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STEM Lessons and Family Traditions

This week I had a new student arrive in my science room. He had an amazingly unique name one representative of our Native American culture here in Wisconsin. so I asked him if he was Native American and his reply was, "No, I am HoChunk." I shared with him that he was in fact a first American and a little bit of what that meant. It made me start to think about heritage. My future son in law is Cherokee and with this little boy's statement it made me realize that many of our youth often may have no clue where their ancestors came from or even what a tradition is. I know it might even seem funny for the science teacher to try to figure out ways to even add it in her classroom, but sometimes learning about one's self and who we are and even where we came from allows for our students to make valuable connections in any classroom.
From the Hmong New Year to Cinco De Mayo from Kwanzaa to Hanukkah you can find ways to tie a story...writing idea or STEM activity to get your learners sharing! Here is how we did it in February...

Chinese New Year/Holiday Connections: 
This week marked the start of the Chinese New Year, the year of the dog. I teach an enrichment group of 16 fourth and fifth graders so it made me think how can I connect the two with reading, math, and a bit of STEM?

We sat in a circle, a bit of restorative practice and community building...and I began asking them what a tradition was. I shared the definition and then proceeded to share some of our family favorites. We have a pickle on our tree and if you find the pickle you get an extra gift. We tie dye t-shirts each fourth of July, we still have an Easter Egg Hunt, we play Christmas Bingo for prizes every year, and we on birthdays set out their favorite ice cream, drink, candy bar, and gum and decorate the table area in the morning when my kids wake up. We talked about holidays can have traditions as well as cultures. I gave them time to think and then we shared.

The Hook:
I then started to share about the Chinese New Year and what you might see on a placement at a Chinese Restaurant. We looked at the mat and figured out what year they were born in and what animal represents them. We also looked at what traits that they are suppose to possess.
Image result for chinese zodiac placemat
Making Connections Can Be Simple

Time to make those connections...my group was comprised of Hmong, Hispanic, African American, and Anglo students. I showed a video that gave them great background in the Chinese New Year! Love that it was made for kids by Panda Express (yum!)

STEM Activities and Challenges: 

We then were able to pick what Chinese New Year Activity they wanted to do...Chinese dragon puppet, Fortune Coin Purse, or Pagoda Structure. As we worked on our projects, I continued the discussion. This is where the magic happened...I asked our Hmong students what color clan they came from...One of them said White ...and another replied he didn't know. She went on to ask him to say mom...which he said, "mom"...she asked him to say mom in Hmong and she told him he was also white because of how he said it! We listened to traditional music while we worked and I shared a Dragon Dance on the Smartboard.

Another student asked me where I came from and I told them all that I was English, Scottish from the Narrn Clan, Bohemian and Austrian. They asked me about my clan. This my friends, is what it is all about...making connections with our students.
That day, we not only made amazing pagodas, coin purses, and dragon puppets, but we learned about Quinceaneras (when one of our students turns 15 she will have a special party as a rite of passage), special foods such as Pho everyone eats at holiday time, the Hmong New Year and how it is similar to the Chinese New Year in dance and outfits, our zodiac sign to just name a few! We must take opportunities to learn about our students and to let them interact and share. We can learn so much about each other and build a sense of community where our students can build bonds and friendships!

Looking for a four STEM ideas ready to go? From puppets to coin purses, pagodas, and fire crackers this pack is sure to get your learners talking and connecting! Find the STEM Chinese New Year Pack HERE!

How do you connect with your students? Do you have any classroom traditions? I would love to hear them. Leave me your amazing ideas in the comment section below!

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Four Ways To Use Digital Activities In and Out of the Science Classroom

This week we are gearing up for Digital Learning Day which occurs on February 22nd. There are a lot of really great ways that you can add technology to your teaching to increase student learning objectives and outcomes.

For the last two years we have been a 1:1 iPad school. We are equipt with Chrome books that come in a caddy for easy access as well. I am fortunate to have a Smartboard as well as Apple TV. So with that I found ways to utilize technology into my science lessons in a variety of ways that work for each grade level I work with from Kindergarten to Fifth grade.

Here are Four of My Top Technology Tips for  Elementary Classrooms:

Tip 1: Project a Smartboard Interactive for K-1 Classrooms

It isn't always easy to have student's from many different teachers' rooms. Some of the students come with the knowledge of how to get an airdrop or even how to get to their Google Drive, but with only an hour with my littles, I had to find different ways to utilize my time, as well as check for understanding of key Science concepts...That is why I started creating Smartboard Projectable Activities that have a Science Theme or tie in math and language arts.

