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

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Motion and Force Lesson in Kindergarten

I wanted to share a lesson with you that Ms. McFarland at Mary Esther Elementary did the other day. She did such an excellent job of engaging her students and guiding them through a lesson on motion and force.

The students were first gathered together on the floor to get instruction and directions for their lab that day. The kindergarten standard is SC.K.P.12.1 which states: Investigate that things move in different ways, such as fast, slow, etc.

Ms. McFarland also came in ahead of time to look over the lesson and materials. That makes such a difference to wrap your mind around what your purpose is and how you are going to handle the lesson.

The materials for this lesson were a bag of various items that would roll easily down the ramps as well as items that would not. Some would roll straight down such as the marble, while others might roll in a curve like the water bottle.  The materials are stored in plastic bags. We have a set for each two students to use.

After the students received instructions, they made a ramp using our wooden boards and dictionaries. These could be adjusted for height by using more or less dictionaries. The students can see how height affects the speed at which the item rolls.

The students rolled items down their ramps. They used a recording sheet to keep up with the items that rolled and didn't roll.

When they finished the items in their bags they cleaned up and went to the lab tables to look at what rolled and didn't. They colored the items that rolled and put an "X" on the ones that didn't. You could even have them cut and glue to a piece of paper.

Ms. McFarland then called them all back to the floor for a summary of the lesson. She quizzed them on how the items rolled, such as: fast, slow, easily, straight down, or to the sides.They discussed how to make them go faster or slower.

Great lesson for motion for the little guys. Think how you could make it adapt it for older students with talk of friction.

Thursday, November 7, 2013


I absolutely love the blog Venspired. She inspires me. The author poses thought provoking questions for teachers as well as much needed encouragement.
Amazing printable posters and thoughts as well!

I just read her latest post and had to share. You may read it yourself and see her great poster that goes with the post by going here. She poses a though that I have always liked. Instead of learning targets which are all required to do these days, why not post questions?

These questions might lead children to ponder what is coming next instead of telling them. She suggests when we tell them what they will be learning we really take the fun out of it. I loved her illustration for her thinking, but I felt my story topped hers:) no - the real truth is it lead me to a more personal story when I was reading hers.

When we are young, there is so much anticipation when the presents start showing up under the Christmas tree. They are wrapped and we wonder... did Mama really listen, did she get the right one, why is that one so heavy..???

        I remember one year, I thought I would die if I didn't get the exact purse that I had shown Mama at Gayfers. (Mind you —I have a thing for purses—just ask anyone in my family.) I remember Mama leaving the house one day, and I literally couldn't take it anymore, so I unwrapped it very carefully to see, and then slid it to the back of the presents, so she wouldn't notice. Yes, she did get the right one. Now, knowing took the fun out of Christmas Eve.

But, isn’t that just what we want our students to do….anticipate what is coming and have those discussions about the topic before we even get started. It is sort of like what we learned way back in the day for teaching reading when we set up the background knowledge and eagerness to actually dive into the story in the basal.
Venspired says….
Post a question. Bring back curiosity and thinking back  to the classroom.

I know – I know…for now we will write our learning targets until the wheels of change move forward a little:)

Thursday, October 31, 2013

Trade Book Lesson on Rocks

I am loving our trade book lessons. We ordered kits that go along with the Picture Perfect books written by Karen Ansberry and Emily Morgan. Everything you need for a great science lesson in a box.

 rockkit2  rockkit

Mrs. Minks's second grade class at Eglin Elementary came to our Science Station yesterday and taught the lesson, "If You Find a Rock" with her students. They have been studying rocks for the last few weeks in their classroom. Their first visit to the lab, they did an AIMS lesson called "My Rock" in which they chose a rock and measured, weighed, and described their rock.

This lesson consisted of using the trade books If You Find a Rock by Peggy Christian and Rocks: Hard, Soft, Smooth, and Rough by Natalie M. Rosinsky.

To engage her students, Mrs. Minks read the first book and discussed some of the rocks that were talked about in the book, such as a wishing rock, skipping rock, chalk rock, resting rock, splashing rock, and worry rock. Then the students went to the lab tables to work in pairs. They were given 6 types of rocks to examine. The 6 rocks were: sandstone, limestone, granite, marble, and obsidian. After examining them for different properties such as shape, size, color, texture, and luster, the students then chose one to do a further study of. They filled out a chart for their work. These charts are wonderful tools for making sure that the students really understand the science terms such as texture and luster. They also measured and were able to draw, label, and describe their rock. Great skills all rolled up in one lesson.
Mrs. Minks's students were very engaged and enjoyed the lesson. I was very impressed with their ability to follow directions and fill out their science chart.



