“We want more science!”
When I hear teachers tell me this is what their students say after doing science, I smile and say “Yes” as louldy and as boldly as I can! Kids love science.
I know this next statement may seem a little simplistic and some may not agree with me-that’s okay-we can agree to disagree in a polite manner. If we really want to increase the odds our graduates will graduate with “college and career readiness skills,” then we need to put science back into our early education classrooms (preK-3).
Put science back? Yep, put science back. Take a look at the following schedule. This is an actual 1st grade classroom schedule. What do you observe about this schedule (to view in a larger format, click on the image)?
When I observe this schedule, this is what I see-math (check), language arts (check), writing (check). There is time for reading aloud. Students have time for lunch. You might be saying to yourself “this looks fine.” But did you notice that science is not on the schedule? Even social studies is missing. Now, I see the word integrated content listed in the same box with being a writer, what does this mean? Does this mean in an hour students are doing a hands-on experience and then writing about? Does this mean science is woven into the literacy stations? Or does it simply mean at the station children are engaged in books about various science topics. Hard to tell from the schedule, but my gut tells me more than likely students are reading about various science topics.
Reading about science is not the same as doing science. In order to learn how to become a scientists or develop the ability to think scientifically, students need teachers to engage them in the same experiences as those that real scientists would do. You can do hands-on science in 20 minutes if you are organized and well planned. Experiences can be chunked.
Take for instance one lesson that I did just yesterday at the ACSI Early Education conference. The purpose of the And guess what, when you do hands on science, those experiences where you purpusp-you know, when you pull out a mystery object that looks like an egg but doesn’t really look like an egg (see my post from 2011 here), it is easier to then engage young learners in reading a text for meaning.
Employers want workers who can ask questions and problem solve. Those skills are greatly enhanced when you engage students in doing science. Think about it this way-while learning to read is an important skill for a literate society, some children don’t want to simply jump into a book. When my son was in Kindergarten, he had a teacher who did more language arts experiences than science. Hugh was a good student. But he didn’t want to read. Instead, he wanted to build. He wanted to put stuff together to see what would happen. It was only when his 1st grade teacher did a science experiment about matter, that he wanted to read more about the topic. Science opened up books to my son but only because books served a purpose for his learning.
If we want to get serious about changing education and increasing the odds our graduates will be able to ask great questions or even problem solve, we might want to rethink how we do early education. I know there is not enough time in the day for everything and I know that reading and math tests are still driving schools and I understand the pressure for children to be able to read and do math by 3rd grade is real. Research shows science can improve and increase reading scores in children. Science also gives a context for the skills students are learning in math. What if we designed instructional units around great scientific problems instead of basil programs and reading workbooks. To date I have never had a teacher say to me their students wanted to “do more workbooks” or “read more in the basil.”
“How much do we charge for a cup of lemonaide?”
I know most of my friend do not like snow very much, but here in our household we love snow. In fact hubby and I keep talking about how we want to find 10 feet of the glorious white stuff!
Snow presents us science teachers with the opportunity to show students what happens when the water cycle interacts with changing temperatures! One of my newest favorite books that introduces students to how matter changes during the winter time is a book called “Best in Snow” by April Pulley Sayre.
The book is absolutely beautiful! The story tells the tale of how snow forms and travels. It is the real world tale of the water cycle from a different vantage point. Best part is the book has a cheat sheet in the back for teachers that explains the science behind snow. The text is simple and teachers can use the text to work with children on word choice or even rhyming words.
Here are some pictures from the book:
I highly recommend adding this book to your classroom library! If you want to grab a copy, feel free to use the link below (note-this is an affiliate link with amazon and I do get a tiny bit of $ that goes to feed my love of science).
If you were with me last night on my first Magnificent Science Monday, then you learned how to use borax and hot water to make snowflakes! If you want to get directions or see how to make it yourself, click the links below:
Last night I showed you the book: The Story of Snow. Be sure to grab that book and some others that work well with the activity! See links of books below. Please note: We are a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program. What does this mean? Provides a means for me to earn fees by linking to Amazon.com and affiliated sites. Those fees are use to purchase materials to do my live events!
