The Science School Yard: 2017

Sunday, June 25, 2017

Summer is now here and I am just got done with school... now it's time for Summer School Community Connections. This means I get the kids after they are in the morning session and now it is the afternoon. For me my Community Connection is STEM garden club. In the past I have taught strictly  Garden Club, but after seeing their exhausted faces after not only going to school 9 months out of the year with such rigor, I could not put them through any more let's learn a ton from a book or go outside for an hour and connect to nature. That is when I see discipline issues...when they just can't take anymore learning. 

 Let's just say this Monday, I was a little nervous because I saw these kids goofing around and not focus in the gym as I went to get them. It was kind of scary they weren't my students from my school...they were at MY school...and they were not having any of the I am going to be a listener thing!

 These kiddos are  not used to STEM activities so the test was going to be whether or not they could handle calming down and focusing and using their brain to build something absolutely amazing...absolutely summer centered... and garden connected!

Did I achieve my goal? Yes I did!  I went through our rules and expectations of our school and then I told him how we were going to have fun and it wasn't going to be boring because we were going to learn about food chains. I laughed out loud when I saw there faces. Then I added the icing on the cake...We were going to do that through STEM! I explained what each letter stood for and their ears perked up. I had them!

All right so maybe food chain sounds a little boring but when you tell them you're going to be learning about food chains... and then going out in the garden to connect the garden to food chains....and then if all is good... come back inside to build  a bird beak that will pick up a food source we can put it all together!

So how can you achieve the goal of getting kids excited for summer learning? STEM!

Here are three easy tips for you to also be able to help your summer school students not feel the burn out of continuous work... upon work... up on work... and not ever getting a break that they need...

Step one: 
Find a really great picture book that'll tie in a concept to what you need to teach.

Step two:
Connected to something they can build or create using materials that are readily available in your classroom.

Step three:
find ways for you to get them actively engaged and talking to each other about what they built  and create...what some of the problems were when they were trying to build and engineer...and how they overcome any obstacles that might cause them to get upset and want to give up. You also want to focus on the problem solving that is involved  as well as any solutions that they came up with in a positive way to keep on going. That's an easy way for you to tie and positive growth mindset to your lesson as well!

What have I been using for my weekly lessons? I have been creating some great NGSS STEM Quick Picks. Each pack consists of a reading and assessment component for data collection, a science component, a STEM connection, writing activities, and a ticket out the door! Each week I will be adding a new pack because...guess what??? I need them for my lessons! 

This week's STEM Quick Pick is based on Food Chains!
Find Your Food Chain STEM/NGSS Science  Quick Pick HERE!

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Saturday, June 10, 2017

Summer STEM Station Fun

Is it summer yet? Many teacher friends are almost done. Some of my teacher friends are all the way around the world and the cold weather is approaching! Where ever you are...whatever is slowing your kiddos down from that 100% effort that you need them to still have.

As I watch my kindergarten through fifth graders come into the science room, I can see their focus dwindling, so to help them get excited for learning again, I have an instant cure....STEM!
Third Graders learned about Food Chains knowing that they were going to be able to create a frog catapult to connect how frogs protect themselves from predators!

Three Quick Tips When Using STEM to motivate:

1. I am still needing to test because I have over 3 weeks left to go, they don't seem to care to study or do their best..STEM! What I do is share that whoever passes the quiz or test, can participate in a STEM activity while the others work with me on reteaching and studying the concepts that they are not comprehending. This allows for individual instruction, and it also encourages kids that love to do STEM activities to be motivated to do their best on the the test so that they can in fact work on a STEM project!

2. Find ways to add hands-on STEM activities that are theme based and that are tailored to your concept you are teaching. I am doing an insect unit with my first graders so we then engineer a new insect out of free and inexpensive supplies. It engages them and I can also assess if they understand the parts of an insect...head, thorax, and abdomen.

STEM Reward...What can we do this summer?

