The Science School Yard: July 2016

Sunday, July 31, 2016

Back To School Maker Space

Going back to school is an exciting time for teachers and students. During the summer, teachers like myself, often take classes or research new ideas. At the end of the year, last year, our Library and Media Specialist and I started diving into the idea of having a Maker Space in the library or in my new science room (I have been in the teacher's lounge for three years).

So...this summer...I have had time to develop a Maker Space Area (it is in the making...our school is getting added on to and getting into our building is a bit hard...) I did not do this alone however...Brooke Brown from Out of the Box and Wendy and Cheryl at Get Caught Engineering have been so helpful! I am also so excited that I met a wonderful Father/Daughter duo from Brain Brigade! They have wonderful resources and ideas for what a Maker Space to them was all about! Here is what I learned and developed for my upcoming Maker Space Area in my Science Classroom...

What is a Maker Space?
A maker space is a common area within a classroom or media space where children are able to engineer, explore, tinker, and discover through creative building opportunities.
It is a DIY space where children can gather to create… learn…explore…and invent!  This space may include apps, software, tools and craft supplies found in your art cabinet, recycle bin, or by donations. Maker spaces can include 3-D Printers, Lego sets, K’nex, blocks…however a maker space does not need expensive items to be a place to create.

 Where Do I Put a Maker Space?
Your maker space can be on a book shelf loaded with craft and art supplies, on an open shelf with labeled bins, or a dedicated open area in your classroom. Whether you let students create in a whole group method, task card or station method, or when students have extra time and want to explore…a maker space will allow students to thrive as they find their inner engineer, designer, artist…the sky is the limit!

Suggested Materials: (free, cheap, and expensive)


Paper, foil, egg cartons, dowels, pompoms, legos, Keva blocks,  Jenga blocks, tools, glue, cotton balls, cardboard pieces, cups, yarn, tape, scissors, pipe cleaners, toilet paper rolls, ipads, plastic utensils, paper/styrofoam plates, straws, popsicle sticks, index cards, k’nex, assorted blocks, baggies, empty plastic containers, paper clips, binder clips, empty milk containers, empty water bottles, wheels, fabric and ribbons, card stock, rulers, plastic wrap, bubble wrap, Snap Circuits, magnets, Makey Makey, LED lights, batteries, Goldiblocks sets,  Scratch, Qubits, Dot and Dash, Playdough and Squishy Circuits…Just to name a few.  Use what you can get and what is affordable to you.

Here is what I made to help my after school Maker Space Classes that will start up in late September. I will be co-teaching this with my wonderful media specialist!


STEM/Maker Space Task Cards:
There are a lot of very effective and engaging ways to use these task cards.
You can use these cards for whole group as an introduction to your new unit or at the end for an exit ticket. You can use them in a center as students finish their work or even in small differentiated groups as you work with them or they can work with them independently.

Task Card Differentiation Approach:
Students that need help can work with you in a small group with the record sheet so that they get your guidance or prompting. If this group needs help you are there to guide them.
Another group can be given the exact supplies that you would like them to use so that they are guided by you just a little bit. The students in this group will be completing their sheet as a group or independently. If they have questions the group members can problem solve together.
Your independent group will not only work in a small group, they will use the materials in your STEM Store or Maker Space to develop their own plan to create the end product. They can use the record sheet or by using the scientific process they can also create their own record sheet.
In any case, all students will share out at the end of the time. Discussing modifications, how it works, and giving compliments, and suggestions.

Done Early Station/Center Approach:
Sometimes my students are done early. We have all been there. What a great way to help students use inquiry based science strategies and their creativity to use their time wisely.   It keeps them engaged instead of wasting valuable
learning time.
To use this as a center/station, students can come to a designated spot in the
classroom where the task cards are located. The supplies needed can be
laid out or placed in labeled buckets and the students can choose what materials they would like to use. I often set aside numbered boxes for the supplies they start to use and if they don’t finish in the given time, they can always come back to it. In this way, what they are working on is valued.
I also place a generic record sheet for them to use. (included in this pack.)
Task Card Set Up: 
I cut down the middle and hole punch the corner, connecting them with a

ring. You can also put them separately in a bucket or hung up on a board.

If you are interested in starting your own Maker Space in your classroom...keep following along as I continue to create my Maker Space. Until then...here are the bulletin board letters and labels for you to have! Maker Space Freebie!

And don't forget the Teacher Pay Teacher Sale on Monday and Tuesday where everything in my store will be 28% off including the Maker Space Task Cards! Stop by my store to start your Wish List!

Sunday, July 24, 2016

Plugging Into Environmental Education

 I was asked last week about the importance of environmental education and why I spend the effort in my science classes teaching students about the outdoors.  We have an extensive farm to school garden and are recognized as a Green and Healthy School. Environmental lessons are key to helping save our planet.  My answer was simple...

Having nature based activities not only meets many of the new NGSS standards, but it engages both boys and girls in a hands-on way! Here are some other key components to why we need to add environmental education into our school week.
Sustainability Lessons and Activities
1. Connections
Environmental Education connects students to the outdoors and disconnects them from their virtual worlds that this generation of students is living in.

