Category Archives: science

Enriching Your Summer with STEAM Learning

summer steamLooking for some ways to keep your kids learning while having a fun time this summer? Check out these ideas to STEAM up your summer!

  1. Periodic Table Battleship. So this is number one on my list for a reason. I think this is SUCH a great idea to get kids learning about their elements! I used a different table in our battleship game that included pictures. So perfect!!
  2. Science Headband Game. This one from Oriental Trading is cheap, but you could easily make your own.
  3. Make Ice Cream (by hand!) This looks like fun for the kids. Surprisingly I am not a fan of ice cream, so this doesn’t appeal to me. But I know my daughter would love it!
  4. Glow in the Dark Party. While this site has a gazillion things you could for a glow in the dark party, I am perfectly content grabbing a container of glow sticks at the dollar store and having my daughter put on a show with them in our dark basement. Fun and super simple! Just make sure to squeeze some science into the activity. If you are feeling especially ambitious teach your kiddo about chemiluminescence.
  5. Make Bird Feeders. There are tons of different ways you could make one (including having your child design and build their own invention). Birds are fascinating- tie in some extra ornithology activities by watching live bird cameras or dissect an owl pellet (GROSS).
  6. Make S’mores using a homemade Solar Oven. Delicious and a good tie-in to emergency preparedness. Not only because of the importance of having a way to cook food during a power outage….but because, let’s face it, in an emergency we will want to eat chocolate.
  7. Make a Straw Rocket (free printable HERE)
  8. Design and Build a Pom Pom drop This looks super easy- you just need paper towel rolls, tape, and pom poms!
  9. Build a homopolar motor dancer. Can I just say this looks AWESOME! I wonder if I could change the dancer into a spinning dragon or dinosaur…
  10. Learn the science behind yeast with a little balloon experiment. And then make bread knowing in your science heart why it rises. 🙂
  11. Apply your knowledge of conductors and insulators with some circuit testing. (I would also check out Snap Circuit boards for kids– they are fun for our entire family!)
  12. Use programming apps such as Hopscotch or Lightbot (our current favorite) to expand your child’s technology learning. And so they can be super cool and learn how to code.
  13. Make a sundial. I think I will enrich this activity with some discussion on the earth’s orbit and how it affects the sun’s position in the sky. And maybe watch some Neil Degrasse Tyson Cosmos movies.
  14. Fizzy Explosion bags. We have done this in the past and had a lot of fun! Just be prepared for your child to want to do this over and over and over….
  15. Make an Inventor’s Box. I think it would be fascinating to open up an old piece of electronics and see what’s inside.
  16. Teach your child binary and have them code their name with beads. Geeky enough?
  17. Make a compass. Then learn about WHY we have North and South poles and the Earth’s magnetic field. And then make a clay model of the Earth’s layers using a metal bead inside the center to show the magnetic core.
  18. Demonstrate the chemical reaction of citric acid and baking soda by making a lemon volcano.
  19. Teach nutrition using sites such as ChooseMyPlate.gov.
  20. Grow a lima bean seed. I especially like the use of a clear CD case to label the different parts of a plant.
  21. Something dinosaurish– not sure yet… but I need to keep my little paleontologist busy!
  22. Download my STEAM summer ideas in my TpT store.

Some of you may be wondering if I am going to be doing all of these activities. The answer of course is NO! I hope to get to many of them (except the owl pellet dissecting). But we just got approved to be foster parents so I know our life is going to drastically change. I can’t wait. 🙂

Happy STEAMing!

STEAM Summer Camps

Happy Summer everyone! I am so excited to have lots of time to hang out with my #1 kid before she heads off to first grade (and all day school! eeks!) I like to have a lot of summer plans to avoid lots of down time (aka TV time). steam I will be honest- as a teacher mom I have been frustrated with the lack of differentiated curriculum and Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts, and Math (STEAM) learning in our schools. So I have taken it upon myself to provide my daughter with more extensive activities based on these areas and her interests and abilities. I was introduced to Core Knowledge by my sister and a colleague and knew it was a curriculum I wanted to integrate into our activities as well. Core Knowledge is a comprehensive curriculum that builds on the knowledge of previous years. I took some units from this program, tied them in with STEAM, and came up with this summer camp program. I am really excited about it!

The basis of this program is to provide my daughter with activities in Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts, and Math (STEAM). Every week we will be experimenting with Science on Saturdays. There will also be a weekly Engineering Challenge. The majority of our STEAM learning however will be from learning camps we will have on Thursdays and Fridays. I have a lot of science camps planned (based on content from Core Knowledge and my daughter’s interests) as well as Art, Music, and Math camps. Each camp has different ways you can integrate STEAM. For example, the Rock Camp will not only teach kids the science behind the rock groups, but have ways to incorporate technology, engineering, art, and math into your lessons.