Today I had the pleasure of conducting a workshop at Lynnhaven Elementary for parents and students. My goal-to show parents how they can do science at home with simple activities and materials. In 50 minutes I did 4 experiences-one dealt with disappearing water (a really cool magic trick that can be explained by science), water gels, refracting glasses, and the final activity-The Egg Drop!! Parents loved this one and with a little practice, I had all of the students and parents successful in getting the egg to drop!! Check out this video to watch how it works in slow mo!! If you feel lucky, try it out for yourself! Here is what you need:
- Solo cup
- Pie pan
- Toilet paper tube
To complete the task you must have no fear!! Repeat that to yourself-no fear, no fear, no fear. As you will see in the video, the key is to hit the pie pan and follow through in a straight line motion. Don’t hit down or you will cause the cup to spill or cause the pie pan to flip!!
Let me know if you were successful!! Tag your post or pictures using this hashtag: #justsimplesciencewithjennysue
Hate to break the bad news to you, but Punxsutawney Phil has predicted 6 more weeks of winter! Of course you know the tradition-if it is cloudy when a groundhog emerges from its burrow on this day, then spring will come early; if it is sunny, the groundhog will supposedly see its shadow and retreat back into its burrow, and the winter weather will continue for six more weeks.
Of course we know predicting the weather is not really dependent upon the groundhog (also known as a woodchuck-which by the way is a rodent of the family Sciuridae, belonging to the group of large ground squirrels known as marmots-who knew?) seeing his shadow, but the tradition is a fun one! (To learn more about the tradition, check out the post I wrote back in 2013-has some great activities you can do with your kids). Here in the Virginia Beach area we have our own weather guru known as Chesapeake Chuck and given the weather today (cloudy) his prediction might say spring is coming early to our area!
Whether spring comes early or not, Groundhog Day does allow us to answer the question how are shadows formed? Shadows are created when an object blocks light. In order for the object to block light, it has to be opaque or translucent. Depending on the grade you teach, you either may or may not have to teach these terms. If I were explaining how shadows are made to either a group of Pre-K or Kindergarten students, I would simply say that any object that blocks light makes a shadow. Don’t even worry about translucent and transparent materials just yet.
For older students, they need to know the difference between the terms. An easy way to help students remember the difference between opaque and translucent and transparent is to teach the meaning of the prefix “trans.” Trans is a Latin prefix that has the following meanings: across, beyond, and through to name a few. By teaching students that translucent, transparent means to let light “through” they can remember the difference between opaque and these two.
Okay so what do you do to help kids remember the difference between translucent and transparent because they sound so similar? Again, focus on how the words are made! Let’s start with translucent. Translucent means to allows some, but not all, light to pass through it. If we go back to the prefix of the word, remember trans simply means through. In Latin, the stem of the word was “luceo” which means to shine. So essentially translucent means shining through! Frosted glass allows some light to shine through but not always an image of the object.
Transparent allows allows all light to pass through it. Because light passes through it, transparent objects will not make any shadows, as light will pass straight through it and you can see the image. Think about a cup of water in front of a picture. You will see the picture through the glass!
And you thought you would never need Latin! If you teach PreK-K, here is a free lesson that will have your students understanding how the position of the light source can change a shadow. The lesson is called Where is Punxsutawney Phil’s Shadow? I hope you enjoy it and I hope you have fun with your kids learning about shadows!
With all the snow on the ground, I got to thinking about one of my favorite books to use to teach about matter changes: The Secret Life of Snowflakes by Kenneth Libbrecht. This is a great book with real, close up pictures of snowflakes. Ever time I use it with a group of students they are amazed at the actual size of a snowflake.
The book is a great launching point into a lesson on how and why models are so important to scientists. Scientists use models (three-dimensional representation of a person or thing or of a proposed structure, typically on a smaller scale than the original) to represent real objects found in our world. Think about it-up until camera technology improved, seeing what a snowflake looked like was very difficult.
Snowflakes are incredible beautiful creations made during winter. Even if we bring snow into the classroom, it melts and we still can’t really see a snowflake. Sure we can spend time having students make paper models, but why not try to create something that is more real? Interested? Continue reading to learn more!
Making Models of Snowflakes:
Here are the materials you need to make your own model of a snowflake: Borax, pipe cleaner, 10 inches of string, hot water, clear glass mason jar (large).
Once you have all your materials, here are the next steps.
1. Cut pipe cleaner into thirds and then twist them together to make snowflake shape. You can use 5 pieces of pipe cleaner if you want to get fancy. I just kept it simple.
Then, tie the string onto your snowflake. I used one of the ends that seemed a bit longer. I then also measured to see if my snowflake would fit in and out of the mason jar with ease. I also measured to see if it would be covered when submerged in the water.
