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Measuring Up In Science With Hands On Stations

At the beginning of each school year I like to make sure that my students are ready for using science tools by creating and sharing Science Center's geared around measurement. 

Not only does that help them understand how to measure, but it also will help them get ready for each of our FOSS kits that require them to measure with a variety of tools! For my older students,  I focus on the tools that will allow them to measure capacity such as syringes, measuring cups, and graduated cylinders. We focus on helping them measure length, width, and height with a ruler, tape measure, and meter stick.
 Finally, we focus on mass or weight using a scale and a balance. Measuring the weight of something can be as easy as using cubes or as complicated as using grams. With my younger scientists, I focus on learning how to use a hand lens properly, how a balance balances and how can we fill capacity tools to a given line. Depending on the grade, the more I use a variety of tools that get them working hands-on.

We also focus on the universal way to measure things in science which is the metric system. That means working with centimeters ... grams... and milliliters! If you need to focus on Customary Standard Unit, do what is necessary for you. I use the metric system in our science room in all of my classes kindergarten through 5th grade. 

 What I love most about starting our school year off with measurement stations in science is that I can have my kindergarten through 5th graders be able to do Hands-On activities!  To get them started on the right track when we start our experiments is critical to saving valuable time especially when it is hard enough to fit science into a busy school day for my dear teacher friends. 

I want to share with you  ways to  to be able to set up stations so that you too can add measurement into your science lesson time making science child's play! 

Themed Stations Are the Way to Go!

It doesn't matter if it's kindergarten through fifth-grade you can set out tools and station cards and then go from station to station with guiding them on how to use the tools then you can release them to be able to try using those tools on their own. 

Finding a theme in measurement is a great way to get them excited about doing something that  isn't always easy for them. We don't spend a ton of time on measurement so this is another way to tie science and math together. From Measurement Olympics to I Know an Old Lady Who Swallowed a Shell which I use...creating themes allows those kiddos to be able to be excited as they learn the tools along the way. 

I have them show me what they know. With the stations in place it also allows me to walk around the room and help students that are having a difficult time. While others are busy, I can reteach and support struggling students. 

So grab those hand lenses... those balances and scales...a handful of rulers and even those syringes as well as timers and you are set to go. If you want to save time setting them up, grab these Science Measurement Review Packs! 

Find these Packs {HERE}

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Science Incentives and Positive Behaviors For Specialists

Discipline is never easy, and after 26 years of teaching it still isn't, but I am hoping to focus this year on a new way to encourage making good choices! My biggest challenges always come in kindergarten and first grade so I am hoping to find a way to get even our struggling readers motivated to make good choices for the good of the team!

Here is how it works...
1. You will notice the K-5 yellow cards. That shows the grade level.
2. The colors are coordinated by the day of the week I have them. I have four regular ed. Science classes on Day one or red cards featured on the top lines.
3. The yellow poster above the grades shows our core values at our school which are Be Respectful, Be Responsible, and Be Safe.
I made faces that have a smiley on one side and a frown on the other. There are three faces clipped to each core value...because they get three strikes before the class is out! That is what the three boxes on the bottom...
When a negative behavior occurs, a reteach happens. I always refer to our behavior chart as I do that. If the same child is causing the whole class to be unsuccessful three times, that child is not able to participate in group activities and their job is to watch for what respectful, responsible, and/or safe behavior in our room looks like. They may join the group after a conference and at times may do the activity at a table by themselves.

Now, what happens if the class gets through a whole science hour long class without getting three strikes? I place a smiley face on the first letter of science. Each week, they can add a new letter to science until they spell the whole word! Once the word science is spelled by a particular class, they get a STEM reward! Sneaky enough, I will tie it into something we are doing!

Whether it is a STEM reward or a fun activity that is ready to go when they reach their goal, working together as a team to help ALL students achieve is a goal that I am sure that we all have. In the regular ed. classroom your chart is different than a specialist, but working with over 15 different classrooms allows me to find ways to help our classrooms teachers, too. Having students learn positive ways to be respectful, responsible, and safe is good for EVERYONE!

