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Showing posts with label back to school. Show all posts
Showing posts with label back to school. Show all posts

Virtual Science Tips for Back to School

It is easy to go down a rabbit hole of anxiety, which I feel often. It is easy to be upset about the comments we read about educators, however what we can control is how we present ourselves to our students and do our absolute best to stay positive for them and for our own mental stability. No matter what, that is all we can control at times. 

I want to prepare and get ready for the next year, even though I still have no clue how long I will have to teach each class, what platforms I have to work within, and if we will even be teaching live, so what can I do to get ready? As a science teacher, I now have to figure out how to teach science virtually. I need to learn from any mistakes from last year, and move forward into a productive, positive road to the 2020-2021 school year. 

On today's playlist in the School Yard:

1.  Tips to teaching science virtually

2.  Focus Questions

3. Check list of ideas to get started

Let's get focused in Science For Virtual Learning or A/B Hub!

This year, I need to find ways for my science supplies to go home or be in individual bags for easy transporting in case I wind up on a cart when we go back. My biggest obstacle is the amount of bags and supplies I need to get in order in my three bonus days I am receiving in order to get ready. Supplies will be bagged and lessons will be given all set to go for the first five weeks. I also created virtual scavenger hunts for students at home that allow for discussion of key science concepts along with the ability to get up and move. If you are interested in seeing what I mean, check it out here!

Focus Questions: 

Some of my friends are already in school, so I thought I should start to focus on the questions that need to be answered before I start the new year. What will you focus on as you plan to head back? Here are my focus questions that I am working on to have set in place before we start the new year. ( I have three days of bonus pay days they are giving us, so I need to be set by Thursday)...

Check list to get started:

Need a checklist to help you consider what you need to get yourself ready for the 2020-21 school year? Here is a checklist that I made for our science team that is meeting this week. We need to consider thinking outside the box, focusing on the why and finding ways to support each other! 

Thanks for joining me in the School Yard! Science can be child's play even in a pandemic!


Team Building Ideas For Back To School

This year may look different for so many of us as we might be heading back into school, teaching a hybrid model, or teaching remotely. None the less, team building with our new students is vital. Not only is it essential to establishing the expectations that we need as we move forward into a new school year, but it also sets the tone for you and your new students. Team building during this uncertainty is also a bit scary. Often, our team building activities have us working in small groups, hovered around each other as we build, create, or touch the same supplies. We are in close contact with each other and in my room, the atmosphere can get noisy from all of the excitement. 

This year as well, we may need to really think about what we can do to continue to build rapport and a sense of community that we have all been longing for and need in this uncertain time. Here are five Distance Learning Ideas for your classroom, whether it is virtual or in person that will ensure that safety is also a part of the new year.

Team Building Idea # 1: Team Building Picture Books
You can use the affiliated links to find these amazing team building books. 

Great team building books that can lead to STEAM activities:

8. Carmela Full of Wishes by Matt de la Pena
9. Anything is Possible by Giulia Belloni 

Team Building Idea #2: Live Q & A Activities

Needing more back in school ideas?  Host a fun Q & A game where you are the game show host and your students are the contestants. Pose questions to the players, giving them cards for yes and no (red, green), paddles with a yes side and a no side...or what ever you would like to have them engage in the answers. You could have them stand at their spot or sit if you want a no contact activity as well.  In a zoom or google meet? This is also perfect for students to raise their hand or hold an object up when it applies to them. You can even make it a scavenger hunt if they are at home! Have them run and get something that represents them or one of the questions that you posed!

Need a way to go deeper? You can even have a digital spinner with their names on it and spin to share a story about that topic or question to encourage more engagement. 


Possible questions may include:
-Who has a pet?
-Who has three or more siblings?
-Who went camping this summer?
-Who rides a bus to school?
-Who loves watermelon?
-Who doesn't care for chocolate?
-Who is left handed?

This is also a great way to lead into discussion about fears for the new year. Recess, friends, lunch, specialists, getting sick...

Team Building Idea # 3: Project Based Learning Challenges

There are lots of great sites out there for project based learning challenges that might help you as you move forward this school year. What are project based learning?