I loved the way Mrs. Minks came and got the lesson and adapted it to her class. The Explore phase of this lesson was about sorting rocks, and since she had done that with the previous lesson, she moved onto the second activity that had them work with the science chart.

The lesson called for children to bring in rocks, and since we live near the Gulf Coast we don't have an abundance of rocks. I have collected rocks from other places to have in our lab. We can find shells galore, but not so many rocks. It is always fun for the students in our area to work with rock because of that. When my own son, now 21, was little he used to fill his pockets full of rocks anytime we went further north. I have a tub of rocks that he collected over the years.

The other thing that I love about these trade book lessons is that there is so much that you can do for the students' content reading skills with the trade books. The second book which was taken back to class goes into depth about the three kinds of rocks. They will be able to think back to the rocks they used in the lab and classify them to the correct type of rock. The nonfiction book was packed with illustrations and a chart just like the one they used in the lab.
Great job, Mrs. Minks.

Thursday, October 17, 2013

A lesson on sunlight and UV beads

At Eglin Elementary today, Ms. Scarbrough presented a Picture Perfect trade book lesson called "Sunshine on My Shoulders". She did an outstanding job, so I wanted to share it with you! Here is a run down of some of the things that made it such a great lesson.

Of course, Ms. Scarbrough came in on Monday to look over the lesson and take the plan back with her to study. My partner in crime, aka the other science coach that I am blessed to work with, prepared all the materials for her and ran off the recording sheet. I can't say enough about how important just 10 minutes of coming in ahead of time and making sure you know with certainty what the goals and procedures of the lab/lesson are.

The lesson and materials are stored in plastic tubs in the Science Station.

She began the lesson with a review of discussions that had taken place over the last few days in their class about weather and the sun heating the earth. Then she told them they would be participating in an experiment in which they were going to make a bracelet with beads to observe in the classroom and later outside. She even made sure the boys would not mind wearing a bracelet. One little boy said, "You can give it to your mother." After the experiment, I can assure you no kid wanted to give it away, but most likely got in the car that afternoon telling their parent how much fun they had in the "Science Station" that day.

Each child was given a pipe cleaner and five beads.

After making their bracelet with a pipe cleaner and 5 UV beads, they were given a recording sheet to record what their beads looked like at that point. Finally, a reason to use that white crayon.

Then they walked outside to see what happened in the sunlight. A chorus of kids were noting the cool color change. She had prepped them so well for behavior too. Love those classroom management skills I get to see everyday. Little things go a long way.

After reminding them to keep up with the colors they saw, they came back in to record what they saw after the beads were in the sunlight.

She then asked them to discuss with their table groups WHY they thought the beads had changed colors. They brainstormed explanations for why they changed colors in the sunlight. They did so well!

After they had a chance to discuss this at the tables, she then recorded their explanations in a chart on the board. Each group came up with an idea. It was interesting that all groups had something different. Love it when that happens. Then, they tried to think of a way to test each of their explanations. I wish I had photographed the board, but it got erased before I could get up there.

Some of their thoughts that I remembered were:

  • Maybe the heat caused it. They had been talking in class about how the heat warms the earth.
  • Maybe the light did it. 
To test the heat, they blew their hot air on it from their breaths. To test just light, they used a flashlight, and found that it didn't work. That was cool for them to see. They were able to see that only sunlight worked.

This is why I love these lessons so much. She didn't have to dream up all of this on her own. The chart was an idea listed in the teacher's guide, but the teacher did an outstanding job with this discussion!!!

After discussing that the sun has a special light called UV light, they were able to conclude that only sunlight worked to change the beads' colors.

Mrs. Scarbrough then put some sunscreen on her beads and took them out to see that sunscreen helped keep the beads from getting as brightly colored as without, but they still changed some. She pointed out that they needed to listen to their parents about sunscreen. She had a reading content sheet with a bit more information about this.

She finished up back in her classroom with a book titled Sunshine on My Shoulders which the song lyrics to John Denver's classic 70's song:) published in a book with illustrations. Of course, Mrs. Scarbrough is too young to know that. She had no idea!!!

The lesson centered around the content from Earth and Space Science: Understand that the Sun provides light and heat necessary to maintain the temperature of the Earth.

I loved how she turned that into a simple but powerful way to show how to observe, record, test, and explain the science behind it.

