Let’s face it, with all the technology kids have in their lives today, sometimes they come to school less than enthusiastic to learn what we need to teach them. I really believe by simply shifting how we do things, we can get them wanting to know more.

So, let’s get to the point today-Milk an activity for all it’s worth!

Here is the activity: using salt dough creations to help kids understand change

Change.  Great concept found in science. In fact, the next gen science standards say we should be engaging students in connecting topics to this concept. So how do we help kindergartens to understand this idea that objects or materials change when they are made different or altered in some way?

We engage them in a tangible experience that illustrates change.

That is why I picked salt dough creations.  Fun. Messy. Real-life example of change that doesn’t take a long time.

Now I know what you might be saying-that is just doing crafts in science. No. What I am doing is using an experience to show students the science by using the experience.

Let me give you some background. This activity opens up my unit on changes. I wanted to start with something that allowed my scientists to see changes quick and in a simple manner. The unit was introduced by explaining to students they were going to be investigating changes in our world through seasons and weather. But to begin, they were going to experience change in order to describe what change means.

The investigation question that guided what they were about to do was posted:  What happen when we mix salt, flour, and water together?

Let me start by saying I didn’t  have students jump in and make predictions of what they think will happen. Making predictions, while a great part of the scientific process, is not what I wanted to work at that moment. Plus, if my students didn’t have any prior experience with mixing flour, salt, and water, then they would simply throw out answers they thought might be correct-those wild guesses. I didn’t really want them to think predictions were wild guesses. As they would learn later in the year, predictions are made from experiences.

I also didn’t just mix the materials together to find an answer to the question I posted.

So, I purposefully slowed down and had students make observations at every step along the way. By doing this, many more standards than just science were reinforced!

Okay so the gist of the activity goes like this:

Give each student (you can do this whole group if you like) 1/2 cup of salt, 1 cup of flour, and 1/2 cup of water. Have them make observations and record them for each material. Ask your scientists-what do you see? How does each object feel? Here is the perfect part about this opening activity-you can turn this into a language lesson. What other words can we say to describe the object’s color? Texture?? Build those million dollars describing words!!

After students have made observations, allow them to mix the salt and flour. What happens? Now describe how it looks and feels. What is the same? What is different?

Then mix in the water. Ask those questions again. How has the material been made different (which is the definition of change)? Because they have experienced each substance along the way- helping them see change occurring before their eyes makes it more understandable.

Because students have recorded each idea in their science journal ( hint, hint, hint-writing for a purpose) along the way through the change process, they can go back and use those words to describe how salt, flour, and water changed.  They have tangible evidence the materials they began with-the salt and flour changed when the water was added. In fact, the observations they recorded said it all-the salt/flour went from dry to wet.  The material went from feeling soft and fluffy to sticky and thick.

When we went back to our descriptive investigation question, the students were able to answer the question easily because they have experienced what happens when you mix all three materials together.

So, where did the activity go next? Well I wanted my students to see one more example of change. The next investigation question asked students to research “What happens when our material is put into a hot oven? How does heat change our material?”

Students were asked to make a rainbow using their material.  To make their rainbow, they were given the directions of having 7 pieces to the rainbow. Of course, this is the perfect time to work on our counting ability, so students are asked to make an object in the shape of a rainbow with 7 pieces of the material.  See how sneaky that is-just sneaking that math into my lesson without calling it math!!! Practicing one to one correspondence! They went on baking pans and the fabulous ladies in the cafeteria baked them for us. The next day we made observations again.  Students now had their answer to their research question!  To quote one of my scientists; “The heat dried ’em out and made them harden up .“

Now if you teach upper elementary you might be asking yourself “well how could I do this with my older students to have fun yet teach my standards?”  Simple recipes are a great way to talk about parts and wholes. Ratios. Have your students design an experiment to see if changing the ratio of materials makes a different on the material produced.  could continue this activity even further (which I did by the way) and we talked about colors.

So, let’s see. Using this simple activity, I was able to engage my students in working on building their vocabulary by generating words to describe each of the objects. We practiced counting up to seven and making one to one correspondence.  We asked several research questions and did something to find the answers to those questions.  We used our senses to make observations and thus observe carefully.

And that my friend is the point to just simple science. Milk an activity for all it’s worth. Pick a fun activity, slow down, and milk it to get everything you can out of it while teaching your standards. Make it so different students don’t even know they are doing math or language arts.

Published by Jenny Sue Flannagan

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