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Back To School and What To Do In Science

I create a lot of my own resources to integrate the FOSS curriculum that I need to use in our district, but often times I also find new ideas on Pinterest or Teachers Pay Teachers free resources that I can utilize into my plans. So as I plan for my first week of lessons this year, I had to organize a bit differently due to the fact that I am at a new school with new students that don't know me at all. I needed to find getting to know you lessons and activities that started the scientific process started for all classes K-5.

When the new school year rolls around everyone gets so very busy setting up their lessons and prepping for open house. To help you see how to start your science lessons in kindergarten through fifth grade classrooms I provided my plans and links for you. Here is my Back to School Plan for each of my classes:


What is Science? I love that book as a great beginning activity for littles. We read the book, make a list of what we saw on each page then I use a magnifying glass to have them take a closer look at one of the ideas we wrote and I illustrated on our anchor chart. Even is Science I like to find ways for students to write so the other part of the sheet has them tracing letters in a sentence! I included the sheet here for you! Grab a copy of What Is Science? HERE.
First Grade

My first graders will be busy learning about different types of Scientists by using my pack What Is A Scientist Pack and Measurement Review found here. It is filled with a power point, station cards and hands on activities to review tools scientists might use, a record sheet, and a bulletin board starter to get Science Concepts visual right away as we get back to school!

I set up the station cards in order around the room. I demonstrate each station to the students and then I give them time at each station and then the timer goes off.

 One of my favorites is the hand lens activity...small pictures can only be seen using a hand lens. I love how they are surprised to be able to figure it out.

Second Grade
When you find something that fits right and helps start your lessons on property words and great review for our matter unit you just have to use it! So last year I found this free resource from Beth Van on TPT which I renamed. She calls it Cat's In the Bag. I fill 8 bags with one item each. Use the tags, copy the sheet that works for our second graders. Then, I set some heavy ground rules. 

We learn about the saying "Don't Let The Cat Out of the Bag". We say it is everyone's job to NOT share what they felt in the bag. Everything is a BIG secret and at the end they can take a guess as to what is in the bag. 

They can NOT poke holes in the bag or break the bag in any way. When we head to another table, we are also having kiddos inspect the bag for damage. Any damage may result in the time out of the last person that had the bag. I also give privacy folders for their own private area and we also discuss why we don't cheat.

When time is up, we sit together in our circle and share property words...not what we think is in the bag...YET! We are trying to focus on words that describe objects such as solids. Then, we say one...two...three "Let the Cat Out of the Bag". They can turn and share the secret or they can raise hands or all at once they can share, it is up to you. You can find her free resource here.

If someone shares early, they are asked to leave the circle because we want to respect the rules of the game. When one of them leaves the group, the others know that they shouldn't because we follow the rules. 

Third Grade

In third grade, we always start off with a measurement unit. We do that to review for our FOSS Earth Materials Unit which has them measuring rocks. I found that incoming students struggled to measure circumference, width, length, and even weight. I use my measurement packs to help in that review and to make it STEM related this year I am adding a play dough activity at the end where they need to make an object a certain height, width, and diameter. We will also weigh the object they make as well. I will have a cityscape for each group that will have a theme: sweet shop, park, pet store...I can't wait to see what they make! I am hoping to have that new activity pack done this weekend. Always something on my to do list.

Here are a few stations to show you what we did with measurement...from measuring with a syringe to measuring the temperature, I tried to utilize the different tools and supplies they will be measuring with in third grade.

Find the Science Tools Stations resource here! I love the follow up game that we play with puzzle cards! 

Fourth Grade

We are Saving Fred or Sam if you have ever heard of this challenge! This one is  a yearly lesson for my older students. It is a great way to establish positive growth mindset as well as review the importance of working as a team. The students must work together to get a squishy life saver around the outside of a gummy worm! There is a fun scenario that goes along with it and it allows for us to really get the lesson out there that science experiments are going to need everyone to work together and not always is the outcome going to be correct or done on time in the hour we have.

I used one for years and now when I try to find the sheets on line they are gone. It happens people. So to not waste time, I went to a back up pack from More Time to Teach found here

Fifth Grade

Once again to get us started on the scientific process and WOW was I glad I made this pack for my new classroom! In this pack I made bulletin board posters and even letters! Not to mention my first week's activity using M & M's! Want to start your year off with the Scientific Method and a great hands-on controlled experiment? Find the Teaching The Scientific Process Pack here!