In fifth grade we are working on a levers and pulleys unit for FOSS. To add some STEM excitement, we are integrating a simple machines unit along with a cardboard arcade. Each group makes a cardboard game to present and play at our annual STEAM night! They have to integrate two simple machines into their design.

3. Our students work so hard. They are tested to the gills. They are burning out faster and faster each year. You can see definite changes in behavior if you do not stay on top of it. STEM activities are great rewards for a job well end of the year fun activity...or an end of the unit surprise.

To get you is a quick end of the year STEM activity which is part of my Energy Unit! Taking the kids outside to build a solar oven is a lot of fun!

Many of us are on summer break....while others are still working with kiddos. STEM is a great way to not only continue to teach learners about science BIG IDEAS, but knowing that they can build something that connects them to a topic gets them listening and staying focused. Knowing that after the anchor chart...after the picture book connection....after a lesson they can is truly a perfect motivator.

I am teaching summer STEM starting Monday... I am not worried about student burn out...why? Because STEM activities that are hands-on and rewarding for both learner and teacher!

Check out my summer STEM series bundle for fun all summer long!
Find the Summer STEM Series HERE!

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Monday, May 8, 2017

Thanks For Hopping Over Here: Science is "Toad"ally Fun!

This week was tadpole week for the kindergartners. Let's just say, I showed the first through fifth graders, too! They are always mesmerized by real animals! When we are done with them this week, my third graders will be using the water to do pond study and habitats! They are taking a trip to a local pond where a real live scientist will be working with them on not only habitats, but food chains and animals found in the pond.

How can you make your learners "HOPPY"? Here are three easy steps to doing just that!

1. Use interactive Google activities. My littles love to go up to the smartboard and move the pieces around. Their behavior has also improved as I call on "good listeners" first.

2. Bring in live specimen when you can. That could mean crickets to teach insects, goldfish to teach about fish, or worms that you find in a garden. They are quick learning tools to get kids excited as well as learn how to care for animals in and out of their habitat!

3. Find engaging resources that help teach the BIG ideas of science. I use this pack to teach:
 habitats, life cycles, food chain as well as language arts and math! When they are all finished we even throw in a STEM project! It is perfect for this time of year!
 Frog STEM Grab and Go
Frog STEM Grab and Go
Now...a SECRET...

Thanks for hopping over here to the Science School Yard! It's Teacher Appreciation Week and I have a"Toad"ally awesome news...Tuesday, May 9 through Wednesday, May 10th Teachers Pay Teachers is giving an extra 8% off everything in my store...and everything in my store is going to be 20% off already!!!! That means 28% off everything if  you use the magic code...ready...

It's ThankYou17

I also want to thank you by giving away a $10 TPT gift card. All you have to do is follow my blog or sign up for my newsletter as well as leave a comment below sharing one thing that I could do to help you make science easier or a product that you would LOVE to see in my store. I will post the winner here on my blog Wednesday Morning!

I appreciate you! Thank you for stopping by and letting me be a part of your School Yard!

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Wednesday, May 3, 2017

Hate To Bug You: Insect Lessons for Littles!

Insects...those creepy...crawly animals that the kids just love! What a great time to add an insect unit when the trees are budding and the insects are coming out to play!

I just got meal worms in the mail. You know those worm like larva that go through a metamorphosis and turn into darkling beetles!

I need to bring some potatoes and a bit of corn meal so get them ready for my littles. Here are some quick and easy tips to add some insect fun into your lessons without having to spend a ton and yet let your kiddos have some fun!

Here are some great insect videos for you to use...I use the song first to let them see that insects aren't that icky!

Time for another video...this one that gives a lot of great facts!

Here are some affordable and fun ways to bring insects into your classroom!

1. Use crickets found at a pet shop along with dollar store plastic containers for a fun and easy insect exploration! Poke holes in the top with a pin...get some egg cartons in the container with some moist sponges and a bit of apple or orange and you are good to go! Females have the little stick like thing on the back called an ovipositor.

