Monday, April 30, 2012

Squirtle Data...

Just wanted to share with you something my students came up with recently...a way to keep track of how much Squirtle was being fed. 

Hmmm....let me back track a bit.  One day last week, one of my students noticed that Squirtle was shedding a bit on his neck. He asked me why and naturally, I had no he googled it.  (By the way is google a verb now?)

He found out that it could be happening because we were feeding Squirtle too much protein.  Again, let me back track....when we first got Squritle in January the turtle went into hibernation b/c my classroom was so cold. (yes, it is true...)  He didn't eat for the first two months I had him...  Then with the help of our maintenance worker and water specialist, we moved him from a dry tank to a wet tank.  Guess what? Squirtle woke up!  Tom also suggested that we feed him Squirtle kept turning up his nose at fish and shrimp that the pet store had recommended.  He loved them...once he started eating, we started feeding him A LOT....

Each morning the kids would clamor to feed him and we fact, I think we overfed him!  I started having the students go outside in the morning and dig for earthworms for free food...there are several children who absolutely love this!  Squirtle also decided that he liked the shrimp (finally) as well as some turtle treats that I picked up at the store.

But after we googled the shedding incident, we decided we needed to have a system.  The students and I talked about it and came up with this:

 Now, every time we feed him we write it on the board.  We have streamlined it to mornings only and are noticing a happy turtle...and the shedding??? Hopefully this will help us out too!

Saturday, April 28, 2012

Real World Project...erosion

We have been working on learning about Natural Resources in Virginia...including our watersheds, our forests, and now our land and soil. 

I decided to start with a real problem...erosion at our schoolyard.  I took the kids out for a walk to see the spot near our classroom.  What do you notice about the spot?  Why do you think we are having trouble growing grass here?

Then we came back into the class and brainstormed ways that we could test what the problem was.

The science groups came up with many different ideas to test...was it the soil? (clay vs. potting soil), was it the hill? (clay hill vs. no hill) was it the fact that the soil did not have worms to give it nutrients? (worms in soil vs. no worms in soil) was it the fact that there were rocks in the soil?

Then the groups came up with a plan....

The next day we gathered the supplies and created our projects/investigations/experiments....

Each group has a blue tray with materials, an index card with the group number and the task they are testing.

Next, each group made a visual poster to show what they are testing - clarifying their ideas.

These posters are now posted on my bulletin board...I will keep you informed as to what the kids can prove...

Saturday, April 21, 2012

Earth Day lesson with the Lorax

I love the Lorax!  I have ever since I was old enough to read it...I remember watching it on TV long before there was such thing as Earth Day (or at least one recognized in schools!) I loved the idea of helping the planet then, and I love the idea of helping the planet now.  So when I saw an article using this book highlighted in NSTA's magazine Science and Children this month, I knew I had to duplicated it in my classroom.  The article, Truffula Tree Troubles, was written by Robert Snyder and addresses the issue of tree harvesting. My class had just finished reading Owl in My Shower which is a great book that also addresses the issue of logging rights vs. ecological issues.   We were already familiar with the idea that there are two sides to every story.

Anyway, you can find the article for purchase at the NSTA store and I highly recommend you do that to get the full lesson plan.  The article gives objectives, materials and a detailed lesson plan that follows the 5 E's nicely (Engage, Explore, Explain, Elaborate and Evaluate),  I will give you a quick run down on the "gist" of the activity...

You will replicate the idea of cutting down trees like the Oncler did using 5 different types of noodles.   I started off by reading from the book until they get to the section where the oncler starts chopping down all the trees. At this point I have the children get into small groups. (My students already work daily in cooperative science groups with rotating jobs which really helped with this activity.) Each group is assigned a card with a noodle attached. That is the "tree" their group will harvest.  I pointed out to them that just like a real forest doesn't have an equal amount of trees, either will they.  Some groups will have more than others. 

You will put all the noodles on a drop cloth (I used a plastic table cloth) for easy harvesting (and clean up).  Then each group will send one member to the "forest" to harvest their trees for 45 seconds.  After that time, they will return to their group and record the number of trees harvested.  They will do this 8 times.

