Month: October 2017

DIY Costume for Teachers

  Looking for a last minute Halloween costume? I’ve got a great one that came to me last minute that is perfect for any teacher.

Every year at our school, we do a “spirit week”.  Students dress according to a different theme everyday. The class that goes all out and has the most participation and “spirit” wins the “Spirit Sword” (which is a little plastic sword with some ribbon on it. For some reason the kids fight like crazy for it!) Anyway, this year some of the themes included Crazy Hair Day, Patriotic Day and Character Day. For Character Day, students (and teachers) were encouraged to dress up like a character from their favorite movie, tv show or book.

My first thought was to dress up as Belle from Beauty and the Beast. I’ve always wanted to dress up like her, and it is one of my favorite movies. However, finding a big fluffy yellow dress last minute is not an easy thing. I thought about it a little more, and then went to Pinterest.

There were lots of ideas – storybook characters like Grouchy Ladybug, the Rainbow Fish and the Hungry Caterpillar were adorable. All cute, but not for me. There were ideas for being crayons, rock, paper, scissors, or even emojis. And then I saw it: Ms Frizzle! Not only did I grow up watching, The Magic School Bus, I happened to have a stuffed Lizz in my classroom. It was meant to be!

The dress is the most important part of being Ms Frizzle. I happened to have a blue dress that would work perfectly for a costume. I didn’t have a collared shirt to go underneath, so I wore a white, loose-sleeved one that worked well.  So if you want to be Ms. Frizzle, your dress MUST show whatever science subject you are studying! My 6th grade class is studying the planets so obviously I choose to wear Ms. Frizzle’s classic solar system outfit!

I used felt to cut out several stars, some suns, planets and crescent moons. Then I taped them all over my dress, making sure to add little stars to my earrings and planets to the tips of my shoes. I even braided my hair the night before so when I woke up it would have the “frizz” I needed! The finishing touch was

my sidekick Lizz!

Materials I used:

  • Knee length or tea-length dress
  • Tape
  • Felt cut into the shapes you need! The Solar System theme is easy, but you could customize your dress to whatever science subject you are studying! If you need inspiration, check out Monsters and Molecules blog where all “Dresses of the Frizz” are displayed! Amazing!
  • Toy Lizz!

I put this costume together in less than an hour (and that includes the many interruptions from my children!). Even though Magic School Bus is no longer on tv, the kids still knew who I was! Apparently it’s on Netflix… The costume was a big hit! Now if only I had a magic bus that could transport my students to cool places…

 

Solar Ovens

   Even though it is October, we have still had some pretty warm days here in Indiana. Not all of them have been sunny, but I’m still enjoying the warmer temperatures. More play time outside, sandals are still ok, and I can still easily take my class outside to do another science activity!

My 7th grade students were studying heat and energy. Specifically, we studied the ways heat transferred – radiation, conduction and convection. Obviously I wanted to incorporate food, and what better way to teach these concepts than to use ovens – solar ovens!

There are many ways to create a solar oven. I use leftover apple pie boxes from our school fundraiser, but most use pizza boxes or something similar. A few other simple supplies is all you need, besides whatever you plan to cook of course.

Here is a rundown of the science terms and why these boxes work:

Radiation – This is energy that travels as waves. This energy comes from the sun and drives the whole heating process of the oven.

Conduction – The radiant energy heats up the bottom of the box (black paper), and in turn, the black paper heats the air in the box.

Convection – The warm air rises up to the top of the box, pushing cooler air down in the process. The cooler air then gets heated from the bottom of the box, and since the box is closed, this cycle continually keeps the warm air inside.

You can find several youtube videos that explain the science behind solar ovens, as well as how to set them up. I’ve used these two videos in my classroom:

  1. This video by the SciGuys not only explains how to set up an oven, but also explains why they work! It fit perfectly into what I was trying to teach the students about these concepts.
  2. The other video is by Howcast and it shows a step by step tutorial of how to put the solar ovens together. I love showing my students this at the start, then replaying it one step at a time.

Materials:

  • Pizza box (or similar)
  • Tin foil
  • Plastic wrap
  • Black paper
  • Tape
  • Glue
  • Scissors
  • Straw (Optional to prop box open)
  • Food to heat! I use smore fixings – the chocolate melts great in these ovens! The marshmallow doesn’t toast, but it does get soft.

Directions

  1. Pair students up to make the boxes using the directions from the video
  2. Prepare whatever food item you would like them to heat. Even though students share a box, I prepare enough for each student to have their own smore.
  3. Find a spot outside in the sun and have students place their food inside their ovens. Make sure the ovens are allowing the sun to shine inside the boxes!
  4. Wait 15-20 minutes (I usually have a reading activity for students to do while they wait!)
  5. Enjoy the treats! (Napkins are also especially helpful here… smores are ooey, gooey!

Students absolutely love cooking in their solar ovens. Most want to bring the ovens home to see what else they can heat up!

Homemade Applesauce

  I feel like the apple craze hit me a little later than usual this year. Maybe because the weather has been pretty warm and it hasn’t felt like fall. Anyway, this past week the need for apples and apple treats hit hard. This week also happened to be the week our school transforms the gym into an apple pie factory. We make over 7,000 pies in 2 days and then sell them to raise money for the school. It’s our biggest and best smelling fundraiser, with the sweet smell of apples, cinnamon and sugar filling the halls.

Enter homemade applesauce. I cook it in the Crockpot, and it makes the whole house smell like heaven.