2. Find some lady bugs hanging around your house right after they wake up from a  long winter's nap...this is what happens in our sun room...get them in a cup with a lid and let the kiddos observe!

3. Mealworms can often be picked up at a pet shop and go through a metamorphosis from egg (which you don't see) larva...then pupa...and finally adult! Give each child a vile with  a mealworm, potato slice, and a bit of corn meal and each of them has an observable cycle!

4. Up for ordering painted ladies? There are many different venues for purchase. You will need a butterfly house once they turn into a chrysalis...then you can tape them to the top and wait to watch them come out as a butterfly. It is our highlight to have a release party!

5. Short of funds? Go outside and observe ants! Read a fun picture book about ants and then try to locate a worker ant, a guard ant, and if your lucky a nurse ant! Finding different colored ants is also fun!

Want a quick and easy pack to help you with the sheets you need to work with any of these insects and more? Find it in my insect pack! This is one of  my favorite packs because I just print and go with it!

 I won't bug you anymore...time to bug out of here! Thanks for letting me help you make science child's play!

Sunday, April 30, 2017

Best STEM Challenge EVER

Each year, I teach a simple machines unit. Each year, I try to figure out ways to integrate STEM ideas into the mix. This year, I wanted to find ways to engage my learners right away. Sometimes the simplest thing to do is grab simple items to create the perfect STEM project!
Renee The Best STEM Challenge Ever header.jpg
The best just need  4 simple supplies or less for the each challenge. The first challenge is to create a way to get the cup of cubes to the top of the table. This is all I gave them:

 Toilet paper tubes, a cup of cubes, string, and tape. The best challenge

The second challenge that we did  was to make a way to move a cup of candy from one side of the room to another without using your hands to touch the cup. All I gave them for this challenge was spoons, rubber bands, and tubes.

The best part about these two challenges is that each design was so uniquely different. Each team was able to work together to find a solution to each problem and after they completed the challenge they shared what they created!

Now, this is the kicker...I was sick one of the days my classes did these challenges. Boy, did I realize that one of the integral components of setting up STEM challenges is to really SET...IT...UP.  What they were able to accomplish when I was there, instead of the sub,  was significant. It got me thinking... how can anyone make a STEM challenge the best EVER?

What I learned about making this STEM challenge the best ever is that as the facilitator of a STEM challenge, you must get them engaged. You must set the stage with everything they will need to complete the challenge. Consider these components:

1. How will you give them supplies? I set out a table with the items they can use. Each team is numbered and I send a special number to get what is needed.

2. What are the constraints as well as expectations? The first challenge was about moving an object from the floor to the table. This could be done as a pulley system or in some cases groups made a lever. We were able to share and explain as we observed the final product.

3. How will you get them excited about the activity? This can be done with a picture book, a question, or even a problem that needs solving. In both challenges I posed a problem that needed solving.

4. How much time will you give for a challenge. Our first challenge was 10 minutes. The second challenge was a race!

It is one thing to give your learners supplies and a challenge, it is another thing to remember to add the engineering process to each challenge you offer. We chose a simple machine challenge and it was perfect for learning several simple machines. They loved them so much that I have had to design a new challenge to show the other simple machines. Any STEM project can be your best STEM challenge ever! Setting it up for success is the key!

I have included my Simple Machines Unit that I use to add even more STEM stations including our annual Cardboard Arcade! Find my Simple Machines Pack HERE!
I challenge you to also make STEM challenges something your learners will say..."That was the best STEM challenge EVER!"

