Don’t Carve-Etch Your Pumpkins!

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.

Etched pumpkinHappy pumpkin etching friends!


Scaffolding Inquiry and Engineering Experiences

Tomorrow I am presenting at the VMI STEM Conference. Excited to finally see VMI! I have lived in Virginia my whole life and this will be the first time visiting. Woo Hoo!

Scaffolding. When you hear that world do you think of scaffolding used for painting? This is what I think of when I hear the word! In fact, when my mom was a little kid, she climbed up a whole set of scaffolds so that she could get as high as she could to call out to a special friend who she believed lived behind her house. Talk about my great grandmother having a panic attack!! But those scaffolds certainly did get her up high!

Scaffolds in education are those things we use to help all students reach the learning goals. When we scaffold, we don’t use them too long or else our students come to become dependent upon them.  We use them to get them to a point where they feel comfortable with content or skills they are trying to learn. As we design our lessons, we can scaffold graphic organizers by using question prompts. We can also scaffold skills like find mean, median, and mode by creating “hint” cards that remind them of the process how to find the mean. Or how to find the mode of a data set.  As they practice and use these “hint” cards, they gain confidence. When we pull the cards away after they have had time to practice, they should be able to do the skill independently!

There are several scaffolds I love to use when teaching science. But the two I love the most are the 4 Question Strategy and SCAMPER. If you want to read them in action, check out the two articles I wrote for NSTA. The 4 Question Strategy is originally from a book called Students and Research. I modified it and have used it with students in grades K through college! It is easy to use and helps students to learn how to brainstorm their own testable questions.

SCAMPER is a tool to use when students need to brainstorm ideas during engineering tasks. You can use just one of the letters or you can use all of them. SCAMPER stands for Substitute, Combine, Adapt, Modify, Put to other uses, Eliminate, and Rearrange.  If you want more information, check out these resources:

If you would like to see a copy of my presentation, click here.

Welcome to the 2017-2018 School Year!

And just like that summer is gone! Gone I tell you! In a blink of an eye.  I don’t even know where it went. I don’t even think I accomplished all I wanted to accomplish! But as we know time continues to march on!

This will be my 25th year in education! Doesn’t seem like that long ago that I woke up to arrive at school on my first day full of anticipation and excitement. I still get that way about the beginning of each new year. While my beginnings may look a little different these days (in higher education my school year began two weeks ago), I still find myself thinking about new beginnings and new starts.

21192877_10215035614150713_8779374047799509620_nThis new school year brings new ideas and new projects for me. Right now I am working on finishing the first in a series of preschool science units. These units will contain reading books and simple hands-on science experiences to get your little ones doing science! There will be both a faith-based version for my friends who work in Christian preschools and a secular version. Hope to have the first one ready to go in a couple of weeks. Check back for more details.

I also updated some of my lessons in my Teacher’s Pay Teachers site. Over the next few weeks I will be posting some new science lessons and posting the books from my preschool series. I hope you will find some time to check them out! If I can ever do anything to help you with science, just let me know!

Here is to a great beginning of 2017-2018 school year!

Scientists are Born in Early Childhood Classrooms

IMAG0622I keep waiting for spring to arrive. Virginia seems to be the only place that allows you to experience all of the seasons in one week! Just last week we had 80’s and then 40’s and now we are hovering in the 30’s! Crazy weather!

This week I am off to Boston to do several workshops at the Early Childhood Conference for the Northeast Region of the Association of Christian Schools International (ACSI). Nothing better than doing science when the weather is cold outside! Actually, as we wait for spring to arrive and the earth to wake from her long sleep, there is a lot we can do as we prepare to do science in the spring. One of the sessions this week will focus on inspiring teachers to use the outdoors to teach science in preschool.

Using the outdoor setting is perfect for students to hone their scientific process skills (especially the process skills associated with observing and measuring). Students can observe birds, or dig up soil and observe the components that make it up (they might even get lucky and find a wiggly decomposer to observe).  Students can also observe the changes in plants during this time as well.

As we teach children to make good observations, we can use those observations to build their vocabulary.  Take for example the idea of going on a rock hunt. As the children walk the property of your school, have them look for rocks to collect.  You can either bring them back inside the classroom or if it is a nice day, do your observing outdoors!  Teach them how to properly use a magnifying lens while they observe (we are not detectives-but scientists! Hold the magnifying lens closer to the object and move it away from the object to make it look larger!).  As students are observing, have them tell you words to describe what they see with their eyes.  Focus their attention on the color of the rock. What shape does the rock best resemble-is it more like a circle or a square? Have them generate words to describe how the rock feels. Is it hard or soft?

As the children generate their words, introduce other words that mean the same thing. For example, if a student says the rock is small, tell them another word for small could be tiny, little, or even compact. Post these words up on your word wall and continue to use them.

For measuring, have them count the number of birds they see in a 5 minute period. Have them describe the birds and count how many birds are similar colors, i.e. how many bluebirds do you see? What about red birds (robins)? They can also use non-standard items to measure the rocks they collect.

If your school has a garden area (check out a previous post on my old blog space about creating a sensory garden with plants), have the children plant some seeds (after you think the last frost has occured) and count how many days till the seeds sprout. Then measure the growth over time of the new plant.

Besides feeling better in the sunlight, being outdoors doing science is just fun!  There are many science careers that spend a great deal of time outside. If you want to make connections to the different scientists that work outdoors, remember when you are working with plants our students are doing things like botanists. When they are observing rocks, they are geologists. As they describe birds, they are working like ornithologists. You and I both know that little learners love big words! So use them with them!

