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8 Ways To Beat Cabin Fever In and Out of School

Next to my childhood home, we had a business that would plow their snow into a big pile and each winter I would have a huge hill to play on. I would make forts, snowmen, and my favorite sledding down what I thought was a huge mountain. Some of you may not have snow where you live, that is pretty lucky when it gets way below freezing here and all I want is to be warm again. 
Each winter, I see not only myself, but everyone around me, including my students suffer a little cabin fever. This year, I am going to be hosting an after school class called, Cabin Fever Club! 

Those of you that follow me on Instagram, Facebook, and Pinterest know how much I love to share all of the fun after school classes that I facilitate and this club surely is a potpourri of everything I have done rolled up into one class. The key is to motivate my students and tie in learning tasks. 

Each one of the evenings will allow me to utilize reading whether non-fiction or a relatable topic followed up with a hands on activity that ties in science, social studies, math, and reading! It is sprinkled with STEM engineering design challenges that will have my students excited about February and March like never before...I also want to help you find ways to add some interactive activities to your day or after school or family night events. 

I offer three nights a week in six week increments of virtual STEM fun along with different hands on activities for students to do. Here are some of the ideas for my after school club:

1. Home Depot wood kits (we are doing tic tac toe), we reached out to them to see if they would donate to us. If your hosting a family night, reach out to local businesses to see if they can help!

2. We partnered with a garden center and are doing microgreens, flowers, and vegetable seeds. We received a donation by a gas station plastic containers for the plants to have their own little green house. I just asked them if they were interested in helping us, and they said yes! They will be doing virtual tours of a greenhouse, helping us learn about plants, and even taking a virtual tour of how they compost! Garden centers are often willing to help if you publicize where you received a donation!

3. Snowman making kits which include felt scarves and mittens and rocks for the eyes and mouth.  We had donated fabric so we found a way to use what we had! 

4. We included STEM goodies such as toilet paper tubes, tape, string, foil, white paper, cups, pink and red paper, and more. I used what I had around the classroom and in the recycle bin. We will focus on science and holiday STEM challenges to sprinkle into our week. STEM can be done independently, virtually, or for any family night. This year, STEM club events are held virtually. 

5. We will be creating a winter animal out of recycling to focus on adaptations, hibernation, and migration. We play science scavenger hunt, which allows students to run around to find items that they can use in their homes! Kids are very creative with what they find and can use.

6. We will also be focusing on making bird feeders out of a water bottle (full of water) for them to use, this can also be a great greenhouse. This is an inexpensive solution to making sure kids have items to use that is safe and clean.

7. We are doing an egg hunt in our school neighborhood after painting rocks that with paint we send home. We will have an egg hunt for prizes after they hand in the rocks in March! They can win baskets of goodies along with the students at our school. You turn in a painted egg that you turn in for a prize. One prize per family. 

8. We are also going to the zoo on vacation! The San Diego Zoo has a great variety of animals that have live cams and we will be taking a trip per week that will go along with what we are learning about. I am thinking we can go somewhere warm and plot it on a map for us to link technology and social studies! Each student is getting a map and a record sheet to be able to find out how many miles we are going on our trip and we will determine how long it would take us in a car. We will be utilizing places that our families can go for free and providing a list for them so that they can get out of the rut of being indoors.  Check out the San Diego Live Animal Cams!

Along with the supplies: think about themes such as Winter, Snow, and Valentines. We will focus on recycling projects, but also include Valentine's Day STEM from my Valentine's Day STEM pack found here!

No matter how you involve your students in the dull drums of winter or in our case two months without a break, I hope these ideas inspire you and motivate your students as well! 

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Five Fun Gingerbread Science and STEM Ideas

One of my favorite cookies when I was a kid was the gingerbread man that I would make with my grandma. It was always fun to read the story and then make the cookies hoping that the gingerbread man would actually jump right out of the oven so I could chase him!

Who doesn't love as gingerbread man or baby stories that we can share with our students! This week, we used the gingerbread man story to review several reading, math, and science concepts. 

Check it out! Five of my top favorite Science and STEM Gingerbread Connections: 

1. STEM gingerbread houses to tie in story mapping

2. STEM gingerbread bridges to teach problem solving and what if's

3. Solids vs. liquids and what happens to gingerbread when they get wet? (use water in a dropper or test different types of liquids such as water, oil, vinegar, and milk) 

4. living vs. non-living review (Is a cookie living or non-living? What makes something living?

Digital see saw activity!

