Sunday, September 30, 2012

Teaching Students about Models

Sometimes, science is all about experiments.  Sometimes it is in point:  Space!  Scientists who want to learn about the planets and moons in our solar system and beyond have to rely on new and exiting methods of exploration.

So how do space scientists make conclusions about objects in space?  They use models...

One model is to visualize the size of something.  We started by visualizing a sphere we could hold, then a sphere the size of the room, then the sphere the size of the school, then a sphere the size of our town.  Visualizing is like making a model in your mind.

Another model used is a globe model.  Scientists and students can use the globe model to recreate rotation as well as revolution around the sun.  Having the students manipulate the globe allows them to experience rotation as well as revolution - two difficult concepts.

The third model we have been talking about is a model of the planet's surface.  Right now, the Mars Curiosity is up there taking photographs.  But before it could get there, the scientists had to recreate the surface of Mars and let the rover roam over it.  They had to decide whether or not the wheels would be able to handle the rocks, sand, etc.. We watched a really cool video of this on YouTube.

And then what about animation??  Possibly the best way to explore new frontiers in space currently is through the use of animation. 
Help your students to see that science isn't always done with a lab coat and mad scientist hair..Science can look different in many areas...

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

More mentos extensions...

Last week we finished up with our group experiments.  The students were able to pick a constant and change a variable.  The results were interesting....some went off really well while others caused no reaction.

For now, we are leaving this inquiry unit to move into a new phase...exploring space!  I am hoping to come back and explore mentos throughout the year with a few new toys educational products from Steve Spangler

Have you seen???

The Geyser Rocket car?  How much fun would that be to test and explore???  I am thinking of bringing this back when we do force and motion later this year...It is only $24.95.

Geyser Rocket Car

The next product that I love is the depth charger.  He has created a way to drop other substances into your baking powder, rock salt, etc... Make sure you check with your county guidelines first and always use safety goggles. This sells for $9.95.

Finally, there is a new cap to screw on the geyser tube to see if the shape of the hole will make a difference. You can buy them separately or in the big bucket of great geyser kit.
There is so much to do and so many ways to explore that you can keep it going all year!

Extreme Mentos Geysers Kit


Sunday, September 23, 2012

Let's talk safety....

We love our mentos experiments and it is a great opportunity to teach the difference between variable and constants.  However, we also need to make sure we teach about safety while we are experimenting.

Our students favorite part of the mentos unit is when they get to work as a team to create their own combinations to test.  We tell them that they must have a constant - either the soda, the tube, the number of mentos or mentos themselves. Then they can choose the variable to change...

Kids want to try out everything! I had requests for baking soda, rubbing alcohol, rock salt, pop rocks, skittles, etc...  Somethings I knew were fine and some things I needed to check with my supervisor first.  She made sure that I knew that the students should NOT be mixing unknown materials with a liquid without extensive safety lessons. 

Well, I did not want to encourage anything I had to limit some of their choices.  Most groups tested different sodas, mentos or other candies...but one group still wanted rock salt.  For that group, my team mate and I were the ones to perform the test while the students observed.

For the regular tests, we made sure that they set it up and one child pulled the string...wearing safety goggles of course.

One of my students took the idea one step further.  Cole decided to create a new tube with a funnel on the end of it. Using pvc pipes and duct tape he created his own mento tube!  Wow...I was super impressed with his creativity!

Over all ... it was a fun day!  One of my students left the blacktop saying "Best Friday EVER!".


Wednesday, September 19, 2012

mentos - day two

Today the students walked in and saw this on the science table.
By the way that is a picture of me and one of my colleagues (Heather Howe) with Steve Spangler. 

This sets up the excitement for scienc today!

Today we are teaching about variables and constants.  What better way, right???
So we teach them that we will keep the # of mentos the same (constant) and we will change the type of soda (variable).  These are some of the sodas that the children chose to experiement with yesterday in their exit tickets.

So again, we traipse on down to the black top and we let 'er rip!

Again we discuss the changes as well as the similarities before going back into the school to record our data. 
But now...we start comparing the two types of soda and noticing what happens when we change a variable...
Since we are still at the beginning of the year, my feedback was short and sweet...To find out more about this unit and get the detailed lesson plans and printables, you can visit my TPT store for this product.

Monday, September 17, 2012

mentos - day one

Boy oh boy do I love this lesson every year!  It is so much fun for both the students and the adults!

 Most everyone has watched a youtube clip on this one. They know it's going to explode soda all over the place.  So instead of saying what do you think will happen, we focus on observing what does happen.

If you haven't seen the clip...go watch it! Show it to your kids too... they love it!  This is the original Steve Spangler clip.

Focus Question: What will you notice when we mix diet coke and mentos?

Then we take the kids down to the black top where they can watch two demonstrations. We set up the guidelines first so that they are expecting it and they don't run and scream when it happens!

It is super cool!

When it is done we do it a second time and discuss what we hear, what we saw, how high does it go, what direction does it explode in, how much soda is left,  what do we wonder next....

Then we return to the room where we write this up in our notebooks.

