Monday, September 30, 2013

Landform experiments

     Our district purchased FOSS kits for our students to use throughout certain science topics, and thankfully also fund them each year.  I pick and choose through the Landforms kit for our standards, but really like the stream table labs.  What I like is that I can guide my students through experimentation and allow them the opportunity to explore some of their own ideas.  During last week's lab we were looking at erosion on hill with a standard amount of water.  The students had some discussion of vocabulary, but this is where they really start to apply it to a model.

     I'm finding that making them discuss the lab on video really helps them to go back and think about their ideas so they can work on writing results and conclusions during the next class. Here are J and J discussing their experiment with the team (and myself):

     I also really like the idea that students see that results aren't exactly the same as other groups. I've actually had groups that thought they had "messed up" because the results weren't precisely the same.  We always take final pictures of the lab so we can include it in our write up and also put it into draw tools and label examples of vocabulary so they have another visual aid for the words in the definitions.  Sometimes they get competitive with how many terms they can label with their picture. 

     I do have to say that after working in a couple of districts that use these kits, I am always surprised by the number of teachers who don't use them with their students. My kids get such a kick out of performing these experiments, and then we'll use the guided experiments to develop our own questions, and figure out ways to test them.  I think with the NGSS the testing of their ideas is something they are going to have to deeply understand so they can analyze test questions for pitfalls and strengths.  

Thursday, September 12, 2013

Building those natural blocks

         A few posts ago (this summer), I wrote about my plan to have the kids learn to saw and use tools in an effort to make something productive.  I started by finding the natural blocks on pinterest and then asking the preschool teachers if they might be interested.

        Today, more than half of my class went to the art museum with another teacher leaving me with kids who really needed some time to explore a topic.  We had a beautiful day and went outside for about an hour. We've been taking apart pallets at recess to stock up on wood planks for a future project.  Just like last year, this teaches the kids to use mallets, pry bars, and hammers safely.

Some of the kids wanted to work on taking apart pallets so that we will have wood for our next design projects. 

        While others jumped right in with the sawing of the tree branch.  Apparently I made it look easy because quite a few of them were surprised at the effort involved in making just one cut. I was thrilled that my intern jumped into the action too. We made sure to remind the students that there was a time that we only had hand saws to work with at a job. 
        After sawing their pieces they worked on sanding, and then wiping them with a beeswax polish to make them look wonderful.

          Here are some of our finished products.  Once they dry we will see if the preschoolers like them. 

Friday, September 6, 2013

Building with the cards

Last spring I posted about building by folding index cards, or the business sized cards I cut, and creating sculptures with them.  I wanted it to be an early challenge for this year's class, and I asked them to build the tallest tower they could.  They had one day of learning to build and about 30 minutes for 3 days, to build cubes and connect them. They also wrote about the process.

Very quickly I saw some interesting behaviors.    I found that reusing a lot of the cards from last year required purging.  We found that many were just TOO folded and used to continue so the kids were folding new cards as they recycled ones from last year (those things were used everyday so it is VERY understandable that they needed to be replaced).  I also found that the first day was a struggle for many of them because it was a new idea, and a new way to move their hands.  There was frustration about the blocks collapsing, but after urging many to not give up, most of them moved on.  By the end of the week they were making a lot of connections and figuring out how to work together.

One group made these observations:


"S." wrote:
The challenge of “Building High” is to build the tallest building in the classroom. Our strategies were to make a tower, so we used 4 cubes as the support base, and then we just made the cubes so it could be the tallest in the whole class. But there were some problems in the group that made us want to change our mind about the building.

The thing that was hard about doing the project was keeping it together, building the cubes, and connecting it. We had lots of arguments and the tower fell overnight. We thought someone had sabotaged it. But, we forgot about it and kept building. The tower was too thin and the base didn’t support it enough. It always fell down. When we were finished, one of the people in our group wanted to put another block on top. I didn’t want that because it might fall down and it won’t be the tallest building. So, we stopped building and left it alone. We fixed the problems by taking some of the cubes down and using those as the base to support it.

I would change the structure next time by making the tower thicker and having a base that is thicker than the one that we had this time. But, I had fun with it and that is all that matters.