Friday, May 31, 2013

Library Treasure: Moonshot

Moonshot: the Flight of Apollo 11  is a wonderful combination of history, science, art and poetry.  Brian Floca clearly tells the story of man's first flight to the moon using clever verses and beautiful illustrations.   This book captures the romance of the space program in a form that my preschoolers can enjoy.  No wonder my son now says every morning, "Look Mom, There's the moon!"

If you have recently found a treasure at your library, please share!

Thursday, May 30, 2013

Baking and Writing

I have been on the look out for activities that would allow us to incorporate a little bit of letter writing and reading.  As my little girl and I were making some banana bread this afternoon, I realized we had the perfect opportunity.  Using my finger I wrote her name in the pan I was buttering.  We followed with her brother's name, then did a simple "sound it out" word (sun), and then the more complicated word "Daddy", which uses the "y" that says "ee".

She was so amused that she decided that she wanted to write in the flour on the cookie sheet as we were ready to add it to the pans.  This picture from my post about sugar cookies explains how we came to have flour on the cookie sheet.

Do you have any fun every day ways to practice letter formation and reading words?

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Learning Newton's Second Law from the Garden Hose

My son was watering our little patch of vegetables this weekend, when he suddenly fell down on his backside.  He jumped up and said, "Hey!  The hose knocked me over."  I am suspicious that he may have been dramatizing a little bit.  However, it was fun to talk about.

Not only was the water being forced out of the hose, it was putting a force back on the hose.  For every force there is an equal force in the opposite direction.  

Friday, May 24, 2013

Look Mom! There are lots of mirrors!

Look, Mom!  There are lots of mirrors!   My son greeted me as I walked into the bathroom to help him brush his teeth.   He was absolutely fascinated by the reflections bounced back and forth between the medicine cabinet mirror and the main bathroom mirror.  

Where does the light start?  (From the bulb on the side of the mirror.)  Where does it bounce to next?  (Your face.)  And then?  (To the mirror.)  And then?  (The other mirror.) And then? (The other mirror.) And then? (The other mirror.

 Does all the light keep bouncing back and forth? (No, the picture gets darker.) Some of the light is getting dispersed in other directions, and not continuing to bounce.  That is entropy. All known processes loose a little energy as they go.

Of course, he does not get all that right now, but I do smile when I walk into the bathroom and find him using his finger to trace the path of the light as it bounces back and forth.

Thursday, May 23, 2013

Water bottle guns

Once again, my husband invented a brilliant toy that entertained the children for the entire evening.  In my daughter's words.  "He opened his car, and took out the water bottle.  Then he poked a hole in the lid (with a nail) and filled it up with water."  He used a nail to poke the hole.

Both kids enjoyed applying force to the bottle and seeing the water come streaming out.  The force was spread over the area of the bottle (pressure).  

When the water quit streaming before the bottle was empty, the solution was to allow air to enter, re-inflating the bottle so more pressure could be applied. 

The harder they squeezed (the higher the force and higher the pressure) the faster (higher speed) the water streamed out.  The more they sprayed Mommy, the faster she ran.

Similar posts you might enjoy:

Parachutes from re-purposed materials

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Getting started with the Next Generation Science Standards

We are starting the 2013 school year in the month of June for various reasons, including an expectation of miserably hot weather in the coming month.  One area where I know my son is ready to jump into kindergarten level work is science.  He amazes with his perception of the physical world.  

Structure for me

To get started with the the Next Gen Standards, I went to the Next Gen Standards site and downloaded a copy of the standards, complete with the relevant notes. You can choose to limit yourself to one specific grade level, one specific topic or limit the number of notes that shows up on your copy.  For my purposes, I only limited my query to k-2 and kept all the applicable notes. To perform this search and print the results, go here.

When we are ready for a new scientific topic through out the year, I will choose a new kindergarten level concept to present. 

Freedom for them

Both of my children are already extremely adept at formulating their own questions about the physical world. The last thing I want to do is hamper their inner curiosity.  As they come up with questions, it has been my goal to respond by helping them develop appropriate investigations and find relevant resources to address their interests.   

The only thing I'll change is that now I will glance through the k-2 Standards and check off the work that we are accomplishing whether it is labeled for kindergarten, first or second grade.  By reading through the standards, I may find extensions or cross overs into math or language arts.

I am looking forward to sharing our adventures here on the blog, so be looking for my upcoming posts chronicling our adventures relevant to the Next Generation Science Standards.

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Why I like the Next Generation Science Standards

This weekend, I took some time to look at the Next Generation Science Standards that were released while we were trying to get settled into our new home back in April.  I am pretty excited about what I saw.