More Amazing STEM Challenges Your Students Will LOVE

Click on any of the images below to read about more STEM challenges from other STEM educators.
Brittany Washburn
Digital STEM Challenges
Boat STEM Meredith Anderson
Cargo Ship STEM
Get Caught Engineering
Animal Adaptations STEM
Brooke Brown - Teach Outside the Box
Roller Coaster STEM
Vivify STEM
STEM Space Lander
More Than a Worksheet
Paper Chain STEM
Sammie STEAM Challenge
Teachers are Terrific
Toothpick Tower STEM
Science School Yard
Simple Machines Challenges

Graphics and Font Credits: KG Fonts and PhotoClipz

Wednesday, April 19, 2017

Sustainability and The Three R's

This isn't new to us at our school...teaching about sustainability, energy, or even reducing, reusing, and recycling. We are a Green and Healthy School and with that comes some responsibilities when it comes to these concepts, but how can a classroom teacher integrate these ideas in a quick and effective way?

Reduce time in teaching these concepts by integrating a fun picture book that gets at the heart of helping the earth, conserving energy, or living a healthy life style.

Reduce time by using an activity easily found on the internet or use this freebie from my Earth Day Pack to help start you out!
                                         Grab you freebie here!

Sometimes it is nice to reuse an old lesson, but you just need a little refreshing! If you have a lesson on helping the about save milk cartons, cut up cardboard boxes, and toilet paper rolls and now you have reusable supplies that build great towers! This is great for so many grade levels!

Teaching kids how to recycle and what to recycle is a great way to encourage a life long way to help the Earth. A fun game you can play is Separate the Trash. Bring in recyclables. Make cards labeled: glass, plastics, paper, garbage. Have teams take turns separating the trash and learning what is recyclable! You can even have them share ways to reduce or reuse items that are brought in. A great art project can stem from this activity, too!

Teaching sustainability is a great way to help kids become green and healthy.

Friday, April 14, 2017

Let's Get Growing...Five Ways To Grow With Your Students

It is that time of year at our time! We were the proud recipients of a Farm to School Grant five years ago and we are still growing strong!

This week we started planting seeds in two grade levels. So I thought I would give you some tips on how to plant seeds with your students...

 1. Have a planting station ready with soil, seeds, water, trays, and towels
2. Preteach how to plant seeds and practice this mantra:

3. While some students are planting have an activity for the others to do...I usually have them do an activity such as how to read a seed packet, how to plant a seed, or what do seeds need.

4. What they will be planted in? We do peet pots now, we have tried cups with holes in the bottom (too expensive), milk cartons (need lots of water and hard to cover with plastic to keep the water cycle doing the job), we have tried egg cartons, too (too little for my taste)

5. Where will you put the containers or we like to call them seed babies? We have grow lights...I mean huge ones, but if you don't...use the window sill or you can rig up a light source using pvc pipes and florescent grow lights found at hardware stores.

The big think is not over water, under water, have them get too leggy...okay gardening isn't an easy task, but when I see that a seed is magic and they can put their plants in the ground when it is warm enough it is worth the work to keep the babies alive!

Need some help with your plant unit? Check out this plant pack that I just finished up on!
Let's get growing together! Plant a seed...plant ideas for your students...learning to garden is a life long skill that they can take with them. Whether it be in a small cup, a container, or a garden...growing seeds can really be a great way to bring the outdoors in!

Wednesday, April 12, 2017

When Outdoors Meets Indoors: Camping Fun and Prizes

It has been such funny weather here in Wisconsin! It has rained for two days so indoor recess is always fun and then yesterday it snowed. So, lucky me, I have some leeway as to what I can teach our kindergartners.

What do you do if you need a quick, easy, fun and interactive STEM project? Grab a few simple supplies, a fun picture book, and maybe even some toys and you are all set!

 I decided to bring the outdoors...indoors  with camping activities and of course a quick and easy STEM activity with 4 simple supplies:

1. playdough or non-hardening clay
2. straws
3. paper or paper towel from school
4. A camper

If you haven't tried EPIC books, it was free when I signed up for it...if you are a teacher. So, we popped up this fun story that is on EPIC books!
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Give this fun STEM activity a try with the camper freebie here!
 Get these cute campers HERE!
If you would like to add some fun Camping themed Science packs check these out...
Now for the fun part...we are a Green and Healthy School and with that I became Energy certified which means sometimes I get some great opportunities that come my way to test out some toys that go along with our focus on saving energy. Not only does this amazing toy allow my students to learn about ways to create light through other means than electricity, but this toy is also a STEM activity!