The students (like the once-ler) were very excited at the beginning to harvest many trees at once.  However, after several trials...they noticed that they were getting fewer and fewer trees...and suddenly ... the trees were gone!

What a great opportunity to discuss with them the idea of renewable and non-renewable resources.  We discussed that some natural resources are non-renewable - meaning that once they are used up they are gone for good.  That's what happened to the Once-ler and the Truffula trees.  However, we learned in Owl in the Shower that forests can be renewable resources if loggers don't just clear cut and move on, but instead replant after each cut.  That is what we are trying to do here in Virginia with our logging industry.

In the NSTA article, Robert Snyder had included some fantastic follow up questions.  In keeping with my science notebook process, I re-wrote the form to include his idea of a data chart, a line plot, a conclusion (my idea) and a reflection (his idea). 

You will notice that I purposefully left the line plot unmarked - that is so you can hand write the trials at the bottom (# 1-8) and the amount of noodles on the side.  I had written only up to 40 noodles per handful (counting by 5's) and I have to say the kids far exceeded that amount.  When I do it next year, I will write the numbers by 10's up to 80 instead.  You can down load it for free at my TPT store.

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Capacity continued...

Gallon Robot to the RescueAfter we went outside and actually measured liquid volume, we learned how to remember conversions.  There are many ways to do this...Of course you know about Gallon Man.  Have you seen Laura Candler's new Gallon Robot? This is a great new take on Gallon man.  I like how she breaks down cups into ounces as well.  She also includes several games, word problems and practice items using Gallon Man.

We use gallon man in third grade and so we moved on to the Big G instead.

I like this version for us in fourth grade fits in nicely with our multiplication concepts as well as fractions. 
It is also something that students can remember and reproduce on scratch paper for state testing.  They can draw this easily and then use this when they have problems with conversion on the test. 
We took our measurement from yesterday and found out if our tubs held a gallon or not.  We were able to use our data to figure out conversions in a meaningful way.
We also played several games that I bought from others on Teacher's Pay Teachers... 
Measuring with Furry Friends Game Pack
as well as many activities in Measurement Problem Based Unit Measurement Problem Based Unit (also by Amber Polk) 
Enjoy your is raining here...

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Introducing Capacity...

We started our capacity unit of measurement this week.  To introduce it, I had my students start with a problem.  How much water will our tubs hold?  I gave them a collection of quarts and cups for the students to use to fill up their tubs.  Because I really wanted the kids to experience filling up the tubs in small groups using "shocker" real water, I arranged to use our outdoor classroom spot.  That way, if water spilled - it was on the ground. 

Before we went outside, we wrote our question in our science notebook and discussed the need for recording the data as we filled up the tub.  How would we record it? How would we keep track? 
My students are comfortable working in their science groups where each one has a rotating job.  (Getter 1, Getter 2, Starter and Reporter)  They know by now how to work together and they do it very smoothly...Everyone is engaged...everyone shares the work.

When we were finished we came in side and shared our data.  Although each tub was the same size, how they measured it was very different. Some only used cups, some used quarts and cups....

We recorded this group data to come back to tomorrow...for a follow up with equivalency of
US Standard units...

Sunday, April 15, 2012

Wonderful new book!

So today I took my son to the Earth Day festivities in my hometown of Fredericksburg, Va.  While I was there, I bought a new book called ABC's from the Rappahannock River.  by Betty Lewis Ellett.  I loved this book because it shows real photographs of a river system and highlights the animals that live there, the weather that affects it, safety measures (including a great segment on life jackets), and also words like rapids, bridges, anglers and marinas.

I can't wait to share it with my students when we start our unit on Virginia's Natural Resources.  Rivers and watersheds are extremely important to our environment. 

Can you think of a connection to your classroom?  Could you have your students create their own ABC book for Earth Day? I have created a generic version of the ABC brainstorming chart that you can use for any content area brainstorming session.  I like to give these to cooperative groups to use as a preassessment on a new topic or a formative assessment before a test.  Enjoy your copy here for FREE...

Saturday, April 14, 2012

We all live Down Stream...

This final activity involves making a class river.  The students were given the scenario that they have just been given a section of land right on the river that and unlimited income!  They can build anything that they want to on the water.  What would you build?