The old science standards had the readability of Shakespeare.  Even with the advantage of college level instruction, I often had to re-read to figure out what on earth (or in space) I was supposed to be teaching.  In addition, the Next Generation Standards are conveniently searchable.

Organized by grade level

  If you just want to know, "What should I be teaching this year?", without needing to sit for hours and hours contemplate the greater themes of science,  the Next Generation Science Standards give you a clear enough answer that you can start planning your lessons immediately.  In addition, you can search by grade range to view three grades at once, a nice balance of structure and flexibility.

Cross referenced with the Common Core

It makes me a little sad every time I hear an elementary teacher say, "I don't have time for science."  I think that seeing the science standard cross referenced with the related math and  language standards will make it easier for elementary teachers in particular to use science as a catalyst for their other teaching, rather than finding it a distraction.


As a former (and hopefully future) high school science teacher, I  found it overwhelming to try to make up for missed skills and information while preparing my students to be shoved off into the ocean of college.  If the kindergarten teacher of my future students starts applying theses suggestions now, it will make a big difference in my classroom, twelve years from now.  

We are starting the 2013 school year now, so look for posts chronicling our journey in using the Next Generation Science Standards for kindergarten.

Have you take a look at the Next Generation Science Standards?  What did you think?

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Basic bead counting cards

Inspired by a more beautiful, and more expensive, project found on Pinterest, I made a couple of these to help pass time in the car .  They were never used in the car, but a few days ago my son found them and was interested.  I made some more to put in his bucket in the playroom. 

 These are as simple as they look: beads strung on cheap string which was then poked through index cards and knotted in the back. Using rows of ten reinforces the decimal system, and the crayon number on the back makes it a self-correcting activity.

Today, I told my kids I had something I wanted to show them, pulled out the cards, and let each of them take a turn counting the beads.  I was happy to see that my four-year-old caught on to the fact that the green row should always equal ten.  When he accidentally counted nine, he stopped himself, shook his head and started again. 

Their eyes actually lit up when they saw the number on the back that corresponds to the number of beads on the front.  I  love those moments.

Do you have a good self-correcting activity to share?

Sunday, May 12, 2013

Sticky Note Scripture: Pslam 23

My verbal learner decided that she wanted to do her verses with sticky notes too.  It is interesting to see the differences in how my children work.  My verbal child says the next phrase, and then looks for the picture. My visual learner puts all the sticky notes in order, and then works to say it out loud.  

I am always a little surprised how effective simple, unimpressive drawings can be in helping students learn visually.

The LORD is my shepherd.
I shall not want.
He makes me lie down in green pastures.

He leads me beside still waters
He restores my soul.

He leads me in paths of righteousness,
for his own name sake.

Yes, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death,
I will fear no evil,
for You are with me,
your rod and your staff, they comfort me.

You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies.
You anoint my head with oil.
My cup runs over.
Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life.
And I shall dwell in the house of the LORD forever.

Monday, May 6, 2013

Does it matter if my child colors inside the lines?

Does it matter if my child colors inside the lines? 

Any serious artist will quickly tell you that willingness to color inside the lines has nothing to do with artistic ability.  Art is by definition personal expression of the artist.  It does not matter if the color is inside the lines or if the color is true to life.  Art is an experiment in expression. 

I do not force my children to color, although one is occasionally amused by it.  For the other, I provide plain paper, saving stress and money. Since art is not my strong suit, I read what others have to say.  The newsletter from Mary Ann Kohl has helped me understand what I could and should provide for my children to foster their art abilities.  You can sign up for it on her web-site.

What does matter?

Early child hood educators will often list coloring within the lines as an important step toward being able to write.  My perception is that the issue is not whether the child wants to color within the lines, but whether they have the ability to do so.  A child who physically can not color inside the lines will have trouble forming letters well. 

My child who finds coloring uninteresting really enjoys drawing shapes and filling them in with lines like I described in my post on the Montessori method of writing a couple of months ago.  He even likes to make the shapes look like certain objects.  For us, this has been a great way to cover the skill without forcing an activity that he hates.

What do you see as the benefits of coloring?  What other activities can you suggest that perform a similar function?

Sunday, May 5, 2013

Why does ice stick to a cement block wall?

My kids were playing outside the other morning, supposedly watching a piece of ice melt.  Incidentally, the ice contained the popcorn mentioned in my previous post.  Ever since watching the Sid the Science Kid episode with fruit frozen in ice, they have wanted to freeze everything!

Anyway, my son ran back into the house shouting, "Mom, come quick!"  Slightly worried that my daughter might be lying in the yard injured, I hurried outside to find this.

Read more at Thriving STEM.