While doing science outdoors is a fabulous idea, remember the most important thing for our children is that they enjoy the learning process and can see themselves being a scientist! Be sure to tell them they can be anything they work hard at doing! If you do any outdoor science, please be sure to share! Can’t wait for spring!

Free Professional Development

The name of my consulting business, Just Simple Science, came about because of two reasons. First, my husband said my business name should include my initials JS. Of course the name had to include the word science, so JS2 was born! The second reason had to do with my desire to share my passion for good science, good curriculum, and good instructional design in the classroom. Who knew I would have the opportunity to help teachers become passionate about science!

Just the other day I had a teacher friend of mine say to me-“You know Jenny Sue, you think so differently when it comes to designing lessons. I would never have thought of designing my lesson in that way. You really need to bottle up those ideas and share them!”

This got me thinking. How could I share my ideas in a way that 1) would not cost teachers or parents an arm and a leg (we know some programs can be really expensive) and 2) would be easy to do?

Today I am proud to launch the Just Simple Science Youtube channel. This channel will offer free professional development to teachers and parents that will be quick (no longer than 20 minute segments) with easy lesson ideas. The videos will include small chunks of content and provide  lesson ideas that will be perfect for classroom or home use!

Please know the videos are created 100% by me! Forgive the terrible editing job sometimes and my cheesy facial expressions! BTW-you are getting the real me-no professional work here!

The first two video learning experiences are all about pumpkins! Even though Halloween has come and gone, you are going to want to go and grab you a couple of pumpkins in order to engage your students in some inquiry!

The two lessons would go well with the following science topics and concepts:

Topics: life cycles, inquiry, decomposers

Concepts: Change over Time

I hope you enjoy these videos and will think about becoming a subscriber to my channel! If I can get 500 subscribers, I can get my own channel id!! Thanks for reading and hopefully you will watch along and become a science nerd like me! Check out my channel here!


S.T.E.M. is an acronym that stands for the four main disciplines known as science, technology, engineering, and mathematics. You may have heard the call to push STEM education in schools. Let me let you in on a little secret- putting these four letters together does not do anything magical in education or in schools.

The magic happens when we expose students to great science experiences that allow them to ask questions and design investigations to find answers to their questions (whether through descriptive, historical, or experimental research investigations). In their quest for answers, students will more than likely have to use math to describe their results and guess what-technology will be the tool that either allows them to capture or organize the data. When it naturally fits, engineering design opportunities come off of great science experiences. Engineers take the best of what scientists produce and ask what can it be used for-how can it solve a problem, or need, or desire.

The answer is not in adding more into an already huge list of standards. The answer lies in designing learning experiences that tap into children’s natural curiosities and allow them to become scientists or engineers.

Time Flies!

Wow-has it really been since January since I last wrote? Time flies! This spring has been a busy time for me. In January, I became the President of the Virginia Association of Science Teachers and had our first meeting in February. In late February, I found out the Martinson Center I oversee was awarded a Math/Science Partnership Grant!

Me with medaslOutside of work, I ran three half marathons and two 10k’s! By May 11th, I had earned 7 incredible Run Disney medals! All in all, it has been a busy spring.

This week I have been up at JMU working at the Content Teaching Academy. It has been my pleasure working with 21 of the best physical science teachers from across Virginia! Tomorrow is our last day and I went to go buy supplies to do a couple of science activities with them. Excited to share my love of science with teachers from across Virginia!


A Quick Status Update

The phonograph, also called gramophone or record player, is a device introduced in 1877 for the recording and reproduction of sound recordings. The recordings played on such a device consist of waveforms that are engraved onto a rotating cylinder or disc. As the recorded surface rotates, a playback stylus traces the waveforms and vibrates to reproduce the recorded sound waves.

The phonograph was invented in 1877 by Thomas Edison. While other inventors had produced devices that could record sounds, Edison’s phonograph was the first to be able to reproduce the recorded sound. His phonograph originally recorded sound onto a tinfoil sheet phonograph cylinder, and could both record and reproduce sounds.

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Free Notebook Photos

Several months ago, I ran into a Kickstarter page for Baron Fig notebooks. I was immediately struck by the aesthetic and simplicity that the notebook promised. Although I foolishly didn’t back Baron Fig at the time, I was delighted to see they recently started shipping.

Fast forward to today, when I finally received a few of these notebooks in the mail. The build quality and paper are top-notch, and provide a great writing experience. I couldn’t help but take a few photos of these beautiful notebooks.

Feel free to use these photos on any of your projects, commercial, personal or otherwise. They could make great Featured Images for your WordPress posts and pages, which is hopefully powered by an Array theme. If not, well, you should fix that immediately.

Revisiting Dieter Rams 10 Principles of Design

Rams began studies in architecture and interior decoration at Wiesbaden School of Art in 1947. Soon after in 1948, he took a break from studying to gain practical experience and conclude his carpentry apprenticeship. He resumed studies at Wiesbaden School of Art in 1948 and graduated with honours in 1953 after which he began working for Frankfurt based architect Otto Apel. In 1955, he was recruited to Braun as an architect and an interior designer. In addition, in 1961, he became the Chief Design Officer at Braun until 1995.

Rams introduced the idea of sustainable development and of obsolescence being a crime in design in the 1970s. Accordingly he asked himself the question: is my design good design? The answer formed his now celebrated ten principles.

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