Monday, October 31, 2011

Acid Candy Test

Wow...we had so much fun with this today! Thanks again to my friend Sherrie Roland for sharing this with me in a time of need!!!

First I read from the Seeds of Science book and YouTube video clips that I posted on the blog yesterday. Then we explored our candy!
 I bought a huge pack of Wonka candy.... with Nerds, BottleCaps, Sweet Tarts and Laffy Taffy in it.  We were able to see a reaction with all of the candy types except for the banana flavored Laffy Taffy.  I wonder if it wasn't sour enough?

The reason for the reaction?  Sour candy is made with citric acid from fruits like lime/lemons.  When you mix the candy diluted in water with baking soda, it emits a gas.  It only emits the gas if it encounters an acid.

We made a lot of observations - we noticed that a lot of the food coloring from the candy was diluted in the water.  We noticed that the baking soda sunk and made clumps on the candy.  We noticed many bubbles. Nerds made the most bubbles. 

 Here is how I set up the materials.  I put the baking soda in the bowl with three spoons.  I had a measuring cup with water in it and clear glasses.  I also put the collection of candy on the tray.   For listening purposes, we stated the directions one at a time:
1.  Get a clear cup
2. Pick your candy
3. Pour the water in (you may want an adult to do this)
4. Put in a spoonful of baking soda.
5. Watch and Observe

After it was completed, we graphed our results according to the candies chosen.  In this rotation, all the candies had a reaction.

It was a fun day!  I did this five times - with five different classes for our "Math/Science Day". 

Hope you will enjoy it too!

Sunday, October 30, 2011

Science Activity for Halloween

When I was at the conference, I learned a new activity from the Seeds of Science Website.  It involves using the book Handbook of Interesting Ingredients to introduce that even candy has some interesting ingredients for flavoring! 

There are several activities on the link below for using candy for science. 

M&M chromatography
Did you know you can separate the dyes used to color candy? All you need is a glass of water, a piece of candy, and some coffee filter paper. To find out more, click here.

Floating M's and S's
Some candy logos float in water. To find out how to float M's and S's, click here.

Acid Test
The sour taste in candy is caused by acid. Here's how you can use baking soda to test your candy for acid.

I am planning on doing the Acid Test tomorrow.  I am using a large bag of Wonka Candy (we just finished the read aloud of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory.)  That bag has sweet tarts, laffy taffy,  nerds and bottle caps.  My son and I tested them at home and found that they all produced bubbles but some produced more than others. 

To do this test, you need clear cups, wonka candy, water and baking soda.  You will put the candy in the water and then add a tsp of baking soda.  If there is citric acid in the candy, it will bubble.  Fun huh?

I will link up some pictures tomorrow to show how we graphed it and any anchor charts that we used.

For more information go to!.aspx

I recommend you "like" them on facebook because they are always sharing cool things there!

Thursday, October 27, 2011

NSTA experiences!

Wow...what a day!  I have completely loved learning all about the 3rd edition of FOSS - Full Option Science System.  A few of the changes include:  Smart board Resources, Science Notebooking embedded in the daily lesson plans, daily formative assessments that are focused and on point, outside activities for all investigations, streaming videos that match the curriculum, new revamped science stories with high quality non-fiction, and so much more!  If your district is getting ready to adopt in the coming year (2012) then pay close attention to the new FOSS modules.  I know we are hoping in Virginia to adopt it in many counties!

Here are a few pictures of the event:

Tonight I am going to a VIP event for Seeds of Science with David Pearson.  I am super excited about that!
Oh, and I found the company that I bought the crystal scarecrow from - Educational Innovations.  They had a Christmas tree and a snowman.  I  bought a snowman for later....although, the chance of snow is high tonight in Hartford.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011


I am on my way to the NSTA regional conference in Hartwood Conneticut with my science gal Sherrie to learn more about FOSS 3rd edition.  I am attending three days of workshops to learn more about FOSS's new editions as well as attending a VIP event with the Seeds of Science team and Dr. David Pearson.  I can't wait to come back and blog about what I learn.  Maybe I will even have a moment to blog while I am there!  If not, see you in a few days....

Monday, October 24, 2011

Mystery Scarecrow..