Two more things.....
1. the key to success is the little things like the few minutes looking over the lesson to see how things should go.
2. Ms. Scarbrough didn't know this, but one our district's peer evaluators was in the little office off of the Science Station and came out afterwards noting that it was indeed a very good lesson. She hoped more teachers would let her observe a lesson like this, because she would be able to see so many points on the rubric she uses!!!

And....you didn't think I could let you go without the original song by John Denver adapted to the children's book. Takes me back a few years.

Friday, August 30, 2013

LIFE HAPPENS! Reasons for My Absence

I am a planner by nature. I like an ordered planned out day...spontaneity is not for me!!!. Of course, I am pretty sure God has a sense of humor, because He always pairs us with our opposite...hence, the old saying "Opposites Attract." The idea works for more than magnets.

Well, life sometimes gets in the way of our plans. Several years ago, I was on a mission trip where all the work I had prepared for months in advance fell apart. I had worked so hard to plan the days for a Bible school type setting for little ones. In my role, not only was I thinking about the hearts of the little ones we would reach, but for the teenagers who I would be in charge of and how they would be used and touched in their daily endeavors with the children. There were two versions of me, in other words two groups of teens who would set off each day in the opposite direction. The plan was that we would have abundant groups of children to teach the Gospel to each day.

Well, the other group had just that. They came back with magnificent stories to tell of their day with more children than you could imagine. We, however, went to our location, and not one single child was waiting for us. There I had a group of teens all pumped with tons of my work unused. Not a good thing for a planner like me.

To make a long story short, I wrestled all week not with my disappointment for all my hard work going to waste (well, maybe just a little disappointment), but with how my teens were going to leave with anything of value on this mission trip. I had a few sleepless nights praying, and as always God met me and didn't disappoint, BUT...

It was not according to my plans.

We did have a magnificent last two days, and God did work in the lives of those teens, but HE worked mostly in mine.

As we were leaving the final day, I shared with the teens on the bus while traveling back to meet up with the other group, the struggles I had faced and how God had used the situation in spite of my best laid plans. One of the other adults shared a Bible verse that has become one of my favorites.

"The mind of man plans his way, But the Lord directs his steps." ---
Proverbs 16:9

I can make all the plans I want, but if I am walking with my God, He will direct my steps and He knows better than me what needs to be accomplished.

Well, my summer has been so different from last year's, and all my best laid plans have flown out the window, and are surely on Pluto by now.

I want bore you with the details, but it has been a series of highs and lows. I am listening God:)

Good...engaged daughter.
Bad....My mom fell and fractured her hip.
Good...She was making a great recovery. Hard but on the road to good.
Good....Busy making wedding plans.
Bad....Step dad diagnosed with cancer. Pretty grim diagnosis.

Tired... traveling and making tough decisions.

Throw in a few other things that a private person like me doesn't share, and you have a formula for a worn out girl!

On one of lowest days, I stopped to check in with Twitter, and a famous person I follow, quoted my verse above. The Lord is trying to stop me and let me know He is control.

School is back in session, and what is supposed to be my last year was going to be smooth sailing!? Right? Hmmmm.
A new science coach to work with and train at the other schools that are a part of the grant, but I LOVE her and am thankful for her. Two new principals, and too many new teachers to count!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! So much for a well oiled machine for the last year. Positive note, I will get to work with and help some awesome young energetic teachers!

BOTTOM LINE...I am back in session, and will do what I can each day with a grateful heart for my many blessings. Life happens, and it is not always according to my timetable or my plans, but it goes on, and I don't want to miss anything!!!!

Thank goodness for rainbows...

Monday, June 10, 2013

Teacher Workshop

In April of this year, I had the privilege of working with a group of teachers at the annual Hurlburt AFA Chapter 398 teacher workshop. The men and women of the chapter have always been so helpful to our teachers in assisting us with our STEM education needs.

This year our theme was "Getting to the Core of Engineering: Intergrating Engineering into Your Science and Math Curriculum." It is on the agenda to add engineering to every grade level with the new Common Core science standards. Twenty teachers from the panhandle area attended the workshop.

As always, we visit Hurlburt Air Force Base, home to 1st Special Operations Wing. I have attended for multiple years and am astounded each year at the amazing things the men and women of the U. S. Air Force do. I am never bored, but humbled to be around them for a day. We were treated to an upclose and personal look at the CV-22 Osprey as well as its simulator. We see it flying overhead everyday in our area, so it is exciting to see it upclose. My favorite part this year was an absolute simple thing, but if you are a teacher you know that feeling when you see something and your wheels start spinning with teacher ideas:) It had to do with honeycomb paper and its strength. More coming on that, because I haven't been able to get it out of my mind.

