See Saw Science

Some days we are delighted to find that the students latch onto an idea or hypothesis and just run with it. Today, we were lucky enough to have one of our parents volunteer to read a story called Just A Little Bit by Ann Tompert that involved an elephant and a see saw. The whole book, the elephant tries to play on the see saw, but it just won’t work. He’s too big. Many animals try to come to the rescue by piling on the other side of the see saw but nothing happens. Nothing seems to work until a beetle lands on the animal group and the elephant finally gets to pop up in the air on the other side.

We talked about how this book teaches us about science and that we’re all really scientists. We do science experiments every day without even realizing. When you tell a silly joke and your friend doesn’t laugh, that’s an experiment. When you try a new food that you’re sure is going be disgusting and it’s actually delicious, that’s an experiment. When you launch yourself off the couch and land on your brother, that’s an experiment. (Let’s be honest, some experiments are safer than others.) Sometimes the experiment works and sometimes it doesn’t. What is most important is to ask “why?”. Why didn’t it work? What went wrong? How can you fix it?

Once the story was over, the students jumped at the chance to build their own see saws with our outdoor blocks. Many of the students started on a smaller scale with just one block as the base, while other’s were determined to make their see saws higher. After lots of tinkering and testing, it was decided that the higher see saws were not quite as safe and so we down-graded the amount of blocks that were being used. Some children added the colorful blocks to act as handles, while others used them as a weight so that they could try to see saw by themselves. Even Mrs. Forst joined in on the see saw fun!

There’s nothing better than a recess full of problem solving and physics.

 

The Very Busy Caterpillar

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Last week, one of our students discovered a big, green caterpillar who was walking along the sidewalk that leads to our parking lot. We brought the plump little guy into the classroom so that the other children could observe him as well. After placing him in a clear container, we noticed that he had positioned himself near one of the top corners of the container and had started making long strands of silk from one side of the container to the other. Some students thought that perhaps he was growing more hair, while others knew right away that he was making a cocoon.

With the help of our fabulous science teacher, Ms. Capezzuti, we learned that our new friend was a Polyphemus caterpillar and would eventually turn into a moth. We also learned that Polyphemus caterpillars are silk caterpillars and can easily be reared indoors, so we decided to let our him finish making his cocoon in our container and release him after his metamorphosis. According to our research, he should emerge from his cocoon in about a week. In the meantime, we observed him while he finished making his cocoon and have been noticing what he looks like now that he is in his pupal case. We are looking forward to seeing him emerge from his cocoon, stretch and dry his wings, and then release him back into the wild! Yay, science!

 

The Animal Restaurant

With each new year, and new group of students, I’m always so fascinated to see what types of games the students create with one another. Sometimes it’s a classic game of tag or “cops and robbers” but more often it’s a game that they created from their own imaginations. This year, many of the students were interested in collecting seeds from around the nature playground. When asked why they were collecting the seeds, they responded that they were for the animals to eat at the animal restaurant.

Since that day, the children have been working diligently to create different confections for the animals to eat. Some children helped by gathering a variety of natural materials for the kitchen such as rain water, grass, sand from smashed rocks, wood chips, acorns, pine needles, dirt, rocks, and what they had decided are lemons (but are actually walnuts). Once the materials were gathered, they students took turns adding them to the concoction they were working on at the moment. Some days it has been a cake, other days it has been a stew or a salad.

As other children have been inspired to join in the fun, new animal kitchens have popped up around the nature playground as well. A new animal restaurant was created yesterday in what we refer to as the”mud kitchen”, except that this restaurant has a twist. The animals that eat the food from the mud kitchen gain special powers like rainbow powers and storm cloud powers. Animals that wish to dine in this restaurant can use their special power to ward off bad guys that they may encounter in the woods.

 

We are very excited to see where this game will take us in the following days or even weeks. Tomorrow we will be working on making signs for the restaurants. We will continue to observe the children working in their animal restaurants and hopefully we can find a way to turn this wonderfully imaginative play into a full-blown unit of study. We will keep you posted as the play progresses!

My favorite part was…

After we returned from the Aviary, our students wrote in their journals about their favorite part of our trip. Below are their answers.

Pre-k Visits the Aviary

Yesterday, our class traveled to the National Aviary as a culminating activity for our study of birds. The students were surprised to see that many of the birds were not behind cages but actually were able to fly/wander around the room as they wished. Some birds kept their distance, while other birds tried to camouflage themselves within our group so they could escape the room! We learned that some birds eat fruit, seeds, and worms while other birds eat the meat from dead animals and how important they are for our environment. The class was treated to an up-close encounter with a zealous vulture who enjoyed jumping down from the trainer’s arm to check out the reflexes of our students. Some friends that were lucky enough to feed mealworms and fish to the birds in the Wetlands room and we all had the opportunity to feed a bowl full of nectar to the Lorikeets. Some students were a little nervous having the birds so close to us (the Lories actually land on your hand to eat) but all students persevered and were calm and respectful to the birds. One student, as we walked out of the Lorikeet room, exclaimed, “That was heaven!”.