By the way, if you are interested in purchasing this geyser tube you can get it here for a reasonable price.   If you want to purchase this unit from me it is $5 on my store.  Here is a sneak peek and a Freebie!

Sunday, September 16, 2012

Setting up your Science Notebook

I am linking up with the Clutter Free Classroom to share how we set up our notebooks this week in my classroom!

Do you teach your children what goes in your science notebook?  This year we added a page to our journal to show what it would look like to set up our notebook. 

First...we all glued down our table of contents.  This is a form that shows what we are teaching during the year with a blank space for writing down page numbers.

I printed it out on a half sheet so they could glue it into their notebook on the first page as a place to start.

Next, we made a title for the first unit: Science Inquiry.

The students were able to personalize the page (and will continue to do this throughout the year as we explore new topics.) 
This is an example of Emma's page: once we have done this it's time to get down to business.  I wanted a page that shows the set up of a notebook entry.  First, we discussed it as a class and I wrote it on an anchor chart. 

Q= Focus Question
P = Prediction
H = Hypothesis (If...then...statements)
Data= Data in many forms
C = Conclusion
R = Reflection
Here is what it looks like in Craig's notebook...
By the way, the sentence starters I found online through pinterest and were free from Frogs and Cupcakes.
Now we are ready to begin...stay tuned for how we start the year with a Mentos Exploration!

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Setting Expectations for Group Work

I know...I have heard me say this a million times.  It is important to have groups in science and to have individual jobs while you are working together!

So how do you introduce it the first time????

We begin by Introducing our science groups. Each group has 4 people in it (as best as possible - because I have 22 students I do have two groups with 5 in them).

Each child is assigned a color as you see.  Then I have a chart that shows the jobs. I can easily rotate the tiles daily to switch jobs.

We began working as groups by setting expectations.  If you are going to work as a group on a task, what do you need to do in order to be successful? And what do the jobs mean?

Then we worked on two simple tasks. The first was to work as a team to build a house of cards.
The next was to work as a team to solve a cup challenge. I love this second challenge! It is one I learned from FOSS several years ago and truly involves team work.  You will need 6 solo cups,1 rubber band and 4 strings (cut about 24 inches) for each team. To prep for the activity you will need to tie the string to the rubber band in four this...
Why?  It becomes your cup challenge tool.  Each person will hold on to one piece of the string and working together will manipulate the rubber band to grasp and move a solo cup.  Intrigued????

Get your students into their groups of four and send your Getter 1 to the materials spot to get 6 solo cups and one rubber band tool.

Students will need to make a structure that looks like this:
Have your Starter create this structure.

Then as a team, they will need to move the cups from this structure to a pyramid with three cups on bottom, then two cups then one on top.

These guys are showing you how to manipulate the tool and you can also see the finished product at the side.

When you are finished, have Getter 2 clean up the materials and return them to the materials spot.

And then, once everyone has returned to their seats, the Reporter from each group will share out what they did in their group that day (or in the future read their notebook entry.)

What do you think???

Sunday, September 9, 2012

Team Building Activity - building structures

The beginning of school is all about creating a classroom community. What better way then to work in small groups to build a structure?
Here's what we did.  First, I created 5 bags with spoons, plastic cups (Dixie size), paper clips, wire, straws, paper plates and tape.
Then I pulled sticks to create random grouping....after all, we are supposed to learn to work together with ALL of our classmates. I did work it out so there were two girls and two boys in each group. 
Students were asked to work together to create the tallest structure possible. They had to work together and had a time limit of about 15 minutes. We stressed that this was a challenge, not a competition and at the end of it, we would congratulate the winners of this challenge.  Bad sportsmanship in my classroom is NOT tolerated.
Enjoy the photos and see how simple this would be to recreate in your classroom this week.

Saturday, September 1, 2012

A peek into my classroom....

Well, I'm officially back at work.  This work week was a whirl wind of meetings, setting up my room, writing names...names...names..., planning with my team, back to school night, meeting the kids and the parents, visiting with old students, and prepping for the first week... Phew, I am exhausted and it hasn't even started!  It is a good exhausted, know what it feels like!

I thought I would simply share some photo's of my classroom for those of you who may be curious.

Class door sets the tone...
This is my classroom library and meeting area.  This year I have three area rugs for my students to sit on so they won't be on the tile.  I have my seat crates there, my question of the day, my smartboard, my schedule and small whiteboard, my rocking chair and cute space curtains!  My desk is next to this area (no photo).

Continuing along this wall is my Va. Studies bulletin board and clipboard collection spot.  I also have a writing area where I will post anchor charts (thanks ClutterFreeClassroom!) and materials spot.
Next you can see the small group area as well as bulletin board where I will keep reading ancho charts.  There is also a student computer and poster cabinet where I keep cubbies on top of it.
Along the back wall are my cabinets.  That is where I store my stuff!  I also have a spot for the kids to sign in for lunch, get nurse notes and bandaids, post pocket charts with science words and sentence starters and homework.  And of course, there is my turtle!
Kiddos come on Monday...hope I am ready!