During our working lunch, we were treated to a presentation by Terry Proulx of Booz Allen Hamilton on unmanned aerial vehicles. It was very interesting to see the positive possibilties of UMVs. Much is in the news about drones and the negatives, but this was a fascinating presentation of lesson ideas for our students. I walked away from the presentation with hope for our students. This is the stuff of my childhood generation's science and technology ideas that we need to be teaching this next generation.

The afternoon was filled with seminars led by real teachers and engineers in our area. We were able to learn and gather useful lesson plans. Dr. John Fay,engineer on Eglin Air Force Base set up his telescope in the day (yes, day) with a solar filter. For our middle school teachers, he had teachers learning how to use it to measure the diamter of the sun by tracking its movements across the field of view. Ken Fiedler and Steve Moczary of Embry-Riddle Worldwide provided a lesson on spatial disorientation and how it affects aviators.

For the elementary teachers, I did a lesson on using trade books to teach science. We worked through a structual engineering challenge to build bridges. I will be sharing more about this with you later. I have lots of pictures to show you of using this lesson in classrooms this year!

This teacher is so proud of her bridge challenge that she is taking a picture:)

That is me (silver hair ~ smile) demonstrating my suspension bridge.

Laura Pink, third grade teacher at Anitoch Elementary, did an outstanding lesson using stations to teach the Bernoulli Effect. I was in heaven working through the stations. I want to be in her class!!!! They were incredible.

Laura Pink

Of course, some of the teachers got to even fly. The Civil Air Patrol always brings planes and a few lucky teachers get to fly. Not only fly, but fly off of Hurlburt Air Force Base's runway. Wow, you can't get any better than that!!!

I look forward to this workshop every year. It is fun, exciting, and very real in that you get to be inspired by men and women doing great things for our country, and take home real teaching ideas from real teachers.

Thursday, May 30, 2013

I Really Thought I Was Busy

I seemingly fell off the planet. I really thought I was busy:) I was working with some fabulous teachers doing some really cool trade book lessons. I wanted to get in a couple of classrooms and try them out, so that I could see for myself how things went. I never want to present "pie in the sky ideas" without having first hand knowledge of how things work. I enjoyed every lesson and have some great pictures to show you.

I was also busy with the regular end of the year stuff, when my mom called me while laying on the floor waiting for the ambulance, and said the famous words, "I've fallen." Well, I know my mom, and if she calls me, it is worthy to drop everything and go. She did indeed fracture her hip, and had to have surgery. I have been on a nonstop whirlwind back and forth to her home. I have always been so grateful that she was less than an hour and a half away, but never more than now. I am an only child, and lost my dad at a young age. We are extremely close, so I will be needing a new set of tires at the end of the summer:) Yesterday was her first really good day, so hopefully we are on track for that recovery. She is quite spunky and in excellent health. Everyone was sure she had been climbing to clean something, but it truly was a fluke. You couldn't replicate it if you tried.

Like I said, I really thought I was busy! I do have many things to share, so stay tuned.

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Science Word Walls

Word Walls are a way to display key vocabulary. We know research tells us that in order for their vocabulary to be "established", students must have many interactions with the words. Word Walls would be one way to accomplish this. Eric Jensen writes in his book, Environments for Learning, that new concepts are often best when presented above eye level on a side wall.

Space is limited in our classrooms and we want to make sure we don't overpower them with too much clutter, so what can we do? I am no expert, but one thought might be to have a content word wall on a side area of your room. I would think in order to avoid clutter and in  keeping with Mr. Jensen's ideas of putting something out there a few days before you actually get into studying it, that you would only put one unit's (or topic of study) words at a time. You could display the new list on the current test day. Then, they are exposed to them before the actual introduction.

I read a Reading Rockets article on word walls that suggests you display the words in bold, black letters with any color background. I have seen many with picture clues as well. I like those especially for younger children.

The key to word walls is that they are used. Interact with the words on a daily basis!!!!!

I love the ones below from http://www.ashleigh-educationjourney.com/ . She has a unit list here. Very neat!
Below you will also see the link to her word wall post and a wonderful notebook page she made. I had been thinking of making one, but she has already made it perfect!!!


Monday, April 15, 2013

Levels of Word Knowledge

According to the book Reading Strategies for Science by Stephanie Macceca, there are three levels of word knowledge: unknown, acquainted, and established. 

