Thursday, May 31, 2012

Apollo Moon Missions

Have you ever really stopped to think about the first men on the moon?  It's pretty cool to think about what happened 43 years ago in 1969....

NASA eclips is a great place to find video clips that are research based and not fake! Yes, I spent a while googling Apollo moon landing on YouTube to find a bunch of ....well, junk. 

However, this clip is amazing!  It was actually made for high school students, but I found it very friendly for 4th/5th graders.  The clip is called History in the Making. 

Once you get the kids hooked on the Apollo mission, then you may want to continue on with future moon exploration videos. 

I recommend:  Nasa's new moon robot  to learn more about the future of moon exploration as well as Nasa's Lunar Habitat Structure.

Just looking for a good video clip on the moon?  I recommend Our World:  The Moon.  There is so much more to search for on the NASA website...I only wish I had the time to use it all!

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Scale Models of the Solar System

A few days back, I had a request to share with ya'll how I show scale models of the solar system.  Once again, Seeds of Science has an excellent model that I loved.  In the program, they have a printed sheet with the sun and the planets scaled down to be shown at 10 billion times smaller than the actual size.  (Imagine that!)   Unfortunately, it is copy written and I can not share it for free with you guys.  Sorry!

However, I can tell you what we do....We went outside with a our picture cards.

This is the sun.  I asked a student holding Mercury to go where he thinks he should be near the sun.  The students automatically thought they should be right on top of the sun. In truth, the student needed to be about 6 meters away from the sun.  Next, Venus was about 11 meters away from the sun.  Earth was 15 meters away from the sun and Mars was 23 meters away.

Wow...the next planet is Jupiter and that is 50+meters away...too far away to show outside in our school yard.  In fact, we discussed that Jupiter would be all the way past the parking lot and into the soccer field.  That's a far distance in our world!

We couldn't even wrap our heads around where Pluto would be!!  This is a great way to show students the distances and the cards they held showed the scaled size.

Now speaking of scaled size....

I don't know if you have seen the Scale Model of the Universe that is available on-line.  It is pretty mindboggling!  I recommend you share this with your students to see ginormous as well as minute objects in our universe.

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Solar System

  Do you teach the planets?  We have just added them back into our curriculum and I am so glad that we did!  We have spent the past two weeks learning about rotation and revolution of the earth and the moon.  We also talked about the surface of both areas...we were able to compare and contrast what they looked like and felt like.  The students quickly learned that even though there are rocks, mountains and valleys like Earth - without air and water, there is little chance for life.  Astronauts must wear special suits to exist on the moon for even a short period of time. 

But what about the other planets?  We are using Seeds of Science's unit Planets and Moons which has a wonderful collection of planet trading cards.  If you do not have the kit, you can down load some from NASA here.  They are a lot larger than the ones that Seeds provides, but they do work.

The kids spent the day reading and sorting the cards - first on their own, then by size, surface features and distance from the Sun. 

It was a great way for them to learn about surface features of the inner and outer planets as well as manipulate the cards to put the planets in order from the sun. Kids like them because they are like trading cards - think Pokemon!  (Plus there are some really cool moons and asteroids included in the pack.)  By the way, I do have a really cool activity for looking at scale models that I am hoping to blog about soon.  Been tied up with State need to say more!

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Nature Journals

Outdoor Hour buttonI have a new passion...those of you who follow my blog know how much I love and use science notebooks.  Recently I stumbled across a resource for Nature Journals from a blogger who uses this for homeschooling.  Her resources are amazing!! Check out Handbook of Nature Study for a ton of ideas including the outdoor hour challenges, seasonal nature walks and my favorite Nature Journals.

The idea of Nature journals is to go outside with a focus for the day and sit and draw what you see.  The kids I work with found it very relaxing and continued to do it on the weekends too! 
Here are a few pictures of my students nature journals from my after school club...

I see myself spending many hours this summer sitting and observing the beach, in my yard and at the local parks.  I certainly can not wait....

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Ecology Club...discovering forests

I have loved working with my after school group of naturalists.  We have become immersed in our Nature newest passion from the blog Handbook of Nature Study. 

Today was our final meeting and we spent time once again observing the forest outside.  We started with a clip from YouTube:  Planted Earth - Seasonal Forests.