Once I knew that it would go into the jar and had the string secure, I put it into the jar and waiting. This is actually the crystals forming within 10 minutes!! It was really cool! After 24 hours, this was my snowflake! Really pretty!!While this activity is certainly fun, there is so much more you can do with this lesson that will meet your language arts objects.
Idea #1: Have students do a descriptive writing where they sequence they steps they took to set up the activity. Focus on using first, next, then, and last in the writing.
Ideas #2: Compare and Contrast: Have your students do a compare and contrast using a picture of a real snowflake verses the one they made. Have your students use a Box and T Chart to organize their thoughts and then write up how the two snowflakes are similar and different. Here is a free template you can download.
If you would like to have the complete lesson plan, just click here to purchase it.
One of the questions I find myself asking as I work with teachers is what if? What if we engaged all students in hands-on science? What if all students had the opportunity to have their learning needs met? What if…?
Over the last few years I have had many opportunities to work with teachers. Our conversations have been varied-from science to differentiation to assessment-we have covered it all! Of course these conversations have filled my head with lots of what if questions!
Many of the groups I have worked with, like the one in the picture above, have literally soaked up everything we have done together! The above group were middle school teachers I had the pleasure of working with in the summer of 2016 at the CTA workshop at JMU. As we spent a week together doing science, it was amazing to watch their minds race and the ideas to fly around the room. As something new was given to them, the question “what if” begin to germinate.What if we did the mentos and diet coke at the beginning of the year to get kids excited and then reuse it again during our matter unit? What if we used the rockets lesson to teach students how to write directions? What if…
What if all students had teachers who got to engage in professional learning that inspired them to try something different in their classrooms? Sadly I know not every teacher gets to experience professional development opportunities that go beyond the sit and get type of session. I also know not every teacher feels they have something they can learn. But what if?
What if all teachers engaged in professional learning every day, every week, or every year that caused them to change one aspect of how they taught? What if the changes they implemented made their teaching ever better? What if every single science teacher in this country engaged students in continual, hands-on learning experiences? If teachers did these things would we be so overrun with students who believed they could go into a STEM field? What if????
These ladies and the countless other teachers I have been blessed to work with have reminded me how powerful the work we do in our classroom really is to the health of our communities. As I have listened to their many stories, they have reminded me why I went into teaching. I went into teaching to make a difference in a child’s life because other teachers had made a difference in mine. I wanted young people to see the beauty and joy in learning how the world works.
I believe our jobs as teachers is to inspire the next generation to question, to seek answers, and to ultimately make our world a better place. I know as teachers we would all love for all of our students to come to us in pretty little packages with beautiful bows ready to learn. But the truth of the matter is this-life is hard and some of our students are coming to us with packages that have been torn or broken. They are the ones that need our inspiration the most. They are the ones who need us to engage them in learning experiences that takes the focus off of the brokenness in their lives and refocuses them on developing their ability to inquire and see they can make a difference in this world.
What if all students had a teacher who saw beyond the stinky clothes or the hard exterior? What if all students had a teacher who saw the potential trapped inside their heads and worked to find the right key to unlock their potential? What if??
I don’t have all the answers just yet, but I am going to keep asking what if in order to continue challenging myself to seek solutions!
Thanks to all of the teachers who inspire me and who continue to inspire their students to ask WHAT IF!
Fall is slowly coming to us here in Virginia Beach.Every year it never fails that we have summer like weather in VB in October. This week we are scheduled to stay in the upper 70’s! While some love summer (don’t get me wrong I do as well), my favorite time of the year begins in October.
This month my posts will be about one of my favorite fall things-pumpkins!! I just love them don’t you? Two weeks ago I learned something new-etching pumpkins! I had never heard of this but it is really easy and fun to do. Here is what you will need:
- small pumpkin to start off (get a larger one later once you have gotten the hang of the etching)
- etching tools-I got mine from the workshop I attended but you can get them here for only 7.27!!
- template for drawing your design on your pumpkin-I did mine freehand but want to try these templates!
Here is the thing-you just need to start! Don’t panic over the design you want to make-just begin. As you take your tool you just want to scrap off a little bit of the flesh. Push away from your hands and body (this saves your hands from getting cut-these tools are sharp ya’ll). Don’t go too deep and don’t be upset when your pumpkin begins to weep!! This is just the flesh oozing. But once it dries, the lines will get a little darker. Here is a great video to show you how to do this cool idea.