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Getting Ready For Back To School With New Resources!

You know when you are almost ready to head back to school, as I know some of my teacher friends are already there, you start planning what your bulletin boards will look like... you start buying supplies to fill all your needs, and you start thinking about curriculum...at least that is what this week entailed.

I met with my lovely friend, both of us lost sections of science, so both of us are in the same bind...we need to create a program that will be data driven, teach science or STEM, engaging, hit second through fifth grade and is completed in 40 minutes. That is a lot to muster, but I was up for the challenge.

Then, I started thinking isn't that a problem that we all face? Lessons that need to be:
1. Fun
2. Data driven
3. Hit standards
4. short enough to fit in to a 40-60 minute block
5. And seeing that I need to do four classes, one of each 2-5...differentiated. (otherwise I am prepping for 10 lessons each week, no thank you)

Goal 1: Digital Assessment for my FOSS units

Time to get crackin'. My first thing I had to think about was that I need to create some digital science activities because my first graders and second graders need more assessments that are easy to grade and have them be part of their learning! The thing that drove me was our FOSS kits. First grade themes I worked on were: DAY and NIGHT, SOUND and LIGHT, INSECT and SPIDER, and VERTEBRATE. Second grade focuses on: PLANTS, HABITATS, WEATHER, and MATTER!

                       Find them for first grade {HERE} and for second grade {HERE}.

Goal 2: Grade 2-5th Grade resource for my Science/STEM enrichment classes

Now, I have to create four packs for my third through fifth graders. Using our iPads is one of our key goals for use in assessment this next year. I am also on Evaluation so I set this as a goal of mine. I am hoping this can help you, too!

My second goal was to find a way to not have to prep for 10 science lessons a week...yes a week. I needed to find a way to differentiate a pack that includes science and STEM as well as ways to gather data, focus on NGSS, and be engaging. Yikes. That is a handful!

I focused on NGSS themes that were cross cutting! I created STEM Quick Picks because I needed to use them quickly within the 40 minute time period that I work with them each week...above and beyond the hour they get with their own class.

How I will use the pack: first week...introduction of the NGSS concept, then reading connection, followed by small science activity. Second week, review of concept, interactive notebook and vocabulary review...followed by STEM lesson and then task card review.

Friends...I have 10 weeks to do so that means I have three more to make! I am on it though...they take a long time, but they will be worth it! Find the STEM Quick Picks {HERE}.

Goal 3: STEM Connections for After School Classes, Extensions, and our new STEM Lab in our Library

Each fall, when our after school program starts, our students love STEM stations...but that is not the only reason I worked hard to create new STEM activities...

This year, we are creating a STEM lab in our library! We were able to get some funding for some great resources, but that is never enough. I was able to utilize the Makerspace packs that I made last summer by printing them off and putting them on ring clips ready to go this year. I also created Seasonal School Box STEM packs so that our Library/Tech teacher can have interchangeable activities that can be featured each season! Find Seasonal School Box STEM Packs {HERE}

I might have another few packs up my sleeve this next week before I have to go back to school! I will post about them next week along with a new freebie! But for now...here is a free Seasonal School Box STEM bonus for stopping by and getting to the end! {HERE} 

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Great Sites For Science

Getting ready for back to school or already there? I have compiled Great Science Sites that can help you add science to your school day with ease! These sites are my go to's for what they have to offer as well as their ability to add to the structure of my lessons, as well as enhance what I am teaching.

For informative  videos for 2-5th grade I love Crash Course Kids found on Youtube. There is such a great variety of science topics from space to food chains, animals and matter just to name a few that I have used. They are extremely short in time (2-4 minutes), while others like gravity is over 20 minutes in length. Here is an introduction...
Another go to for great science themed videos is SciShow Kids found on YouTube. This site has such a different variety of science topics, and can be shown to younger learners, too. There is a great eclipse video that really explains it well! Check out their intro below!

