My Store

My Store
My Store

Free Resources

Free Resources
Free Resources

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!

Shop Science School Yard TPT store!

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!

Shop Science School Yard TPT store!

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!

Shop Science School Yard TPT store!

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!
Shop Science School Yard TPT store!

March Madness Begins...

March is a long month for me. Winter can be done and Spring break seems sooooo far away. However, each March our family sets up brackets for March Madness for a little friendly...yet competitive March Madness Challenge! We always pick our teams and see who wins March Madness! Competition is healthy...so I love at times to create so fun engaging STEM competitions!

Starting on March 13th this year and going until April 2nd, college basketball teams compete for the chance to win the national championship which starts with 68 teams! This is a great time to add a little sports challenge to recess, after school, or even in math! This can be done with some fun and engaging competitions!

Challenge 1:

Basketball Percentages and Pie graphs

  • Each student has 10 tried to make baskets. Record out of 10 how many shots were made. Allow them to divide by 10 to make a pie graph or record percentages. This is also a perfect way to add mean, median, mode, and range!
Challenge 2:

STEM Challenges

  • Catapults and Basketball hoops are a perfect way to have them writing how to's. They can create a basketball game that has someone coming to their "court" to play, but they must write directions on how to score, how they win, how what supplies they must use...
  • Allowing students flexibility in their catapult designs helps them create unique game pieces. Here are some of our examples: 
What are the materials that you will need to make hoops?

Prosthetic hand...

straws -cardboard pieces -string -plastic spoons -binder clips -toilet paper tubes -cotton balls for basketball -baskets/buckets

Basketball Hoops...

-masking tape -cups (different kinds) -cardboard pieces -popsicle sticks -pipe cleaners -straws 
Sports Science Pack

Basketball Free Throw Shooter ...
-tongue depressors -popsicle sticks -binder clips all sizes -rubber bands -plastic spoons -masking tape

Challenge 3

 Reading and Writing Lessons:

Last week of February:
Persuasive writing essay convincing class to read your favorite book. Advertisement: create a poster to advertise your book

First Week of March Battle of the books start.

Battle of the Books Link

Students can share their essay and poster. The class can vote on the Sweet 16 that will make it to the tournament.

Throughout March Students continue to read and clock their pages read. If you have AR tests, you can include this in your overall score

Looking for the complete pack? STEM March Madness Pack is ready and waiting for you! 3 STEM stations, sheets, writing connections and more! Or if you are looking for a sports theme with a science twist...STEM Sports Stations! Options are always good!

                              Sports Science Pack
Hoop Happiness!

Shop Science School Yard TPT store!

ST. Patrick's Day STEM Stations

As my kids were growing up, the leprechaun visited our house every year! He would turn our milk green or even our toilet water. He would sprinkle green glitter in our hair as we slept. He would leave a mess in our room with remnants of his trickery! I love having kids learn about another culture, other traditions, even have a little o' fun in Science as well as STEM club!

 I am so in love with this new STEM Pack. I was trying hard to find ways to keep my STEM station supplies all in one spot and not have to purchase something for it. So when I saw a box of Manila envelopes in the office I needed to figure out how to utilize them in my organization.

So now it's time to find ways to utilize them...meaning new STEM stations! Some of my favorites yet!

Why am I so excited about them? Well...

  • They include activities that can be used within other science concepts such as motion and simple machines.
  • The materials are easy to find and affordable! 
  • This pack can be used with primary and intermediate classrooms because the sheets for each station are differentiated!
  • All the sheets you will need are included: Teacher set up and materials list, stduetn materials list, student guided questions, primary and intermediate record sheets...all in one pack.
  • It reinforces teamwork and problem solving!
What STEM Stations are included?


  • tubes
  • masking tape
  • pom poms
  • pot o gold or cup with pattern for catching the pom poms
We made a game out of it. Each group competed to see who could get four pom poms in the cup fastest. If it missed the cup they had to keep trying! We discussed inclined planes as each group had to have three bends in the maze!


  • cups
  • masking tape
  • egg cartons
  • spoons
  • tongue drepessors
  • bowls and plates
  • beans, popcorn kernels, rice  (something to fill it to make noise
  • any other items you can think of to make an instrument...a shaker (WE CALL THESE SHAMROCK SHAKES!)
They had to create a Shamrock Shake that could add to our band! We talked about sound energy along with volume, vibrations, pitch. Another great way to add a science concept!


  • cups (we used Styrofoam)
  • spoons
  • masking tape 
  • pom poms
  • rainbow pattern
They made this into a game as well! We put each rainbow on a different rainbow color. They had to hop over each color in order of the rainbow and at the end they had to get their pom pom into a pot o gold! We talked about rainbows and their colors. We added the milk and Skittles, water and Skittles  and Mt Dew and Skittles activity to see how colors blend! Here is the idea for a Variable lesson...

This week, we also created pulleys.


  • tubes
  • rulers
  • string
  • empty school milk cartons/ cups for riders
  • you can give them binder clips, big paper clips...for a harness (these are my littles so I didn't)
We discussed simple machines and pulleys. We also with my littles talked about push and pull and motion. We discussed friction as we figured out what would support our pulley better at the top!

Next week, we will continue more engaging March themed STEM activities and Science connections so stay tuned. You might be lucky with more easy and engaging ideas you can use this ST. Patrick's Day...until then sign up for my newsletter and in your in box you will get a ST. Patrick's Day freebie!

Want all of the supply lists, differentiated sheets, teacher guide? Here is the complete set! Follow the link for this STEM Velope Pack!!
Give it a pin if you want to remember the activities...or try it out in your inbox with a free language arts connection activity STEM -Velope Style! 

Shop Science School Yard TPT store!

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!

Shop Science School Yard TPT store!
Powered by Blogger.