Unknown words are words that students neither recognize nor understand. An example would be... Few early elementary students would be able to define oviparous (animals that hatch from eggs).

Acquainted words are those that students may recognize but must consciously think about to determine their meanings. 4th grade students are acquainted with the word mineral, but they may not be able to define it in detail.

Established words are those words that the students recognize and can define easily and automatically. The word disease should be well established in the vocabularies of every 8th grader.

Our goal should be to move new science vocabulary into the established level for our students. They should be able to use them in their speech and their writing. Research has shown in order for that to happen, we as teachers must expose students to the new words a number of times and in a variety of contexts.

The author of Reading Strategies for Science also suggests that knowing a word completely involves skills such as:

  • recognizing the word automatically
  • knowing the denotations (specific meaning) and connotations (a suggested meaning)
  • knowing synonyms, antonyms, metaphors, and analogies for the word
  • associating the word with different experiences and,
  • being able to explain the nuances of a word (multiple uses and meanings)

Over the next few weeks, I am going to share some ways to give those numerous encounters with words needed for students to have an established science vocabulary. The posts will be in no particular order...just whatever suits my fancy and my time limit:)

The first post of ideas that will start tomorrow will be on displaying science vocabulary in a word wall, and the realist in me knows there is limited space, AND I am big on brain research about being in a cluttered environment. Until tomorrow.........

Friday, April 12, 2013

Sparking Creativity

I came across a powerful video about sparking creativity. It is really food for thought. It is 18 minutes long, but well worth the watch. It really makes you think about ways that WE can spark innovation and imagination in our students. I loved the presenters's innovation engine, and I was in awe at the end at how she gathered all the pieces of it and shared how it could be used to teach.


Just think if you only changed the environment of your classroom....

Wednesday, April 3, 2013

The keynote speaker for the National Space Club's Goddard Memorial Dinner this year was a student from the University of Illinois. A must listen...it is why we do what we do!

Monday, April 1, 2013

Happy Spring!!!

I hope everyone had a wonderful spring break. It wasn't exactly sunny and warm, but it allowed me time to do some much needed spring cleaning. The life of a teacher! It is so hard to be the teacher everyone expects and keep the home organized, neat, and serve a hot meal each evening. Makes me tired just thinking about it. Anyhow, I do hope all of you rested to gear up for this last nine weeks. On a more positive note, I loved having Easter at the end of the break. I had a glorious day yesterday.

I made eggs by myself...My kids are all grown up, but he did agree to pose with them.

Now, that we are back at work, I hope to start sending out those ideas for vocabulary in small snippets. If you missed the why, read here.

I did come across something that is worth sharing. Miss Hypothesis has a post about frogs. It is filled with picture books (which  I love) and some great ideas for teaching about life cycles this spring.
Check it out...it is definitely worth visiting her page. She makes me almost want to teach kindergarten, but I am pretty sure I am better suited for the intermediate grades. You K teachers have a job and a half.

Be back soon.

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Vocabulary Voyage

I am about to go on a voyage!! A voyage of learning everything I can about how children increase their vocabulary. I am already reading, talking, researching, and reflecting on my own 30 year career in the classroom. Why am I about to embark on this voyage?

The Voyager spacecraft launched in August and September of 1977 and spent more than 11 years exploring the likes of Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus and Neptune before officially heading off toward interstellar space in 1989.

I have made an observation through our Pitsco Missions used with grades 3-5 in the schools that I work with. The Missions program consists of a week long station in which students work on a science topic. They are fully immersed in that topic for five days. Each day they read a two page content "briefing", and answer two questions. After the briefing, the students work through a hands-on activity using teamwork to complete the "mission." As students participate in the missions program, they encounter 10 bold print vocabulary words for the mission during their week long visit to the science station. Five of those words are part of a matching section in the post test for the mission along with five multiple choice questions that are related to their briefing questions.

I have discovered a trend in the post test scores. Students are not fully understanding the vocabulary that goes along with the mission. They don't do well on matching the terms to their definition. Just seeing them in bold print while reading their missions is not enough to insure that the students understand these terms!!!

I have also noticed in the performance assessment that is given with each mission, that students do not use the vocabulary when explaining how something works.

There is much research already available to support that students with a deficit in vocabulary will not have optimum comprehension. They need multiple visits with the words before a solid understanding of the vocabulary takes place. Anyway, I will save all of that for now...

I will be sharing information in small doses to help us help our students learn that much needed science vocabulary.

