Dissection Week!

This week was a big one for Mrs. O’s science classes. We had experiments and tons of science-y stuff going on in every corner. This made for many happy students and one tired teacher, but an overall productive and successful week.

Owl Pellets

Every year, my 6th grade class dissects owl pellets. This activity occurs after several lessons on adaptations, ecosystems and food chains. We talk specifically about owls and their adaptations and then I introduce the owl pellet. I always have to clear up some misconceptions: owl pellets are not poop! This great video shows that first hand. What a cute baby owl… until… the pellet is released! It gets them every time! 

The students spend time separating the fur from the bones, then sorting the bones that they find, and finally placing them and gluing
them on black paper. At first, students are completely grossed out by the pellet and are mortified that I won’t let them use gloves. After a few minutes of seeing what cool bones are inside though, most students are totally into the activity! They can’t wait to see if they have a mouse, a shrew or even a bird skeleton within their pellets.

Frog Dissection

In addition to teeny bones sitting all over my counters, this week was frog dissection week. This is one of the highlights of the year for my 7th grade students. We spend months studying cells and the human body, and our frog dissection is the grand finale to the unit!

The students look like little surgeons!

We spend a few classes preparing by briefly learning about frogs and their adaptations and reviewing some of the body systems. I have a coloring diagram of the frogs that students use to help them identify the parts of the frog ahead of time. We discuss the process and the tools, and then the frog day arrives!

It takes two class periods to do justice to the frog. I have the students look at the outside parts including the legs, toes, and special eyelids. Students check out the muscle layer, then open up the abdominal cavity to see the organs inside. It is so fun to see how excited they get when they are able to identify some of the organs. I see dots connecting when they observe the different system present in the frog and how similar they are to the human body!

To be honest, these activities take a lot of prep work and several classes. It isn’t easy. But these are the kinds of activities that students will remember for years to come. These are the lessons that bring science to life and teach more than I could in two weeks of taking notes. The students will discover first hand how the world works and will be inspired by God’s awesome creation. The looks of excitement (and horror) on their faces when they start opening up their pellet or cutting through the frog’s skin make those preps worth it.

You can order both the owl pellets and the frogs online. I order mine through Carolina Biological and always seem to get quality products for a decent price. And no, they did not pay me to say that, although that would be nice!

It was a busy week, but it was one full of learning and excitement for science.

Bubblicious Bubbles: An Inquiry Activity

The weather outside has been absolutely beautiful here the last few days. Trees are blooming with flowers, the sun has been shining brightly, and temperatures sit comfortably in the 70s. Playing outside in the grass, riding tricycles and going for walks are currently parts of our evening routine. It makes me anxious for summer break to come soon!

One of my son’s current obsessions is bubbles. He seems to always want to blow bubbles (and do it himself which means he is a sticky mess by the end). But I love them too. There’s just something about the colorful spheres, floating and bobbing through the air that make you happy! After watching my son one afternoon, I remembered an activity that I had done several years ago that I wanted to bring back and do with my students!

Apparently, middle schoolers absolutely love bubbles too. As soon as they saw bubble wands on my side counter, they were getting excited! “Are we going to get to blow bubbles?” Will we be outside today?” “Can we make bubbles this class period?” etc.

I wanted the kids to not only blow bubbles, but to investigate a little further on what makes a good bubble. In this case, we needed to figure out what types of solutions made the longest lasting bubbles.

Making bubble solution is relatively easy. It takes 3 ingredients: water, dish soap, and gylcerin (which you can find in first aid sections at stores or order online). I recently heard that light corn syrup can also be used in place of glycerin. I had never tried that before, so I decided to this year, and have the students test it for me!

Bubbles Recipe

  • ½  cup water
  • 1 tablespoon dish soap
  • ½ tablespoon glycerin (or corn syrup)

Other materials needed:

  • Beakers or cups
  • Canisters (optional)
  • Bubble wands (I had collected a few from empty bubble containers over the years)
  • Stopwatch

Student were placed into groups of two and three, and first decided which bubble solutions that they would like to test and compare. They could either choose to use two different types of soap in their recipes, or compare using glycerin with corn syrup. I had about 4 different dish soaps available that were a variety of brands and
colors (and scents!). If they choose to compare the corn syrup and glycerin bubble solutions, they had to choose one type of soap to use for both mixtures. We emphasized how we only wanted to change ONE variable to make sure we had fair tests!