We then created mini field guides from the UK site Nature Detectives.  I printed off a copy of the mini beasts picture sort and glued them into our Nature Journals.  
We prepared to go into the woods in search of insects!

We took:  our Nature Journals, colored pencils, our "sit spot", bug boxes, tweezers and magnifying glasses.

Our sit spot is a square cut from a clear plastic shower curtain. It is great for sitting down on the wet ground for a long period of time!

We found interesting plants and insects to sketch in our journals.

We love to wander deeper in the woods in search of bugs and plants....

Success!  We collected ants, spiders, saw a tick and a dragonfly as well as a lovely white butterfly.

Come back soon to see samples of drawings from our Nature Journals.

Sunday, May 20, 2012

Fantastic Moon resources

This week is my first state test in reading.  I know the kids are ready, but it is always a nail biter at the end.  Don't you agree??  In science we have been studying moon phases and have come across some wonderful on-line sites that I would love to share with you. 

Have you seen????  Moon Phases from the History Channel that is available on You Tube?

What about this site? Neo Kids.... This has a great drag and drop to practice labeling the phases.  Great for a smart board.  They also have several short clips that are engaging!

Seeds of Science uses this awesome simulation!  We love it... you can simulate the lunar phases with an animation while watching the moon phases on the side.

Another favorite website is the Farmer's Almanac. It has been updated to meet the needs of 21st Century learners with videos, pictures and simulations of the moon.  Enjoy it!

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Earth Models

We just started our last science unit of the year:  Planets and Moons by the Lawrence Hall of Science and Seeds of Science. In case you don't know, these science curriculum units are interdisciplinary - combining reading, writing and science to make a very full program.  I love them! 

This unit starts by investigating models.  The first model the students investigate is the "Mt. Nose" model.  Using their head as a model of the Earth, they explore what happens to Mt. Nose when the sphere is rotating.  The students stand in a circle and face a light bulb (we use our lamp with out the lampshade).  As we rotate we notice that our mountain is in full sunlight, sunset, full darkness, and sunrise.  The students learn that rotating just means spinning.

Next we introduce the model of an inflatable globe.  The students work to label four points across the earth (Hawaii, Thailand, Egypt and Florida).  Then we observe what happens when those models rotate.  They also look for day vs. night.  The students work together to compare the two models to the real Earth.  What is the same? What is different? 

They really did an nice job at noticing the differences between a globe and the real Earth.  We did the same thing with the moon's rotation - first looking at a paper pattern showing the phases and then using a Styrofoam ball to model the phases.  The greatest part is the computer simulation that shows the day/night connection along with the moon phases. 

Love it! 

Monday, May 14, 2012

Green Hornets...our new ecology club studies Deer

In case you haven't noticed, I truly am a naturalist.  I enjoy all types of science teaching...but as for myself, I honestly enjoy being outside among nature...looking at plants, animals and the earth.  I am a fan of Jane Goodall because she learned so much by simply watching.

I started a new club at our school for other kids (like me) that I call Green Hornets.  I chose the name because our school mascot is the hornet and green because it is an ecology club.  I thought it would be catchy! 

We are using the theme of forests as our first project.  We have taken the kids into (shocker!) the woods where we looked at the infrastructure of the forest, we identified the types of leaves and trees that grow in our schoolyard and searched for signs of wildlife that may inhabit the area. 

Another day we learned about the white tailed deer.  They are abundant in Virginia and we see them everywhere.

A fun activity that we participated in I got from Suzie Gilly with the Department of Game and Inland fisheries.  She is a great teacher educator who is always present amongst science teachers. 

In this activity we watched a great video clip about the deer before we tried to identify the ages of deers according to the jaw bones.  Suzie has developed a lesson in which you can identify the ages of baby deer to adult deer in very specific and meaningful ways. Students can look at the properties of the bone - the color, thickness, sharp vs. worn-down, and number of teeth to identify age.  Our students felt like they were habitat scientists...a possible job for the future. We also had a nice collection of deer antlers (collected from various hunting parents as well as from Suzie Gilly) to observe in the group.  The students loved touching them and feeling how the gradiation changed from rough to really smooth.

To see the video clip and download the lesson plans - follow this link to learn more about the white tailed deer.

Sunday, May 13, 2012

Outdoor Whiteboard and more....

