Second grade scientists joined me on a nature hike to complete their plant unit. We identified seeds and nuts on the great variety of plant life around campus. We found moss and mushrooms in moist places and lichen going on trees. These botanists discovered berries on bushes, goldenrod near the pond, and vines around trees. We saw both deciduous and evergreen trees and noted the differences in the needles and leaves. We also observed cones on several conifers and the differences in bark texture. On some trees, we spotted tree roots that were exposed and holes in trees which could be animal homes. Differentiating between saplings and weeds is tricky, but we practiced by looking at examples of both. We are truly blessed to attend school on such beautiful grounds!
Both classes found some other surprises too. Who lives here?
Visible light, also known as white light, consists of a collection of colors. When the sunlight passes through the prism, the white light is separated into its component colors – red, orange, yellow, green, blue and violet. The separation of visible light into its different colors is known as dispersion. This is the movement of the spectrum during one day in our lab. Why does it travel across the room? Is the sun or earth moving?
The retention pond behind school is an ecosystem that I use to teach my students about aquatic life. You can often see turtles floating near the surface on warm days.
Today was a warm fall day, so it was the perfect opportunity to do an evaporation water lab. Kindergarten scientists began lab by pondering two questions: Where do puddles go after it rains? What is a cloud?
I explained that water rises into the air in a process called evaporation. We can’t see the water vapor in the air because it is a gas. We looked at pictures and animations of the water cycle. Click here to watch a video about the water cycle. (We didn’t watch this in lab, so it would be a good review.) We are referring to water vapor, when we say that it is humid.
This means that we are drinking the same water as the dinosaurs drank! God gifted us with water at creation, and we use the same water over and over again. That’s why we want to keep our water supply clean!
Then we moved outside to paint with water. We used three tools: a syringe, baster, and paintbrush. These are great tools to strengthen developing finger muscles. We experienced how air pulls the water inside the syringe and baster.
As the water evaporated, our art disappeared. Did the water evaporate faster in the shade or in the sun? One scientist asked if we were painting with colored water because the sidewalk appeared darker. Another asked that if we covered a water spot with a bucket, could we stop evaporation? And then another squirted water into the groove between the sidewalk squares, and watched how it traveled in the track. Never lose your sense of wonder!
I purchased the basters and the syringes at the Dollar Store and the paintbrushes at Walmart. You can purchase all three for under $4.00! This is a fun activity to do at home! Try a spray bottle too. Use this opportunity to paint letters, numbers, and shapes.
Kindergarten scientists continued their study of farm animals with a lab that focused on ducks and feathers. We learned the parts of a feather and the various ways a duck uses its feathers. Afterwards, we cut out a feather using symmetry and added the barbs with snips along the edges.
I explained that ducks preen their feathers. They use an oil gland (under their tail feathers) to spread oil over their feathers to waterproof them. Click here to watch some Pekin ducks preen.
We painted oil on one of the paper feathers on our trays. Then, we used our pipettes to drop water onto the feather covered with oil, as well as the feather that we did not paint with oil. The water stayed on top of the oil covered feather, and just like ducks, the water rolled off the feathers.
I planted two of the corn kernels we sprouted on cotton a few weeks ago.
We learned about balance last week. Before we left lab, I asked these young scientists to ponder how I balanced this can. They thought possibly magnets, glue, or weights. All good ideas, but incorrect. Do you know?
Fourth grade biologists continued their study of ecosystems with a lab about earthworms and their role as decomposers. We each completed this worksheet prior to lab and then again after our lab. Look how much we learned!
After a lesson about worms, we each had our own worm to investigate. Observing our worms use two sets of muscles to move was especially interesting. I demonstrated how these muscles work together with a slinky.
Which abiotic factors will help our worms survive? Click here to watch a short video about worms from SciShow Kids.
So, why are worms wonderful? They have an important role in the ecosystem.
- Worms eat bits of rotting plants, bugs, and animals.
- Their castings enrich the soil.
- They pull nutrients down into the soil.
- Their burrows open up spaces for water and air in the soil.
- Worms are food for many other animals.
Other facts we learned about these interesting annelids:
- Earthworms have no eyes (except in children’s picture books), but they do have light receptors and can tell when they are in the dark, or in the light. Earthworms also have no ears, but their bodies can sense the vibrations of animals moving nearby.
- Earthworms have little rings around their bodies called segments.
- Each segment has little hairs on them called setae that help them move.
- Earthworms can grow a new tail but not a new head.
- An earthworm is both male and female.
- A light colored band forms near the head called a clitellum.
- The clitellum helps the worm form cocoons. Baby worms hatch from the cocoons.
- A worm has five hearts.
- Worms breathe through their moist skin.
- Earthworms eat soil and the plant and animal material in it. They leave behind castings which enrich the soil.
- Gardeners like to have earthworms in their soil.
When I study animals, I am always amazed at how God uniquely created each animal with a niche all its own.
Science can be big and explosive or it can be as simple as the following experiment to develop that sense of wonder and curiosity. After presenting background information about how paper is made, we reviewed why some objects sink and others float. Then, we reviewed the Scientific Method. In this investigation, we pondered what would happen if we folded the petals of a paper flower toward the center and dropped the flower onto the surface of the water. The flowers appeared to magically open. You need to see this in action. Click here to watch a video. What forces the flower to bloom? I repeated the investigation and changed some variables – flowers of various sizes, flowers cut from tagboard, copy paper, and construction paper, and petals folded in different sequences – to see how our results might change.
Afterwards, we were engineers and made our own paper designs that would open when dropped in water. I saw a large variety of ideas, including stars, hands, butterflies, and turtles. We experienced mixed results and learned from each design.
My youngest scientists learned that bulbs are one way plants reproduce or make more of their own kind. Before we went outside, we looked at the life cycle of a bulb and read Bloom by Diessen. Click here to peek inside this book.
I chose a beautiful spot overlooking the pond for our garden. We planted the bulbs three inches under the ground with the pointed sides up, covered them with soil, and watered them. We’ll have to wait until spring for them to bloom. It is hard to wait, but it’s good to practice!
As we waited for our classmates to finish planting their bulbs, we drew chalk pictures of what we think the flowers will look like when they bloom.
Math and science were connected in this first grade lab. After viewing a variety of scales, we learned how to skillfully use a balance scale. Use scales in grocery stores to reinforce this concept. Just a Little Bit is a fun story about using teamwork to balance a seesaw! Click here to watch it.
We estimated which one would be heavier before we placed the items on the balance scale.
The number balance is one of my favorite math tools. This tool can be used for greater than and less than, addition, missing addends, and multiplication. Students also learn to balance equations which is a basic algebraic skill. How can two weights on one side balance just one weight on the other?