Next, they followed the recipe to mix up their own bubble solutions, making sure to change that one thing for each recipe. Students put their solution
s into canisters (with lids!) to easily take their solutions outside. If it wasn’t clear which solution was which from the color, students labeled the canisters.

Once outside, a few sample bubbles were blown, just to make sure they could actually blow the bubbles! Then, they started timing. Students blew a bubble, and timed how long it lasted before popping. They did at least three bubbles with each solution, then found the average.

They were having a great time chasing their bubbles around the soccer field!

Results

Once data was   collected, they worked in their groups and analyzed their results. During our discussion, we found that the glycerin seemed to work better than the corn syrup. They hypothesized this was because the corn syrup made the bubbles slightly more dense. Students also found that certain soaps did work better than others, but weren’t sure why this might be.

Overall, the bubbles were a success. Students played outside, but were still learning and investigating! I feel like I could take this activity and go even further with doing more tests, graphing more results and having students make their perfect bubble solution!

Feel free to use this idea in your own classroom, or just make your own bubble solution at home with the kids. I do have a worksheet that I made up to go along with the activity, so leave a comment below if you would like it!

 

Foil and Pipe Cleaners – Get Creative!

What do you do when you find out last minute that your guest teacher can’t come teach your STEM class? Look to Pinterest, obviously. I found out last minute I had to teach a class and only had about 20 minutes to come up with and prepare an activity for that period. Luckily, all you Pinterest people and your great ideas came to the rescue. I found a great last minute activity here and immediately knew I had to do this. I planned, prepped and prepared for the class in less than 10 minutes! Win!

This activity is pretty open ended, which I loved for my students. I had the materials available in my classroom too, so all I had to do was pull them out, and I was ready to go!

Simple Materials:

  • 1 Large sheet of foil per group
  • Several pipe cleaners per group (I gave them up to 7, but you can choose the amount!)
  • Scissors, glue sticks (I allowed students to use these, but you don’t have to!)

Task:

Make the best creation you can with the materials given to you

Putting it all together:

Students immediately began asking if there were any other requirements or tasks. I told them, they needed to think about what being the “best” meant. Does that mean having a really useful purpose? Or maybe just the coolest looking piece? Or maybe something that would be super fun to play with. They didn’t have to use all the materials, but couldn’t use any additional materials in their creation, besides scissors and glue.

At first, students didn’t know what to think, but once I paired them up and they started discussing with their partners, I heard ideas flying.

I gave students a few minutes to plan, then handed out materials. Groups had 15 minutes to create something with their pipe cleaners and foil. Walking around, listening to their ideas, I was astonished at their creativity! Most ideas were very different from each other as well, which I loved.

Once the 15 minutes of work time was up, student groups had one minute to share why they thought their design was the best… give a sort of promo for their product. This really helped some groups demo their designs, or make a funny comment that helped the rest of the class see more of the group’s creativity and thought that went into their product.

After all the presentations, I handed students a slip of paper and told them to write down their #1 and #2 choice on which was “best” and they could NOT vote for their own.

Results:

In our class, a dinosaur hat for a child received the most votes, which a recreation of a scene from Star Wars received second place (a type of glider was close behind in third!).

I was extremely pleased with the way the activity turned out and would definitely do this again with a different class. I did it with middle school kids, but I could see any grade level enjoying it.

Let the creative juices flow!

CupBrookies: The Ultimate Treat Mash-up!

I often bake treats to bring into work. Sometimes it is for the teachers – we take snacks very seriously as a staff. Every week, someone is assigned to bring in a treat to share! Other times, I bake treats for the kiddos in my classroom. We have parties, I love food demonstrations and lessons, but sometimes, the students earn their treat. My math classes receive rewards for turning in continuous homework. You can see my post about how that works here.