 I love how students can come up to the Smartboard and drag and drop to show me what they know. I also love how this is a great way to have students sit nicely to be called on and learn that we don't always get a turn to come up.

We can even agree or disagree and help a friend if they are stuck. We use the thumbs up and thumbs down method so no one is blurting and we all have an answer. 

Tip 2: Digital Quizzes Check For Understanding

Looking for ways to assess differently? I found that my 1st through 5th graders like the Google Drive Assessments because they love being able to look at a picture, circle their answer on a sheet that they can self-correct, or hand in to show what they know. In first grade, I have them sit with me and I show the slides on the Smartboard and walk around to check if they circled a word, but with my 2nd through 5th grade, we have everyone sign up with their Google user name and password and they are set with their own copy. All I do is give them a record sheet and it is an easy way to get accountability as well as guide your lessons.  (I even had my principal take the quiz when she came into my classroom to observe. She was pretty impressed!)

If you are needing to do it quickly...once again you can show it up on the Smartboard while students circle their answers at their seats as you scroll through the slides. 

Tip 3: Airdropped Sheets for Explain Everything or Pic Collage Save Paper and Allow For Better Understanding of Concepts

One of my favorite apps is Explain Everything.  I used to use Pic Collage until our district bought us this app. Both work great! 

My students can get a record sheet airdropped to them and they place the picture that is now in their camera roll into their "Science Notebook" in Explain Everything. Once they add it to their notebook they can lock in the sheet, add pictures, text, voice recordings...its a great way to look back on our experiments to show what we know and to recall what we learned the week before!

Taking a picture or video of the demonstration of an experiment has cut down on the questions asked or the lack of understanding of what to do next. It allows for reflection and instead of drawing what they see, they can take a real time picture that shows exactly what happened! This can be looked at week after week, lesson after lesson to continue to make connections! It also increases vocabulary by letting students voice record or take pictures of anchor charts, vocabulary on the board and more!

Tip 4:  QR Codes and iPads Make Learning Fun!

Increasing Vocabulary for Tier Three Words is difficult at times because they are low frequency words that appear in classes such as Science and Social Studies...classes that are often times ignored due to the increase in math and language arts. The way to get students actively engaged in learning vocabulary...studying for a test...creating partner activities that challenge who might know more information...and even assessment can be done through QR Codes!  Using a QR Code Generator such as https://www.the-qrcode-generator.com/ is an easy way to write an answer and then copy the QR Code onto a poster or task card for them to answer questions or what we love WRITE THE ROOM or SCOOT. 

We place the cards around the room and they Scoot around the room finding each card, writing  down their answers and then checking their work. I even place task cards on their tables for them to read, write, and correct to increase vocabulary and understanding!

Whether you have a classroom of ipads or just a few for a station, or Smartboard using technology with your students will prepare them for the future. Technology is always changing and sometimes that is hard to embrace because it is not always what we grew up with, but showing your students that you can utilize technology to teach makes connections that can help them learn not only Science, but any subject!

Hope you enjoyed reading about how I use Technology in my classroom! Time For a Giveaway! You have a chance to win a $50 TPT gift card when you comment on each of our posts in the blog hop! 

Comment below to let me know how you can use these ideas in your classroom! Then click the image above and read another way to add digital learning into your classroom from my techie friend, Kristy over at Two Peas and a Dog! Keep hopping for great tips, tricks and content from more amazing TECHIE TEACHERS!
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Valentine STEM and Organization Made Easy

Remember when you might have been able to have a Valentine's Day Party...along with treats...time to make boxes to house all of the Valentine cards in them...organize snacks and treats...well now those days are over for many schools...including mine. I do not LOVE wasting valuable instructional time so in order to find some time for fun I LOVE to add STEM to my Valentine's Day!

The best thing that I could have figured out as I teach all of our Kindergarten through Fifth Graders is that at times if I differentiate my big STEM Engineering Ideas I can set up one bucket, create different sheets that work for different grade levels, and when a holiday like Valentine's Day comes around I can be set to go hour after hour...all I have to do is replenish the materials used...and here's a BIG one...have each group that finishes with the bucket to leave it as close to the way they found it as possible! (I find that before we share out...they need to clean up because the group that cleans up first gets to present first.

Here are some great ideas that can really be differentiated for multiple grade levels! Today was the best when a group of fifth graders were watching the presentations I recorded of the second graders and I heard them say how those second graders sure are smart because their ideas were amazing!  The other weird thing was that our littles were able to work faster and more efficiently than our fifth graders as well!