So here is the fun part... because I am testing this toy out for this amazing company Tenergy...they are donating 6 of these lanterns on my blog! If you sign up and win, they will send you a free lantern for a quick review of the product! Pretty simple! Click on the link HERE to sign up!

Whether your indoors or outdoors camping can be fun! Add a little STEM, a fun Tenergy Powered Toy and it's even better!

Saturday, April 1, 2017

Earth Day: Planting a Seed with Three Easy Steps

Wanting to teach about Earth Day, but don't know where to get started? First, don't just jump on the bandwagon without knowing a little bit about how Earth Day came to be...

Earth Day...How did this "holiday" even get started? The book that inspired Earth Day was the Silent Spring written by Rachel Carson which dealt with the state of the environment and what was happening to our air, water, forests, and animals.  Earth Day is the  largest secular holiday which beats Valentines Day and Halloween! 

1969...the year I was born...yes I am getting up there... people were getting really upset with what we were doing to our environment from the use of  DDT which significantly impacted the Eagle population to the pollution of our water ways caused by the dumping of chemicals into our rivers, lakes, streams  from factories around the country. 

The worst oil spill of the time occurred in 1969 as well. Senator Gaylord Nelson from my state of Wisconsin started taking a look at ways we could teach others about what we were doing to our environment. Our significant impact on the Earth from population growth to climate change continues to be a problem both politically and environmentally, but how can we continue to help our future generations learn about the importance of saving our Earth, going green, recycling, growing gardens, appreciating nature...without causing other issues? 

On April 22nd, 1970 the first Earth Day was celebrated.  Teach in's were used to help educate others on what impact we have on the Earth is and what the devastating impact Earth faces if we continue down this path. Grass roots levels organized to help the cause in 1970 with  over 20 million Americans celebrated Earth Day that first year!   The Environmental Protection Agency was created which  laid  the groundwork for the Clean Air Act and the Endangered Species Act to name a few. 

How can we take what they did back in 1970 and teach our students that they can make a difference just by the choices they make? We want to help our students learn about the environment and we care about our world so that we all  can make good choices for our future! 

Here are three simple ideas:

1. Show a song or video. Then have them write about what they heard. This simple song is about 8 principles for a better world! Respecting and caring for ALL living things from trees to seeds, animals big and small...a great message!

2. Have students go outside and just take in their environment! Draw what they see. Write down what living things they can observe. Give them time to really look at their surroundings for plants and animals,  and nature!  Let them breath in the clean air. Then have them share ways to go green with each other! 

This one one of my favorite Earth Day memories! Sitting and taking it all in until you just need to share with the teacher what you saw!!!! I love her excitement as she is ready to tell me her observations!

3. Have them connect with an activity about sustainability or going green!
From STEM lessons, to sustainability concepts, or even an energy activity a hands-on science connection is a great way to get your students connecting with their environment and also become problem solvers as they tackle some of our environments biggest issues.

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Building a wind turbine can be complex or simple. Differentiating to meet your level of comfort is key. As an energy certified teacher, I made a wind turbine that can be tested after the students create their fans. You can produce wind powered ovens, sun dials...All it takes though is planting that seed!

Taking the time to teach about Earth Day can come from a book, a video, a quick writing prompt or even a STEM project, but the important thing is that we are teaching our students to be stewards of the Earth and that EACH day can be EARTH day!  

Interested in any of the Earth Day challenges? Check out my Earth Day Resources HERE!

Let's celebrate the Earth! Stop by the Science School Yard TPT store for  an EARTH DAY FREEIBE, TOO!