Recently, one of my classes won a treat day. I asked the students what they would like me to bring in for their reward. Earlier in the year, I had made them “Brookies” which combine chocolate chip cookies and brownies into something rich and delicious. So this time, some students called out “More brookies!” Others shouted “Cupcakes!” We took a vote. The class was split. Since we were at a stalemate, I told the students I would check the ingredients I had at home, and that would ultimately determine the final decision.


Looking in my pantry, I saw I had plenty of cupcake liners, as well as a brownie mix. Why not bake brownies in cupcake liners? This would mean brownie lovers would be happy, and it would mean no cutting and serving brownies (which I always make a total mess of!). I figured I could top the brownies with a type of frosting… and what better flavor to add to this mix than cookie dough! I searched Pinterest, and to my surprise, there were several cookie dough frosting recipes! Win!

Brownie Recipe  

I typically use a box mix because it is super fast and follow the directions for “more cake like brownies”. This usually means adding an egg to the original recipe. However, you can use whatever brownie recipe you choose!    

Rather than putting the brownies in a pan, grab a muffin tin and prepare the cupcake liners inside. Scoop the brownie batter into the cupcake liners. I fill them about half way, making sure to leave extra room for more frosting. After all, these are brownies, not cupcakes, so they are not meant to bake all the way to the top of the liner! While the brownies are baking, make the frosting.

Cookie dough frosting

I found the recipe of this frosting at If You Give A Blonde A Kitchen which is a great site full of other awesome recipes. I haven’t tried the cupcake recipe with the frosting, but I’m sure that would be fantastic as well!

Frosting

  • 1 1/2 sticks unsalted butter at room temperature
  • 1/3 cup light brown sugar
  • 1 1/2 cups confectioner’s sugar
  • 1/4 cup flour
  • Pinch of salt
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 1 tbsp milk
  • Mini chocolate chips or Chocolate shavings

Directions

  • In a large mixing bowl, whip the butter (it’s much easier with a stand mixer or electric hand mixer) until fluffy, about 5 minutes. I find that sometimes I need to stop the mixer to scrape the butter down to make sure all the butter is being whipped!
  • On low speed, add the brown sugar and powdered sugar and combine completely, then add the flour.
  • Turn the mixer to medium speed and add the vanilla and salt and until the mixture is smooth and fluffy. Add the milk a little at a time until it is frosting consistency. I found that you may not need to use all the milk.
  • Stir in some of the chocolate chips or shavings. (I usually do not have mini chocolate chips and the regular ones are too big for this frosting. So what I usually do is take regular chocolate chips and chop them up into smaller pieces! A little rustic, but that is ok!)
  • Use a spatula to put the frosting in a pastry bag (or if you are not fancy, like me, use a regular Ziploc bag).
  • I typically chill the frosting in the refrigerator for 30 minutes or so before frosting, until the brownies have cooled completely.
  • Frost each brownie. It helps to have the little extra liner so you can really load up on the frosting.Sprinkle the top with mini chocolate chips or shavings.
  • These can be stored in an airtight container for a few days, but I actually like to keep them in the fridge to make sure the frosting stays the right consistency. My students actually said they are better cold too!

I actually did not have a name for these little wonders at first, but after serving them to my students, came up with the mash up name. One stated that the desserts were like brookies, but better – Cupcake Brookies – and the name “CupBrookies” came to be.

So the next time you can’t decide between cookies, brownies or cupcakes, don’t! Bake up a batch of these and everyone wins!

 

Teddy Graham Natural Selection – A “Beary” Fun Science Activity

    In one week, I did at least 5 different activities involving food or candy. No wonder I’m not any closer to my pre-baby weight! However, out of all the delicious demos this week, the Teddy Graham Natural Selection takes the cake… or the cracker?

I originally found the idea for this activity when I was student teaching and trying to come up with a creative way to teach adaptations and natural selection to a bunch of 7th grade students.I found a lesson here that I absolutely LOVED and adapted it for my younger crew. My cooperating teacher at the time thought the lesson went wonderfully and told me she planned to use it in future years. I have used it every year since.

The lesson addresses concepts of adaptations, natural selection or “survival of the fittest.” In sixth grade, we spend time discussing adaptations and how they help organisms survive, so that is when the Teddy Grahams make an appearance.