Here is our weekly plan:

Make Something STEAMy Monday: (art project/fun treat/iMovie/etc) centered around STEAM

Take a Trip Tuesday: a day we can take a STEAM centered field trip

Wednesday: Worksheet (I just had to sneak in one day of paper and pencil work) and work on an Engineering Challenge. I made a letter template so the challenges could be done with friends who live far away.

engineering

Engineering Challenge idea

letter

STEAM Engineering Challenge Letter template

Thursday and Friday: STEAM camp

astronomy

Sample STEAM camp idea sheet

Science Saturday with Daddy

science saturday

Science Saturday ideas

I am uploading my plans on Teachers Pay Teachers. Feel free to download and let me know what you think! There are also lots of STEAM based activities that can be found in many communities. Check your local library… many libraries will have science activities that go along with their summer reading programs. I also know of communities that have “Arts in the Park” or “Science in the Park” activities. If you live in the Salt Lake area, The Leonardo Museum downtown will be opening up some children exhibits in a few weeks based on STEAM learning…. I am thrilled!!!! And if all else fails, host your own camps! Your neighbors will love you 🙂

Happy STEAMing!

Heart Rock Collections

Save those Valentine Heart boxes…. they make super cute rock collection boxes. Because we LOVE rocks!!!

Boo loved examining my rock collection, especially since I let her keep a few.  By the way that entire crate on the right is full of rocks.

Now she is looking over her own collection. These Valentine boxes are the perfect size for those small specimens!

So for all you that love rocks like we do, then this is the project for you! 🙂
Happy Teaching!

Summer Bucket List: Vinegar Fun

We are still going strong on our summer bucket list and have had a blast (literally!) playing with vinegar and baking soda! Here are some of the fun science projects we have done and links to the creative minds behind them.

Exploding Bags

Both my daughter and I loved this activity! It was fun to watch regular plastic bags expand and pop. We could of done this activity 20 more times but unfortunately we ran out of plastic baggies. I highly, highly recommend doing this with your kids!!! Visit All Things Beautiful for a great step by step tutorial for this amazing activity.

Fizzy Painting

If your child loves art and science- this is a must-do activity for you! It was fun to create and mix colors and watching the baking soda and vinegar reaction. Check out the tutorial on We Made That.

Expand a Balloon

I love it when I have just as much fun doing kid projects as my little girl! I was both amused and amazed watching balloons expand with the power of vinegar and baking soda. Visit Mom to 2 Posh Lil Divas to see how to make this happen!

Space Day

“When are we going to go up to outer space?” This is the question that my inquisitive 4 year old has been asking me lately. Of course we can’t take a literal trip to space- but we can take an imaginative one! And the teacher brain in me went crazy with the fun possibilities of creating an outer space “feel”. Like making a rocket ship and traveling to our own version of outer space. When I heard that there was a Space Day the first friday in May I jumped aboard and made our space visit a reality! I thought I would share some of our fun explorative activities. If your child is interested- set a date and go on an exciting trip to outer space – or just use some of these ideas in a Space Unit.

You can’t go wrong with space books. As you can see we have a variety of genres- from non-fiction to science fiction!

My daughter and I made our very own rocket ship out of Ikea bookshelf boxes. Our rocket is tall enough for me and provided lots of space for painting and adding rainbow stickers (as requested from my Boo). My favorite part of this activity was hearing my daughter say “Will it REALLY fly to outer space Mom?”

my little astronaut
our very own rocket ship

We took a quick trip down to the planetarium and walked on the moon! We also watched a planet movie in their dome theater (its pretty cool to see a movie on the ceiling).

Later that night we ate dinner in our star tent and played with rockets from the Dollar Tree.

We then had a glow in the dark space party! I put glow sticks in balloons and hung them from the ceiling in our basement. These made PERFECT planets. We hopped aboard our rocket ship and were traveling through space! My daughter had a special star glow stick (thanks again to our favorite dollar store) that shone the way.

Even my science driven husband said that this was cool. Sweet! 

Happy Teaching!

Animal Adventures: Learning About Mammals

Yesterday we celebrated “Mammal Day”. This was a fun yet educational day centered around learning more about mammals. Can I just say my daughter is in heaven learning about animals! Learning is so much more exciting when the subject matter appeals to you!

