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The Magnificent Magnifying Lens

Two years ago when I started doing early childhood workshops, I found it hard to find books to align with some of the activities I had developed. This prompted  the idea of writing a book to fill the gaps. I am proud to say there is now a book about how to use a magnifying lens! My friend Heather Newton and I worked on this for several months and then we were lucky enough to find a publisher who liked the idea! Some of you may laugh at the fact the main character is named Jenny Sue, but there is a reason for this! My mother, who’s name is May Sue, grew up in Wakefield, Virginia. My great grandfather Pop Bell lived with them and used to tell my mother these great stories about a girl name Ginny Sue who lived in the woods and swung on a bullis vine.  Ginny Sue went everywhere and was so smart! She could do anything! When my mother found out she did not exist (this was after my  mom climbed up on the roof while they were fixing it to call for Ginny Sue to come out and play), she swore if she had a little girl she would name her Ginny Sue. So change the spelling a little and you have the story of how I got my name. But the use of Jenny Sue as the main character was not about the story of how I got my name, but more about what Jenny Sue represents. Girls can do science. They can become electrical engineers! The world can be their oyster, but they need to hear this is possible and to meet other women who look like them! So enjoy our little story!

 

In case you want to order your very own copy, you can find it here http://www.tatepublishing.com/bookstore/book.php?w=978-1-61862-659-2

Just Simple Science Goes International!

Everyone Loves Science! So this week I have the honor of working with 25 teachers from Panama! Yes-I said Panama! My fist international trip. What an experience. I missed my connecting flight, waiting 5 hours to catch another flight, and made it without the luggage! Hope it arrives today. But the important stuff made it here last week-my science supplies. Hopefully this week teachers will get excited about conducting science experiments with their learners. Although I don’t know the curriculum they teach here, conducting activities and designing experiments is something everyone loves-or at least I love it!

Eggs Amazing!

So how do you start the year off? Easy-just give kids some eggs and watch them get curious!

Now I know what you are thinking, how can a simple egg get kids excited about learning science. Really it is not a simple egg but what you do to an egg that will have them wanting to know more.

Here is how you start-take a raw egg and add enough vinegar to completely cover the egg. Let it sit for 24-48 hours.

Here is what the egg looks like after 2 hours-

As you watch the egg you will see little bubbles coming off the egg. The acid in the vinegar is breaking down the calcium carbonate of the eggshell.

After 48 hours, the shell of the egg is gone and the egg is actually bigger! This happens because once the shell is off, all you have is the membrane of the egg. In the membrane are tiny holes which allow the vinegar to flow into the egg-which is why the egg swells.

Here is what the egg looks like:

So here is the lesson: Begin by telling your students that scientists love to ask questions about the world and do experiments to test out their ideas. Today they are going to become a scientist!

Give the students a plain egg to observe (make sure your students are not allergic to eggs!) Have them generate as many words to describe what they see, what the egg feels like, and if the egg has any smell. Be sure and tell the children to be careful with the egg.

You can use this chart to help your scientists generate observations:

Observation Chart

Then give them the egg that has been in vinegar! The will be amazed. They can again make observations and generate words to describe the egg. Then you can tell them what you did. You can also ask the students what they are curious about. Get ready though-when you ask them this question, the questions will start flying!

To generate an experiment, ask the students what they could change about the liquid. They could change the brand of vinegar to see if it makes a difference. Or they could change the thickness of the liquid. This is what I lead or guide my students to pick. This is a picture of the egg in Kayro Syrup. It is the same egg after it has been in vinegar but you put it in the same amount of syrup. This is a great time to talk to the students about how scientists keep everything the same-we use the same egg, same amount of vinegar, same cup. Again let it sit for 48 hours and then make observations. This time the egg will shrink! Why? Because a thick liquid does not take up as much space as the vinegar.

Allow your students to observe what happens and discuss with their fellow scientists. To connect to literature, read the book An Egg is Quiet by Dianna Aston. This is a great book that gives a scientists description of eggs around the world. When you read this book your children will learn all sorts of new words!

If you want to read about how this lesson was used in a Kindergarten classroom, check out this article.

Come back soon and I will post a picture of the egg after it has been in the syrup!

Senses Garden

Besides being cheap when it comes to doing science,I also like to think of ideas that help connect the curriculum and kids to the real world!

In Pre-K and K here in Virginia, teachers have to teach children about the senses. Senses are really important to scientists. They help us collect information which can be used to help us answer our questions. Typically I have created center activities in which children learn about each sense and the body parts that are associated with either sight, smell, taste, hearing, or feeling. But when I was at my mother-in-laws last week, my kids gave me a great idea!

As we were watering her flowers, my daughter Beth noticed grandma has a rosemary plant. Both of us were excited as we love the smell! This is where the idea came from!Why not create a sense garden in that spot of the school yard that needs a little bit of freshening up! So what could you plant?

For sense of Sight: plant various plants that will showcase color throughout the spring or even in the fall-roses, tulips, maybe even plant a flowering bush!

For Smell-this is my favorite-plant basil, thyme, rosemary!

For Texture-Lamb’s Ear for the softness of its leaves, Coreopsis for its feathery leaves, or a Sedum such as Hen and Chicks for their spiky leaves.

For Sound-if you can, add a small pond with running water or a small outdoor fountain! Or use some wind chimes. You can also put up a bird feeder to draw birds to your garden.

For Taste-be sure to get approval-but you could plant some berry bushes!