Project Based Learning is student-centered. It is a teaching method that is based on having learners focus on engaging in projects that are real-world, curriculum based related to a question or challenge. The question is open ended, and it encourages students to apply their skills and background to answer that question along with a product at the end of their learning.

Team Building Idea #4: Individual STEM Challenges 

 STEM challenges will need to be one to one if you are at school. If you have a hybrid model, packing a bag of supplies for both teams to do at the same time, and share via flipgrid so everyone can take part this will give them an opportunity to work as a team of learners, but yet not have to share supplies.  Supplies will have to be prepackaged, or bagged, or placed on individual trays for options. 

Then once finished can be shared remotely or projected on a smarthboard, or through flipgrid videos for them to expand their thinking and showcase their products. We used to go table to table, but we are going to have to make sure we think differently about social distancing if and when we are back in school. 

STEM Challenge Ideas for one to one:
1. towers
2. parachutes
3. buildings/storefronts
4. zip lines
5. individual baggie of goodies challenge
6. Science experiments and challenges
7. coding
8. recyclable creations
9. What can you build with a cup, index card, straw, pompom and popsicle stick for example...all consumable and cheap. See what you have that can be given out and not needed back. Let them create whatever they come up with using the items given!
10. theme of the year, back to school theme, fill a bucket theme...pick a theme and build something that represents the focus. We are making apple towers, using an apple from my apple tree at home and index cards and popsicle sticks I will give them in a brown paper bag! A spin on last year, with materials that are cheap and easy to use! 

Team Building Idea # 5: Flipgrid Getting to Know You

Using flipgrid to get kids talking and sharing is perfect for team building virtually as well as in person! Set up a grid with a fun theme such as beach, safari, or whatever fun idea you got going on. You can invite them on this year's adventure. 

Have them share an intro video that might include:

*reflect on the previous year
*share their favorite classes
*what they want to do, but can't YET
*what they need to do to make it a successful year
*bucket fillers

Team Building Idea #6: Elementary STEM Club

This is going to be an unprecedented year. Back to school has never looked this way, and it's going to require extraordinary flexibility and ingenuity. There's no reason to walk this road alone! We may not have all the answers now... but together, we will figure them out!

Join me and my STEM Team at Elementary STEM Club for activities you can use, interactive discussions about the struggles you are facing, and bonuses and freebies along the way!

This back to school season, will you be...

  1. in the classroom

  2. distance learning

  3. hybrid learning

  4. mobile/on a cart

  5. not sure, but it all stresses me out

Join us at Elementary STEM Club as we figure out the best ways to implement STEM this school year!

How great would it be if you had access to tried and true STEM activities, a supportive group to lean on and learn from, and bonus goodies to make this back-to-school season a little less crazy?

Join us at Elementary STEM Club where you will get all that and more! Do you know the THREE things essential for STEM success ALL year long? 

We can’t wait to share them with you at Elementary STEM Club.

Find out all the details at:

Elementary STEM Club Site Here

Still needing more ideas? TPT can help!

Needing more ideas? Check out my TPT Back To School Resources on Sale from July 13th-July 19th! Head this way to the deals today!

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Back To School Activities For Your Science and STEM Class...In or Out of School

This summer has me thinking a lot about what next year might look like, and I am sure that some of my teacher friends out there are thinking the same thing. I guess you might say I am trying to piece it all together. I am headed back to my school this year, which makes me a bit nervous with the great unknown and trying to find ways to connect to new students and new requirements for learning. With a little creativity and resourcefulness, activities and lessons that you have used in your toolkit each year, can be reworked to utilize whether we are at school working individually or distance learning once again.


For some of us piecing things together, maybe changing schools...changing grade levels...starting off a new year is never easy. Let's just add COVID and the great unknown. I believe that the most important thing you can do right away is create fun engaging hands on opportunities for our students. This will certainly allow you to gauge right away which of your students are leaders and in what way, which students are more shy and reserved and which ones might struggle with challenges and activities as we try to get them to learn the skills we need to be resilient in a time of uncertainty!

Here are some great go to's for you to utilize in the first two weeks of school...before we get started let's discuss supplies and distribution, which will need to look different. 