Here is a brief run down of our day:

Sorted through all the small plastic animals on our biome board and pulled out just the mammals for our day of mammal fun!

Drank milk- since all mammal moms give their babies milk

Played some animal games on the iPad- specifically apps on mammal tracks (iTrack Lite and Critter Trax) and Animal Sounds. We looked at some mammal tracks (and scat- gross but interesting to a 4 year old). We also listened to different animal sounds and tried to guess what animal made it. It was a lot of fun!

Read mammal books: Pulled out a lot of our non fiction mammal books and sat on the couch looking at them! As we were reading we talked about the features of mammals: all mammal mothers give their babies milk, most have hair, most are born live (not from a hard egg), are warm blooded, and breathe through lungs.

Biped/ quadraped play-dough animal tracks: I thought it would be fun to make and sort animal tracks! The great thing about this activity was that I set out all the supplies and when my daughter got to the table she exclaimed: “Mom! Let’s make animal tracks!” I love it when she “comes up” with a prescheduled activity. It makes it seem so child-directed. 🙂

Pattern Match- I printed some pics of animals and their skin from Google Images. After playing a brief matching game with the cards we ran over to my daughters room and tried to figure out which animal skins were on her blanket (This adorable blanket was made with lots of love by Boo’s grandma– isn’t it the cutest!)

Field Journal:  Added stickers to our mammal divider card and added a whole bunch of mammal cards to Boo’s Field Journal. I found some free printables at National Geographic Kids and downloaded 99% of them. It took FOREVER, but they were free and very informative. (More posts to come explaining this field journal- it is going to be a collection of all animal types and habitats- so stay tuned for that!)

I taught Boo how to draw a cat. So simple, and yet it was fun to add in a little drawing lesson. And she was so proud of her accomplishment! Isn’t it super cute!

The last thing we did on mammal day was to take our mammals outside and play. Originally we had just the sea mammals in the water, but a couple land mammals decided to go for a swim 🙂

Funny side note- this morning my daughter said that her little plastic snake wanted to participate in mammal day because she was special and gave milk to her babies and had hair. Points for creativity!

Its off to plan for “Bird Day”. Happy Teaching!

Animal Unit: Overview of Animal Groups

We started our Animal Unit!  Today was all about introducing the 6 different animal groups: Mammals, Fish, Birds, Reptiles, Amphibians, and Invertebrates. Nothing over the top- just a day to familiarize ourselves with the groups. Here is a recap of today’s learning adventures:

  • Brought out the tub of non-fiction animal books. We looked through a few of them and I left all the books in our family room so she will have easy access to them throughout the next few weeks.
  • Bought some new apps. I am a huge sucker for Montessori apps…just love the organization and design of ’em! We got Vertebrates, Invertebrates, and Baby Animals. Boo already had Mini Adventures- Animals (free) and ABC Wildlife (two very, very similar apps but we like them both).
  • Animal Sorting- We have a ginormous amount of small plastic animals. After we had talked a little about the different groups of animals, I showed her the cards I made for her field journal (more on that in upcoming weeks). I had planned to have her sort the animals but before I had time to officially introduce the activity she started placing them in their families. Boo would pick an animal and hopelessly declare that it was lost, and then she would have another animal guide it to the correct card. It was hilarious to watch and yet very, very educational! 
  • Boo sorting the animals into their correct group: Fish, Amphibian, Reptile, Mammals, Birds, and Invertebrates. You can see that we have a LOT of mammals!

I got the information for the animal group cards from Home School Creations. I was going to print the cards but our printer was out of ink. Of course.

What you can expect in future Animal Unit posts: websites, sorts, books, games, and other activities with Diego as our animal adventure guide!! Can I just say I am SO excited about this animal unit!
For more ideas on teaching animals, check out my Animal Pinterest Board.
As always- Happy Teaching!

Animal Unit Overview

We just finished our gigantic study of the human body. We read many books, watched interesting videos, played games, crafted, and did science experiments all based on learning about our bodies. After a nice break we are back on the structured learning bandwagon with a new study about animals.

Right now everything is tentatively mapped out. It was quite a struggle figuring out the order to teach the animals and where to spend our focus of study. After talking to some good teacher moms I remembered the importance of a child-centered curriculum and let my daughter’s interests lead the way. Which means a lot of learning about mean carnivorous animals chasing poor innocent hoofed mammals. We will have a riot learning about food chains, too!