Let's take a look at non-fiction books. As a science teacher, it is imperative that I use interactive read-alouds to teach a science concept. Remembering that what I am reading is not necessary at their reading level. Whether you paraphrase or read a quick non-fiction book that helps you teach a science concept my three go-to's are perfect for projecting the books on my smartboard!

The first one is free to educators! It is Epic Books! It has an amazing selection of non-fiction science books for all ages! I use them with all of my K-5 classes! As for the other two that I go to for non-fiction resources are Myon which our district has purchased a subscription to. It provides other options that Epic Books doesn't have. My third go to is Science A-Z. It is also a paid subscription, but gives me the ability to print books for my kids so they can take them home. They also are project-able and can be used on their iPads.

Looking for a free year of science lessons? Go to Mystery Science. After that you pay for it, but it is filled with lessons, videos, and experiments as well as ideas!

For Science review...check out Study Jams! Video Review, picture review, and even assessments for Science and now Math! Here is an example of one that I use...

Onto NGSS resources...I love looking for great resources on NGSS Hub. Now, I can't say I use everything that I see or that it fits just right into my roadmap that I need to follow, but sometimes you just need a little more...

Here are great simulations for science found at PhET Interactive Simulations! Love PhEt for balance and motion, concentration in our Mixtures and Solutions unit, and Static Electricity to name a few that I have used!

Finally, if you want to learn a little bit more about STEM and how to implement it into your classroom, there are some great professional development videos and guidance from STEM Teaching Tools.

The recipe for a great science lesson doesn't have to be so difficult. Use the framework you have in place...mine is FOSS...add a non-fiction book to start your lesson off...(there are also great picture books that connect perfectly, too!)

Followed by an engaging activity or experiment...even a STEM lesson...followed by a video to help you with the facts and you are on your way to making science child's play! And even more fun for you!

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Back To School STEM Starters

For many teachers it is time for back to school. A time when you prepare your classroom for a new group of learners. You start planning your lessons and creating new ways to inspire your class!

We each come back to school with new passion for our positions, new goals set, and along with that you want to find ways to get to really know your students right away.

I love starting the year off with STEM challenges! Not only do they allow me to see how my students work in groups or teams, I can see their personalities shine through when given a challenge!

When starting the year, we often search for great ice breakers that can also allow us to see if our students have the growth mindset that will allow them to persevere and problem solve when faced with challenges.

A STEM challenge can do all of that in a very short period of time. Although going through procedures and expectations are a must, an engaging STEM challenge can be the perfect insight into getting to know your new kiddos!

Here are a few tips to get your STEM Stations ready for back to school!

Tip 1: Supplies

Get organized by finding bins or buckets that can store your supplies. I was able to get plastic tubs donated from a local hospital to keep many of my STEM and science supplies in. Shoe boxes or even pencil cases make great STEM storage supplies more organized.

Tip 2: Designate a Spot

I like to designate a spot in my room for STEM and science supplies. When it is time for your students to get materials, they always know where to go. I call it the STEM store. I assign numbers each time they come in the room. When it is time to get supplies, they know where to go to get them, and then when it is time for clean up a student's number is called to return any supplies that can be reused. It cuts down on waste, time wasted, and it help you stay organized especially if you have back to back classes like I do!

Tip 3: Ice Breakers

Starting off your year with a team builder is always a great way to kids actively engaged! I love this free pack from Smart Chick. Can You Save Fred?

 I love creating my own activities, but this activity was one I used when I started six years ago so I guess it is my go to for getting my students working together, however as we progress into our back to school challenges, I love my differentiated back to school  lessons for my K-5th graders!
For kindergartners and first graders and first graders I use Jenga or the blocks from the FOSS Tree unit. Perfect for little hands! As the students get a bit older I add other supplies for them to create with!

Tip 4: Free Supplies

Often, I get asked how you can find cheap or free supplies for your STEM stations. I first create a box for outside my door that says donations. We are an 82% poverty school so those supplies might be egg cartons, toilet paper rolls, empty boxes, or even newspaper. I have a list for you to hang up for your donation box!
Free Donation Sign
Tip 5: Activities For September

I like to have all of my activities for my STEM lab set to go before I get back. I love that we can readily find apples and I can usually find apple donations for our STEM labs. I created some fun free apple activities to help my K-2nd grade teacher friends found {HERE}.