STEM Station 1: Candy Heart Carrier
In this one has you creating a short love note using at least four candy hearts in the note. We used note cards for our notes. I love how creative the kids can get with the candy hearts. As for the carrier...give the kiddos some ideas on how to carry mail or objects and they are set to go! Give them paper, string, tape, glue...

STEM Station 2: Valentine Bouquet
This one was so cute...I had them making flowers for someone they loved. Using paper, tissue paper, straws, pipe cleaners, glue, tape...the cutest part was when we got done one of my kiddos came over and gave me their flowers! So super adorable!

STEM Station 3: Candy Heart Dispenser

So I did this one with second graders and fourth and fifth graders...the second graders were so very creative and were able to do it quicker than those older kids. Go figure! I gave them Styrofoam cups (other cups, too but they seemed to go to the Styrofoam), tongue depressors, candy hearts, tape, toilet paper tubes...I love how they could get the candy hearts to come out one at a time. This one really showed their creativity!

STEM Station 4: Love Bugs
Time for some Love Bugs! I love the heart shaped wings!
Great review of the parts of an insect. Have them include a head, thorax, and abdomen, eyes, antennas, six legs...give them egg cartons, bottle tops, construction paper, pipe cleaners, straws, google eyes...Get them making a love bug for a love bug of theirs to give it to!

STEM Station 5: Cupid's Archery Game (Extra Game We Are Playing On Valentine's Day This Year! Stay Tuned For Pictures!)

Having them create a bow using plastic spoons and knives if you tape up the sharp parts, Craft sticks, Straws, Straws, Rubber bands, Paper clips, and good ole' masking tape!

But, Let's talk organization... I love having the supplies in the bucket, but remember to have them clean up and recycle or throw away before they even put anything back in the bucket. Only reusable supplies and unused supplies get put back in exactly like they first saw it. 

I have them clean up before we share and line up. We have a quality control person (bucket brigade) that inspects the bucket and then brings in back to our central location. They are in charge of making sure the team is cleaned up! It works pretty slick!

I will be sharing more tips for easy clean up in an upcoming post!

Want it all in one place? STEM Velope Valentine Pack can be found here! I love these interactive holiday themed activities...just in time for Valentine's Day!

Don't forget to sign up for our Science School Yard Scoop~lots of great extra freebies in your inbox as well as in our free resource library!

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Are You Ready For Some Football...STEM Stations and Family Connections

Next weekend is the Super Bowl and to get ready we created some amazingly fun STEM football activities to play during our at home "Super Bowl Parties"...if they do not watch the game or have a get together...we shared that this would be a great way to get their families playing together this next week!

Sometimes I just love to find ways to get families involved. That is seriously one of our School Goals! Let's walk through what you can do to get your parents involved in your STEM products!

First...connect with parents by sending a pre-game warm up

What does that mean? Send a note home sharing with them that you will be making a fun game for the Super Bowl (or insert what ever else your theme is) and have them donate or have them share a time they had a ball with their child. Bring them into what you are doing in science (insert any other subject).

Second... pump the kids up by showing them football clips, high lights, Past Super Bowl High Lights and Book Connections

This will get them ready for understanding the game a bit. Give them some background. Another great idea is to share a picture book.

Third...Set them up for successful STEM Lessons

Set out the supplies at a table for a Supply Smorgasbord, or get supply buckets ready with everything a table needs...two easy ways to make sure that they are ready to go.

Have your sheets ready and have them go through the design process. I set the sheets out at every table, set them in a pile to have a helper count them out, or even just put them in a pile as part of the smorgasbord...and you are set to go!

Now let them go through the design process after sharing with them the constraints. Set a timer for them to get done at a given time and give them reminders along the way so that they are finished when the time is up. At times some groups may not get done, we discuss YET and share what we would do next as well as what we do have!

Here are this week's STEM Stations to get ready for the Big Super Bowl Party!

 All you need is 2 pieces of paper, 6 dixie cups, tape, and cotton balls to build it!
 For the Goal Posts you need straws, Popsicle sticks, and masking tape.

I have given options for this one, but I am using it with younger kids in 2nd and third grade so I am giving each person 6 sticks, three rubber bands, a bottle top and a pom pom!

Need it all in one place with sheets, supply lists, language arts and math here is the link for the Football STEM Activity Pack HERE!

Finally, don't forget to have them create directions for their games, give them a try in class, and then take them home for families to play! A perfect way to get them connecting!

The Packers aren't in the Super Bowl this year, so I guess I will root for good snacks and perfect party food! I myself am making Buffalo Chicken Dip and Veggie Pizza...

How do you connect with your parents? Would love to hear it in the comments below!

