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Friday, March 29, 2013

Friday Freebie - a bulletin board idea!

I've decided to link up with the Teaching Blog Addict for Friday Freebie!
Our entire building just got new bulletin boards.  Really big ones for right outside our doors in the hallway.
This was a wonderful donation but you know what it means when you get a big bulletin board.  It must be covered.  So I began the hunt for a fabulous idea.  Here's what I ended up with and how I did it.

I covered the board with some wrapping paper from the dollar tree.  It was pink with butterflies all over it.  I used a boarder that had a white picket fence and flowers to finish off the edges at the top and bottom of the bulletin board.  I found some laminated buggy accents and scattered them on the board.
I decided on the title: "Science Doesn't Bug Us!"
To make the title I used one of my favorite fonts and printed the letters. I cut the letters out to make my own letter templates and traced them onto a roll of bright blue contact paper.  I cut the letters out of contact paper and outlined them with a black sharpie.  Time consuming (ok - maybe) but I loved the end result.  Since it is contact paper, it was really easy to stick onto the board right where I wanted each letter.

Next, I needed some student work for the board.  I decided on 3 pieces to go with our Ecosystems unit.
1.   One of the accent die cuts was a butterfly.  I traced the butterfly on sheets of various colors of cardstock and cut them out before using the butterfly on the board.  Next, I cut a slit in the middle of each butterfly.  Half of them have a slit about 2 inches long coming up from the bottom while the other half have a slit about 2 inches long coming down from the top (between the antennas).  This allows me to slide one butterfly down and the other up to create a 3 D butterfly.  I gave each student one 3 D butterfly and instructed them to choose 2 science vocabulary words.  They wrote each word on the front of one wing.  Under the wing they wrote the definition and drew a picture.

2.  3 D energy pyramids were super easy to make.  I gave each student a square of cardstock with a slit going from one corner to the middle, which allowed the square to overlap and create a pyramid.  Students used their study guides and notebooks to show the flow of energy in an ecosystem.

3.  I gave students strips of paper and they began with the producer to create a food chain complete with herbivores and 3 levels of consumers.  They linked the strips together to form a chain.

I'm pretty happy with the way the board turned out and the kids had a lot of fun helping me get the board ready before spring break.  It was a great review and kept them busy on a day that is often restless (you know what it's like right before a vacation...)

I'm including the letters for the title and a butterfly template in case you want to recreate this board.  Hope this gives you some inspiration.

Saturday, March 16, 2013

Science Essential Standard 4.E.2.3

NC Science Essential Standard 4.E.2.3
 Give examples of how the surface of the earth changes due to slow processes such as erosion and weathering, and rapid processes such as landslides, volcanic eruptions, and earthquakes.

Open any science book and you'll find plenty of ideas for modeling erosion and weathering.  One of my favorite things to do is take students outside after a heavy rain and look for signs of erosion, weathering, and deposition. But, none of this makes the STEM and career connections I want to afford my students.    

I specifically wanted to stay away from the typical, "let's make a volcano" that isn't really a volcano but more of a chemical reaction (vinegar/baking soda) experiment.  So I went looking for something specifically geared toward an interactive simulation of an earthquake.

I found just what I was looking for (and then some) at Teach Engineering.
I have a feeling I will be referencing this website a LOT!  They have tons of great ideas for bringing the "E" into my STEM lab.  

Here are some pictures of my students' work.  

They engineered buildings using 30 mini-marshmallows and 30 toothpicks. 

 The buildings were placed on a pan of Jell-O® and then we tapped the bottom of the pan and timed how long the building stood. 

The results weren't always what they expected.

Notice that their journals were close by so that my "engineers" could draw diagrams of their buildings and record the length of time that it stood up to the earthquake.


 You can get the lesson plan for yourself and try it out without breaking the bank. 
If you do, please leave me a message in the comment section below.  I would love to hear about your experience.

Monday, March 11, 2013

Absolutely Explosive Professional Development

Yes, there is a story here.  Our district professional development day in February was dedicated to science.  Exploding things in the name of science sounds like fun - right?  Wait a minute!  This explosive professional development didn't happen in February.  It happened at the March 8th, professional development for language arts and math.  As Paul Harvey would say... here is the rest of the story...

