Tuesday, November 1, 2011

What to do with the pumpkin?

Don't know about you, but carving up a pumpkin is something I love to do with the kids each year! But even more than carving a pumpkin, I love to see what happens after a pumpkin begins to rot! I know this may seem strange, but science is all around us and sometimes you have to just go with it in order to foster curiosity! So, instead of throwing it out this year, turn it into a learning experience with your children!

This is a great blog that discusses how one mom and her son try to answer the question "What happens to a rotting pumpkin?"

What I love about the idea is how she went with her son's question and worked with him to find the answer. Instead of just having her son observe the pumpkin, she created a simple, inexpensive journal in which he could not only draw a picture of what he saw, but she could write for him to document his ideas! If scientists do this in their world, shouldn't kids? Yes, they should! Imagine if you used a camera to document the decay. You could create a photo story of the event or even print the pictures out and tape them into your child's journal so they have real pictures that show the decay.

My teacher friends know I am always on the look out for activities that can be tweaked to make simple experiments for our young scientists. So how could you turn this activity into a simple experiment? It begins with thinking about what we could change about the pumpkin. Well, think about this-what about the physical properties of the pumpkin could we change that might make a difference on decomposition? What about size? Does a bigger pumpkin decompose the same way as a smaller one? Does it decay in the same rate? What about changing the type of fruit we use-so instead of using a pumpkin, because we know what a pumpkin does, how about an apple? Will an apple decompose the same way as a pumpkin? Simple experiments always involve changing one thing and then making observations or collecting data to see if that change made a difference or not.

So don't throw out the pumpkins just yet!

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

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!

Thursday, July 28, 2011

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!

Thursday, July 21, 2011

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!

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

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: