December 22

Lessons from Nature

If you look closely enough, you will find that there are lessons to be learned through the study of creation. These zinnias were all planted from seeds found in the same packet and received relatively the same amount of water and sunlight. But what do you observe?

Have you ever wondered how brothers and sisters can grow up to be so different from one another? God loves diversity is our first lesson. Aren’t you glad? Do we all bloom and grow at the same rate? Nearly all babies will learn to walk and talk, and when they are older read and write, but the timing of those milestones varies. Each of these flowers is unique, as well as beautiful, and will blossom in its own time, just like our children.

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December 22

Magnets – First Grade

First grade scientists will begin their magnet unit in January with their homeroom teachers. This introductory lab will provide the background knowledge they’ll need to get started.

We grouped objects by the materials from which they are made (metal, glass, wood, paper, and plastic). Then we tested each group to see which materials a magnet attracts. We discovered that magnets attract metal, but not all types of metal. Do you know which metals a magnet attracts?

We moved to the lab tables where lab partners each had a tray of metal objects only. I asked them to collaborate as they hypothesized which metal objects their magnets would and would not attract. Always interesting to hear their reasoning as they make decisions. Then we tested our hypotheses. Some of our results surprised us! Iron objects are not always the same color!

Click here to learn more about magnets.

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December 18

Newton’s Cradle

Second grade physicists continued their study of force (push or pull), motion (change of position), and energy. I demonstrated the difference between potential and kinetic energy with several science gadgets and briefly introduced Sir Isaac Newton. I explained that energy cannot be created or destroyed, but it can transferred or changed from one form to another. We moved to the tables to investigate Newton’s Cradles, which are named after this famous physicist and mathematician.

We explored even and uneven forces and observed how energy was transferred between the balls. I gave instructions on how to move the balls, but before they pushed or pulled them, these young scientists predicted how they would move.


 

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December 18

Empathy

At the end of the fourth grade weather lab, I wanted to do a brief lesson about empathy which is the ability to understand and share the feelings of others. I recently heard on a podcast that empathy is often the missing piece from science and engineering classrooms, while the ultimate goal of these disciplines is to help others or the environment. I explained to my students that I have greater empathy for my mom’s arthritis, since I have fractured my wrist. I wanted them to understand how difficult it is to function with only one hand, so I set-up some tasks for them to complete with their non-dominate hand. As they struggled with these everyday chores, they became innovative, and the struggle became productive.

Tasks:
Write Merry Christmas, fold the paper, and put the paper in an envelope.
Tie a ribbon around the box and tie a bow.
Open a water bottle and take off the wrapper around a plastic fork.
Tear off four pieces of tape.
Cut out a Christmas tree.

 

December 18

Ice Structures

PreFirst engineers (The Great 8) were tasked with constructing “ice” structures using various pieces of Styrofoam.

Although this seems like a simple task, we were meeting the following standards:

  • Identify Styrofoam, a manmade material, that doesn’t decompose quickly and cannot be recycled. Discuss ways to reuse Styrofoam and ways to reduce its use.
  • Strengthen fine motor and eye hand coordination skills.
  • Investigate physical properties of materials.
  • Develop creativity and communication skills.
  • Name and construct 3D shapes (pyramids, cubes, and prisms) and explore the number of vertices and sides in each.
  • Problem solve and develop critical thinking skills.
  • Explore balance.
  • Use the Design Process-Identify Problem, Imagine, Plan, Create, and Improve.

Save Styrofoam from shipping boxes and build with it at home.

December 18

Winter Solstice

Winter solstice, the shortest day of the year, is one of my favorite days because from now on, each day will be a little bit lighter! This year, the winter solstice falls on December 21st. Around the world, many cultures celebrate this day with ancient traditions. Click here to learn more about the winter solstice.

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December 15

Plant Update

We still have a few plants from our September plant units in the science lab. PreK botanists planted double blossom purple zinnias in October and brought them home when they began to sprout. I planted a few extras, and we can’t wait to see blooms!

