Sunday, June 22, 2014

Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS)- Grade K

Has your state adopted the new Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS)? Or are you at a private school and your school has adopted the new standards? I just put the set of NGSS "I CAN" posters up for sale at my TpT store (click here). I have each poster laminated & I display them on one of my bulletin boards. I keep the black & white copies in my lesson planning binder. Included in this set are the 13 Kindergarten standards (in color as well as in black & white) along with the 3 grades K-2 engineering standards. If you would like a set, just leave me your email below & I'll send out copies to 2 random people!
If you're looking for Kindergarten NGSS resources, these are the ones I use with my students - all are available at my TpT store, just click the pics below!

Saturday, June 21, 2014

Colonizing Mars STEM Challenge

Do you know that NASA has plans for a manned mission to Mars by the 2030s & Mars One plans to establish a human settlement on Mars in 2023??!! Over 200,000 people have signed up for a one-way ticket to Mars!! I was amazed when I heard about this and right away I designed a STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math) lesson called "Colonizing Mars". My 4th graders surpassed all my expectations with this STEM project - I am soooo proud of them!! I challenged them to create a Martian colony that would include everything we would need if we landed on Mars tomorrow.
I began the unit by addressing misconceptions using the anchor chart below:

We used pink stickies for misconceptions (Mars has liquid water, Mars is our neighbor so it must be a short trip away, etc.) 

As we went through facts, we added green stickies to represent our facts:

Then we used an iPad augmented reality app called Aurasma - this is such a fun way to present new info/ review facts!! I made up a worksheet and I attached every picture on the worksheet to a short video about Mars.

    Next, I had my students brainstorm - what would you need if you were to live on Mars? There is no food, liquid water, or oxygen there!! It's cold on Mars! There is not a lot of gravity! The answers ran the gamut from the necessary structures such as a hospital, food store, habitats; to the unnecessary but fun malls, movie theaters, arcades. We narrowed it down to the absolute essentials and then everyone started discussing their ideas with their partner. Designs were drawn and labeled and then it was time to start building. 
We followed the Engineering Design Process:
My students were soooo excited to start building their prototypes using recycled materials. I keep a huge 42 gallon contractors garbage bag in one of my school closets and throughout the year, I'm constantly filling it with things people would normally throw away but that I see as building components: toilet paper rolls, paper towel rolls, plastic cake covers, milk cartons, cereal boxes, etc. My kids were so excited to turn this "trash" into structures. We set some design parameters - the structures couldn't be too big, the perimeters had to be <297 centimeters (approx. the size of 3 pieces of paper). The structure also had to hold the weight of 3 humans, represented by a bag of pennies with a mass of 150 g.

Here are some of the completed designs:

All structures included an oxygen tank and had connecting tunnels so humans could walk around freely indoors without needing spacesuits. Some of my students got so creative with their thinking- adding greenhouses to their structures to provide oxygen, adding a machine that can split the frozen water on Mars into oxygen & hydrogen - their creativity amazed me!!!
I love doing STEM challenges with my students - it's really a time for them to SHINE!! What are your favorite STEM activities? I would love to hear about them. To everyone that has finished the school year: Happy Summer!!!

Sunday, May 25, 2014


I am teaching the Grade 1 NGSS biomimicry standard this week & I can't wait to see what my students come up with when we do the Mystery Box challenge!

This is my FAVORITE first grade NGSS standard – biomimicry: using nature to inspire design. Nature has perfected so many things- want to walk up a wall? Mimic gecko feet. Swim faster? Mimic shark skin. Assess damage after an earthquake? Send in tiny drones that mimic one of the most efficient flyers – dragonflies! Invention inspired by nature – the possibilities are endless! I created this packet to help my students start to look at nature in a different way – using its perfection in design to solve human problems. That’s what biomimicry is and that’s what NGSS:1-LS1-1 standard is all about. This is a really creative standard and I LOVE encouraging kids to be creative in their scientific thinking. Our nation’s future scientists and engineers are sitting in our classrooms – let’s encourage, challenge, and empower them!! 