I love this activity to get my older kids excited about learning how to set up a controlled experiment which we will be tackling this year! 

So, now that I have my thoughts down on paper...time to get to prepping and work. Happy Back to School!

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Back To School Fever With Top 10 BTS Tips

Are you like me? It is the end of July and I am chomping at the bit to get into my classroom. This year, is a bit different for me...I am headed to a new school to teach K-5 Science so I seriously have already stepped into my new classroom to do a bit of fixing up, planning, purging, decorating, and dreaming of my new lessons that I will be able to deliver to a whole new group of kiddos!

Some of you are headed back next week, while others have a bit more time, however I am here to give you my top 10 Back to School Ideas to keep you sane!

10- Let it go! Whether your year was positive or not or had a few bumps along the way, this year is a fresh start. (With a new school I think my bumps might come at the beginning of the year as I learn over 300 new names, do meet the teacher activities, and fill shoes of a loved teacher! It is a fresh start and I have to remember that!)

9-Organize! I mean get a planner, organize supplies, plan for distributing and collecting papers, create a new layout for your room, label your bins. (I stepped into classroom chaos as the teaching leaving left everything as is and it was all going to a new space. I bought tubs and bins, organized and boxed up unnecessary supplies...I mean 400 hand lenses for only 200 students and over 40 scales...I had very little but the FOSS boxes, but now I am getting organized! Not quite there, but I am seeing the forest through the trees!)

8-Decorate! I mean on a budget friends! I made my own letters and printed them on colored paper. I used a coupon from Michael's! I spray painted an old book shelf for my Collaboratory and even made my own science posters and sentence starter bubbles to cover up the rust on the radiators. Here is the link to my sentence starters! Sentence Stems Freebie just for you!

I really feel that if your classroom is warm and inviting, for you and your students...you and your students will want to be there!

7-Plan! Set a plan for the incoming year. Don't wait until you walk in the door for the first time in fall. You will be readying for open houses, meetings, and so much more! Even if it is a road map, pacing guide, first week's lessons, be ready by preparing your supply list, the papers you will need to print, and even ready your digital resources! Looking ahead will save you time and save you from any unforeseen complications along the way.

6-Create! So this one I am ready for. I started to think about all of those new families and kiddos walking through my door, not knowing me or even knowing where anything is in their new science room. So I created a Meet the Teacher sheet that I will hang at the board (with a note saying they should share their name and one thing they like about science) and at the door! I also made station signs to help them find new areas around the room and what that area means to them. Even the off limits sites are going to be explained!

5- Book It! Find some new picture books that you can try out this year! Whether that is from Youtube, the public library, your local book store, or your school library...find a few new go to's that will add a new spin on your new year!

4-Connect! This one took me some time to really think about. I will have few connections at my new school and after 27 years of teaching it gets harder and harder to want to keep starting over, however it is really important for anyone young or veteran to form relationships among staff. That means other teachers, aides, custodians, secretaries, and most importantly students. Its those relationships that make it worth coming each and every day! No one knows the amazing job my Encore teams does to educate children and as a team we are coming over to connect! You never know when you need a little help, an ear to listen, or just a friendly face greeting you in the morning! Relationships are the key!

3-Comfort Zone! Professional development doesn't have to just come from the district you work in, PD can come from choices you make to learn a new teaching strategies or new curriculum. Get out of your comfort zone to learn something new. Start early so you are prepared. This last week, I was in a digital PD that showed me different strategies that I could implement using our iPads at school. I am going to be trying some of those ideas this year and I am getting those digital resources ready before I even get back to school. Sometimes trying new ideas can be difficult because it means we have to take a risk, however I figure in the day of teacher effectiveness this shows me stepping outside the box...can you?

2-Checklists! Right now, I have two checklists next to me. I have my school list of things to do, and I have my home list of things to finish before I go back. On my checklist is to purge many areas of hiding places in my home where I have stored way to much "stuff". Time to get rid of it while my children are willing to help me. I have taken many items to retirement homes, homeless shelters, and okay I may have slipped a few items in our school garbage can when I came to purge some things from my classroom makeover.

1-Reflect! I think that this is so very important each and every day, but when summer vacation is at an end it is key to moving forward. Reflect on the summer, look back on last year's successes and busts, reflect on what worked and what didn't, think about what you want this year to look like, and what you and your students need to make this year a success!