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Sunshine Where Have You BEAN...Adding Jack and The Bean Stalk STEM

The sun has not come out for days...it has been cold here in Wisconsin and indoor recess is killing them! (and the teachers...) Time to pull out the fairy tale STEM packs to save the day!  Here are some quick and easy ways to add fairy tale STEM to your lessons!

Get a variety of fairy tale books that cover the theme you are trying to cover. 

For example, Jack and the Beanstalk. I use Epic Books for mine. It's a free site for teachers when you sign up.

Tie it into what you are already doing.

Using Jack and the Beanstalk can be used during a sound unit if you choose to  make a harp. We make a harp/stringed instrument using cardboard and rubber bands. We cover pitch and vibrations and volume.

I also love to use Jack and the Beanstalk with my plant unit in spring. We grow beans in our school garden and add the STEM activity of how tall of a beanstalk can you build using just masking tape and green bulletin board paper. We add leaves and jack to the vine.

You can also add activities such as building a parachute to get Jack safely to the ground. We use different types of materials to test to see which one has better air resistance. We set up a bull's eye for the parachutes to land on to see if Jack gets safely down.

Add a twist...discuss how Jack did not do the right thing by taking something that didn't belong to him.  Have them build a safe way for the giant to get down to get his harp and goose back. You can have them create the biggest giant out of a certain amount of paper and measure each of the giants and compare. This adds a little math to the equation.

If you want to save yourself time...get these activities all in one place. Find the whole pack HERE.

Bean there....done that and the kids loved it! Add a great version of Jack and the Beanstalk...a fractured fairy tale...a fun comparison and contrasting connection along with measuring how high each beanstalk is and you are set to go!

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Groundhog Day Ideas For Your Classroom

Just a few more days until February 2nd (Ground Hog's Day) and I see many of my friends out there that have had snow days...summer break just ended for our friends in other countries... and some really wild weather is hitting us...  I would love a day to hibernate...or two or three! It is a perfect time however, to talk about and teach the weather in your classrooms! Time to talk Ground Hog's Day and finding some great ways to add science to your school day! Whether you add a fun language arts lesson along with shadows, or find a fun hibernation and migration lesson to share with your students...Ground Hog's Day is  a perfect fit to add some science and STEM!

As you add ways to find time for science make the most of a fun day such as Ground Hogs day to do that! Here are some ideas to help...

Grab Some FUN and Perfect Theme Based Books and Videos
Don't have a copy? Use Youtube! I always like to see my options for books on Youtube!
Another way to use You Tube is to find a great science video connection to share with your students solid facts. Always watch your video first to make sure it will work for your kiddos!

Use NGSS or Standards to Guide You!

The Next Generation Science Standards for Kindergarten have a specific standard for Weather and Climate.

Here are the guidelines:
1. Make observations to determine the effect of sunlight on Earth's surface

2.  Use tools and materials to design and build a structure that will reduce the warming effect of sunlight on an area.

3. Use and share observations of local weather conditions to describe patterns over time.

4. Ask questions to obtain information about the purpose of weather forecasting to prepare for, and respond to severe weather. 

What can you do now to utilize standards that are out there? 

1. Learn about animals that hibernate such as groundhogs. When the sunlight doesn't hit the surface of the Earth in winter like it does in summer in some habitats then animals must hibernate, migrate, or adapt.  As early as kindergarten, they can learn about the tilt of the Earth.

2. Use tools to design a burrow, cave, den...for an animal that hibernates. Instead of just thinking about the warming effects, which is a great tie in to the standard, how do all animals adapt to heat or cold...a change in temperature?  This is also a great time to talk to students about how they adapt to the cold or heat.

Make visors to shield eyes from the sun and make mitten patterns to show what we might need in the cold. Connect how animals do the same by adding blubber or fat...or shedding their coat.

3. Use the local weather map to track the temperature and weather patterns in your town. Make and use a simple calendar pattern to show patterns over time or a change in weather. Discuss what animals might be doing or what they should wear.

4. Discuss natural hazards in your area that can occur and what might occur in other parts of the country or world. Why is it important to look at the forecast. Use your calendar to add what might be in the forecast and what would they do it that were to happen. (Snow days due to blizzards, tornadoes that can come during certain times of the year, hurricanes and how we prepare...)

5. Teaching the concept of living and non-living can fit in this time of year as well. Finding ways to add science concepts can be as easy as showing them pictures from a book, magazine, or with objects found around your home or classroom.

Utilize Science Lessons That Are Simple With Few Supplies and High Impact

Shadows and shadow puppets require very little to teach about the groundhog and a science concept. Grab a flashlight, some popsicle sticks (or rulers if you want to reuse or don't have the funds/supplies), and some paper. 

