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


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.

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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