The whole lesson can be found on TpT. If you would like me to send you a copy for free, just leave me your email below. I'll send it out to two random winners! Happy Memorial Day weekend!

Sunday, May 11, 2014

Mentos & Diet Coke

What happens when you add Mentos candy to Diet Coke?
Amazing 20 foot geyser!
How does this happen? Carbon dioxide is pumped into soda and it wants OUT, as you can see/hear anytime you open a new bottle of soda -that hissing sound is the CO2 escaping. A piece of Mentos candy has microscopic pits all over it. These are called nucleation sites - places where CO2bubbles can grab onto. A ton of CObubbles will form all over each Mentos candy as they sink to the bottom (we put in 8 candies) . The bubbles seed more bubbles as they rise & soon there is a raging foam in the bottle - pressure builds & the result is a huge geyser! Almost all of the soda comes shooting out of the bottle! I do this every year with my students & I never get tired of the looks on their faces - priceless! I use this experiment to teach the scientific method: making observations, asking questions, making hypotheses, recording data, making conclusions. 
         Using this tube has made it much easier for me to get out of the way before the geyser erupts:
There are so many questions you can address in this activity/ so many ways to change the variables, here are some of the questions I've investigated with my kids: 
 Does it work with fruit Mentos? (yes) 
Does it work with Sprite? (yes) 
Does it work with soda that has been sealed but left in my science closet for a year? (no!)
 Does it work with Life Savers? (no!) 
I like to have my students write down 2 variables they would like to change and then I choose a couple of the experiments to try each year.

I also use this experiment to teach solids (Mentos), liquid (soda), gas (carbon dioxide)  - fun fun fun & educational too!

Hope you had a wonderful Mother's Day!

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Blubber Glove

 I asked my kindergarteners if they liked being in the ocean when it's really cold - they all answered a resounding NO! So then I asked them - what do you think it feels like to be a beluga or a polar bear? A mammal that swims in the freezing cold Arctic Ocean? How can they possibly keep warm? Blubber!
Here's the blubber glove we made out of Crisco vegetable shortening:

We put our hands in ice water with & without the blubber glove - everyone was amazed to feel the difference! Our hands were so much warmer in the blubber glove! We looked at some slides I made up of mammals with blubber:
Next week we'll continue with our blubber lessons & learn all about whales. We'll be making this cute little whale out of a Dixie cup:

I just put the whole lesson up on TpT.  I'll send it to the first 2 names below, just leave me your email!

Sunday, April 6, 2014

Surface Tension Fun

 This is a great experiment for kids - easy, nothing fancy to purchase and has the WOW factor that makes science experiments so much fun! All you need is a bowl of water, pepper or glitter and dish detergent. Sprinkle the glitter over the surface of the water. The glitter will float due to the water's surface tension. Dip your finger into dish detergent, then put it into the middle of the glitter and WHOOSH!!!! the glitter goes flying to the sides of the bowl creating a huge clear area in the center! It happens really fast, many screams! We did this experiment 3 times yesterday & changed up some variables.
First we used pepper:

Then we used glitter to see if the same thing will happen (yes!).
Then we added TONS of glitter to see if the same results occur (no!).

My students had to answer these questions along the way:
-Why is the glitter floating and not sinking? (Water is made of molecules that "hold hands" - these molecules create something called surface tension - things will float on water as long as that surface tension is not broken.)
-Why does the glitter  run to the sides of the bowl when we put a soapy finger in the middle? (Soap breaks the surface tension of water. The water molecules run away from the soap, carrying the glitter with them!)
-Why won't this experiment work if we add too much glitter? (There is no where for the water & glitter to move to, we created a glitter traffic jam!)
-What are some other ways we can change up the experiment? (See if hot water works, seltzer, oregano, what else can we think of to experiment with?)
My 2/1/13 blog post on The Scientific Method has a freebie that you can use with this experiment.

Have fun!
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