What to do about supplies?
Now, you might be asking, what if the kids are in school and they can't share supplies? My goal is to create trays or even paper bags with supplies in or on the day before and set them in a grade level large tub. Once finished with the supplies, I would collect by walking around with the tub and having them drop it into the big bucket. When cleaning I will wear gloves and follow the state/district protocol for washing. This method of dropping the supplies into a bucket you walk around with assures no contact. :( 

Here is my plan for supply distribution:

In school: students will be given a tray of supplies such as straws, cardboard, toilet paper tubes, card stock. They will create something out of the supplies given. If they need supplies: a plastic tray will be used to bring an individual what they need, they get the item from the bucket/tray/tub. Once they are finished, go around with a large bucket to collect. Students drop their used items in the bucket, with no contact. Then we sanitize the the bucket/tray/tub when time allows. This allows us to use items quicker than the 48 hours of set aside time.  

At home: items are sent home with the group that is virtual on the day they are in school in a brown paper bag (this is recyclable and cheaper than plastic). When home, they create the assigned task/challenge and then share in your class meet or in flipgrid in video form for assessment.  Most items will be allowed to stay home and to be kept, however items that need to be returned, will be brought back to school and when students arrive back, a tub will be set out for drop off in their classrooms or when they come back to science. I will then place it off to the side for 48 hours, clean and reuse the materials or place them back in my FOSS kits. 

Here are my back to school go to's that can be done one on one in class or at home:
1. Saving Sam (in a group or even alone...)

I am sure you might have seen Saving Sam. The little gummy worm that needs help from drowning. It is a great team building activity that I use for my fourth graders. There are some great free resources on TPT for that activity. 

However, this year I am using my Saving Sam extensions so that I can build on the one activity and pose another. What if we can't save Sam together or our students are at home doing virtual learning?  Let's save Sam with our families...or let's save Sam on our own. This can be done by creating an aluminum foil boat, zip line, or a sun protector out of recyclables or blocks that can be collected and washed. Give a paper Sam to them even though the gummy worm is tasty and fun...We choose from Boat Regatta, Mountain Retreat and Sun Protector. We call them Sam's Extended Adventures! You can find it here.  

2.  School Rules STEM (one that can be done alone)

 This is a great way for our kiddos to review school rules, either in school or at home virtually. You might have seen your students unsure of how to follow Google or Zoom Meets correctly and so you probably had to create some new rules. As we find ways to problem solve some of the issues that came up (mine were: they didn't show up each week, they didn't do quality work at times, they didn't do an activity or show their work, they sent an email sharing they didn't get it then you send them a how to video and they still don't do it. Now, our district is looking at a Group A/B model where group A comes in while B is virtual for four days then flip flops with B. We will need to review those rules as we move forward. Why not have students work on a STEM model representing the rules that we have in place as we move forward. 

Ideas that might look different this year: 

  • walking in the halls
  • mask wearing
  • social distancing
  • bathroom use
  • washing hands
  • playing outside
  • lining up
  • going to specialists
  • eating lunch
  • outdoor rules
  • touching our faces

3. Playground Creations (another STEM challenge that can be alone at school or at home)

If you are like me, you might not be seeing your students allowed to play on the playground equipment come fall...why not have your students find a creative solution/invention for no contact playground fun! Games, activities, and events may need a little modification, what a perfect opportunity to not only teach what modifications and contraints are, they surely know now what that means, they can relate. We can also do a great job with this by teaching positive growth mindset. We all want things to go back to "normal", but that isn't realistic at the moment. So, how can we all push through, be positive, and solve problems? 

Lesson kick start: 

1. Have students review why it is important to stay healthy. What does that have to look like and why.
2. What rules are in place that are different than last year?
3. How can we find new ways to have fun while social distancing?
4. Generate possible game and playground ideas. Hula Hoops? Sidewalk chalk areas? Walking paths? Juggling? Painted games on the black top (in line with six feet lines to follow)...can students then create a STEM project that helps students remember the new school rules?

4. Cup stacking challenge (when life may be somewhat normal again)
This has always been a favorite go to...when life allows us to be working closer together....Using 6 Dixie cups, one rubber band, and a piece of string for everyone in the group is a perfect way to have your students as a group to problem solve and work as a team. I use this activity with my fifth graders to address how our science labs and stations work as a group. They must formulate a list as a class first, so we can discuss what is essential for our labs to be successful. Some of our BIG take aways are typically: we must work together, we must communicate in a positive  manner, we must do our part, we must listen respectfully to everyone. I focus on our school's core values as well and what that must look like.