If you are looking for more STEM-tastic ideas...Check these Apple-ing theme packs {HERE}

Whether you have been in school...already back...or preparing to go back...the Science School Yard can help you make Science and STEM child's play!
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Garden Weeds Otherwise Known As Problems In Your Garden

Planting a garden hasn't been all rainbows and unicorns! There are a lot of problems that can come up when you plant a school garden with kids. Today, I can't wait to share with you some common problems we faced in our school garden and some solutions to get you on the right track!

Problem 1: Take for example when seeds do not germinate! That is the worst thing when kids are waiting for their little seeds to have a little sprout growing from it and it never happens...you have to figure out what to do and my suggestion is to teach a lesson in germination. You can also create an anchor chart prior to planting that helps them understand what seeds need to grow. 

Quick Tip: If you plant seeds without a name on the container or baggie, then the kiddos own all of the seeds that grow or don't grow. We then go to the garden with partners to plant what grew as a group. It seems to eliminate any issues when seeds don't grow (especially their's!)

Another thing you can do then is to discuss why a seed did not germinate. I do that before we even grow a plant as a type of check off list we can refer back to which helps us go back to that anchor chart to predict and make judgments. It really helps your learners understand what might have occurred. 

Problem 2: Another problem that can exist is planting in the garden and then having it die on you. That is an awful feeling when an entire crop isn't productive or the sun was too hot and burned your plants, or even over the weekend they weren't wet enough and dried up...I have to say that all of the above has happened to me at one time or another over the last five years. I can also add a hungry squirrel who ate all of our squash...pumpkins...sunflowers... I can also add to that by saying one year the only flowers we had on our pumpkins were males....I had to teach a bit about the birds and the bees...

Quick Tip: Once again take the opportunity to have a teachable moment such as teaching the life cycle or what plants need to survive. Head back to an anchor chart that you create with your students! It really is a great way to reference!

Here are some other fine examples of why our plants died...I have been know to  put them underneath a grow light and you leave them for over a weekend and you  forget to water them....

or you  forget to turn off the lights because when you come back...you have fried your plants...

Problem 3: Shall we talk about weeds!

Weeds....weeds...and more weeds!!!! There are always weeds to contend with! 

Who is going to pick them? When are you going to pick them?  Who is going to be out in that garden with the kids talking about how weeds are not going to do well for your garden plants because they eat up all of the nutrients in the soil? What are you going to do with the weeds once you pick them? Compost? Leave them lay? Put them in bins for someone to haul away? All things to think about...

Quick Tips: There are great lesson, but when kids pick the plants instead of the weeds there is another problem within a problem. Pick the weed you want them to get for you. I then have them focus on just that weed. You can give each group a different weed to pull, but remember to help them by teaching them leaf structure. You will always have someone pick the wrong thing, but that is a lesson in itself!

Problem 4: All your plants are growing who is going to watch them who is going to pick the vegetables?

Without a team trying to figure out how to harvest those vegetables and maintain watering them and all of the other things that come along with growing a school garden can get overwhelming!

Quick Tips:  Establish your team that will help you water, weed, and harvest. Here are some great options that we have tried:

1. Remind 101 is set up for parents that sign up before school is done to come in and weed, water, and pick. The reward is to take vegetables home. I remind them what to take home and what to let grow.

2. Teach a summer garden class. Each Monday, six weeks out of the summer I teach a garden class. I teach STEM and science lessons and then we weed, plant, and harvest. This helps teach students what the process of growing a garden is all about from start to finish. 

3. Have Americorp help you or other agencies looking to volunteer and help. They are always looking for volunteer hours and I have had great success with volunteers. Check your local garden clubs, Master Gardeners, and University Agriculture classes, too!

One more quick tip that I always get asked...What do you do with all of the vegetables you harvest?