You got this! Here is something I made to cover up some rust as well as start conversation among students.
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Sustainability and STEM

March blew in so very quickly! Time for renewable and non renewable resources lessons, tied to natural resources, as well as to wind and water powered hands on STEM challenges. I love using recyclables to let my kiddos create!

First things first, students need to know what sustainable resource means. Doing something in a way that minimizes damage to the environment and avoids using up natural resources, for example renewable energy. 

Here is a list of renewable resources: (can be created again in our life time)

  • wind
  • water
  • sun
  • wildlife
  • plants
Examples on non-renewable resources: (can not be recreated in our life time)
  • oil
  • natural gas
  • petroleum
  • coal
  • gasoline
An anchor chart can help you discuss the different vocabulary words and help them visualize the difference. Here is a quick video to help you also explain the concepts of being green in a way that kids can connect!

For older students you could use a little bit more detailed explanation to show it with a three pillar model as well as a global concept: global, economic and social

There are a ton of great activities that you can incorporate along with teaching your students right away at the beginning of the year how to live sustainably and help the classroom, school, community, and planet!

Great Ideas:
 -recycled paper is great and when you make a card for someone with it....so special
-toilet paper tubes can be used for so many great projects...from binoculars, robots, 
-cans can be reused as a pencil holder, but if you can get the big ones form your lunchroom, they make great robots, drums, utensil holders for a present, paint them and have the kids take it home to put their stray plastic bags in, and a great after school project you can  make games for a school carnival!
-start recycling efforts in your school. Think outside the box. Try recycling old markers!

-plastic bottles make a great plant holder, water filter project, bubble blower, car, bird feeder...
-Kurig Cups are in mass in our teachers' lounge. We could store our frozen herbs from our school garden in them, plant seeds in them, turkey or snowman craft, mini pom pom shooters for a STEM project, perfect for an anemometer...
-  egg cartons make perfect animals such as bugs and caterpillars, they make great seed starters, and rock collectors, even lovely flowers! These flowers were started in an egg carton for our school garden! 

For more great ideas that include writing, STEM, research, qr codes and more...check out this newly updated 30 page Sustainability Pack! Find this Sustainability and Earth Day Pack HERE!

I love teaching sustainability all year long! This is a great summer school, back to school, and science unit for anytime!
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Planting Gold with Potatoes Science and Social Studies Connections

I like to start with a book called What's For Lunch...Potatoes by Claire Llewellyn. 

Planting Potatoes is a great way to show your students how their food grows. They can be easily grown in a garbage can or even a laundry basket! I first started planting potatoes outdoors six years ago when I got tired of the FOSS Plant unit planting potatoes in a cup, so why not create a school garden to extend our learning. What we found by planting a garden helped us realize that planting a seed is magic! Not only that, learning that food doesn't all come from a seed from a seed pack is pretty neat, too!

Don't want to plant potatoes? That is okay, too. These lessons can be taught with a bag of potatoes from the grocery store. Want to extend the concept to connecting the Westward Movement and gold rush...keep reading because simulations are perfect for cross curricular activities and getting kids up and moving!

Getting Started: 
What do you need for an introduction potato activity? Seed potatoes and learning stations. Let's get growing!

Next, you can show a little video that shows the process of how they can grow potatoes at home or at school.

Using Potatoes to Learn Science:
Here, we go...now it's time for students to learn about the life cycle of the plant, how it gets from field to fork and also different ways that we eat potatoes. I used  this great site when I first got started it has a ton of resources and ideas: Growing Your Own Potatoes Link

Science Stations Potato Pack
 We use the list we generate in class usually getting over 20 different ways that they are eaten. Here is a few to start with: boiled, baked, chips, pancakes, potato salad, JoJo's, potato skins, German Potato Salad, fries, tater tots, wedges, curly fries, sweet potatoes...

Have them learn about how food gets to our table by watching a quick video and then writing about it!

Interested in your own Potato Pack? Follow the link HERE: Science Stations: Potato Pack

Connecting Cultural Awareness: 
Another great way to add a bit of social studies to your lesson is to discuss where potatoes originated and what cultures eat potatoes at home as a staple food. Europeans typically brought their love of potatoes over and continued to eat them which is why some families eat more than others. We have a great discussion about what everyone's staple food is from rice to tortillas we learn a little bit about our heritage.

Kids that finish my stations get to go and play Mr. Potato Head where I have one of my own children's favorite toy. If you don't have that, have kids make their own by looking at a Mr. Potato Head picture.