Need resources for Science and STEM? Check out these helpful back to school packs:

5. A challenge for you...Find something that helps you get ready for fall...

Not sure yet how to even navigate for next year? We all need to give ourselves a little boost! Join me for one last idea for fall helping the Whole Teacher as we navigate our way together! My friends and I invite you to join us for the Whole Teacher EclecticCon. This virtual conference of 50+ sessions includes 30 hours of training starting July 27th. Click here to learn more. Join us Carol from Teachers are Terrific, Renee from Science School Yard, Meredith from Momgineer, Sarah from Science and STEM Team, and Natasha from Vivify as we present along with over 50 presenters as we share more tips and tricks that are puzzling all of us! We are better together!

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New Year...New STEM Ideas

Happy New Year's Eve eve! I hope you are busy soaking in the last few days of 2019. I'll make this short and sweet so that you can back to enjoying your much deserved break. I have been taking some time to breath this break. I have watched a ton of Netflix and played many games of scrabble. I even took some tests to see how the new year will go for me! I am a rooster born in 1969 and they say 2020 is going to be my year! I also learned on another test that I am a type 2 on my enneagram test which means I am a supportive advisor...so I guess that means I am going to help my teacher friends a lot this new year! So let's get started!

I have a bit of time right now to plan for Thursday, back to school. I thought I would share some New Year STEM ideas to get you ready for the new year!

New Year STEM Idea 1: Confetti Thrower/Popper

Suggested Materials: 
  • balloons
  • toilet paper tubes/cups
  • rubber bands
  • little papers for their resolutions
  • things to decorate the tubes such as markers, stickers, pompoms...

Book Connection: Squirrel's New Year's Resolution

Big Idea:

Students can build shooters in order to fling their resolutions to a circle, where each resolution gets picked up by someone else and read out loud. This gives them an audience and gives others great ideas for the new year!

New Year STEM Idea 2: Ball Drop

Suggested Materials:

  • different types of paper
  • string/yarn/fish line
  • cardboard tubes
  • binder clips/paper clips
  • dowels/rulers
  • tape, scissors, glue
  • variety of small balls or have them create their own
Big Idea:

Teams create a new year's eve ball drop after learning about the history of the ball drop. This is also a perfect time to talk about traditions in your classroom after students come back from a break and often have just participated in a tradition. 

Video Connection:

New Year STEM Activity 3: Noise Makers

Suggested Materials:
  • rice/dried beans/popcorn
  • toilet paper rolls
  • popsicle sticks
  • egg cartons
  • plastic spoons
  • paper
  • glue/tape/markers/crayons
Big Idea:

Sound science lessons can fit nicely here. Each student creates a noise maker using the supplies set out after generating a list of instruments they use in music class or have seen being played. 

Book Connection:

A great book that shows all of the cultural celebrations that New Year's brings. I use black-eyed peas to signify good luck like the book!

New Year STEM Activity 4: New Year Hat


I will only let them use paper and glue this year...last year we used way too many pipe cleaners! You have to say we all can learn! I think they are amazing out of pipe cleaners though...your call.

Big Idea:

I teach cycles and patterns in our universe for a science lesson. This is a great book to talk about new beginnings and about how cycles of events continue to come and go. This book can be read all year long!

Book Connection:

All of these ideas can be found all in one place! Grab the New Year STEM pack this week for a great hands on way to add science and STEM to your first week back! 
My whole store will be on sale to ring in the new year from January 31st-January 1st! Perfect time to get it on sale and to also grab the Chinese New Year Pack for January 25th!


Growth Mindset Goal Setting For Back To School

I think that growth mindset is always important to focus on when you teach, especially for back to school. I especially think that positive growth mindset is something that really shines through when a teacher has taught their students strategies for working through a road block! This summer was truly and eye opener for me in regards to the importance of teaching students those positive strategies.