I will post about our animal adventures as we complete them. Right now this is our tentative schedule:

Day 1: Overview of Animal Groups (Reptiles, Amphibians, Invertebrates, Mammals, Birds, and Fish)
Day 2: Mammals
Day 3: Birds
Day 4: Reptiles
Day 5: Amphibians
Day 6: Fish
Day 7: Invertebrates
Day 8: What do animals eat? Carnivore/Herbivore/Insectivore sort 
Day 9: Food Chain Games
Day 10: Endangered Animals
Day 11: Animal Babies
Day 12: Overview of Biomes: Get Ready for Diego Adventures! Diego will take Boo on a new adventure every day to save baby animals and learn more about each biome.
Day 13: Grasslands
Day 14: Polar/Arctic
Day 15: Marine
Day 16: Desert
Day 17: Tropical Forest
Day 18: Alpine/Mountains
Day 19: Temperate Forests and Coniferous Forests
Day 20: Animal Celebration

Possible other units of study- if Boo is interested:
nocturnal/diurnal
domestic animals
animal tracks
animal sounds
endothermic/ ectothermic
oviparous/ viviparous
venomous/ poisonous

Realize that each day we will only spend 10-20 minutes on our animal study. AND this schedule is SUPER tentative- I have learned the importance of being flexible as a teacher of a 4 year old!  If Boo is eager to learn more-we’ll go faster, and we will slow down if she is overwhelmed.

As far as learning is considered- she is the compass and accelerator while I have a map in one hand and an assortment of learning tools for her in the other hand. And together we seek the great treasure of education.  Theres your cheezy thought for the day 🙂

Happy Teaching!

DIY Light Box and Teaching Ideas

Oh, the wonder and magic of playing with light! I have wanted to make a light box for awhile, and I finally set the goal and got it done. I had no idea that there was SO many different (and educational!) things you could do with light!

Light Box Materials:
Clear plastic under-the-bed Rubbermaid container
2 fluorescent lights

To make the light box, I just turned the Rubbermaid container upside down with the 2 lights inside. It isn’t anything fancy- but it was SO easy!!

Light Box Manipulatives:
Colored accent gems, transparencies (teaching manipulatives I used with an overhead projector), dry erase marker & sheet protector, geometry mirror, microscope slides & magnifying glass

There are tons of different ways to play with a light box. I am going to list some of our ideas- enjoy!

Science:
Pull out your old microscope slides! A light box is a perfect way to view ’em! It’s also a great way to view x-rays.

Looking at a fruit fly with a magnifying glass and our new light box

Math
We made lots of designs with pattern blocks. Boo and I also played and sorted money, made shapes with our geoboard, spun the colored spinner, and created symmetrical patterns with our geometry mirror. With the exception of the mirror, the rest of our math light box manipulatives are old overhead projector teaching materials. And since overhead projectors are on their way out in lots of schools, I bet you could snatch some of these up for a great price.

Geoboard designs and colorful spinners
Geometry mirrors- they are such a fun math manipulative! It’s a great tool for teaching symmetry!
Playing and sorting dollars and coins
Art
We used our pattern blocks to make colors. It was a fast way to show that yellow and blue make green! 
Literacy
I grabbed a dry erase marker and a sheet protector and Boo and I had fun reading words! We played a simple game where a predator was trying to get Boo’s stuffed animal and so we had to read the clues to figure out who he was and what he intended to do if he caught us. 
Reading and writing words
And of course, we did a LOT of free play.
Boo playing with 2 geometry mirrors and accent gems

A big source of light-play inspiration goes to Play at Home Mom– she has some “bright” ideas on her blog! 🙂
I would love to hear about your light play! Now to figure out how to make a “Lite-Brite” with our new box….
Happy Teaching!

Human Body: Printables

Our human body project is over. I still can’t believe it! This is a quick run down of all the printables we used while learning about the human body. I will break down the post by systems/sections of the body.  This post has materials for the body chart only- so if you want to do some of the science experiments, click on the title of each section. It will take you to the blog post on that specific topic where you can get more ideas for science experiments, videos, and more.

Before starting, trace your child’s body on a large piece of butcher paper. I used packaging paper from Amazon- we got a ton since we did a lot of online Christmas shopping. After tracing the body- cut out two copies. MAKE SURE that all three body outlines line up. Learn from my mistake! FYI- I will be referring to these cutouts throughout this post as “body charts”.