Teddy Graham Natural Selection

Have you ever noticed that there are two shapes of Teddy Grahams? One type keeps its hands up high and the other down low. Two shapes represent our two
adaptations!

Materials needed:
  • Teddy Grahams – You need about 20-25 for each student. For my class of 24 students, this took about 2 boxes
  • Cups – One for Each Student
  • Lab Activity Sheet (Email or comment if interested in receiving this!)
Directions:
  1. Describe to students the situation, which goes something like this:
  2. You are bear eating monsters, but they only like certain bears. There are two kinds of bears that live in the forest — Happy bears and Sad bears. Happy bears love to frolic in the woods, eat sweet honey and dance to the music of the trees. Because of this, happy bears taste sweet and delicious. They also are easy to catch! Sad bears tend to keep to themselves, feed on roots and bugs, and sneak around quietly. They are much harder to track down, and leave a bitter taste in your mouth that you do not enjoy! Hence, your diet consists of happy bears only. Every year, new bears are born in the forest.

  3. Students predict what will happen to each bear population over time.
  4. Next, students start by blindly taking out 5 bears from your cup
  5. They record how many happy and how many sad bears are there out of the 5 on their activity sheet
  6. Students then may eat the happy bears!
  7. For every sad bear left in their pile, they may pull out a new bear. For example, if three sad bears were left, they blindly pull out three new bears, making the total 6 bears.
  8. Again, students record the happy and sad, eat the happy, and for every sad bear left, a new bear is taken from the cup. Note that these new bears can be happy or sad bears – whatever happens to be pulled out.
  9. Depending on the amount of happy bears in each “generation”, students may go through this process between 3 and 6 times before their bears run out!

After there are no more bears in the cup, students calculate percentages for each generation. To do this, they take the number of happy bears and divide by the total number of bears for THAT round. They repeat this with the sad bears. Finally, students make a double line graph, recording the percentages for each bear. All of this is included on the activity sheet.

Once everyone has eaten the happy bears, we discuss which bears had the adaptation that helped them survive. Students understand that even though both were bears, the sad bears’ behavior helped them to survive. In fact, you could take it a step further and discuss what might happen to them as bear eating monsters if the happy bears died out. Would the bear eating monsters that can handle bitter tastes (and could eat the sad bears) be better equipped to survive?

By the end of the lesson, I always get one or two students asking me if the sad bears really taste bad… too funny! Your class will never look at Teddy Grahams the same way again! Have a “beary” fun time with this one!

Blind Tasting – How Senses Affect Taste

Recently, I needed a quick activity to do with my elective class that would take only one period. I’ve been on a food trend recently, so I thought why not use some of the materials I had leftover and test the students’ abilities to taste foods… without using some of their senses!

At the start of the class, we discussed how what we taste and how we think about flavors is often affected first by sight and smell. Does the look of something affect the taste? Also, how closely connected are smell and taste? My students were pretty confident that they knew their foods and could identify anything I gave them. I accepted that challenge! 🙂

Activity One

I had two activities ready for the day. For the first, I scrounged around my house and school, coming up with random samples of things students could eat.

This list included:
  • Cereal
  • Butterscotch chips
  • Marshmallows
  • Gummi Bears
  • Goldfish
  • Cracker
  • Apple sauces
  • Pieces of cheese stick

And more… (afterwards I thought I could have also included a kind of baby food, since I have a few types of those around the house!)

I had students work with a partner. One student put on the blindfold, and his or her partner gave them a food sample in a cup, and students could eat the food right out of the cup. This way, touching the texture would not be a factor. Before eating, I made everyone plug their nose, then eat. The blindfolded students had their partners write down what they thought the food was. Once we had done several foods, the partners switched who was wearing the blindfold, and I brought out new foods for them to try.

Most students did pretty well and were fairly accurate with their guesses. The cheese stick tricked up some, and the butterscotch chips were a hard flavor to guess.