Case in point, I taught summer school to students that were from other elementary schools in our district. A few of my own students that I taught in my science classrooms were sprinkled among the groups for STEM Garden Club...which changed to Environmental STEM Club after I realized that the new students I had weren't quite ready to head outside to master gardening.

So, inside I posed several STEM challenges. I would first pose a challenge, go through the constraints of the project and then let them go through the engineering process after a review of supplies and expectations. To my surprise, the students that I worked diligently all year with on growth mindset strategies could easily push through a challenge, find ways to problem solve, and remained positive when faced with an obstacle. Several times during our STEM challenges each week, we would have another student from another school cry, get angry, give up, whine...I would use the strategies that I used all year with that child, but they didn't have the tools to work through their issues.

What that showed me was that teaching positive growth mindset is key to helping our students have a tool box of strategies to road blocks they will have in any situation in their lives. I thought I would share several ideas that I will be starting off with as well as use in the course of the school year. As I work with a new school this year once again, (they like to move specialists around way too much) those ideas will be used on new students. I will also continue to use these strategies on the students at my base school!

We, as adults, also have beliefs about our own abilities and our own mindset which causes us to react in a certain way every time we are faced with a problem or experience. I start with my Growth Mindset Bulletin Board so that I can refer to it each and every time!

Here are my top goals for each new school year:

Goal 1: We must instill in our students a passion for learning. In your lessons, in the way you establish your relationships. That first day they meet you, rock it!

Goal 2:  We must teach ourselves and our students that failure is a springboard for growth, which we can always learn from. If they aren't ready or need a little help when they fail a task we must be ready with strategies to teach them. I teach one strategy at a time using my bulletin board as a guide.

Goal 3: We must learn that mistakes  are opportunities to grow and learn (build the foundation of what is mindset, so when growth occurs they can recognize it!) In science, mistakes are going to happen, results aren't going to be perfect, we must teach that in the moment so they hear it and see it from us.

Goal 4: We must teach mindset, use tools such as visuals to refer to, and help push through the negative feeling to learn something new, that means we can also teach what fixed mindset means, should we quit? (fixed) or work through a problem? (growth)...

Again I go to my bulletin board, find the poster that refers to what issue we are presented with and then we use it as a teachable moment. We connect that situation with a moment that we can relate to, ask others for ideas, walk them through the tough stuff, and keep going. Sometimes our kiddos shut down, I keep on going and push through it at times for them to model the correct expectation.

Goal 5: We must use the power of "YET" which is so very powerful! I use the word YET all the time! "No, you didn't get it YET." "We didn't find the solution, YET." "Our data isn't right, YET." What can we do to get it? Try again, ask a friend, find our mistake...They will need help, but in the end after time and consistency, you will see that more of your students will actually start understanding and practicing growth mindset. (and maybe even call each other out for fixed mindset)

Goal 6: Let's not forget the importance of positive reinforcement, find ways to rephrase how a child (or we) are feeling and teach strategies to work through our struggles. We all need to hear the positives! "I see you are really trying." "I like how you were observing the process." Even if they can't seem to understand the whole picture, we can always find a positive for them to hear!

Goal 7: Reflect on how one dealt with a situation or road block and how that connects to the feelings that happened. What I mean by that is when someone uses fixed mindset, it is okay to reflect back on it when the lesson is done, when time and anger pass, in the moment if it can be productive. Reflection is a great tool for us to grow! They can reflect on their participation, their understanding, their attitude.

Due to only seeing my students for an hour a week, I start off each class, kindergarten through fifth grade with an introduction lesson on whatever I am going to teach. After giving directions, I give an example of a time that I couldn't solve a problem. I show them my bulletin board, that we refer to each time a situation comes up where learning positive growth mindset can occur. I share a famous mistake with them...Play Do! Here is a link to an article of the top 10 Greatest Accidental Inventions!

In the next few weeks, I will be sharing strategies and resources to help you establish a growth mindset environment for you and your students! To start with grab these free printable posters!

Let's help ourselves and our students by providing the fundamentals of positive growth mindset. Setting up the new year with a fresh start ... positivity is key to a successful year! Want the whole pack including letters for the bulletin board, book marks, and reflection sheet, brain clip art and more? Let's put it all together, HERE!
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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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