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

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.


Teaching Teamwork in Order to be Engineers

Teaching children to work cooperatively is one of the most difficult, yet necessary skills that we will train them to do. 

In the schools that I work in, we are fortunate enough to have LEGO educational kits. We have the Story Starters Playhouse sets for our kindergarten classes, Early Simple Machines for our first and second graders, as well as Simple Machines for the older students. We have 9 tubs of each kind of LEGO, so that the children may work in groups of two to build the item for their lesson. In order for the lessons to be taught in the most optimum manner, children need to already have those teamwork skills in place!!!

Early Simple Machines tub

One way to introduce children to the idea of teamwork to build and solve engineering problems is in the lesson that I found in this online curriculum here.

It would take two days or more to teach this lesson adequately. I have read through and made some materials to use to teach this lesson.

To start this lesson, read a book such as Hooray for the Dandelion Warriors! (A Little Bill Book by Bill Cosby). Any book about getting along and sharing would be appropriate. This could even be done during your reading block.

Hooray for the Dandelion Warriors! (Little Bill Books for Beginning Readers)

Take time to discuss the following vocabulary words. You could certainly even stress these words over a period of time and make a game out of watching to see children demonstrating the first four traits.
  • compromise
  • share
  • respect
  • cooperate
  • evaluate

I really liked the idea of using pictures to teach vocabulary words to your students. I made a PowerPoint to go with these terms. They would be nice printed out as posters to help the children learn the new words.

On another day, show the students a paper bag with 20 LEGO pieces in it. Give them turns to shake it and predict what is inside. Then spill the pieces out for them to see.

Their challenge for the day is to cooperatively build a structure with all 20 pieces with their partner. (It can be  any 20 pieces... just make sure they will all connect in someway.)

Before they get their bags, have them role play the following situations...
  • grabbing pieces vs. taking turns
  • working on separate projects vs. teamwork
  • arguing vs. compromising
  • and of course, clean up!

Have the students evaluate the role playing with smiley faces. (You could have them hold up index cards with smile, straight, or frown OR do a thumbs up, thumbs down.) Were they respectful, cooperative, and did they share in the role playing? I think the role playing can't be overlooked. It is much like what we have learned with the Daily 5....model, model, model, what we want to see.

Then model how it should look!!! We can never model enough!!!

Go over their engineering challenge again! Another lesson ----engineers always PLAN before they begin!!!

The LEGO structures can be placed on the counter for all to view later, but as the lesson is about working cooperatively, you should have all students come back to the group. Give the children a chance to tell how they each worked cooperatively. You could begin with the phrase..."I was a cooperative partner because I _____________."

On another day, they can share their wonderful structures!!!