Making Moon Phases

blood-moon-596784__480
People are naturally mesmerized and curious about everything about space. Kids are excited to learn about how and why space works. Misconceptions are commonly made. In fact, my own science instruction was SO ABSENT in my formative years that I really didn’t know much about how the earth or space worked until my 30s when I graduated from college.  In fact I didn’t like science in my youth because I thought science was boring and involved only worksheets (truly!!). Yes, I am gasping about my own experience, but it is true. Unfortunately, it is true for far too many children. And then the children grow up to be adults thinking such ideas like the sun revolves around the earth. Hands on science is so essential to clear up false thinking as children. Continue reading

Amphibians or Reptiles

In Utah’s testing, there is ALWAYS a question on the differences between amphibians and reptiles. Always. And every year I am floored how many students are still confused. So we built. We ate. They liked. They remembered…at least better.

For an after school science club, we did a lesson on the differences between amphibians and reptiles. Then we built and ate. Yum.

Amphibians – wet skin, lives in water and land, gills then lungs, eggs are slimy feeling, cold blooded, etc. We unwrapped a somewhat sticky-wet Twinkie (amphibian), placed it in pudding (water), put sprinkles also in the pudding (slimy eggs.)

Reptiles – scaly skin, leathery eggs, mostly live on land, cold blooded, lungs. To represent this, each student received a Zinger with the coconut (scaly skin), placed it on Easter grass (dry land), and a gummy worm to remind students that snakes are reptiles. Each student received a large marshmallow which is dry to represent that reptile eggs are dry as well as some Skittles hiding in the grass…also representing reptile eggs are on land. I let students add licorice for legs on both amphibians and reptiles.

Food makes learning FUN! The kids had a blast.

Sunrise…Sunset

How are you not thinking of the Fiddler on the Roof with this title? The only reason why you aren’t mesmerized with this classic is if you are thinking about seasons and how the length of day changes throughout the year. If you aren’t playing the Sunrise, Sunset tune when the lesson starts then You Light Up My Life is another alternative.

To teach seasons, you really MUST introduce common misconceptions, namely that the orbit is almost a perfect circle. It is NOT an elliptical shape where the seasons are contingent upon distance between the Earth & Sun. You really have to play the classic video about the pompous (and WRONG) Harvard grads who think they can explain how seasons work. It is a 2 minute impressive video showing how unimpressive college grads knowledge is regarding seasons. Continue reading

We Will “ROCK” You

I.Love.Rocks. This was such an intimidating unit for me to learn, but I took classes and researched. Now this is a unit that my kids really ROCK. Hahaha. That will never get old. In fact, while traveling to Ireland I HAD to purchase this rock cycle t-shirt. Had. To.rd_Sheep

Minerals. Minerals. Minerals.

candy-912067_1280

The VERY first teaching objective with the rock cycle unit is to clearly identify between rocks and minerals. Minerals are one pure substance and make up rocks. They are often times just one color….but not always. You can do scratch tests if you have the scratch plates. Continue reading

Conduction, Convection, & Radiation: Cooking Dogs…Hot Dogs

pork-69429__480I teach with Whole Brain Teaching when I can think of something. I have a few chants for conduction, convection & radiation: “Conduction is Touching’. Conduction is Touching’.” We say that while clasping one hand with another to show direct touch or contact. For convection heat transfer, have students make circles with their hands and say, “Conduction is heat transfer through liquid or gas in a circular motion.” Last, for radiation heat transfer make waves and say, “Radiation is heat transfer through electromagnetic waves.” We do that EVERY SINGLE CLASS at least once. The actions and words together help students’ brains make extra connections and REMEMBER. Continue reading

Who’s in CHARGE Anyways? – Electricity

What child (or adult) doesn’t get SPARKED UP by playing with electricity kits? I don’t know if I have ever taught a student who doesn’t CHEER when I pull these kits out. They are $60 from Lakeshore. You really need one box per group of about 4 students. These are likely out of a teacher’s budget, so I would advocate for writing a grant from Donor’s Choose for them. The only downside is that the lightbulb holders broke easily. I also have the magnet kits from Lakeshore…equally as great.

kit

As a science teacher, it is ESSENTIAL that you let your students EXPLORE without you feeding them the answers! Let them discover and investigate. Teachers – – WALK AWAY. DON’T TALK. Watch magic happen! I let students have a chunk of time at the beginning of my electricity unit to play with these kits. I watch….and smile…and hear, “Miss Baldree, “Did you know…..?” Why, of course I do. But it is more powerful when students DISCOVER.

Continue reading

Science Fair….NOT For the Faint of Heart

It was the best of times. It was the worst of times. Science fair, oh dear!! These two powerful words bring a mixture of torment and dread sprinkled with excitement and tears…and maybe smelly eggs or brine shrimp. Science fair at my school is a SERIOUS undertaking and definitely NOT for the faint of heart. At the end of science fair, the end results bring so much pride from students. Our teaching staff contribute blood, sweat, and tears by the gallons to make the magic happen. Our school’s science fair is 100% contingent upon teacher help after school for a solid month or more. It’s hard work. The amazing results make us all come back for more every year. Continue reading

Getting Started

This blog is dedicated to elementary teachers who need hands-on ideas in teaching STEM concepts, especially focusing on SCIENCE. For newbies, STEM is an acronym for SCIENCE * TECHNOLOGY * ENGINEERING * MATH. In my classroom, I consider it organized play that is a liiiiittttle chaotic at times. For someone entering my classroom at random, you may see my 6th graders ooohing and aaahhing while observing LIVE microscopic worms found from a duck pond, 5th graders building electrical circuits, 4th graders sorting animal photos into the correct ecosystem, or my enthusiastic 3rd graders racing balloon powered cars and graphing the results. Thus, it’s organized play as much as I can create. This blog will be a show-n-tell of my work as a full-time science specialist in my school. Magic starts here. Now. Today. My kids can learn just like any other kids even though 90% are considered in poverty. We have something like 18 languages spoken with a quite diverse population including refugees, chronically homeless students, and a whole lot of language barriers. Challenges, yes, of course. This is the population I want to work with because I not only make a difference every day, but I learn from THEM every day. I chose it and sought it out. I choose THEM. Continue reading