From time to time, I just wanna have fun! Today was one of those days.  Last year I bought this Halloween scarecrow from a science catalog on clearance and actually held on to it until now.... I knew it would grow crystals, but wasn't sure if my students would.

So I brought it out at 9;30 during morning meeting and asked the kids what they thought would happen if I poured the mystery liquid into the basin of the scarecrow.  I got responses like:  it will explode (remember the mentos?), it will change colors, it will fly off, it will cause a chemical reaction of some sort...

I put the liquid in, and we made a time line during the day.  This is what it looked like:

Nothing glamorous or huge, just a simple time line where we recorded our observations.  After lunch, I decided to name the "fuzzy things" that were growing so the kids were know they were crystals. 

It was a fun, engaging activity that we made notes on during transition times.  The end result?

Happy Halloween....

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Turning your observations into a paragraph....

We have spent several days observing animal pictures, video clips and even real crayfish!  Now I wanted the kids to turn their observations into a paragraph - an integrated writing experience. (We used the photo cards from the Variations and Adaptations kit from Seeds of Science and lesson 2.5. )

First we introduced a claim statement: A ------------------- has many adaptations that help it survive in it's habitat. That would become our topic sentence for our paragraph.

Then we brainstormed three adaptations for each animal and how it helps them survive. 

And then we talked about closing statements - need to wrap it up and stay on topic.

Next the students wrote and illustrated a paragraph that I could then grade for composing, written expression and usuage and mechanics as well as science content. 

Here are some samples:

Saturday, October 22, 2011

Crayfish time...

This week we have been knee deep in studying behavioral and structural adaptations in animals. We have watched video clips, looked a picture cards and played games.  We have (admittedly) been mixing and mashing from FOSS and Seeds of Science as well as some other resources.  But that's Virginia - our curriculum just doesn't always flow.

Today, we observed the real deal - a live crayfish. 

Taken from the unit "Structures of Life" by FOSS we spent some time with our crayfish.  We started by looking at the body in this book "Investigating Crayfish."   This book is an awesome story about testing the environment of the crayfish to see whether he prefers gray rocks (to match his color) or white rocks.  It also has an excellent example of a diagram of a crayfish.

I put it up on the document camera so that we could really see the names of the structures on our crayfish.  Then I introduced the real guys in small basins of water.  Each science group (four -five kids in each) got on crayfish and a recording sheet to observe BOTH structural and behavioral adaptations.  I will admit, I let this lesson last longer than my allotted 45 minute time slot...but it was so worth it!

The kids were so excited to observe them, touch them and watch them explore.  We have had them as 'class pets' for two months now, but something about getting them out of the habitat made it more exciting.

Here is the recording sheets.  We absolutely loved it!

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

How to teach the difference between structural and behavioral adaptations?

Adaptations...all animals have them. It is how they survive in the wild after all.  Without adaptations, the animals would die out quickly!  Here in Virginia, we have to teach the difference between structural and behavioral adaptations.  So what does that mean?

I try to teach my students that structural adaptations have to do with the "structure" or "outside" of the animal.  These are things we can observe - like feet, eyes, skin coverings, teeth and limbs.  A great book to read to your students when you are teaching this is called Mystery Mouths .  It is a book published by Seeds of Science and has excellent photographs that show different mouths and how they match herbivores (flat teeth for grinding plants), carnivore (canine, sharp teeth for tearing meat) and omnivore (flat and sharp teeth for eating both).  If you want to have even cooler activities the Variation and Adaptation (also from Seeds of Science)has some awesome activities using pictures for analysis including observations and inferences. 
Click to Enlarge
For behavioral adaptations, you need to talk about the behaviors or actions that the animals do.  We show a video (available at for just $14.95) that shows the animals in action.  We make a T chart with animals on one side and behaviors on the other.  Some things we notice is how animals hide, climb trees, squirt ink, spray smells, migrate, hibernate, etc.. to avoid predators and/or find food.

One last resource for today is a website.  It is a little tricky, but well worth walking through as a class.  If you have a projector screen or smart board it would be great to use whole class.
Tomorrow...a lesson from FOSS...observing structural and behavioral adaptations of a crayfish. 