Plant some potatoes in a bucket and let them sit until Fall! This is a great way to continue a project that another class started. You can have the planters write letters to give clues as to what is in the bucket or better yet they can go gold mining!

Gold Mining and STEM Connections: 
The best part about planting potatoes is that we get to pick them in the fall! I not only get to see each of my students year after year, I then can continue a lesson! However, not everyone can do this, so a great way to tie STEM activities to a social studies connection is to learn about the gold rush! I help them learn about this in science and then they get to dig for gold...Yukon Gold that is! Tie in measuring and writing and this is a perfect well rounded mini-unit~

Want to give a simulation a try and then connect engineering a wagon and prospector's tool...this pack is for you! Grab the STEM Gold Rush Science and Social Studies Connections HERE!

One potato...two potato...three potato...four, learning about potatoes can be fun and so much more!

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Shark STEM Connections

They can be scary from their movie stardom to their sharp teeth and bad reputation...sharks are like the big bad wolves of the ocean! However, their reputation shouldn't really be as bad as they are portrayed! Only 100 people each year are attacked by sharks and only 25 out of the 368 species of sharks actually attack people. To get to know sharks better, my students who live far from any ocean celebrated a bit of a shark week sensation!

We started off with a great EPIC book connection, Sharks! by Ilene Tremble which helped us develop background knowledge. We proceeded to learn even more about sharks by creating a lapbook that had us researching habitats, food chains, and characteristics for survival. These are all part of the NGSS standards that are woven throughout elementary school!

Once they were finished with their lapbook, the students had an opportunity to create one of the sharks they learned about. It had to have the same features that the real, researched shark had and needed to be able to float in a bucket of water. These were some constraints that they had to follow.

For the last STEM sensation the students worked in teams to be able to build a shark cage that allowed a person (plastic figure) to be submerged in a shark (fish) tank...equip with our very own sharks (plastic)! This activity surely stumped my higher level thinkers, because it had to sink in the water, but it had to be made out of something water proof!

Some issues that came up was that fact that many designs tipped over when placed under the water. Some of the cages didn't allow for the diver to even see the sharks swimming in the water!
Here is a cage that tipped over on its side. The shark is getting a bit close for comfort!

Want to celebrate your own shark week? Follow this link to get all these ideas in one place: Shark Lapbook and STEM Connections Pack

What a perfect motivator for any time of year! STEM and Literacy Connections, writing, and research as well as engineering, a perfect theme for intermediate grades!

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The Science of Mental Health

When life gives you lemons make lemonade they say...As teachers we are always adjusting, and helping our students succeed and when their mental health is challenged we do everything in our power to guide them and give them resources and support!

As a staff we have been focusing on ways to nurture a child's mental health. Here is a list of quick tips to help you...help them. We must also remind ourselves that we too as educators need to have what we need to get through the school year successfully! We can take the same strategies we give to our students and use them ourselves!

1. share your feelings and validate theirs
2. model healthy behavior
3. be consistent and follow through with what you promise
4. practice relaxation and cooling down exercises with them
5. recognize positive choices
6. respond calmly when emotions are elevated
7. be present
8. be patient
9. use open ended questions
10. make movement and brain breaks a requirement

Another way to help provide a healthy classroom is to find time to add interactive activities to allow your learners to be active and engaged.

Here are some great science and STEM strategies to get them engaged and to give you time to step back...take a breath...and just let them create:

1. read a book for language arts and then add a STEM activity to build something relateable in the story. We learned math and engineering by using this book as we set the stage to build our dream playground!
Image result for picture books about playgrounds

2. teach a math concept and then have them build it and show a 3-D way to show that concept...we used the terms perimeter and area as we started to plan the space we had to build our perfect playground! You can do that with anything...graphing, number sense, be creative. When you can find ways to step outside of the everyday mundane, it inspires you as well!

3. Teach a science concept  and bring in examples of the real world experience to have them touch. Add a bit of energy and motion as your designs! We continued outside to test the speed of objects that could slide or roll down the real slide! It is often hard to find time for science. Take a look at your standards that you have to follow such as NGSS and weave a concept into it. Share the standard, tie it into what they are learning about and presto, once again finding ways to add what is so very hard is also freeing! Great for positive thoughts!