1 cold unopened diet pepsi can + 1 LCD projector (turned on and projecting away) = explosion an hour and a half later

Our presenter placed her cold diet pepsi can on the cart next to the LCD projector.  Heat caused the molecules to move more quickly and finally popped the top clean off the top of the can.  A picture is worth a thousand words so here you go.  Well... that was one way to get our attention.
The moral of the story... don't leave your soda can next to an LCD projector.  They put out a LOT of heat!!!

BTW - no LCD projectors were harmed.  Several educators jumped into action and saved the day.

Saturday, March 9, 2013


5.L.2.2 Classify the organisms within an ecosystem according to the function they serve: producers, consumers, or decomposers (biotic factors).
Last year, I purchased the "Follow That Food Chain" series.  These non-fiction adventure books are set up like a game.  Students begin by reading the introduction and then choosing a tertiary consumer from the ecosystem featured in each book.  From there, they read about the animal and continue to make choices that result in either survival and continuation along the food chain (which really becomes more of a food web) or a "dead end".

Although my students can learn plenty from reading and interacting with this book, I was looking for a way to document their learning.  I decided to create a guided reading focus sheet for this purpose.  You can get a copy of it here.  Basically, students record the tertiary animal they chose. Then they read and respond with 3 facts they learned about the animal.  Next they record the page they chose to go to and why.  For example, in the Australian Outback Food Chain book, students might begin with the dingo and choose their dinner the night before as being a northern quoll which leads to page 44.  Students continue to read and respond to the next guided reading prompt.  Prompts include summarizing a paragraph, writing a question and answer based on a page, naming a problem faced by the animal, explaining an adaptation this animal has made for survival, and ultimately a summary of the ecosystem.

Need more ideas?
 Lerner Publishing Group has some great ideas in their teacher guide.

What?  You don't have these books?  May I suggest you write a DonorsChoose proposal to fund the purchase.  You won't regret it!  If you decide to go that route, let me know by leaving me a message in the comments section.  Most of the time I have a gift card that could jumpstart your proposal and help it to be funded more quickly.

Already have the books?  Leave me a message about ways you have used these books.


Sunday, March 3, 2013

March Currently

I missed February, but I managed to pull off March.
Love being part of the Currently Link Up with Farley.

So, I guess it is windy outside since I can hear the wind whistling through the windows.  March is coming in like a lion I suppose.

Let me just say that growing plants hydroponically is a big hit!  My 4th and 5th graders are loving this part of our science lab right now.  They've been helping mix the nutrients and adding them to the system.  Our first attempt is with some flowers - bachelor's buttons.  They are really taking off and the kids are very excited about it.  (so am I - truth be told)

Finished course #4 last week in my doctoral studies: Educational Research Methodologies culminated with the 1st milestone - the Topic Paper.  Thrilled to have pulled off an "A".  Even more thrilled to have a 3 week break from my studies.

Our youngest son, who is about to turn 16 next month, broke a bone in his hand but we don't know when.  It's been awhile.  Happened playing soccer, most likely.  The bone is the scaphoid which is a stubborn bone and slow to heal even if we had known about it right away.  Unfortunately, we didn't and now he has to have surgery, including bone grafting and a compression screw. UGH!  I really want this to go well and wish it were already over.

I have several books that I really need to renew and could do it online if only I could find my library card!  Guess I need to get up and get moving to find that.   I seriously need to avoid any more library fines!!

And now for 3 things I like, love, hate...  This was supposed to be 3 things that start with the 1st letter of my 1st name, but I used my last name instead.  Just couldn't think of anything that started with "H".
I like Koosh Balls - great stress relief!
I love Klondike Bars (and they were on sale the other day)!
I hate Kool-aid - I have never liked Kool-aid and I never will like Kool-aid!  I don't know why.  Call me crazy.

If you're participating in the Currently link up, remember to leave me a comment.  If you stumbled on this from somewhere other than Farley's Link Up, you should really head over to her blog and check out all the other great bloggers who link up each month!