2. Service Learning
Service learning is defined by the National Service Learning Clearinghouse as "a teaching and learning strategy that integrates meaningful service with instruction and reflection to enrich the learning experience, teach civic responsibility, and strengthen communities."

Whether that be a neighborhood clean-up and recycling effort or helping a local wildlife organization with fundraising efforts students can learn the value of the needs in their community outside of their own lives.

3. Stewards of The Earth
Let's admit it...we have done a pretty good job messing up the Earth lately. Landfills are filling...we are using our fossil fuels at a rapidly growing rate...we are going to need the help of this generation to come up with some viable solutions!

Teaching our students about the outdoor world outside of their classroom walls will help to improve their understanding of the world around them. From planting a school garden, to composting...teaching  about renewable resources or taking pond samples to test the alkaline levels...it is our responsibility to help our students learn to use and protect our natural environment through conservation and sustainable lessons and modeling positive behaviors.

Aldo Leapold once said, "We abuse land because we see it as a commondity belonging to us. Wehn we see land as a community to which we belong, we may begin to use it with love and respect." 

              Stop back to learn more ways to include environmental education into your Science School Yard!



Tuesday, July 19, 2016

Science Brag Bracelets

We use PBIS for our positive behavior plan. We implement "Jaguar Paws" when we see students showing our core values of work...respect...be safe. As a specialist, teaching science to everyone of our K5 students, I only get to see my 400+ students one hour per week. After being at the same school for four years now...I have build great relationships with my students...however...

Our state has also implemented Teacher Effectiveness and with being a "specialist" I can't always create the parent communication and the motivation from my students allows them to work toward their academic and behavioral goals each week, not to mention the retention of scientific information.

As a mother of four, with two in college, I can't always spend a ton of money on prizes and treats and I don't really like the idea of "buying" good behavior. So, going back to Teacher Effectiveness...I needed to find ways to continue to make connections...motivate my scientists...and create positive communication!

What are brag bracelets?
Brag bracelets are a positive incentive system that will be used to create an inexpensive reward that will celebrate and promote positive academic and behavioral classroom goals.

How will students wear the bracelets?
After earning a brag bracelet that focus on:
1. teamwork
2. problem solving
3. STEM
4. kindness (yes, kindness is one of our biggest issues when students work in teams...)
5. science star
6. doing their best
7. observation skills
8. team leader

I will be watching for positive behaviors as well as encourage students to focus on our goals. When I see a student exhibiting something to brag about, I will take a bracelet and place it on their wrist. You can either glue or tape it on. It is important to share with everyone why the student earned the bracelet!

Will you keep track of who earns a bracelet? 
I will not be keeping track of who gets one. Our school is at 82% free and reduced. Many of our students need all of the positives they can get. They also need to be motivated as well as find ways to motivate themselves. Just like any behavior plan, at times some students need more encouragements while our leaders also need to be celebrated, too! Keeping track of over 400 students with only having one hour with them a week could use up way too much of my time when I need each and every minute for teaching.

Things to think about:
I am storing them in a word chart. Each bracelet fits perfectly in the pocket.
I am printing up quite a few so that I am ready to go the first day of school.
I will not give any student a bracelet if they ask for one...just like we don't give any student a PBIS behavior ticket if they ask.
I thought about why this method will work better for me than the coupons that our PBIS team wanted us to give out...bracelets have a better chance of getting home so that parents can see how they are doing in science!

Ready to try science brag bracelets?

Here is a free copy of my brag bracelets that will be for sale in my TPT store. Enjoy getting your students motivated in YOUR science school yard! Let me know what you think...leave a comment to share the love!

Saturday, July 9, 2016

STEM-Tastic Ideas For Kinders


Teaching kindergartners STEM can be so much fun!  There are so many great picture books out there and simple STEM activities that can facilitate learning...why not give it a try! Here are some easy steps to follow:

1.Use a great picture book! I use Myon which our district has purchased a license for so that I can project my books and talk and walk. The students were learning their alphabets and they were on the letter Z. Why not read a book about the zoo and have them build a special place for an animal. Set up constraints. For example you can only use blocks, cardboard, tubes, and popsicle sticks. The enclosure must be like their natural habitat and fit on the piece of cardboard that you have each been given.

2. Use simple materials that are easy to gather and lay out! I use Jenga, popsicle sticks, cardboard, and wooden blocks a lot! There are easy to lay out and the kids find so many different ways to use them! The materials are endless. However, I like to see what I can recycle or reuse from our student breakfast program, or school recycling such as toilet paper rolls and milk cartons! The Dollar Store is great for inexpensive items as well!
Here the students are using blocks, cardboard and tubes! Easy...Peazy...Lemon Squeezy!
3. Ask a simple inquiry based question for them to solve!  Here are a few questions to consider...What do you think zoo keepers must think about when keeping an animal at the zoo? What is a habitat that a monkey might live in? How can a zoo create that environment for each animal? It is your job to create the perfect environment for a/n_____________. Before you start draw where this animal would live. Next to it, draw how you can create that habitat using just...

All it takes is a great book...simple materials...and great inquiry based questions. Leaving it up to the students to create...explore...and learn!
STEM-tastic learning by kindergartners when you give them a little time to be creative!