This is a great science video connection, perfect to talk about the living characteristics that the gingerbread man had in the story and what living means scientifically:

5.  Building a boat for the gingerbread man (test weight in a boat to see capacity with pennies for your weights/cubes) 

Want more fun and engaging gingerbread man themed lessons? Find them here:

Gingerbread Digital SeeSaw and Google Slides Pack This is my newest pack that I used in kindergarten and first grade this week! It was perfect with my virtual and in person kids!

Want a great song and story retell? This is my favorite with just the best melody and graphics! 

I love that my students can review science using one of my favorite stories that connect to my favorite person...my grandma! Run...Run...as fast as you can to your lesson plan book to get started on your gingerbread themed activities today. Let's make learning Science and STEM child's play!

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12 Ways To Help Students Retain Science Vocabulary

I remember when I was in fourth grade, and I had Sister Elrita for a teacher. She tried so hard to help us remember our spelling words. We had a special notebook just for spelling tests, and we had weekly lists we needed to take home, but looking back, those lists were just pure memorization. I didn't always know what the words meant, and I wasn't ever even a good speller. I was one of those kids that could see that it looked wrong, but didn't always know how to fix it. I still am that way as an adult. Now, to add vocabulary to the mix, yikes. I would use strategies when I got older such as pneumonic devices, or acrostics to support my memorizing of what a particular word meant. Do you recall how you memorized all of those words and what they meant when you were younger?

Science vocabulary is hard for students to retain. Whether you use the Freyer model or Sitton spelling or a district spelling program, here are some helpful tips to bring your science vocabulary to a new level of retention. What is even harder is that teachers have such little time to teach science in our very busy days and now with social distancing how do you even try to have enough time and supplies for each student. As you find new ways to add science into your curriculum, we also have to remember to focus on hands on and creative ways for our students to know what they are doing and what vocabulary words go with each concept.

You can use vocabulary within the context of a lesson or through a creative activity, but having new ideas to help your students understand those tough tier three words will surely inspire both you and your students!

Here are my top 12 ways that I help my K-5th grade students to remember their science vocabulary words and retain their meaning week to week:

1. Songs/Chants: I love songs and chants to remember vocabulary words. From Water Cycle to states of matter, songs help students remember words through popular songs and chants. 

2. Write the room with qr codes: I have students go from poster to poster reading vocabulary or answering a vocabulary driven question. Now with social distancing I have a bell that allows students to know when to rotate. 

3. Cloze Reading: I might give students a short reading with vocabulary words to focus on that are bolded. When they are done I give them a few questions to answer that allows for them to reflect on the words they are learning.

4. Boom Cards: I absolutely love boom cards for testing for understanding after we focus on a science concept and experiment. I just used mixture or solution and states of matter this week!

5. Word drawings: I use this when we have words that are a bit harder such as the water cycle and identifying the differences or solubility/saturation/concentration/diluted. When the word becomes the concept it makes more sense!

6. Google Slide Vocabulary Review Games: Some of my classes are not set up for Boom Learning because...well I teach over 230 students. I shift those classes to my google slides activities! This allows for them to look at picture association and determine which word represents the vocabulary we are learning. 

7. Science Experiments and See Saw Activities: I love when I can demonstrate the words and what they mean through an experiment or let students do the experiments independently right now. Once they are done, they work on a record sheet to use what they learned. They have to use the words correctly in sentences or phrases that show what they know and utilize their words in context.

8.  Vocabulary Board Games: I LOVED using these last year as a way to review our FOSS science units. Now that we are virtual and independent we have not been able to use the games this year. Instead, we now I have...who has which can be done at their desk. Kiddos at home review by some of the ideas above.

9. Art projects: We utilize science based art projects at times to create a picture or diagram using our colored paper and a concept such as the water cycle or landforms. We then label the picture (or even diorama when we could work in groups) to show what each part of our picture represents.

10. Memory/Go Fish: Okay...another idea that is very hard independently, but Educandy offers a way to play memory, word search and more. Here is the video on how to do just that!

 11. Poetry: I use acrostic poems and haikus to have students remember important science words. We take a picture and add it to see saw for them to use as a study guide, then I gather the poems and create a bulletin board. Two for the price of one!

12. Placemats: I use digital placemats for students to use to fill in the definition, picture, antonyms, and synonyms of the vocabulary words that are the main focus of our lesson. I don't always use this one, because I am crunched for time and this one can take a bit longer for us to fill out. I am sharing my digital placemat for you to download here!   

I hope that these ideas will inspire you to add some science vocabulary activities into your science lessons! Let's make science child's play!