Activity Two

For the second part of the activity, we focused on identifying flavors. I showed students a bag of Skittles.  I told them I would be giving them each a Skittle while they were blindfolded. However, I wouldn’t tell them the flavor. Without seeing it AND with their noses plugged, they found out quickly that figuring which flavor of Skittle they were eating was not easy! Out of the 5 flavors they tried, most students could only identify one or two correctly. Several even asked if I gave them the same flavor twice!

Students had a blast. Their reactions to the tastings were hilarious. We were all happy after eating our snacks, and came away with the realization that we like being able to see and smell our food!

Jello Skin Model

 Ready for another food model? I love using anything edible to demonstrate science concepts whenever I can, and this week seemed to be full of food activities! Recently, in my 7th grade class, we have been studying the integumentary system. This includes the layers of the skin as well as the “stuff” inside.

We had discussed the different parts of the integumentary system in a previous lesson. Students used a diagram to label each layer and write down the function and purpose.

I did throw in one little demo that shows how oil affects our skin. The oil glands secrete oil that helps provide a barrier for our skin. First, I had students use an eyedropper to place a drop of water on their skin. We noted how the water stuck together. Then I took a cotton ball and swabbed their other hand with rubbing alcohol before putting on another drop of water. This time, the water droplet ran right off — it did not stay stuck together. The rubbing alcohol had taken some of the oil of the skin and in doing so, the skin was not as water resistant!

My students did like that demo, but obviously the food part was a bigger hit! I originally found this activity here at My Mundane & Miraculous Life and couldn’t resist trying it. 

Here are the materials needed to make the jello skin model:

  • 4 packs of Jello (I think orange works best so you can see the inside)
  • Mini Marshmallows
  • Fruit Roll Up or Fruit by the Foot or another type of fruit leather
  • Twizzler Pull n’ Peel

Directions:

I forgot to take a “before” picture of the whole pan. This is a little section left of just the jello and marshmallows!
  1. Make the jello but use the “Jiggler” recipe. (I think it uses less water and makes a firmer Jello. If you aren’t using Jell-O brand, you can find a jiggler recipe here)
  2. Let the jello set for a few minutes (until it isn’t super hot) and pour the marshmallows on top. Then let it set for at least 3 hours or overnight.
  3. Cut the jello in pieces and place the pieces on a plate upside down so the marshmallow layer is on the bottom. Each student gets a piece.
  4. Have the Twizzler Pull ‘N’ Peel and  cut into sections and the Fruit Roll Up unwrapped and ready to give to each student

As a class, we discussed what two layers of the integumentary system the model represented so far (marshmallows= fatty tissue or hypodermis and the jello = dermis)

Students then received a piece of Fruit by the Foot (but other materials would also work) to put over their jello. This represented the epidermis.

Students received pieces of Twizzler Pull N’ Peel. Some pieces were used as hairs. Students had to poke holes in their epidermis and stick the pieces in. Other pieces could be rolled up and stuck inside the dermis layer to represent sweat glands. I used plain red Pull ‘N Peel, but it would be neat to try multi-colored (I’m pretty sure that exists…) and each color could represent something else in the skin: hair, sweat glands, nerve receptors, etc.

I’ve heard of also using things like chocolate chips to represent moles on the skin surface. Creative!

The best part is, after students have completed their model, they can eat it! Delicious!

Grand Rapids White Bean Chicken Chili

It’s spring here, but the weather hasn’t figured that out yet. Our spring break was filled with rain, clouds and cold winds. Not super nice weather, but hopefully the sunshine plans to break out soon. The outside temperatures has made me want warmth and coziness. This means soup or chili for dinner!

Everyone needs a warm, hearty, delicious and EASY chili in their lives. The kind that you just throw together in 5 minutes and then cook all day in the slow cooker. The kind that if you don’t have the exact ingredients or precise measurements, it will still turn out amazing. This is that chili. This is also that kind of meal that you can deliver to a mom who has been up all night with their newborn. Or someone that has just had a surgery and doesn’t have energy to cook. It can be heated, reheated and frozen beautifully. It can be eaten as a soup, or a dip or poured over chips like nachos. Versatile dishes like this make moms like me happy!