You may have noticed that I am very proud of our outdoor classroom space....As I have stated a million times, it is all due to our wonderful local Master Gardeners.  If any of you are considering taking this project on, I highly recommend you contact them through your local extension centers.  If you click on the link above, there is a data base telling you where they are located in your state.  Master Gardeners have to do community service as part of the program.  They are usually looking for volunteer hours and would love to help out.  My Master Gardener secured the grant through Kohl's to provide money for the materials, organized the whole building process, waters the garden all through the year and into the summer when we are gone and even started an after school Garden Club for the kids.  So check into this resource if you are seriously considering a garden at your school.

SherriA asked me how we put a whiteboard outside in our garden.  She was wondering if the weather would ruin it, how we mounted it and what we use it for. 

Well, like I said before...I have connections.  (ha ha)  I was blessed last year that a former student, Benjamin Crisler, needed a project for his Eagle Scout qualifications.  He decided to finish off our outdoor classroom.  We already had the "garage port" and some beat up old picnic tables.  He built us three more brand new picnic tables, put pebbles underneath the tables and and also built us the Whiteboard Board.

SherriA you are correct.  We couldn't figure out how to put it outside so that it would be safe from the elements. Benjamin came up with this idea.  It is portable.  He created a stand with giant clips on it (chained to the board so that none of our lovely neighbors will steal borrow them).  We stash the whiteboard inside the school in the hallway by the door way so we can bring it out when we need it.  I like this feature because you can use it on both sides.  If you are working in the shelter, it can face the picnic tables.  If you are working in the gardens, it can face the gardens.  I hope this helps you out...Get outdoors and enjoy it with your students!



Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Be a Nature Detective....

woodland log book
I am a huge fan of taking kids a child, I spent many ideas wandering in the woods, chasing fairies and bunnies, dreaming of a magical world.  I've watched my own sons play for hours in the sand, running barefoot in the grass and catching fireflies at dusk.  Quite frankly, our kids need to turn off the machines and get outside!!!

Since summer is coming up, you may be looking for some good ideas to get outside.  The best resource I have found is from the United Kingdom...Nature Detectives. 

You can find all kinds of downloads there for FREE!  You can get tree identification sheets, activities for each season, minibeasts (insects and other small animals), ticklists (which are like lists of items you see in the woods), notebook sheets for observation, scavenger hunts, pond dipping, etc... the list goes on and on! 

Enjoy the woods...and get outside!

Thursday, May 3, 2012

Come visit my new garden

Well, it's not really my new garden...but I did convince the Master Gardeners to build our school another garden bed by our Fourth and Fifth Grade classroom. 

Why? Well I got to thinking...we have a beautiful garden out by our K-1-2 wing. My class uses it all the time as I have shown in past blogs.  My students love it - we have four beds maintained by a wonderful Master Gardener (Susan Gingrich) and her two clubs - Garden Club and Jr. Master Gardeners. 

  Our art teacher has made a beautiful mural made with recycled bottle tops and a former student and Eagle Scout made us picnic tables and an outdoor whiteboard for instruction. Yes, I know...we are spoiled.   However, I kept thinking .... we need something more.
About that time, I was told we had $300 to spend as part of a grant that was awarded to us for instructional purposes for animal/plant studies. 
I thought...why not put one out by the other side of the school for our kids to work on during recess time?  You know there are plenty of students who don't really run and play during recess. Last year we had a big group of kids who liked to wander in the bushes, pick the flowers (aka weeds) and generally collect bits of nature.  Why not give them a space to weed, water and enjoy nature during recess?
Thus..our bed was born. It is a work in progress...right now we have planted three plants and plenty of seeds.  Our master gardener is going to bring a few more plants next week. 

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Suprise gift!

I had to share with you a gift that one of my science gals gave me today....It's a necklace with my logo on it!  Do you know how much I love it???  More than you can imagine!

Thank you Sherrie Roland!  You are so extremely thoughtful and the best science teacher too....Sherrie just pushed the button yesterday to complete her award submission to the Presidential Award in Math and Science.  This is a huge ordeal and quite an accomplishment.  My fingers are crossed that she will win it for the State of Virginia like a few of my other science gals (Sandra Kelish and Rita Trulove) has won in the past. 

She got me thinking....isn't this the time of year when we all need a pick me up?  I challenge you guys out there to do a random act of kindness for someone in your school this week.  Not only will you make that person smile, but it will make you happy too!