Come join my voyage of learning!

Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Rube Goldberg Machine

You may remember this little boy's monster trap which was really a Rube Goldberg machine. I discovered two really nifty websites that you might want to use with your students to spark even more interest in making their own machine.

The first is by FOSS, a science company. The students can make adjustments to make the machine work.

The second is by PBS, called ZOOM, and again allows for student's to make adjustments to make the machine work.

One very important skill for children to learn is that most great inventions didn't work the first time. You have to study it and make revisions. If all things worked easily, we wouldn't have those old sayings like..."try, try again", and "practice makes perfect"...

Perserverence is a value that many of this generation have a hard time with, because they have grown up in a fast paced, instant answer time. It is a value that is going to have to be taught. This would be a great way to do it.

Thursday, February 21, 2013

Building Structures Part 2

Here is the next installment to Building Structures.

By just allowing the primary students to have that time to build, experiment, and then share is great engineering. The way the teacher used the science and math vocabulary to reinforce their knowledge was worthy of noting. However, the story continued with the scientific inquiry natually unfolding.

The teacher noticed that the students were preoccupied with only building straight up. She put their focus into a question. "How tall can we build?"

She took their drawings and photographs she had taken of their structures during center time, and asked for predictions. Their responses included numbers or height in relation to something (as tall as the door). She recorded all of their ideas. They worked in groups at the center to build each day. At the end of their build time, she helped them measure their towers. They recorded the number of blocks and then compared heights.

In one of their sharing sessions, the students were able to see that the tallest towers had more blocks. In another session, they discussed which type of blocks (cardboard vs unit blocks) made the tallest towers.

By encouraging the students to talk about their findings and use evidence from their work to support it, the kindergarteners were addressing many scientific skills. They had many aspects such as collecting and recording data modeled for them. Sounds like a great idea!!!

When the interest finally waned, they held an open house to share all of their findings. I would think parents would have quite impressed.

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Building Structures Part 1

I read an interesting article, "The Science and Mathematics of Building Structures" by Ingrid Chalufour (an early childhood curriculum developer). Ms. Chalufour reflects on a intergrated unit that she was a part of in a kindergarten classroom. It caught my attention because of its relation to our upcoming engineering standards.

After identifying the standards that were to be addressed, a building center was added to the classroom.

The math standards to be addressed were shape, pattern, measurement, and spatial relationships. Science standards to be addressed were stability, balance, and property of materials. Of course, scientific inquiry would be a huge part of the building center.

The teacher started with foam and cardboard blocks, tabletop blocks of various shapes and sizes...(hollow as well). She took away her Legos in the beginning. Her experience with the Legos was that the children rarely built anything but small structures where everything fit together perfectly. She hoped that by removing them the children would experiment more. Her goal was for them to explore the kinds of building materials and the balance and stability of their structures.

Just like in a previous post about bird-watching, she displayed books and posters of structures for the children to look at. There are so many to choose from ...Eiffel Tower, Empire State Building, Tokyo's Sky Tree, the Taj Mahal, and so many more.

Tokyo's Sky Tree Tower

To introduce the center, they worked with the blocks as a class to explore how they balanced and how different designs and the kind of material could affect the structures' stability. I think this is a crucial point in why it was a successful center.

As part of the introduction lessons, the teacher introduced a materials and provided the students time to wonder, question, and just work with the materials talking about shape, stability, and balance. For example, in one lesson they learned that triangle-shaped blocks don't work as a base if you are trying to place a rectangular shaped object on the point. They learned that two triangles laid on their flat sides made a square block, but they weren't strong when you tried to stand them up as a square.

Each day they discussed something new along with what the children were discovering in the center. The talk that occurred in share time allowed them to learn from each other and strengthen their science talk. They learned how to build strong structures, what materials were best, and which blocks made good bases. As the students shared, the teacher commented using science and math terms. What a great way to model that vocabulary!

I am going to make this a two part post, because the story didn't stop here, even though what has happened thus far is good stuff. You must tune in again for the second part of the story.

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

States of Matter Video

This is a cute video for teaching about solids, liquids, and gasses.

Monday, February 11, 2013

Kindergarten: Our next generation of engineers.

Engineering standards are on their way, but I am confident by next year that the students in our DoDEA labs will be ready for them. I wrote about the addition of the engineering standards to our upcoming revisions in the science standards here. Most kindergarten children could be described as little engineers the moment they enter their classrooms. They are ready to build, explore, and discover new things.