I’m not sure where this chili got its name. The white bean and chicken part I understand, but the Grand Rapids? I’m pretty sure this idea did not originate in Grand Rapids, Michigan–someone in the world had probably made it before. My mom passed this recipe on to me, and she got it from someone else. It’s possible that someone lived in Grand Rapids. Or maybe people in Grand Rapids love to eat it. I mean, I lived in GR for awhile and in the winter (and spring and fall) months, the constant cloud cover, snow or drizzle, require many nights of warm chili.

The best thing about this recipe, is that there isn’t really a right or wrong. You can put more or less of any of the ingredients–it isn’t an exact science. So I listed the ingredients below, but they can easily be adjusted to your liking.

I used two different brands of the beans because that is what we had!

Ingredients:

4-6 chicken breasts cooked and cubed or shredded (You can cook up the chicken yourself, or use a couple of cans of chicken. I’ve also used leftovers from a rotisserie chicken and it worked great!)

1 large jar of salsa (16oz)

1 jar of northern white beans UNDRAINED (or 2-3 cans)

8 oz shredded cheese (I usually use cheddar or Colby Jack because we often have those already, but Monterey Jack is also delicious!)

If you use this in your crock pot, clean up is even easier!

 

Directions:

Dump everything in the crockpot

Cook on low for 4-6 hours. Longer is better.

That’s it!

This chili can be topped with more cheese, cilantro, sour cream, more salsa…whatever you like! We love eating it with tortilla chips. Leftovers freeze beautifully too! I typically make large batches and freeze some for a quick meal another time.

Although I’m ready for summer temps to come soon, having a few cool days and enjoying this chili isn’t too bad either!

Spring Break Stay-cation – 5 Places to Visit with Toddlers Without Leaving Your Town

We finally made it to spring break! It always feels like an accomplishment to make it to spring break, doesn’t it? I mean, those winter months are tough. At school indoor recesses for cold, rainy, windy or who knows what kind of weather make you bonkers. The kids can’t play outside quite as much. It’s dark and dreary. Kids get very antsy too! My middle schoolers were either at each other’s throats or couldn’t keep their hands off of each other. I don’t know which is worse! Everyone just needs some space for a few days.

But now, spring break! I wish I could say I spent most of the week relaxing in the sun at some tropical beach location. Nope. Not when that would require a 12 hour plus drive (or way more with two young kids in the car) or paying for expensive air fare. So instead, we drove north 5 hours (which took more like 7 because of said two kids) and visited family in Michigan for a nice weekend before spending most of the week at home.

Staying home for the week is not a bad thing in my mind. There are always things to catch up on (like laundry… except whenever I do catch up, an hour later there is more to be done! How does that even happen?!). But spring break isn’t for more work. It is to take a break, even if you can’t lay on a beach. Instead of trying to catch up on everything, have a “stay-cation”. Do at least something different for your break.

When you have kids, especially toddlers and babies, “break” is rarely in your vocabulary. A break means going to the bathroom by yourself or sneaking chocolate from the pantry without your son spying you and insisting on getting some too. (Have you seen this video? So true!) Or maybe if you are really lucky, getting your husband to watch the kids for a couple hours while you go to Target.

Since I can stay home this week, I truly enjoy spending time with the kiddos doing normal things before the end of the year chaos ensues at school. I don’t mind not having as many breaks. But making a few interesting and different trips here and there make the stay-cation more fun and help create memories for a long time! Naps and feeding times can cause complications with scheduling, so I’ve made a list of five places you can visit with your littles that are easy, can be quick, are fun AND affordable!

Five Places to Visit With Toddlers Without Leaving Your Town

  1. Library story times and events

    Check your local library for their schedules. Most have programs available for children of all ages. We regularly attend an evening story time for toddlers at ours, but I know there are all sorts activities going on throughout the week. There may be special activities just for spring break!

  2. Get ice cream at the local shop

    For it to really be spring break, at least one ice cream trip is in order. Make it special by going to a place that you may not visit that frequently. We love the build your own fro-yo places. With all those topping options, everybody gets what they like!

  3. Visit a fire stations, police stations, etc.

    Our family has not done this yet, but we would like to. Our boy loves fire trucks, so making a visit to a station would be a blast. Check your city’s website for more information and how to schedule possible tours.