Students draw a plan of what they would put on this property...

A hotel and amusement park....
A school and hotel

Next, they go back and add pollutions that may happen from the construction, the buildings, the land well as ways they could fix it. (Notice the Riparian buffer???)  We had a great discussion about whether their picture caused a lot of pollution or minimal...

Finally, they laid them all out and created a class river.

This goes along nicely with one of my favorite VA DOE activities...A River Runs through it.  This version actually has land use scenarios written for students to illustrate.  I do this lesson every year in my class.
And Riparian Buffers - a hands on lesson where you actually build a watershed with and without grass.  We will start this in my class shortly so I will post on this in the future.

Another great website:  has activities, videos and simulations from the Missouri watersheds.

Friday, April 13, 2012

Water Uses...a Game!

This activity from Friends of the Rappahannock is an easy one to replicate!  The teacher made five game boards using the science fair type boards.  Each board had a collection of pictures from magazines showing water being used correctly and wastefully. 
As the kids move around the board they are given 10 beads to represent water drops.  As they move along the board, they can lose or gain water drops based on wasteful or conservative water use. 

It is a great way to show them how much water they waste daily!

Thursday, April 12, 2012

Battle of the Bay...a watershed journey

This was a cool way to show the journey of raindrops from the land, to the stream, to the river, to the Bay...  brought to you by Friends of the Rappahannock.

Make circles that say creek in orange, stream in yellow, rivers in orange and Chesapeake Bay in yellow.  Because our watershed is based on four major rivers in Virginia she even labeled the rivers with the actual names (Potomac, Rappahannock, York, and James).  The blue fabric was a nice touch, too, as the Chesapeake Bay!

Next, divide the children into four groups and place at the four corners of the room.  To progress along the watershed, they must complete a task!

Task one - make a food chain....
This one had pictures preselected and laminated with an orange strip to lay them on with Velcro fasteners.  Each of the four corners had a different food chain, but one you would find in our local environments.

Next, she collected all four food chains and made a food web. I love how they quickly fastened onto the poster with the Velcro and created a nice visual of how they are all connected.  Task one completed, they move to the next circle which was the stream.

Task Two - a puzzle.  She has a laminated map of the Virginia Watersheds with several questions based on the map.  The kids had to put the puzzle together and answer the questions.  Kind of reminded me of the show Survivor!

Puzzle complete they moved on to the rivers.  Task three - brainstorm all the different ways we use water at home and at school.  They had a ton of ways! This was fun and informative!

Finally they make it to the Chesapeake Bay...boy is it crowded in here with all the raindrops form all the many pathways! 

For more resources see:  Journey of a Raindrop from the Va. Department of Education and the online interactive Ways of a Watershed from the Alice Fergusen Foundation.

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Watersheds Wednesday...

Our school division in partnership with Friends of the Rappahannock have offered Watershed Wednesdays for our fourth grade students.  It is a really neat program - the director, Cassie Pallai, brings four pre-service teachers from the University of Mary Washington to lead the students in four watershed activities. These students are doing their practicum for George Meadows' class on Science Education.  He is a real proponent of hands-on, quality science teaching!!

 I hope to share with you a few of these activities over the next few weeks.

Here is the first one...Interactive Watershed

It started with a beautiful sheet painted to show many different land use scenarios such as shopping, schools, factories, neighborhoods, roads, farms....and streams, creeks and rivers...which led to the Chesapeake Bay - our main watershed.

She had great signs that student volunteers held up as they stepped onto the map to represent the different areas.  We talked about types of pollutions get into the soil from each place - chemicals, liter, oil, gas, animal wastes, too much dirt, trash...etc...

As she mentioned each type of pollutant, the students dropped pieces of orange construction paper on the sheet as a visual representation. She shook the sheet and the pollutants ended up in the Bay...just as they would in real life.
Next, she added a riparian buffer to the watersheds. Riparian buffers are plants and trees purposefully planted along the shoreline.  These buffers hold back the soil, pollutants and keep the shorelines healthy.

Next the students put the pollutants down and sure enough...there was less pollutants in the water!!!

A very cool visual!