These two students worked together to build quite a lengthy project. "They had a doghouse as well as a place for the dog to stand so that he could be a guard dog."

 At Florosa today, two groups of kindergarteners visited the lab. Mrs. Parker and Mrs. Koch brought their classes in to work with the LEGOs. They did an amazing job of working together and sharing in the building of all sorts of things with their Playhouse set. This was their first visit, so we talked about what engineers do and how to work cooperatively. The students explored all of the pieces and built whatever they wanted. The goal was to learn what pieces were in the set and how these pieces fit together, as well as the function of the pieces. Teamwork was stressed in the building process.

These two girls worked very cooperatively together and planned all of their steps together.

The creations were amazing, but even more than the actual creations... was the discussion that took place between the students and what they shared about each of their creations.

 These students had built stairs and had even made a pattern with the colors of the steps.

The two boys in this group had worked on a playground. I loved their tree. There were no pictures of this that they copied. They thought of this own their own.

Now, the students will go back and do more sharing about their first builds in class. This will fit right in with the common core language standards (LACC.1.SL.1.1 and LACC.1.RI.1.1). I am quite sure they will get to write and illustrate more about their builds:)

I am so excited about our littlest learners. They did an outstanding job and are looking forward to coming back. Next time, they will have a specific idea to build with some specifications to it. I am sure they are ready for the challenge.

Thursday, January 31, 2013

Temperature Lesson for Kindergarten

I am here to tell you that kindergarteners can learn science, and that many times we are guilty of not giving them credit for just how much science knowledge they can absorb. I witnessed first hand an absolutely wonderful lesson on temperature by a master teacher. This is not meant to be a bragging post on just her, but more an encouragement post that you can teach science well too.

The lesson called "Temperature Told: Hot or Cold?" is an AIMS lesson. The essential question was..."How does a thermometer help us know about temperature?"

Mrs. Gardner at Mary Esther Elementary came in as she always does ahead of time to check out the prepared tub. I can't say enough about being prepared. I have watched her do this every time she visits the lab, and it is a key factor in her success. She knows what is there and what the lesson is about. When you do this, it alleviates "the let me figure something out what is happening here while kids wait on me" factor! There are plenty of unknown things that pop up for us to stay on top of as it is!!!

In the tub, she found that it contained her lesson plan, immersion thermometers for each child, paper thermometers for discussion prior to the cold/hot activity, plastic cups, and a glass jar. She would need ice and hot water. Mrs. Gardner located her cooler and got ice ahead of time. She then located the whereabouts of the hot pot and knew where she would plug it in.

When her students came in, she had them sit with her on the floor. She led them in a question/answer session of items that are hot and cold. She gave the children a chance to come up with a variety of ideas. She was a master at the right amount of praise, leading them to the right ideas when they came up with a wrong choice. Then she asked them what tool temperature was measured with. They talked about where they had seen these....(doctor's office, thermometers to measure weather temperature, etc.) They had to say the big word "thermometer" together.

By now, good teachers know kids are needing to move...attention spans are very short (children need those brain breaks). She had them stand up, and they modeled with their bodies what the red part of the thermometer would look like when something hot or cold was called out. When it was hot, they raised their hands high and reached toward the Sun, which is also hot. That came up that idea in their discussion...that the Sun heats things up. In fact, they talked about several things that could provide heat to a substance, such as stoves or fires. See, I told you they had an incredible science lesson. They went down holding their arms tight like they were freezing when something cold was called out.

Then the students paired up and one held the paper thermometer and modeled to the other one where the red would be when something hot or cold was called out. Then they exchanged the roles. She did several times to make sure they understood what the thermometer would look like.

Excitement built, because now it was time to use the real thermometer. After explaining how to hold it (yes with the red bubble at the bottom:) and carefully since it was "delicate" and would break easily, they spread out on the floor to give them room to do the experiment. If your school doesn't have the floor space, move them out around those tables. She gave them each a cup of ice. They were told to observe what happened to the red in the thermometer. Notice I said observe, not look. She reminded them of the meaning of observe. It is never too early to use vocabulary with little ones. They of course noted that it went down from the room temperature to colder. They discussed where it would be if it were freezing (0 degrees) and where it would be for boiling (100 degrees). Mrs. Gardner added hot water to a glass jar to walk around with. This is a safety tip...not so sure about hot water with kindergarteners. She reminded them just before she got there to pull their thermometer out of the cold to let it adjust before putting in the hot water. IF you didn't know that...it is all in the lesson...remember she read it ahead of time.

While she was letting the children put their thermometer in the hot water, the other children were still observing what it did in the ice....continue to drop or stay the same?

They had an orderly clean up, line up, and quick recap of what they learned. Mrs. Gardner then took the work sheet that comes with the lesson back to the room to do. It would be a great evaluation piece for them.

Again, I know Mrs. Gardner is an absolutely awesome teacher, but you can do this too. The purpose here is to let you see a glimpse of how it looks. I am just so sad that I didn't video it. We don't do enough sharing in our profession, and we all work so hard and do so many incredible things that would help someone out.

Thanks Mrs. Gardner, for allowing me to share.

Thursday, January 17, 2013

This kid is on his way to being an engineer!

You have got to see this. This kid has made a machine that causes a chain reaction. He even follows the idea of test, revise, test again! Things don't always work on the first try.

He calls it a monster trap.

Show this to explain perseverance and engineering.

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Conservation of Paper Towels

Did you know...
that 13 billion pounds of paper towels are used in the United States every year. According to the fellow in the video below, if all Americans used one less paper towel a day, 571,230,000 pounds of paper would be saved in one year.

The video would serve as a great introduction to a lesson on conservation of resources.

Remember, Shake, then Fold!!! I tried it, and it works:)

Monday, January 14, 2013

Be an Engineer

Since those engineering standards are on their way, how about a video to drum up some enthusiasm for it! This could be a great tool to introduce kids to who engineers are and what kinds of jobs they do.

Friday, January 11, 2013

Build a Tower to Withstand Earthquakes?

Japan's newest skyscraper is impressive indeed and uses an idea for its structure based on observations of items that have withstood earthquakes over centuries.

Tokyo's Sky Tree tower is designed with the principles that the five story pagodas use. These pagodas have withstood high winds and earthquakes for over a 1000 years. The base of the tower is in the shape of a tripod. Plunging into the air are a series of what is called root-like spikes that form a wall. Inside the wall is a core building modeled after the ancient pagodas.

If I understand it correctly,  the inside core is unattached to the wall until it reaches a height of 410 feet. Then it attached with oil dampers (a form of shock absorbers) that act as cushion during earthquakes. These dampers can absorb 50% of the energy that comes with an earthquake.

It is the second tallest tower in the world at 2,080 feet.

Below is a link to a video about it from CBS news.


This could be a great way to lead into a lesson about constructing towers.

Thursday, January 10, 2013

Engineering Added to the Common Core

I am actually excited about standards. Get outta here!

Why am I thrilled?

The new common core is interweaving engineering throughout the science standards. It is like a dream come true. I love teaching stuff like that, and now I get to do just that without feeling liking I am missing a day of instruction for the upcoming tests.

The following is a quote from the common core for science website.

"One of the most important messages of the Next Generation Science Standards for teachers, parents, and students is that science is profoundly important in addressing the problems we face at the beginning of the 21st century. The purpose of science education, broadly expressed as STEM literacy, is to equip our students with the knowledge and skills essential for addressing society’s needs, such as growing demand for pollution-free energy, to prevent and cure disease, to feed Earth’s growing population, maintain supplies of clean water, and solve the problem of global environmental change. Just as these grand challenges inspire today’s scientists and engineers, the intent of the new standards is to motivate all students to fully engage in the very active practices of science and engineering." 

We had better be working on training our children to think like engineers or we could be in real trouble. We have many many challenges that they will need to solve. They addressed only a few of the issue facing this next generation.

I love the following paragraph also from the website. Children are natural engineers.

In some ways, children are natural engineers. They spontaneously build sand castles, dollhouses, and hamster enclosures, and they use a variety of tools and materials for their own playful purposes. Thus a common elementary school activity is to challenge children to use tools and materials provided in class to solve a specific challenge, such as constructing a bridge from paper and tape and testing it until failure occurs. Children’s capabilities to design structures can then be enhanced by having them pay attention to points of failure and asking them to create and test redesigns of the bridge so that it is stronger. Furthermore, design activities should not be limited just to structural engineering but should also include projects that reflect other areas of engineering, such as the need to design a traffic pattern for the school parking lot or a layout for planting a school garden box. 

Children ARE natural engineers. Don't you think we need to let them have more of those opportunities to plan, think, build, test, adjust, test again and solve real world problems on a regular basis. 

I will do my best over the course of this next semester to add some lesson ideas for incorporating engineering into you lesson plans.

Keep checking... 

Coming soon....Build It! lesson with a picture book.