1. We do ding dong ditch with a special garden note on it so when we go to neighborhood homes they know where the veggies came from.

2. I go to our local food pantry, donate, and then take a picture of them receiving it...we want to teach paying it forward.

3. I know where some of my poorest families live as well as our low income housing apartments and I actually like the ice cream truck open my trunk of my car and give out bags of vegetables! They know my car by now and come running! I had to figure out how to divy out the vegetables because they actually remember from week to week who got the "cabbage" or "zucchini".

4. I harvest and bag and I leave them at the front of the school with a sign, please take one! I also go to our local pool that is right behind the school and find families to give food away to!

5. We also plant a ton of vegetables that will be harvested for our school lunchroom. So whether it is our egg roll garden or our coleslaw garden, the cabbages and carrots will wait until our kids get back. Our popcorn garden and pumpkin patch can wait until fall! We replant our peas and pick our beans all season as well as lettuce and kale! 

Are considering a school garden?  I want you to know that planting a seed does really help kids grow, but you also have to take into consideration all of the other components that make a school garden successful. When you have those all in place before you even start putting a seed in the ground you can find out that a seed is truly magical. 
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Science Picture Books For Back To School

It is so very important to find great picture books to start off your school year, however science is often times put off to the side for lots of different reasons. However, I want to help you find some great picture books-both fiction and non-fiction that can springboard your science lessons!

Grabbing a science themed book that you can also use in your language arts lesson is one of the best ways to tie in the two subjects! The best part of a picture book can teach our students about the world around us as well as introduce a science concept or principle showing that science is all around us.
Use a story to bring a science concept to life or give them the background knowledge they need to make connections!

For a K-2 introduction to what science is all about is, What is Science written by Rebecca Kai Dotlich. This book has great picture clues to show primary students that science from planets to rocks, to hurricanes, to animals...It gives you a way to start science curiosity and the springboard to asking questions about the world around them!

For 3-5 picture book, I love the book The Most Magnificent Thing by Ashley Spires. It is about a girl and her dog who want to make the most magnificent thing. Why I love this book it shows her frustration and the fact that she quits because of it. It can give you a great opportunity to teach perseverance,  perspective, and positive growth mindset. As our older students have to work as a team to complete experiments it is important to set the stage for what it might take to succeed!

Not sure about other great picture books to use for your science lessons...here is a great post that shares over 100 perfect picture books for you to think about. Head on over to Geek Wrapped for their list of Science Books for Kids!

I am the facilitator of our school garden. When our kiddos come back to school I love to integrate a picture book when we go out to our garden to see the plant progress. Here are some of my go to garden picture books...

1. How Does Your Garden Grow? by Gerta Muller (perfect for a STEM Mary, Mary Quite Contrary activity!)

2. I love Up In The Garden and Down In The Dirt by Kate Messner. It gives an overall perspective of everything that happens in a garden over the course of a year.

3. I also love getting the littles outside so anytime I can read a story about colors, letters, or even numbers that is a bonus. I love Planting A Rainbow by Lois Ehlert.

I also want to share with you my favorite STEM books that can foster building with K-5th graders. For STEM activities for littles, take any nursery rhyme or fairy tale and tie it to STEM, but for older kids take any of Andrea Beaty books such as Ada Twist Scientist, Rosie Revere, Engineer, or even Iggy Peck, Architect.

Looking for more picture book ideas check out my friend Kim, over at Stress-Free Teaching for some more great back to school picture book ideas!

It is exciting to plan for the new school year. One of my favorite products for the back to school season that helps me tie in a ton of great picture books along with a holiday theme are my STEM seasonal packs!


Amazon is hosting a Black Friday Sale this Friday, and I didn't want them to be the only ones with great deals...Black Friday Sale On My STEM All Year Pack Here! (For checking out my blog is is up on sale today already!) The lowest price of the year! The price goes up Saturday so get the 32 STEM Activity Pack today! This deal is like getting two packs free! Great with any seasonal picture book! Let the STEM fun begin!
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