4. Give them choices in their learning set up a maker space station for them to go to when they are done with their work or as a go to station as part of your daily routine. We all love choices! Listen to their ideas, give them a voice, help them learn to problem solve. All of this is great for everyone's mental health!

5. After a science lesson, provide them with a science game, vocabulary connection, or review with qr codes or game boards to get them learning the same concept differently. After they are able to build and share, their positive vibes will carry them to continue to want to be engaged. Use this to your advantage!

This week, has been trying to my own mental health so what can we do for each other?

This summer, I am splitting the school I am at with another science teacher. I am also heading over to a new school where I will teach K-5 Science. I am getting two new principals and my team that I love will not be able to connect the way we did in the past.

 Change is hard for some people, but there is a reason for everything. Embrace change and keep moving forward. Stay tuned for summer progress and ways to prepare for the new school year! If all else fails...treat yourself!

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4 Great Ideas To Teach Chemical Reactions

Teaching 6 different grade levels has me covering a lot of different science topics and concepts. Whether it be a certain standard that you need to cover or just need some ideas for what to do in science this week, I have you covered. I will be sharing a new blog series that will help you find ways to make Science child's play!

Kids love chemical reactions however, I think they are always waiting for something to explode. You can easily find ways to cover the NGSS concept of structures of matter...more specifically chemical vs. physical change...without anyone or anything blowing up!

Four Ways to Cover Chemical Reactions and Structures of Matter:

1. Vocabulary (always key to comprehending a concept)

In order for students to really grasp the idea of what they see or don't see, you need to focus on helping them understand the vocabulary words they will be hearing as well as demonstrating.

Some quick ideas:
1. anchor chart and sticky tab draw what you know. Have one side of the room draw Physical changes and the other side draw chemical changes

2. Digital review games which you can find HERE {Digital Chemical and Physical Reaction Review}

3. Task Card and QR code Scoot games which you can find HERE {Mixtures and Solutions Task Cards}

4. Lapbooks which you can find HERE {Mixtures and Solutions Lapbook}

2. Fun and Engaging Activities That Are Easy to Show

Grab some dollar store glow sticks and teach the concept behind how they glow and you have your first idea.

Grab Cranberry Juice, citric acid, and baking soda and you are onto your second idea!

Grab some pennies and some liquids and show how acids clean pennies in this quick chemical reaction activity! Make sure you have ketchup because it does an amazingly quick job getting any patina off of a penny! I also love vinegar, baking soda and water, Coke, window cleaner, and water as a control. You can always add different liquids that you have.

3. Set Up Experiments That Use Everyday Household Materials

Bath Bombs are all the "bomb"! With any holiday from Mother's Day to Christmas you can make this with your kiddos and send home a little gift!

All you need:

¾ cup Epson Salt
½ cup Kosher Salt
¼ cup baking soda
3-5 drops of essential oils
food coloring

container/baggie to hold the salts

Another fun favorite is Silly Putty! For this polymer you need: (yes, polymer which you can read all about in this great Science Buddies Link not to mention a few more ideas)

Silly Putty Recipe:

¼ cup white glue
2 TB Laundry Soap(have extra)
2.Knead (if sticky add more laundry soap)

And don't forget good ole' Oobleck or Slime! Oobleck is a great way to teach non-Newtonian Fluids and all you need is corn starch and water and a little food coloring!  Find the pack full of fun Oobleck Connections HERE.

4.  Physical and Chemical Reaction Observations

Now, I have to say we use the FOSS mixtures and solutions kit for our chemical experiments, but if you don't have this kit then here are some great ideas for quick and easy chemical reaction observations that are inexpensive and kids love them!

I use open and closed systems as a way to compare a plastic baggie and a cup with vinegar and baking soda because they are able to understand the difference.

You can also teach Natural Disasters and how humans can protect themselves by making volcanoes. All you need is baking soda and vinegar!

-Create boats that are propelled by baking soda and vinegar which is another creative take on these two ingredients, but with a STEM twist!

 Sign up for my newsletter and get this experiment free in my Science School Yard Library!
-I love Mentos and Coke as well as Alka Seltzer and Water in old film canisters, too! Find the Alka Seltzer Rocket Lab HERE!

It is always hard to find easy and affordable ideas to teach a concept such as structures of matter, but with a little creativity and some help from the Science School Yard, you can find easy ways to teach chemical reactions! Know any other easy chemical reaction recipes or demonstrations you use? Share below. We would love to add to our list with your help!
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