Creative Play and Learning

Playdoh + Glowsticks + Flashlights = Exciting Learning Fun!

Having a four year old at home who is very interested in Science and Engineering keeps me busy looking for something to challenge or intrigue him. Today, he so proudly brought me that Earth he made. I have been building a 4th grade Earth, Sun, and Moon curriculum bundle this week, so of course we had to turn his Earth creation into a science lesson!

He used blue and green playdoh to make the model Earth. We added a glow-stick for the Earth’s axis (glow-sticks make everything more exciting), and took it to the dark hallway for some observation. He recently learned about the reason for day and night on the Storybots TV show, so this was a perfect observation for him. Once in the dark hallway, we talked about the axis and how the Earth spins on it. Using a flashlight, we demonstrated how the side of Earth facing the Sun experiences day while the side facing away from the Sun experiences night. When I asked him to spin the Earth on its axis, he was able to see the locations around his world experience day, then night, then day again.

Little things like this seem commonplace for grown-ups like ourselves, but kids have wonder and amazement running wild through their veins. I will never forget how amazed my fifth graders were each year when I boiled water and showed them evaporation. It is something I see every time I cook, but those kiddos sat and stared enthralled in the simple act of physics.

I have read study after study explaining the importance in play for young learners. The American Academy of Pediatrics says, “Play allows children to use their creativity while developing their imagination, dexterity, and physical, cognitive, and emotional strength. Play is important to healthy brain development. It is through play that children at a very early age engage and interact in the world around them.”

Play allows children to build essential skills, while building schema.

I have spent this year working with Pre-K kiddos two days a week at a private preschool. I learned very quickly that any “learning” we did disguised as play was a huge success. My teaching partner and I have turn each of our lessons into a playtime or craftivity. The kiddos are engaged, they are learning a lot, and they look forward to our centers. Most of all they look forward to our Mad Science Days! A little theme based science experiment with some goggles and lab coats make memories for those kiddos that will stick with them through science classes in their future. We let them observe a big model of clouds and rain in the water cycle, make ice cream in baggies to see how liquid can turn to ice when its cold enough, and they got to draw their favorite parts on dry erase boards. A few kiddos even asked how to spell some of the important words they remembered making my teacher heart very happy.

Teaching older kids is really not much different! My 8th graders loved traveling through the Convection Currents process, stopping at each lab station along their journey through the classroom to see what the next step that was. Either reaching a card to read or a lab to observe along the way, they would record their findings in their passport. They talked to each other in passing about something neat they had seen, they smiled as they worked, and they remembered. The end product was using their passport to draw a diagram of convection currents. An image they could visually create and remember while processing the lesson.

In fifth grade science, I turned every unit of lesson material I was supposed to teach into a game, a scavenger hunt, or an art project. Getting moving, getting creative, and playing with friends, kept my ten year olds engaged and learning. I would see them making our Science Says motions while they thought through a question on a test. Another happy teacher heart moment. Play made our lessons and content memorable. And, as an extra bonus, it helped them do well on standardized testing.

If you just allow your students to play, create, explore, and investigate the “simple” things of the world around them, you might just have interested and engaged kids growing and thriving in your class!

 

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How to Create Lapbooks for the Interactive Science Notebook

mini lapbooks

Lapbooks had been showing up in my Pinterest feed more and more, and I wanted to find the best way to use them in a science classroom. All the lapbooks I come across look fun and interactive, and I know students would enjoy creating and using them.

Thinking over the many uses of a lapbook in a science classroom, I decided that they would be a great addition to an interactive science notebook. Essentially, lapbooks and interactive notebooks both give students an interactive place to collect and store new information for future practice and reference.

One thing bothered me about lapbooks. Where would I keep these lapbooks in my classroom? I have always organized and stored student notebooks in my classroom. Each table with its own crate to hold the notebooks. Students can take their notebooks home for review or homework help as needed, but having a dedicated place of storage in the classroom cuts down on students losing and destroying them. A lapbook for each student, for each topic, would really add clutter to my already filled classroom. **Idea** Make the lapbooks IN the notebooks!

mini lapbook image.pngI have a system for creating lapbooks for each topic in your science lessons, and how to get a whole lapbook onto a page in the student notebook.

  1. Create a lapbook using printer paper and glue it into the notebook on the input side.
  2. Use the materials that you already have in your lesson files to fill the lapbook with valuable information and learning tools.
  3. Create these lapbooks during the time you already use for interactive notebook input.

Students can always look back and review the interactive learning tool you have provided for them! This is great for test prep and review.

Easy to create, easy to store, and easy for students to use!

Grab this FREE mini lapbook guide with set up and printables!

Lapbook Template

 

Here is my Complete List of What to Include in your Lapbooks for the Interactive Science Notebook:

  1. Topic/ I Can Statement or Standard
  2. Guiding Question to Answer
  3. K-W-L or Schema Building Activity
  4. Vocabulary Matching (Cards and Definitions can be found in these review stations.)
  5. Anchor Chart
  6. Lab or Activity Sheet
  7. Interactive Science Notebook Input Activity

**Print on the setting “4 per page” to get the printables small enough for your mini lapbook.

You can always take this lapbook idea and use it for a file folder sized lapbook if that is the format you like best!

This whole system could be easily modified to work in a math or history/ social studies classroom, too!! The possibilities are endless 🙂

Have fun making Interactive Science Notebooks even more interactive!!!

Observing Plant Cells

Onion Cell

Kids have curious minds and love to observe the world around them. When students walk into their science classroom and see microscopes out, they get really excited. They get to play with real science equipment and observe the tiniest parts of the world around them.

Learning about cells is the perfect opportunity to let your students use microscopes. Depending on the age and ability of your students, you may want to modify how your students use the microscopes. In fifth grade, I like to give each table a microscope set up with a prepared slide. I give step by step instructions for how to adjust make adjustments and focus. In addition to the verbal instructions, I have a digital microscope set up to show my students on the projector screen what they should be able to see in their microscope.  This also gives me their interest and attention when I explain the parts of the plant cell we are observing.

Check out the slide show below to see what the onion cells look like under the microscope.

 

 

Using the microscope to see what a plant or animal cell looks like is a great hands on experience for your kids. Its a good idea to provide your students with a variety of ways to learn about cells. The Cell Structure and Function Science and Literacy Lesson Set has a variety of learning activities for your students including an informational text with graphic organizer and summary writing. It also has an observation sheet for the onion cell lab and instructions for lab prep.

Have fun and explore the world around you!