The potatoes we placed in water have been thriving!

The male flowers (tassels) have appeared on our cornstalks.

Do you see the bean pod? Second graders planted bean seeds a few months ago. They brought their plants home.

Unfortunately, our carrots have spider mites. Spider mites are in the arachnid family, but they are not spiders. They are one of the most common garden pests.

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December 14

Fractured Wrist

I fell backwards onto the sidewalk as I greeted children during carpool. The result was a fractured wrist.

As I’ve attempted to rest and ice my wrist, I’ve reflected on the lessons this new challenge offers, a practice I’ve tried to do when life unexpectedly takes a turn. No matter what happens, I’ve learned that there are always blessings to be found. Although this is very minor and really just a nuisance, I am practicing for when more serious life events occur because they will. Thank you for allowing me to share my thoughts with you.

I feel grateful that this fall was not more serious. I could have easily hit my head on the sidewalk. I quickly realized the need for two hands. I wonder if I have ever thanked God for my hands and feet. Thankful too that the holidays are approaching and I will have time to rest at home. Give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus. 1 Thessalonians 5:18,

I immediately felt more empathy for my mom who has gnarled arthritic hands which make even the simplest tasks difficult. She fell last year and her broken ankle required five pins and a steel plate to repair. She was alone in the hospital for days. She almost never complained, but I can only imagine the pain and the feeling of helplessness she experienced.

One of the upsides during these Covid days has been the innovation I have witnessed. Hasn’t it been astonishing to watch the creative ways people have solved problems? Challenges create opportunities for change, discoveries, and inventions. I have had to become a problem solver. How do you open an envelope with one hand?

I have also tried to simplify which isn’t easy given the holidays are approaching. My daughter and her new husband are driving here from Chicago to spend Christmas with us. They haven’t been here since last December, and I wanted everything to be perfect! I know that isn’t why they are coming, but isn’t it hard to let go of that desire?

So that brings me to the reminder that it is alright to ask for assistance. There will be more hands here now that will be ready to help me cook, wrap, and address cards, as well as complete all the household tasks.

Labs will be simpler this week, but I have some fun and easy ideas that will keep my young scientists learning. There will be time for the explosive labs when we return in January, and I work with a supportive staff who is already asking about the ways they can assist me.

So, as I sat icing my hand, I watched the array of birds at my suet feeder. Be still and know that I am God. Psalm 46:10.

December 13

Save the Gingerbread Cookie!

The best teaching happens when you weave science into other subject areas and you ask your students to solve a real problem. Kindergarten engineers applied their knowledge of sink and float to construct boats to help the gingerbread cookie cross the river safely. Click here to review the folktale of the Gingerbread Man.

Before they began work, we hypothesized what might happen to a cookie if we placed it in water. The ginger snap we tested broke into pieces and almost disappeared in the water which helped us understand why the cookie needed to stay out of the water.  Many scientists wanted to taste the cookie water! Make cookie water at home. Do all cookies fall apart in the water? What if you tried a different liquid?

Did you know if you crumble aluminum foil above water, it will float, but if you crumble it under the water, it will sink? Why? We shared our ideas.

We looked at boats to see what was similar about their designs. This was a hard task. They wanted to tell me how they differed, rather than common attributes.

If they were successful keeping a paper gingerbread cookie dry, then we tested to see if their boats could hold the heavier gingerbread cookie. Click here  and here for more information about constructing boats with young engineers. Through this activity, we discovered that the shape of an object impacts how well an object floats. Aluminum foil, popsicle sticks, rubber bands, and straws were available for their use. They employed the Design Process (Define the Problem, Imagine, Plan, Create, Test, Improve) naturally as they worked.

I encouraged these young engineers to construct boats at home for Lego characters or plastic animals and to try different designs and materials. A great bathtub activity!