So how do you connect a garden to the curriculum-easy-have children go out and explore the plants and work with you to generate words that describe the plants.This is a great way to build vocabulary.

Writing-you can work with children to write what they hear when they go out into the garden or to write sentences that describe what the garden looks like to someone who is not there.

Measurement-a sense garden is great opportunity to measure how plants change over time-students use non-standard or standard units of measurements to measure plants.

How to build a raised garden-found this at home depot-http://www.homedepotgardenclub.com/us/en/landscaping/projects/how-to-build-a-raised-garden-bed?contentid=1142

or here is another idea-simply plant the plants in containers! My mother-in-law took an area by her pool and dug up the grass, put down weed blocker paper, covered the paper with rocks,and then planted her herbs and other items in containers! This way you could move the garden if you needed to! Much cheaper as well-with containers you don’t have to buy all the other materials to make a raised garden bed!

Go Science!

New Spin on an Old Idea

 

I love being cheap! Especially when it comes to teaching and teaching science! As I sit through various trainings, I love to take an idea and figure out how to do the same thing for less. Here is an example of one of my favorite activities to do with preschoolers.

The gist of the activity deals with how do you form various colors from the three main primary colors. You can find everything for this activity at Wal-Mart!

In the cooking section, go and get 3 condiment bottles-you can find them for about 99cents! Then go to the beauty section and find clear hair gel. Next, go to the paper/plastic section and find zip-lock sandwich baggies. Lastly, go to the baking section and find the food coloring.

In the clear condiment bottles, put some hair gel in all three bottles. Then add the food coloring and shake really hard! This will mix up the color throughout the gel. Once you are done-you will have three bottles with your three primary colors.

The next step involves squeezing some out into your plastic bag. Let’s say we want to make green-put a dab of blue hair gel and the yellow hair gel, seal the bag, and then using your finger, move the gels together. Eureka! You have just made green. I know it is hard to tell from my photos-but trust me-the kids love this! Great activity for motor skills!

I Teach K Conference

Last week I had the honor of presenting at the I Teach K conference in Las Vegas-what an experience! I love getting K teachers excited about science.

So I know you must be looking at the picture and thinking to yourself-what were they doing? Well…we were doing science. See sometimes things are not always what they seem. The teachers began this activity by first making observations of their object (they were told not to look throught their object). They listed the color of their object, the shape of their object,and even listed words that described the texture of the object. The teachers were then asked to indicate what they thought the object would do-duh!!! they are glasses! Well, not ordinary glasses. These glasses have light refracting lenses in them so when you look at a light source, you will see the colors in the spectrum. While the teachers got excited about this activity, remember the goal of science is to get students working and thinking like a scientist. So how do we turn this simple activity into an experiment-easy-just change the type of light you look at-natural versus man-made! Or you can change the shape of the light source. Just don’t look at the sun! Not good for your eyes!

Where you can find these glasses:

Mystery Bracelt

Tonight I got the chance to work with the 4H club here in Virginia Beach. We did some really cool science experiments. Tomorrow I will post some other ideas we played with.

With springtime just around the corner, here is a great experiment to do with your kids while showing them the importance of sunscreen!

Does SPF really matter?

Materials:

  • UV sensitive beads (ordering information listed below)
  • Sunscreen (15 and 30)

Procedure:

  1. Begin by having your child make observations of the bead: so what does it look like? (color: white; texture: smooth; shape: round)Feel like? (hard) record these ideas.
  2. Ask your child, what can you do with this bead? (make a necklace, bracelet, put it in your hair)
  3. Tell your child the bead has special properties. Have them make a bracelet with one or more of the beads. Then go outside (needs to be sunny). Don’t say anything until your child notices the bead(s) have done something really cool!! (they change color in the sunlight)
  4. Ask your child to give you all of their questions they have about the bead. If you have the time, allow your child to find the answers to his/her question. For example,do the beads change in regular light? (they don’t, but let your child find the answer and record it)
  5. Next, tell your child you have been wondering about the effectiveness of sunscreen-specifically if higher numbers matter. What could we do to find the answer to this question? (hopefully they will tell you to put sunscreen on the bead and then observe to see if it changes color)
  6. Conduct the experiment and see how the bead changes when you put SPF 15 or 30 on them. Have your child do three tests and then take an average.

Other questions your child can test: Does the time of day make a difference with regard to the rate of color change? Does the brand of sunglasses make a difference in terms of how much they change color? Do the beads change color while put under water? What does the bead do under a regular light bulb?

Content Help for Parents: The beads contain a pigment that is sensitive when exposed to UV light from the sun or other UV sources (UV flashlights will work, but the beads will not be as clear). Beads are not affected by visible light, so they do not change color inside and are not affected by light bulbs.

To order the beads:

http://www.teachersource.com/ (you can get one bracelet kit for $5.95; assorted bag of colors about 250-$6.95)

http://www.stevespanglerscience.com/ (for 250 beads-$6.95)

www.brightguy.com (to order a UV flashlight-they run about $32)

Just Simple Science begins…

And so it begins! My own blog. I don’t even know why I am doing this. Time is not something I have a lot of these days. From being a mother of two fantastic children, a wife, and having a full time job, sometimes I don’t know if I am coming or going! But with the start of any new year, we all make resolutions-so here is mine-to make more memories with my children while sharing my love of science with other parents who might struggle for ideas of things they can do with their own kids. Hopefully someone out there will find this blog useful or helpful!