The Science School Yard: April 2016

Tuesday, April 26, 2016

Science On The Fly

On Spring Break, my family traveled to the EAA Museum in Oshkosh, WI. I wasn't sure how exciting it would be for my middle schooler, but we all loved it! It was so interesting to see all of the different planes throughout history, how we used planes during war times, and the story behind flight. Lots of hands on activities to make it fun for all ages! Sometimes all you need is a little inspiration! Sometimes it's where you go...or what you can find in your school library...or that special time of year!
Inspiration from the library!


Planes everywhere! Inspiration on vacation!

Wilbur and Orville Write at Kitty-hawk!

War planes from every era!
As I looked around it really started my wheels turning....STEM Flight Activities!
 Things that fly...helicopters, parachutes...airplanes...rocket ships! Teaching a flight unit is so much fun for all ages. There are great picture books and simple science activities that can facilitate STEM activities that have flight in mind! STEM is a great way to explore things that fly in a hands-on way!

Here is some STEM inspiration for you STEM Flight FUN and Airplane Stations on TPT!

                                              Let's your students soar with this pack!

Sunday, April 24, 2016

STEM and Simple Machines

For several years, I have been using a Cardboard Arcade Pack that I simply love because it helps fill the weeks in with great activities that help students understand the FOSS Levers and Pulleys Unit better. This year, our fifth graders are a little more squirrely so I wanted to give them opportunities to build and create by adding some STEM lessons to the pack. The 5th graders have absolutely loved being able to build and create and then apply it to what we are learning in our FOSS pack about levers and pulley...but so much more we build on what we have already done. Our variables lessons at the end the year go perfectly with building a vehicle using wheels and axles and testing the variable of height to see how far the vehicle will travel!

Learning the six simple machines and combining it with STEM opportunities is also helpful. I presented the students with a challenge to help them better understand how a simple machine will help make their job easier.

Last week, I wrote about creating pulleys, now we are adding inclined planes and wheel and axle to our learning. Again, we use the scientific process to build.
Testing our wheel and axles on an inclined plane!

1. I first pose the question, "What simple machine can you build that will help a Beanie Baby get down an inclined hill?" "Will you push or pull it?" "How can we test how different heights of an inclined plane change how far the vehicle will go?"

2. I allow for them to predict and plan what they would build on their own. Then, I let each person share out.

3. Each team picks an idea to use and they create a materials list. Once that list is made, one person gets all of the supplies.

4. They get time to build their vehicle. If time remains, they can soup it up.

5. The next time we meet, (I only get an hour with them each week) I present the experiment using the variable of height. This is our first FOSS unit of the year, so we are revisiting what we already learned about controls and variables! I show them how to set up the experiment and then we go outside to set it up as a team.

Proud of their finished product and the fun they had!
6. They observe and record and then share out as a whole group. We finish up by making a graph to record the class results and understand that the higher the inclined plane the farther the vehicle will go. We also share other ways that this is true. Skiing, sledding, driving in a car...

Once again, finding ways to make your science classroom more hands on and exciting will help your students weather the storm of the end of the year wiggles. STEM is one way to do that!

Friday, April 22, 2016

Let's Get Growing

It's my favorite time of year, planting season. Time to get our kinder-gardeners learning how to plant seeds so that when they are BIG first graders they can see their pumpkin patch. Sometimes it takes a long time to grow BIG.
Starting from seed and watching them grow so that we can replant them in our school garden is very exciting!

Our first graders are able to learn about insects and plant flowers so that the bees come to pollinate the vegetable flowers so that we can eat beans, cucumbers, kale, broccoli, and squash to name a few.

Here is our new improved School Garden! New benches, new  beds, new pumpkin patch!

Indoor planting and observations in our Green House!

2nd graders, with the help of their FOSS kit grow everything from beans to tomatoes, zucchini, and kohlrabi as they learn about what a plant needs, to the parts of the plant. My favorite activities include planting potatoes that they will pick as third graders "gold rush style" as well as the mystery seed for Mother's Day as they wait to see how parents pass on traits to their children...marigolds just blooming look like the adult marigold from the nursery!

3rd graders are learning about sound, but it is equally as important to get them growing, too! Next week, during Earth Week we will be learning about planting container gardens as we focus a week on living sustainably! We will also do a quick lesson on how eating vegetables "sounds" good to me when they plant their cabbage plants that are donated to our school each year. I hate to say that most of them died. They cam this year three weeks early, before spring break, and after it snowed 11 days in a row. Our grow lights didn't do them justice!

4th graders will soon plant the three sisters as they are learning about Wisconsin Native American tribes. Beans, Squash, and corn will be their specialty!
After 3 years of waiting...edible stems! Asparagus!