Ingredients:

  • 10 apples  (I typically use a variety of kinds including Empire, Gala, McIntosh, and Fuji)
  • ½ cup water
  • ½ sugar  (If you like sweet applesauce, or are using tart apples, you can add up to a cup)
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • Splash of lemon juice
  • Other optional ingredients include: honey, nutmeg, allspice

Directions:

  1. Core and peel the apples. The nice thing about this sauce is that you don’t have to peel everything perfectly. If a little bit of the peel is left on an apple here and there, it’s fine!
  2. Chop the apples into smaller pieces and dump them into the crockpot.
  3. Add the water, sugar, and any other ingredients to taste.
  4. Cook on low for about 4 hours, stirring and mashing the apples occasionally.
  5. I like my sauce on the chunky side, so once the apples are soft, I mash as much as I can with a wooden spoon, but leave some chunks. If you like your applesauce smoother, you can use a blender to puree it further.

This applesauce is awesome warm, however it can be stored in the refrigerator for several days, or put into the freezer and last a few months. Mine never lasts that long, especially now that my son has a new found love 

of this special He wanted to eat the entire batch!

So grab some apples, let the sweet apple aromas fill your kitchen and enjoy!

Moon Phase Madness

There was something in the air this past week. Did you feel it? Kids were super restless and even naughty. Teachers were on edge. Nothing seemed to go as planned. Did you also know it was a full moon at the end of last week? Yup. Does that explain things?

Why is it that kids seem to get a little crazy when the full moon appears? Scientists (like the ones here from Weather.com) say that this is a myth. Although studies have shown kids do get less sleep during a full moon, this is only about 1% of their sleep and should not account for much difference in behavior. Yet, ask any classroom teacher, and I think they would disagree…right? I hope this isn’t just me. I know I would gladly invite those scientists to my classroom during a full moon week and allow them to teach for “research” purposes. Good luck.

Last week my class also studied the moon phases. How perfect. So in light of the Moon, here are some great resources to teach with!

My favorite: The Moon Song (Rock Version)

This youtube video is my all time favorite. The cheesy music, the monotone rap/singing, the repetitive words… all perfect reasons to show a class of middle school students. Though there are many songs that describe the moon phases, this one tops them all. It sticks in their heads forever, which is exactly the purpose when you want them to memorize the moon phases! Thank you songsofhigherlearning!

Oreo Phases

I have never done this in my own classroom, but I know of other teachers who successfully taught the phases with Oreos at my school. It seems like a great idea! “Kids, lick off the frosting to the correct Moon phases!” You may get a few that “accidentally” mess up, but students would be engaged for sure. Sciencebob.com has an explanation here with a pdf to help.

oreo_moon_phases

Birthday Moon Phases

This is an activity that I have done in my classroom. It’s from Mysciencesite.com. Students figure out what phase the moon will be in on their next birthday, plus the days before and after. Listed are a few websites that can direct students on how to figure this out. It’s a good way to help practice the different phases as well.

For the Toddlers

This last one is for the littles. I found this idea at A Dab of Glue Will Do and love it. My son is obsessed with seeing the Moon and I know he would love to make his own! With just foil and paint, kids can make the Moon to look semi-realistic!

Morse Code Device

Electricity is such a fun topic to cover in my classroom. Although it is not technically part of my standards in 8th grade, I still cover circuits and how they work. My students love developing different types of circuits, trying to get the bulbs to light in different ways. I know electricity is included in other grade level standards, so this could easily be used or adapted for another grade level too. I have actually heard of 3rd graders doing a similar task.

The problem I use for this activity is as follows:

A toy company wants you to design a new product. The company wants a communication device that is similar to a telegraph. The device will use light instead of sound as a signal. The device will use light instead of sound as a signal. Kids will use the device to communicate in Morse code.

I like including device being a toy for kids. This creates a new way of thinking about the device. We discuss what kids would need – something safe, easy to use, and of course, fun! We also discuss why this would light up and not make noise 🙂 I usually need to stress that this will just be a prototype of the electronic part of the toy though, and will not be the final product. Later, as an add on, sometimes I have the students make flyers for their toy and they can model any additional features. For example, one group had “plans” to make their electric circuit a part of a toy car. When kids would use the Morse code device, they would design the headlights of the car to turn on and off. Rather than actually creating the car (since we didn’t have the tools to do so) the students could make their flyer displaying image of their “final product”.

I allowed each group of students to use the following materials in their design:

  • Battery (in a holder if you have it)
  • Light bulb (in holder)
  • Wire
  • Clothespin
  • 2 craft sticks
  • Toothpick
  • Paper clip
  • Rubber band
  • Piece of cardboard (students could cut or alter this in any way
  • Aluminum foil
  • Scissors
  • Tape
  • Morse code chart (mine came from my original curriculum, but you can find a similar printable online, like this one)

The first challenge was for the group to create a functional circuit that could easily be turned on and off. Some groups had t
heir circuits set up so that when you pressed the button, the light would turn off. Although they could write in Morse code, this didn’t really work for the toy. Most parents want the toy OFF when no one is using it.

There are always a few good designs that work really well, and others that we believe would be more difficult for kids to use. This activity really starts up great conversations about working for a client. In this case, the client would be a toy company — you are building it for a child. Therefore, the students had to think about their designs in a way that would work for a kid.   

Testing

After the circuits had been put together, students tested out their Morse Code toys by writing down simple messages in Morse Code. I tried to encourage one or two word messages and students quickly understood why! It took awhile for them to translate their messages to Morse Code! One person from the group then used the device to “light” the message while their partner(s) wrote down the Morse code they were seeing. Then, the partner(s) translated the Morse Code back into English, and compared their answers! Most groups were close in translation, with only a letter or two off, so I consider that a success!

Maybe next year, I will take it to the next level and have students actually include a “toy” component to their electric circuits!