November 12

Tipi Engineering

Second graders have been studying the Cherokee and Creek nations in their homerooms. I wanted to do a STEM lab to reinforce the major concepts that they have been learning, and I believe multidisciplinary learning is a best practice in education. The two big ideas were: Native people used the resources that were available to them and the area in which they lived determined their culture. We briefly discussed the Native Americans who lived in the Eastern woodlands, plains, and Southwest, but our lab focused on how the people groups who lived on the plains constructed tipis – an amazing engineering feat! The people who inhabited the Great Plains were nomadic and followed the buffalo. Click here to watch an informative video. Click here to read an article about tipis.

This proved to be a difficult task, especially since we were not working on the ground. As we faced challenges, we collaborated to overcome them, and failed forward. We learned that the shape of a tipi is a cone. We cut a circle to form our cones and folded the circle twice to find the center. We drew a smaller circle around the center and cut a slit to it. One of my students compared this process to a Christmas tree skirt-a useful analogy!

Teams chose their own sticks and formed a tripod first.

November 12

Snail Lab

My PK and P1 scientists had fun learning all about snails! It is paramount that children investigate the world around them, so that they learn to respect and care for living things. After studying a snail’s body parts, we drew the spiral shell, the muscular foot, and eyes on the end of the tentacles. There are a smaller pair of tentacles that snails use for sensing. Snails secrete mucus, so that they can slip and slide. To learn more about this interesting little creature click here and here.

We also made a 3D model of a snail.

But the favorite part of this lab was observing live garden snails! Just look at the sense of wonder in these faces!

Snail race!

What is the difference between a snail and a slug? Do you see a mistake in one of the cover illustrations?

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November 3


First grade entomologists continued their study of fireflies. After reviewing the body parts of a firefly: six jointed legs attached to the thorax, three body parts (head, thorax, abdomen), compound eyes, antennae, and two pairs of wings, we sang the following song, to the tune of Head, Shoulders, Knees, and Toes.

Head, thorax, abdomen, abdomen ( Repeat 2 times)
Antennae, wings, and six jointed legs,
Head, thorax, abdomen (abdomen)

Like all beetles, fireflies undergo complete metamorphosis during their life cycle: egg, larva, pupa, and adult. Click here to watch an informative video about fireflies. What is bioluminescence?  Why do fireflies glow?

We applied what we learned about the anatomy of a firefly and added bodyparts to the fingerprint abdomen. Of course, these scientists would only observe a firefly in a jar for a short time, before they released it.

Our fireflies really glow in the dark because I added Steve Spangler’s phosphorescent powder to yellow paint. We dipped our fingers into the paint to make the abdomens.

This little light of mine; I’m gonna let it shine!

Click here to watch The Very Lonely Firefly.

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October 17

Be Kind to Spiders!

Kindergarten arachnologists learned more about spiders and their amazing webs. We drew a spider’s body, careful to draw two body parts (cephlothorax and abdomen), eight jointed legs attached to the cephlothorax, two helper legs (pedipalps), eight eyes, fangs, and spinnerets. Spiders are arachnids, not insects. Insects have six legs, three body parts, antennae, and often wings. Click here to learn more about spiders.

We practiced drawing orb webs. When I think about orb webs, I picture the planets orbiting the sun. It was fun to place our spider in the web and pretend it was catching flies. Imagine if there weren’t spiders to catch all the insects which make up at least 90% of the animal population!

We moved our lab outside and searched for spider webs by spraying them with a fine mist. (This turned out to be great exercise for our finger muscles.) The water sticks to the web, like dew, and makes the webs visible. I also threw some leaves into the web, and we observed how they stick to the  strands. Sometimes, a spider will crawl down and realize the leaf is not food, and throw it out of the web.

Today was Cape Day benefiting Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta. Click here to learn more.

The perfect cape for the day!

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October 7


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.

Wouldn’t it be fun to plant bulbs together at home?

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September 19


From PreK on, I refer to the body parts using bones. As my scientists enter the lab, I ask them to sit on their pelvis and place their phalanges in their laps. Third grade students study the skeletal system and are introduced to all the major bones.

Some of the facts we’ve learned about bones:
Bones give us structure and help us stand.
Bones help us move because they work together with muscles.
We are born with 300 bones, but we have 206 bones when we are adults because some fuse together.
Bone marrow is the spongy tissue inside bones that produces blood cells.
The femur is the largest bone and the stapes, in the middle ear, is the smallest bone.
More than half the bones in our body are in our hands and feet.

Creating a pasta skeleton diagram was a fun way to practice the names of the bones! A diagram is one of the non-fiction elements. We will label the following bones next: skull, mandible, clavicle, ribs, humerus, ulna, radius, carpals, phalanges, pelvis, femur, patella, tibia, fibula, and backbone.

Click here to watch an informative video about our skeleton. Click here and here to learn the bones.

I praise you because I am wonderfully and fearfully made. Psalm 139:14

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September 17


Second grade botanists studied leaves. Then, we applied what we previously learned about symmetry to complete the leaf. Connecting art and science always improves observational and visual perception skills.

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September 5

Skeleton Hand

My third grade biologists continued their study of the skeletal system. Our emphasis in this lab was on the bones and joints in the hand. We used Mystery Science, a great online resource, to lead us through the investigation. The bones appear translucent because we painted them with vegetable oil and therefore, our drawings resemble x-rays.


I also shared pictures of prosthetic and robotic hands. I explained engineers use the knowledge they learn in science and math to solve problems. This is an example of a STEAM activity. We aren’t completing the project below, but I challenged my scientists to try it at home.

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September 2

Fizzy Fun

PreK and Pre-First chemists used pipettes to drop colored vinegar (red, yellow, and blue) onto plates of baking soda. A chemical reaction occurred as the colors mixed. Why did bubbles form? It looked as if mini volcanoes were erupting. Do you see the craters? How did the other colors appear? Click here to watch a fun story about mixing colors. We did not have time to watch this in lab.

Children wore their face coverings when they entered my room. At the lab tables, they removed them. I took photos from over six feet away while I was wearing my face covering and shield.

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August 27


Lab began with the questions: How would you make the color black if you didn’t have a black crayon or marker? Is the color black all black?

Second grade chemists used chromatography to separate the colors (pigments) in black ink. We tested two water-soluble markers and discovered that black ink is a blend of other colors. Why are the bands of colors in the same order? Click here to learn more about this investigation.

Each scientist drew black circles in the center of his/her filter paper. They inserted a wet pipe cleaner into the center of the filter paper and placed the paper on top of a cup of water. The colors were revealed almost immediately.

I demonstrated with some non-soluble markers, like Sharpie and Expo, and the pigments did not separate. Click here to watch a humorous story about a little girl who learned the difference between permanent and water-soluble markers!


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