Learn about how shadows are made by teaching the concepts of transparent, translucent, and opaque. Then figure out what type of materials: plastic baggies, wax paper, aluminum foil, black and white paper, lamination film, plastic glasses in all different shades from clear, to cloudy, to colored...all will work. Have them use flashlights or mini lights in the room to test out the different materials. 

Use your smartboard for them to create shadow puppets (my students do this all the time stand up or put their hand up to see their image...go with it and teach a science concept)

Make sun dials. I went to our lunchroom and got some cans that were going to be recycled. I filled them with some sand and put a dowel in the center. Presto...a sundial!

Find Resources To Help You

Don't have time to look around for some lessons on ground hogs or even a quick activity to add...don't worry you can grab my resource! It is filled with STEM, science, language arts, and math activities for your primary students!

Teaching science concepts can be easy with a little help from the Science School Yard!

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6 Skeletal System Game Ideas for Studying Bones!

I have been trying hard to NOT get frustrated with my students' lack of effort in studying for my science concepts that I am trying to teach! I pride myself at my entertaining nature...I have become quite an actress up front of the room getting them excited about what I am teaching. I see them look at me and I think they are really getting it...and then we take a test and whaawhaa...not good results.

For the last two weeks, my fourth graders have been learning about the skeletal system and let's just say it is never easy to help them memorize and remember the major bones of the human body. I came up with a theme this year...Game of Bones where each event that we do will lead up to us building a Mr. Bones puzzle found in our FOSS Human Body Kit. I also found several patterns on line that would work, too! Here are some game ideas that I use to help my students retain information better!

Game Idea #1:

I first give them tricks for remembering the bones of the body. For example, we wiggle our pelvis like Elvis. We drive a car with our "car"pels. We make a U with our ulna...hitting it below the elbow and saying ulna. We make a hut, hut sound and crouch down like a football player and say "football femur". We make a V by our clavicle with our hands...we pat...our patella...I have a trick for them all!

Once I explain all of the different moves, we play a little Simon Says. This always gets them actively engaged and moving!

Game Idea #2:

Another game we play is Bones...Get To The Point. I give them the picture of the skeletal system or they use Mr. Bones that we constructed. I then say a bone out loud randomly and with a partner they try to point to the correct bone first. I also give them a sheet that has all of the names of the bones listed that is included in our FOSS kit. They tally which person was able to get it right. A little Game of Bones to add to the overall fun we can have learning about the skeletal system.

Game Idea #3:

Now it is time for us to play Name That Bone. I hang up posters of the skeletal system and have an arrow pointing to a bone. They try to figure out what bone it is and then they check the correct answer with the qr code reader. We have a record sheet to write down our guess before we check to assure they aren't just scanning and then moving on without truly studying...not that they would do that...right?

Our final Game of Bones activity allows us to look at not just the bones, but to learn how the skeletal system helps protect, help with movement, and give structure. I give them the question sheet, give them the question cards and we once again test what we know.

Game Idea #4:

I am adding a bonus game we used to figure out protection, movement, and structure. I give them a code on the board for them to solve within a period of time... they fill in the bones with the correct answers which they can use as a study guide!

Want to save time if you are teaching this? I have all of these games ready for you in a pack! The Skeletal System Review Game Pack! Found HERE!

Game Idea #5

I thought it might be fun to include a fun freebie for game idea 5!

I use a decoder for another game! Want your students to remember facts, but having to take notes isn't very engaging...make it more fun by having them have to find the answers in a given time...if they do it they get to build a skeleton for example during a skeletal system unit...each activity that they are doing can add more bones to the skeleton! The Game of Bones my friends!  So for this one...if they solve the three hidden words that show the functions of the skeletal system. I give them six minutes. If they can't do it in time, they can always take a chance and spin the wheel! Try the link for a wheel decide yes or no! Not so defeating if they can't get it, and a 50/50 chance is better than nothing!  Yes or No Wheel of Chance

Game Idea #6

We then create a scavenger on the internet for a part of a lapbook they can build. Inside the picture of the skeleton with arrows pointing to bones. They can hunt for these on a site such as Anatomy Arcade. This is a great way for them to review using the internet. They can label their diagram in their mini- lapbook included in today's freebie! Sign up today for your free pack or check your inbox if you are already part of my newsletter subscribers the email was sent today! I will also put it in our Free Resources Secret Page. Get the secret code when you sign up! Lots of great resources being added!

No Bones about it...making a science lesson more engaging can really help students retain information!

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