have taught my daughter to sew this summer. She is doing great, and it has been a blast to be together and share one of my favorite hobbies.

One of her creations.
With the sewing, a discussion came up about old vs. new. I had been sewing on a 50 year old machine that my belonged to my mother. I had actually swapped her a newer machine for an older one about ten years ago. It is a fabulous machine, and I have always loved it. "Lots of memories with it." With our new adventures together, we decided it was time to get the machine that I had always said I would get when I retired so that I could embroider (monogram=love).   I am loving my new machine so much, that I wonder why I was waiting!!?

The new machine brings me to my point... While I love my old machine still; it has so many good memories with it and has done a wonderful job, my new machine is incredible. The old one made most of my wardrobe growing up and has given me many great hours of fun, but it just doesn't have the capabilities that the new one possesses.

As teachers, do we often miss out on something that would surpass the old machine because we are clinging to the old. Sure, it does a good job and has many things to boast about, but something new is out there that could do more if we only tried it. Many things come and go and we have to be sure and test them to see if they really work better. That should always be the guiding force, "does it really improve things?" I would hate to think that we never moved forward. Many things in our lives change...Just to name three...
1. Microwaves have changed the way I do hotdogs and popcorn and quite frankly I am glad about that. 
2. When I first started teaching, I never made copies...just thinking about it makes me flinch...You had to type everything on a typewriter with a carbon copy with no mistakes (really!), and then put it on this round drum contraption that wound them out. You got ink everywhere...remember smelling your test paper:) I do not want to relive those days.
3. I got my first gradebook program on an Apple IIc my first year teaching. I did it the old fashioned way just long enough to appreciate the computer.


I wouldn't want to dismiss the past ways, but I want to keep abreast of changes and not get left behind.


So this year, whether it is the latest teaching tip or some new technology, don't let it go by without trying it. It might just be better than you expected. It could even do a better job. Your students will appreciate your efforts. Something to think about.


Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Rest for the Weary

Summer --- I live for it!!! I go at such a break neck pace each school year that I am just exhausted at the end of the school year. If you are anything like me, you walk into your house and then begin to realize that there is soooo much work to do there. You have been making piles of stuff, putting things off until summer and then find yourself overwhelmed the first few days home. Either you tackle it like crazy or your take a much needed break. I have done both, but a few years ago, I discovered that taking the break for a few days did wonders for my attitude. When our daughter began college, we bought a little place near Auburn, so that we could visit often without being underfoot. My mother and I started a tradition at the end of her freshman year. We head out to the cabin, the moment I can leave school and stay a few days. I am sure most would think it is the most boring time ever, but for us it is a chance to have some quality time together with no schedule or list of things to do. It lets me wind down from school, rest up, and come back home refreshed.

I really think all of us need to find some time over the summer to just rest. The Lord took a break after He created the universe! Now, I am not saying that we are doing anything that difficult, but we should follow His example. Jesus even modeled this for us. There are just times when you need to take a break, take time for reflection, then you will find yourself refreshed.

The pressure to pull off high test scores, trying to motivate unmotivated students, and the ever changing world we live in can leave us drained. Give yourself some time this summer. Then, reflect on what went right this past school year and what went wrong. Then look for solutions!!!

I have given myself a few days, so now it is time to get the house in order. Whew!!! I will be researching and sharing what I find in the coming weeks. I am also going to be teaching my daughter to sew. I am sew excited. I am also learning to can which is something I have always wanted to do. I started at the cabin.





My very first canning project. Tomatoes. Macaroni and tomatoes are my comfort food.



August will be here before we know it. Find some time to renew your mind and body. Find those projects and reflect on what works and what doesn't. Have a great one!!!


Monday, June 4, 2012

Bell Ringer Idea

Looking for a way to start your day? Scholastic has a new addition to their website called Daily Starters. It has something for math, language, and a fun fact for every day of the week. There is a teacher view and a student view that you can project onto the board for Morning Work.

This is an example of a grades 1-2 day.

Here is an example from grades 3-5.

There is even one for kindergarten.

Looks like a good way to get the kids started out on the right foot for the day. 

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Fabulous Field Trip on Our Beautiful Coast


Fourth graders at Florosa Elementary are soooo lucky to have Mrs. King as their science teacher. She took students on a field trip that was not only educational, but oh so fun too!!! They visited Gulf Islands National Seashore on Okaloosa Island and studied first hand the environment around them. Many of the students admitted they go to the beach every weekend, but don’t pay much attention to what is right around them. We are so blessed to live here along the Emerald Coast. This field trip will probably make them take notice the next time they are at the beach.


Mrs. King spent a week last summer with the FMSEA learning how to set up an exploratory field trip for her students. After having a blast herself and her mind full of ideas, she came home and wrote a Target grant to fund her plans. She was able to pay for all of her supplies and transportation for three days, so that she could take each of the three groups she teaches on their own day. HOW FUN is that?!



Students were divided up into four stations with volunteers assigned to each group. Mrs. King said the volunteers were awesome! Each student had a clipboard, a hand lens,  and a mechanical pencil to take notes for each station. 
Look!!!! even a field guide book.

            One station had the students wading near the shore and taking turns pulling the seine net with partners, or using the dip nets to catch fish, crabs, and on one occasion an octopus.



Another station had students sifting sand and wading in the shallow water along the beach to identify living and nonliving things hidden in the sand. They found bristle (polychete) worms, small clams, small crabs, rocks, and shells.




A third station had students wearing gardening gloves and pulling apart clumps of oysters. They found copepods, worms, tiny fish, and crabs living in the cracks and crevices.


The fourth station consisted of using field guides and bug nets. The students identified plants and creepy crawlies living near the dune line.

Fun and learning was the word of the day. 
War Eagle!!! I couldn't resist:)

I can't wait until next year. I think this field trip is going to be calling my name!!!!