Skeletal System (click on this link for more ideas)

Materials:

  • body chart
  • child-size skeleton printout from eSkeletons. (I had to make some adjustments- my daughter isn’t quite that tall yet, so I shrunk the size a bit before printing. Due to size issues, I also had to add a different pelvic bone (found here), ribs (found here), and I ended up drawing a skull.
Favorites: The skull and ribs with flaps- designed to add the brain and heart/lungs.
Suggestions: Be prepared to do a little bone surgery- the fingers in the skeleton might not align with your childs handprint on their body chart.
Nervous System (click on this link for more ideas)
Materials:
  • body chart
  • paper cut out of the brain (I did a google search and came up with this one, but there are a ton available!
Favorites: The fact that the brain is inside the skull
Suggestions: We just did the brain, looking back I would do the entire nervous system. This could easily be achieved with embroidery floss for the nerves, and colored cellophane over the spine (or just yarn) for the spinal column.
Lymphatic System (click on this link for more ideas)
Materials:
  • body chart
  • green embroidery floss (lymph vessels)
  • green and white paint (to be used as the lymph nodes and white blood cells)
  • green paper for a spleen
Favorites: the subject material- my daughter is really curious about her germs, and I liked that it wasn’t a  cut and paste activity but we were able to use paint and string
Suggestions: Gluing the embroidery floss on the body chart was difficult- we had to switch to tape, it worked much better for us, and I was able to move it around later on when I had to do some trimming
Respiratory System (click on this link for more ideas)
Materials:
  • body chart
  • lungs (clipart from Kidopo)
  • bubble wrap (air in our lungs)
  • blue paper for a diaphragm
Favorites: we made a model of a lung- by far my favorite part of the activity (click here for more information)
Suggestions: Use 2 pieces of straw as the trachea and upper throat. We didn’t add this until we were working on the digestive system and needed to make an esophagus.
Circulatory System (click on this link for more ideas)
Materials:
  • body chart
  • red and blue embroidery floss (arteries and veins)
  • heart (clipart from Phillip Martin)
Favorites: I really liked using the embroidery floss for the blood vessels.
Suggestions: I tried adding a few capillaries here and there- but it was getting too detailed so I didn’t really pursue it. I also wished I would have invested in a stethoscope.
Digestive System (click on this link for more ideas)
Materials:
  • body chart
  • white, pink, and blue straws (upper throat, esophagus, and trachea)
  • digestive system cutout (I think this is the one I used, but I am not sure…. I did print it in black and white)
Favorites: The Youtube video on the digestive system– it was a WINNER with my daughter
Suggestions: Try the science experiments from our blog, and you could add the vocab word rectum. I just couldn’t bring myself to talking about that word YET, and as you probably know from viewing the rest of these posts, we did leave out a few body systems that were a little mature for my 4 year old)
Urinary System (click on this link for more ideas)
Materials:
  • body chart
  • yellow paper for a bladder, urethra, ureter, kidneys
Favorites: Probably the kidney experiment and the fact that my daughter drew and cut out the different parts of this system
Suggestions: Talk more about the importance of drinking water
Muscular System (click on this link for more ideas)
Materials:
  • body chart
  • red plastic tablecloth (from dollar tree)
Favorites: I love the transparency of the muscular layer, however this brings me to my suggestion…
Suggestions: Using one of the copies of your body chart, glue the muscle layer on the back. TRUST ME- having a plastic layer that won’t stay in place is a bit of a headache.
Eye (click on this link for more ideas)
Materials:
  • body chart
  • clear plastic sheet protector (glue on top of the eye as the cornea)
  • white, black, and blue (or whatever color your child’s irises are) paper
Favorites: The plastic cornea. This is one of my favorite things about our body chart.
Suggestions: We could have done SO much more with the eye- optical illusions, perception, using telescopes and binoculars, etc. A lesson on using all 5 senses would fit nicely here, too!
Skin and Hair (click here for more ideas)
Materials:
  • body chart
  • 2 copies of your body chart (one for the skin, one for the clothes- just cut off the head, hands, and feet)
  • yarn (hair and eyebrows)
  • construction paper, material for clothes
  • red paper for lips
  • paint for skin
Favorites: the eye and mouth openings that show off our teeth and eyes
Suggestions: MAKE SURE that all three copies are the same size. After a month of learning, it was pretty frustrating to find out that our poor body chart was made with three different sizes!
Favorite Reference Books
Uncover the Human Body– we love the 3D model of the body
Human Body Encyclopedia for Kids (I can’t find it online)
Favorite Online Resources
Youtube- check out the schoolhouse rocks science clips
For more ideas on teaching the human body, check out my human body board on Pinterest!
Have a great time learning about the human body! This is a wonderful educational journey that I hope you and your little ones can take… there is so much to learn about!
Happy Teaching!
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