5th graders will get first hand lessons in World War II as I share my father-in-law's WWII memorabilia and we plant a victory garden of tomatoes, broccoli, and lettuce. We might even throw in some radish and spinach to boot!

This year, we are also lucky enough to get honey sticks for our students so that I can teach a pollination lesson to our kindergarten through fifth grade students. We will focus on pollinators for April's Harvest of the Month!

Here is our garden tip of the week...

As you teach students how to plant seeds, use these six simple words:

1. Scoop...

2. Pat...


















3. Poke...

4. Drop
5. Cover....and then Water!

As the students get older I add more and more concepts to those 6 simple steps. K-2 just those words work, however as they get older we focus on how far down the seed should be placed in the soil and learning to read a seed packet!

So there is a run down of our School Garden progress! Whether you are growing in a baggie, or in a milk carton...in a container garden or a large school garden...I will always say that planting a seed is magic! It allows children to see where their food comes from and it allows them to get their hands dirty as they learn!

Here is a FREEBIE to get you growing!


Monday, April 11, 2016

Cricket Capers: Simple Science Lesson

It is insect time in first grade! Sorry...we can't find any outside right now, we still have snow, but that doesn't mean we can't invite some to join us. Introducing...crickets! This is a great way to compare non-fiction and fiction books about a topic. Here is a simple science activity for you...


What you will need:
1. Crickets (about 16 cents per cricket)
2. Containers from the Dollar Store with little holes poked on top for air
3. Sponges for water
4. Egg Cartons to climb on and hide under (they are nocturnal)
5. a potato or carrot for liquid and food

There are some great non-fiction stories out there...I use Myon or EPIC Books. The one we used is from MYON that our district purchases.

What to do:
1. Introduce insects...
2. Sing a fun song like "Head, Shoulders, Knees and Toes..."
Head, Thorax, Abdomen
Head, Thorax, Abdomen
2 Eyes, 2 antennas, and and exoskeleton
Head, Thorax, Abdomen

3. Discuss rules for working with live animals (no shaking, share the container, be respectful...)
4. Let them observe and write them down, draw what they see (I set up my sheet using Insects: In and Out of the Classroom to help. I also use a word bank on the board for their observation words)



5. I also play cricket sounds as they work...


6. We make a circle and share what we learned and observed. The students love being able to tell the difference between make and female. It is also fun to hear what they were able to see as they watched the containers.

7. We also watch the Very Quiet Cricket...

8. Finally, we wrap up with a symmetry activity where they draw the other half of the cricket and write at least three things they learned.  I use this as an assessment on what they know.
Going Buggy can be fun! With some help from our Cricket friends!

Symmetry and Sentences! Math and writing in one activity! 
If you need anything...you know you can bug me...email me or write a comment! I would love to hear from you!

Friday, April 8, 2016

Simple Machines and STEM Solutions

It is time to start our last FOSS box for 5th grade...sorry if someone out there loves the levers and pulleys box, but my students don't seem to like that one very much. Soooooo....how do I fix that? We start by learning about the six simple machines and then we finish with our cardboard arcade that incorporates all of the simple machines!

We first start off using our science notebooks to write down what we think the 6 simple machines are. This is fun to watch. Then, I share the simple machines on an anchor chart with an example. I don't show videos very often, but Bill Nye is great for introductions.

I use sentence stems...I have found that giving sentence starters/stems for the students helps them focus on what they should be looking for while watching a show or answering questions after an experiment.

Watching Bill Nye Simple Machines allowed us to find examples and make connections. Here is what we used:

1. A ______________ reminds me of ______________.

2.  I was surprised that __________________________.

3. The effects of using simple machines ____________.

4. An example of each simple machine includes_________.


After we are done sharing with our groups what we learned...I pose a problem. I give each group a weight and ask them to use our STEM Store to create a simple machine that will bring the weight from the floor to the top of the table.

 I give them time to draw an idea and then share and build. Once they are done building...the students share what they were able to create.
These two examples are very different than each other...but that is what is great about STEM Challenges...

Teamwork and sharing are two other great benefits! Now...we add the FOSS Pulley Lessons....
Here is the current pack Simple Machines Cardboard Arcade found in my store. I will be adding some great new activities as I update this pack this month. After using this pack many times I still love the activities, but after doing STEM challenges for the last two years I love seeing how the kids love to be engaged each week with a new Simple Machines Challenge. FOSS friends....I love adding this pulley challenge...using the first grade wheels to make a vehicle with an inclined plane challenge....stay tuned!

Easy STEM solutions allow for students to find quick ways to learn about a subject by investigating, creating, and sharing. By letting my students create a solution by connecting what they learned in a video to solving a simple problem of how to get something from the floor to the table gave them ownership!  That is what we need to include in our routine to get our students ready for the jobs of tomorrow!