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Misconceptions In the Science Classroom

In science,  I notice my K through fifth grade students often times have many misconceptions. Often they might say to me that they have learned something from mom or dad or they saw something on TV,  however when they are told they are wrong often times students have a really hard time giving up these misconceptions. Especially if they’ve had these misunderstandings for a long time or they trust their mom and dad which they should. What we need to remember that it is most important to not point out that they are wrong, we need to focus on helping students obtain the correct knowledge in order to see why their original belief needed more evidence, just like real scientists do.  

Let me share last week's question, "How do we have day and night?" You can only imagine what second graders would say...so I wrote them down.

*the earth moves around the sun
*when we go to sleep we don't see it
*the moon is there and blocks the sun and we see the moon
*its light then dark (when asked why, they couldn't quite get it)

These are just a few fun answers that I got. We typically make an anchor chart with our ideas down or write it down on the board. I might even start with a simple see saw question they answer as I set up supplies now that I am on a cart in each room. We write down the ideas that we come up with, then we discuss how real scientists may start out with an idea or a belief and through scientific investigations, they might come up with another answer or what they originally thought might be wrong. I ask them, "Is that okay if our first idea is proven to be a misconception?" and as we work on knowing it's okay to be wrong or predict incorrectly they all chime in "Yes!" 

To finish up our lesson, I also create an anchor chart with the correct information on it, as well as visual representations. This will help them process what they learned. We even go back to our predictions and our original ideas. 

 What is a misconception. Well it’s a preconceived notion that a person has about a topic that goes against what is generally excepted in science and in the science community. How can these misconceptions happen? It might be an observation they make on their own in the natural world. It might be because of religious beliefs that disagree with Science. It might be that they’re so young that they haven’t even had a chance to have this topic come up in their life. And it might be that they have had this misconception due to Family members believing something that they were taught when they were younger and they pass that down generation to generation. So how do we S educators replace versus misconceptions with new correct ideas. This can be our often challenging and difficult. Today I will give you three ways that you can help your students understand the science behind a given topic in your classroom. First: you can set up a nickel spearmint and before you show the students the activity you can have them predict what they might see this is where you’ll find students have these misconceptions that are willing to share with you what they believe they know. You may ask what do you think will happen why do you think that will happen what experiences do you have that might give you that idea? Second: now it’s time to show students the science experiment through hands-on activities and their own experimentation. 

So how do we deal with misconceptions in the science classroom? That is a really good question.  Here are three quick tips to help you out.

Idea #1: 

1.Pose a question. Ask them to predict before they start. Then you can do this by giving students materials and having them set up an experiment that you give them as individuals or as a team they may find the answers on their own. When they are done, have them reflect on their thinking and share out. 

Idea #2: 

2. You may also do demonstrations which are great way for students in a large group to see and understand through your delivery this is what we call teacher lead, but inquiry-based learning really allow students to be able to get a better grasp of misconceptions because they’re doing it on their own it’s much more effective.  Just remember make sure you do not tell students they are wrong that is not an effective way to have students better understand a science concept. Students need to learn that mistakes are part of learning. We don't want them shutting down before we even start. I have had to do quite a few more demonstrations due to COVID, and even though it isn't my favorite way to have students understand a concept, it seems to be working virtually and in person. 

Idea #3:

3. Being able to address these misconceptions in your classroom in a discovery based way, allows for student learning it also lets them create an environment where they can be informed and be able to critically think about their role in the world. 

Idea #4:

4. Another way to deal with misconceptions is to be able to have students participate in research-based activities this will allow them to create their own knowledge and can be later backed up by your demonstration and student led conversation about what they’ve learned. They can produce visual representations or they can be able to showcase their learning through an experiment that they demonstrate to the group. 

Often times our students are nervous about sharing what they believe they know which doesn’t allow us to be able to see what their background knowledge is on a certain topic one way that you can go around this is my giving a pretest in order to directly assess what misconceptions your students hold. You can also probe for misconceptions by simply having a class conversation which will engage them in their learning through questioning.  Either way you’ll be able to allow yourself to observe those misconceptions and be able to focus better on the topics you need to cover in your classroom.

Getting supplies ready for the next week, all set for one to one learning. Let's see what they think about why we have seasons...

So what did I do about teaching day and night? I asked the question, did a demonstration, and then we made a hands-on model. We then acted like the earth as a flashlight/light was the sun! Once done, we posted what we learned in see saw. Here is the see saw code for your free download: See Saw Day and Night Activity and Review Free Resource HERE

Grab your free one page resource for your model with your students HERE!

