February 28

Rainforest Engineers

Kindergarten biologists continued their study of ecosystems around the world. As we entered the lab and saw this scene on the Activpanel, we felt as if we had entered the Amazon rainforest. The rainy day and our dark room added to the ambience. Click here for a rainforest scene with sound effects.

Many fruits grow in the rainforest, including grapefruit, oranges, lemons, pineapples, coconuts, kiwis, bananas, limes, avocadoes. mangoes, and papayas. Grapes and apples do not grow there, but we did test a grape. We investigated whether these fruits would sink or float and discussed our results which led us back to previous experiences with density. Make a rainforest fruit salad at home. Buy some fruits that your child hasn’t tasted. Describe the outside texture and shape. Compare the size, shape, and colors of seeds and how they are dispersed inside. Are the inside and outside colors of the fruit the same? Does the fruit taste sweet or sour?

Kindergarten engineers were asked to build a play structure for a new rainforest exhibit at the zoo. We learned that it is important to begin with a strong foundation and to balance the materials carefully. I witnessed critical thinking and perseverance as they worked to solve problems. This activity was also a fun way to strengthen fine motor skills. Add these items to other building materials at home. Tubes of rainforest, desert, and savanna animals are sold at Michael’s, Joanne’s and Hobby Lobby, as well as Amazon. This would be an ideal time to visit the zoo!


Note: We were dressed up as our favorite story characters on this day.

February 25

It’s Rocket Science!

Second grade aerospace engineers continued their study of forces during our rocket lab. We used three types of rockets to learn more about thrust and Newton’s Laws of Motion.

This balloon moved about twenty feet along the straw after I inflated it. Would the rocket move further if we used a longer balloon, fishing line, or taped the balloon onto the straw in a different place? Click here for more directions. Make one at home!

Then we moved outside to use a stomp rocket. We observed that there was a correlation between the amount of force that was applied and the distance to which the rocket flew.


Pop rockets (film canister explosions) were the favorite. We used a solid and a liquid to create a gas. Click here for more information.


Can you spot the canister?

Best day ever!

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February 23

Squishy Circuits

My first grade scientists were amazed that the energy released from the plasma ball can turn on the energy stick.

After reviewing that a circuit is a closed, circular path for electricity to flow and the difference between insulators and conductors, we used playdoh to make squishy circuits. I explained that the red wire connected to the energy pack was positive and the black wire was negative and that the longer leg of the LED was positive and the shorter negative. If the dough was pushed together, a short circuit occurred and the LED didn’t light because the current bypassed the LED. Then we placed a paperclip in the circuit and it acted as a switch to open and close the circuit. Next week, we will learn how to use clay as an insulator to create more complex designs. Click here to watch a TED talk about how squishy circuits are a fun way to explore the fundamentals of electricity.

 

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February 13

Desert

Throughout the year, kindergarten biologists study animals and their habitats around the world, including the farm, Arctic, desert, savanna, and rain forest. In this lab, we focused on the desert. We used kinetic (motion) sand to create a desert ecosystem. What do you see in the desert? Which animals make a home there? Why don’t you see many animals during the day? Click here to watch a video about the desert.

What a great sensory experience and just look at the creativity!

I have a background in early childhood education and believe in the value of activities that develop eye hand coordination and dexterity. I have been doing similar exercises in rehab to strengthen my fractured wrist!

Before we went to the lab tables, we learned that we live on the earth’s crust.

Three major types of soil are found on the crust: loam, clay, and sand.


We spent a few minutes observing cacti and marveled how quickly the resurrection plant opened when we placed it in water. Click here to watch this plant’s remarkable adaptation.

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February 12

Water Filters

In this lab, third grade environmentalists learned about water filtration and the need for clean water both on Earth and on the ISS. Then, we planned and designed our own filters from a variety of available materials.

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February 12

Bloody Hand and Upset Stomachs

Third grade chemists continued their study of acids and bases. We soaked our hands in a solution of baking soda and water and placed them on goldenrod copy paper. When we lifted our hands, there were red handprints. What happened? The goldenrod paper contains a special dye that turns bright red when exposed to solutions that are basic. When we placed vinegar, an acid, on the paper with a Q-tip, the paper turned back to yellow. When something doesn’t make sense, find the science!


We discovered how an antacid works in the investigation below. Click here to learn more.

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February 12

Catapults

Second grade scientists study force and motion and simple machines. We learned the history of catapults and the difference between potential and kinetic energy before we constructed a simple catapult. A catapult is a lever with three parts:

Click here for directions on how to make the catapults we made in lab. Although we followed this model, my engineers still had several design choices. Will their loads (snowballs) hit the castle? If not, what changes could make the launch more successful? Twisting rubber bands around the sticks was a new fine motor skill for many of my engineers.

I  shared many other ways to build catapults. I challenged these engineers to construct a catapult, using a new design, at home. Click here to watch a middle school catapult competition. Does anyone want to construct one of these?


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February 12

More Light and Shadows

PreFirst and PreK scientists continued their study of light and shadows. We reviewed what we’ve learned so far:

In this lab, we investigated the concept of transparent, translucent, and opaque. How much light does the material let through – a lot, a little, or none at all? We tested a variety of materials.


The sun rises in the East and sets in the West. How does a shadow change as the sun moves across the sky? We took a flashlight, and moved it over figurines and watched the shadows move. Of course, the sun doesn’t actually move, Earth does. It was fun watching these physicists make additional discoveries. Click here to watch a video about shadows.

How did this message appear on the ceiling? These mini overhead projectors are so much fun!

After lab, PreFirst went outside to observe their shadows. Observe your child’s shadow outside several times during a sunny day. Trace around it with chalk and notice how it changes.

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