  4. Go to a pet store

    This one may seem a little odd, but our kids love it! Our son often asks to go to the “Fish Store”. He loves watching birds dart around, mice run on their wheels, and spot all the variety of fish. We don’t own any animals at our house (and don’t plan to) but it’s fun to just look!

  5. Check out a new park or playground

    We encourage playing outside as much as possible (when whether permits) so trips to the park occur often in warmer weather. Take a drive to find a park the kids have never been on before and watch them explore! Our mall even has a play area inside. I’ve taken the kids there on crummy weather days. Because we don’t go there often, even the tiny slides are a big hit!

A stay-cation does not need to be boring or mean you have to stay home all week. Find something new to do that the whole family will enjoy, without even leaving your town! Slow down, relax, and take pictures. And when the kids are napping, find that spot on the floor where the sun is shining. Lay there for a few minutes, basking in the warmth, and pretend you can hear the waves rolling in.

Happy spring break!

Trashketball – A Great Review Game for Any Subject!

A trash can, paper, and review questions are the only things you need to make “Trashketball” work!

It’s March Madness season. Anyone else get into this time of year? I love filling out my bracket in the hopes of predicting the most correct, and then quickly become disappointed when my teams lose. But that is the greatness of the tournament!

Both teachers and students get very into the games here at our Indiana school. Our PE teacher randomly assigns each class to a few teams in the tournament. If that time wins the whole thing, the class gets to do a special activity of their choosing. The teachers are in a pool where the winner gets a gift card (or maybe even their recess duties covered for a week!) I let the my middle school students fill out one and the top 5 or so overall get to have ice cream sundaes after lunch one day. It definitely makes watching the tournament a fun experience!

Teachers have also been incorporating basketball into their curriculum as well. A 5th grade teacher did an inquiry lab on how the angle of the backboard affects your shot percentage. Another teacher in the lower grades has a bulletin board set up in the hallway about Indiana basketball history. What a fun way to connect students to content!

Because spring break was fast approaching, I needed some review games. Often I will use Kahoot (which kids love!) but I was inspired by some crazy basketball games over the weekend to do something different. Trashketball was a game from my own middle school memories and I was super excited to bring it back to my classroom!

All you need to do this review game is the following:
  • A set of questions that can be answered in a few words (or numbers)
  • A trashcan
  • A bunch of slips of paper

I used this for my math class, so I copied down a bunch of problems that I could project on the screen. Students had calculators and scratch paper to help them.

To set up the game:
  1. Prepare questions to give to students. The best way to do this is to have questions ready to display somewhere that all students can see at once.
  2. Cut up paper into small squares. Have a lot of paper ready (you can always use the extras for next time!)
  3. Place a trash can (I use a smaller can) in the middle of the room, and students place their desks or chairs in a circle around the can. It is up to you how far students are from the can. Farther away makes the game a little more challenging! Make sure students sit equal distance from the can and no one has a huge advantage.
Here is how to play the game:
  1. Students see a problem on the screen and have time to figure out the answer (depending on the question, I gave them between 30 seconds and 1 minute) and write their answer on a slip of paper with their name on it.
  2. Once the time was up, I would tell the students, “Shoot!”During this time, students would crumple up their slips of paper into mini “basketballs” and shoot their answers into the can.
    1. Students may NOT stand up or move around during this time. I told them their “bums” needed to stay in the seats!
  3. I gave 30 seconds for students to “shoot” their answers. There are two ways to do this:
    1. Students can shoot as many slips of paper with their answers on it as they can in that 30 seconds
    2. Students can shoot up to a certain amount (like 3) in a round.
  4. When shooting time is over, the teacher grabs the can and looks through all the papers that actually made it in. Any correct answer receives one point. Incorrect answers get zero points.
  5. Students keep track of their own points and whoever has the most at the end wins!

There are other versions of this game out on Pinterest. Here is a link to another version that sounds great too!  Mrs. E Teaches Math has great ideas, so be sure to check out the rest of the blog.

Students loved the game and already have requested to play it again! It was fun, engaging, and helped students review how to do their math problems! It does create a little craziness in the classroom, but hey, it’s March Madness!