Here are some great digital resources to help you on this topic.

I can help any night and day to bring Science and STEM to you! 

Diversity, Cultural Competence, and the Holidays

Celebrating the holidays such as Thanksgiving and Christmas are not just about adding a cute book and activity that might hit a few countries. Many countries such as the United States are culturally and linguistically diverse and as we work to find ways to be inclusive, we must often times take a giant step back in order to see the big picture. 

Holidays do not look the same for every one of our students. I might eat turkey on Thanksgiving while other families might not. The holidays provide us a unique opportunity to learn more about each other while being culturally inclusive. This allows our students to share a bit about themselves, as well as form new relationships or friendships with students that might be similar or different them they are. By finding new connections we can see each other in a different light.

What is cultural competence? 
It is our ability to interact and communicate effectively with people of different cultures and to learn to understand in a positive way of our own world views as well as the views of others

How can we be culturally competent educators?
1. Ask questions (how do you celebrate this time of year?)
2. find out how your students celebrate or don't celebrate traditions (find ways to ask students and parents)
3. find alternatives to holiday celebrations such as giving, kindness, and friendship
4. Get families involved (let them share a family heirloom, activity, or recipe for example)
5. Share community events with families
6. Read great picture books that represent traditions or themes that you are focusing on
7. Find ways to incorporate cultural identity by finding new ways to have students share

Why learn about traditions?

Learning about traditions as well as other holidays celebrated by classmates broaden students’ awareness and understanding of the world around them. We are all similar and different in many ways. Learning about traditions that others have such as holidays around the world allows us to celebrate those similarities and differences together and can shed a new light on what makes us unique and special!

For me, I can teach science and STEM together as we learn about seasons and weather along with the different countries that celebrate differently and how they might have similar traditions that we can relate to. 

How do I add science to cultural diversity lessons? Not all countries have four seasons. Not all holidays are celebrated in wintertime. Not all places in the world look the same. Teaching geography is a great way to connect our learning about others and other places.  Learning about holidays around the world is the perfect opportunity to learn this concept as well.

Culturally Competent Ideas For November

In November, it is Native American Heritage Month. Find time to educate your students on the traditions, customs, music, dance, food, and stories of the native tribes in your state(providence) as well as the tribes in your country. 

A great site for teachers needing resources and ideas is found here: Native American Heritage Month Resources

Teach the different points of view of the Wampanoug tribe and the pilgrims. How do you think both groups felt? What are the historical facts that allow for everyone's history to be represented. It is imperative to educate ourselves as educators and present the first Thanksgiving as it truly was. Here is a site that might help you with that: Everyone's History Matters: The Wampanoag Indian Thanksgiving Story Deserves To Be Known

STEM Connections

Find ways to tie in hands-on engineering projects that connect STEM to your social studies lessons. Here are three ways to add historical information with teaching character traits such as kindness, resilience, compassion, and being helpful. Sometimes doing the right thing doesn't always turn out the way you intended. This is a great way to work in character building!

Idea 1:  Teaching Lessons on Kindness: The Wampanoag Tribe helping the Pilgrims and the historical side. Older students might be able to even go deeper as they look at point of view: was it a good idea looking back at history that Samoset and Squanto helped the Pilgrims? 

The STEM connection for us is to create a basket out of materials such as: bulletin board paper and masking tape that will carry vegetables from one area to another. 

Idea 2: Teach about Traditions through the building of a table out of materials such as Kiva planks, toilet paper tubes, cardboard, cubes, or to make it a bit tougher, just paper and masking tape again. However, students must add weight to the table, so it must be a strong table. Once the tables are finished, students can add pictures of their favorite celebration food. This allows great discussion on when they eat that food, what holidays they might or might not celebrate and a discussion on what makes us all unique and special!

Idea 3: A Boats That Float STEM Lesson is a great way to bring up the topic of adversity and overcoming obstacles. Throughout history, groups of people have had to struggle with hurdles and difficulties. Right now is a perfect time to allow for discussion on how we all need strategies to overcome something difficult in our lives. 

Idea 4: Have students research the type of transportation that the Wampanoags used to travel. Have them create what they learned using supplies at home or given by the teacher. I would use tongue depressors, straws, masking tape, aluminum foil as a start. 

Grab your STEM Cultural Competence Thanksgiving Pack HERE Today! Looking for more resources to help you be more culturally responsive? Sign up to grab your free resource guide!

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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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