Monday, October 17, 2011

First Day of Science Club

Several months ago (June 2010) I graduated from Lesley University's Online Masters Program in Science Education. It was a wonderful program that was developed by TERC and supported by some amazing professors. (Sally Crissman and Sue Doubler to name a few)  In this program, we had to participate in our own inquiry science investigations for each content area.  It's a GREAT program if you are pondering getting your masters - online and I felt like I was truly learning good stuff!   (Hi Jaime! a friend I met during the program)

 When we got to the STEM section, we studied the effect of building structures and earthquakes.  At the time I was taking the course, we experienced not only the Haiti earthquake but the one in Chile as well.  It was quite interesting because the results were extremely different. 

That's my son Jack helping me out!

We needed to make structures and test them on our own "earthquake table" - a machine that involved a crank that shook our structures to the ground! I have kept this earthquake table and bring it out each year to use in science club. Today was the day I dusted off the cobwebs and cranked it up!

A little background on science club: This is the third year that I have been leading a science club with a fellow fifth grade teacher, Mrs. Jones.  We open it up to 4th and 5th graders and charge a small fee to pay for supplies, snacks and a small stipend for our time.  We do scholarship a few students each year as well. Today we had 35 students! Wow!

Our first science club of the year follows the theme of "earthquakes".  It's fitting due to the fact that we all experienced our first earthquake this summer right before school started.  We started by showing photos of the minimal damage our school incurred and then showed them photos of the major damage in Haiti.  Both quakes were about the same force, but why did we get less damage? The answer:  it's all in the building codes of our structures.

Our challenge was to build structures that have a door, a window and a roof.  The students had four people in their groups and were allowed to choose from materials such as: craft sticks, string, toothpicks, clay, glue and pipe cleaners.  We spent 45 minutes constructing our buildings and set them aside to have plenty of time to dry. 

Next week we will test them on the earthquake table and then rebuild and redesign...until they get it right!

Friday, October 14, 2011

Exit Cards - Freebie!

Freebie Friday on means an excellent way to share with more of you my blog.  My blog is mainly about instruction - how I use science notebook and literacy strategies in my fourth grade classroom.  I am an inquiry based teacher who loves to learn with my kids.  If you want to see more, please scroll on down and peek into the past two months of my blog.  There is a lot to see!

For others: you may only be interested in grabbing the goodie! I get that here it is:

Have a great weekend...I am a super busy sports mom this weekend.  No time for, watch and cheer!

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Scientific Comparison Writing

My friend, Kip Bisignano, (a Delta/FOSS Sales Rep for Virginia, Maryland and DC) came to play with my class this week. We are presenting together at the Virginia Association of Science Teachers (VAST) in November on reading strategies and science. So yesterday, we used the book and the strategies with the class. The results were amazing!

We started the day by having the kids read the book: Blue Whales and Buttercups by Seeds of Science. It is an excellent book that has the students reading about how animals and plants are similar and different. They eventually get to the point that they are all related - due to the fact that all living things are made up of cells. My students loved the book and we had a great discussion!

Next we reread page 12 and 13 and brainstormed how the animals fox and wolf are similar and different using a great graphic developed by Kip. You can see how my student Darlene was able to compare two characteristics easily using this format.

Today, we came back to the graphic and we were able to write our first comparative scientific paragraphs. This is Faith's example. She did an excellent job of following the format and creating our transitional sentence.

Tomorrow we will take these drafts to computer lab where we will edit them and retype them for a published look.

I will put the FREE strategy guide that is available at any time in my documents page.  It has the whole lesson that we did - minus the graphic organizer that we used for prewriting purposes.

Another great science day!

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Food Webs Posters

We have been working our way through the Ecosystem....our latest concept is Food Webs.  I started by playing a game online using my smart board with the class.  If you haven't played this game and you teach food chains, then you need to check it out!

It is engaging, fun and educational!  We were able to see simple chains first, then work our way up to full chains - complete with decomposers.  For my class, it is a review of a concept learned in third grade and a great introduction to the more complicated food web.

After we played the game, I read to them from a Delta Science Module book on Food Chains and Food Webs which explains how energy is transferred.
Then we made food webs posters in groups of three...

I think we are getting the hang of it! Tomorrow's lesson - practicing vocabulary words and their meanings...wish me luck!