During this field trip, our class also had the opportunity to participate in a project that Mrs. Weber has been piloting, called Big Shot Camera. WT purchased cameras, which arrive disassembled, and the fifth graders worked to build them into functional digital cameras. Mrs. Weber then has spent time with each class teaching the students how to take pictures of the world around us. Our class chose to use the cameras to take pictures of the all the birds they saw during our trip.

We were so proud of our Pre-K class throughout this trip. Not only were their many other schools visiting the Aviary, but the students were challenged with being so close to these unusual animals. The students followed all of the directions, showed calm, listening bodies, and truly showed us how much they have matured over the course of this year. It is very clear that our students are ready for next year.

 

Woodland Wednesday: Bird Watching Edition

What’s in our blood?

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Today, we took a trip inside our blood to learn about it’s composition. We put our items in the middle of our circle and explained that each of these items represent something that lives in the blood. We started with the large container of yellow water, which we were pretending was our plasma. We explained that plasma is a watery like substance that makes up large portion of your blood. At first, some students were not sure how it could be in our blood because it was not red. That lead us to our second ingredient: red blood cells!

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We then added our red blood cells (red water beads) which help to carry oxygen to our hearts. Our red blood cells also work to take away waste, like carbon dioxide, from our bodies. The students also noticed that when we added the red blood cells, the color of the mixture appeared to be more red than yellow. Because of this observation, they concluded that our blood looks red because of red blood cells.

Next on the list were the white blood cells (white pom-poms). It wasn’t long into the introduction before one student shouted, “Those keep you from getting sick!” while another student who was equally excited exclaimed, “Yeah, they attack the germs in your body!”. We then discussed how our white blood cells are always working to keep our bodies from getting sick and help your body get better when you do have a cold or the flu. White blood cells create antibodies that help to attack the germs (green pom-poms) that may be living in other parts of your body.

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Lastly, we discussed how our blood needs platelets (blue pom-poms) because they help our bodies create new skin or scabs when your skin is cut. Each child scoured their bodies for an old boo boo that they could share with the class but surprisingly none could be found.

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Now that we have spent some time learning about the compostion of our blood, it’s time to learn about how the blood moves throughout our bodies. Bring on the giant, tape, floor heart!

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Questions from the heart

As many of you have noticed, our students have been challenged each morning with answering various questions about the human body for our Morning Message. These questions were created and answered by the students. So far, the questions have mostly revolved around our hearts, blood, and veins. Once the children have a chance to use their prior knowledge to take a guess, we spend some time doing research to hopefully find the answer to their inquiries. Yesterday, we had the students write in their journals about one thing they had learned about our bodies this week.

Side note: take a look at that amazing kid-writing!

Heave-ho, me hearties!

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When the students came back from winter break, they noticed that something new was added to the loft. They spent most of the morning studying the contraption and making guesses about how it could be used. The hook seemed to be the most recognizable part of the tool and it quickly was decided that it had to be an anchor. After some exploration, we sat down with the students to explain that the new tool was called a pulley and it was used for carrying various items from the top of the loft to the bottom and vice versa. The students spent a few minutes learning how to use the tool safely and troubleshooting how we could safely attach the rope to the loft. Then it was time to test it out!

 

Pre-K Geologists

One of the questions that we’ve been working on answering is “where do rocks come from?”. At the museum, we learned that some rocks come from volcanoes but the students weren’t completely sure what that meant, so we decided to do some more research. After looking at some books about volcanoes, we learned that when lava comes out of a volcano and hardens, it becomes an Igneous rock. We also learned that depending on how fast or slow the lava cools, it can become different types of Igneous rock. Sometimes when the lava is leaving the volcano, small to large gas bubbles get caught in the molten rock. When the lava hardens, the hollow interior can often get filled with mineral rich fluids which allows crystals to grow. This is what we call a geode.


This week, during center time, the students have been putting on their geologist hats (or more accurately geologist goggles) to see what a geode really looks like before, during, and after they are opened. We spent some time learning about how to be safe with our materials, as the children would be using a real hammer. The children started by using very gentle taps on their rock just as the instructions had detailed. After several attempts, we decided to use a little bit more force. After some trial and error, we found just the right amount of pressure that was needed to split the geodes open revealing different types and patterns of crystals. Some were white and swirly, while others were clear and hexagonal. We even saw some that were black and gray. The students then worked together to try and decide what type of crystals were inside their geodes by comparing them to the pictures in our guide. The students decided that some were very common crystals and others were very rare. We very excited to see what the last few geodes hold inside.