Thursday, April 17, 2014

Constellation Tubes and Bingo

In this post, I talked a little about the traveling planetarium -- StarLab -- that our school has for two weeks out of each school year. StarLab helps me cover certain TEKS, for sure. But in my district, our second graders are supposed to study space for three weeks with me.

Sometimes I really struggle with trying to find hands-on activities for the kids with certain subjects, especially since I teach 5 different grades -- I don't want to do the same thing twice!

My colleague came up with the idea of "constellation tubes." They're made out of empty toilet paper rolls, craft sticks, and black paper.

The idea is that kiddos can make their favorite constellations {I let my classes make up to three constellations, since black card stock for 100 students can really add up!} and view them any time -- day or night.

I put directions and pictures of the constellation tubes together in one easy pack for your convenience:
Click the picture to purchase and download this product

I had never done this lesson before and didn't know how much time it would take. This year, I have my second graders for 50 minutes each. Most of them worked on this for the entire time -- especially since I let them decorate their tube! The friends who finished early got to read a space book of their choice.

But next year, I think I might get to have an whole hour with my 2nd graders. For the remaining 10 minutes, I think I'll play constellation bingo:

Click the picture to purchase and download this product
It would be a great way to review the different constellations! I can even use the constellation bingo with other grade levels, as well -- both higher and lower -- because I can show the picture of the constellation and have kids match it on their bingo sheet, or I can just call out the name of the constellation to make it more challenging.

I also decided to combine both of these products into one convenient pack at a slight discount for you:

Click the picture to purchase and download this product

I don't normally post about products from my teaching stores, but this one was too good not to post!  

I'll give a free copy of the combo pack to the first three people to comment on this post and tell me your favorite space activity to do with your kids. :) {Please be sure to include your e-mail address in your comment so I can send you your free product!}

Tuesday, April 15, 2014


Every year, our school gets "StarLab" for two weeks.

We go inside and look at the "real" night sky, and then we switch to looking at the pictures of the Greek and Roman constellations and I tell "star stories" {the myths about the constellations} for the rest of our time together. The kids LOVE it.

Our StarLab isn't the latest or greatest technology -- ours is the older projection model, actually -- but it's still a HUGE hit with the kids.

Does your school do StarLab? If so, what kinds of things do you do inside it?

Thursday, April 10, 2014

Lifesaver Melting Experiment, Round 2

I've talked before about a really simple but fun Lifesaver melting experiment I do with my kinder friends, but I wanted to add a couple of things from this year.

"The hard Lifesaver gets a bigger hole, and the gummy one gets a smaller hole!" is what I heard all day. I tend to describe this based on overall Lifesaver size, but I find it so interesting how they look at things!

{Side note: If you've been following this blog for any length of time, then you know that this is the first year EVER that I've gotten to teach the exact same grade/subject twice. And #letmejustconfess: I'm LOVING it! I feel SO much more experienced and knowledgeable. This must be what "real" teaching feels like, eh?}

Lesson I learned this year: Don't use plastic cups. I try my hardest to avoid using beakers with my littles because, well, let's face it: they aren't always as careful as they should be, and I'd rather not clean up glass if I don't have to. I realize there are heat-resistant plastic beakers, but my budget is pretty small, so I thought I was being smart and frugal by just using the 9 oz plastic cups from Walmart. WRONG. I was being dumb. During my 2nd class {out of 4} for the day, I heard this terrible crackling noise as I was pouring the water into the cups. Turns out, the hot water was melting the cups! hah. Whoops. So I had to deal with cries of, "What's wrong with these cups?!" from my kids all day....

Also: can we talk for just a second about this wonderful notebook entry? I mean, MY HEART IS FULL, people!

A title! A colored diagram! An explanatory sentence! ...Be still my heart.
I'm so proud of how far my students have come this year. :)

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Water Cycle in a Bag

My second, third, and fourth graders have to study the water cycle. Sometimes I hate having to cover the same thing across multiple grades because I have a hard time coming up with a unique idea for each class.

I saw this pin on Pinterest about making a water cycle in a bag. I thought it was cute, but my second graders have learned to expect an experiment by this time of year, so I needed to do something to spice this up a bit.

I finally decided that we would investigate this question: Does the water cycle "work" for all types of water?

Here's what we did:

You need the following:
- 1 baggie for each team
- 1 permanent marker for each team
- 1 cup for each team
- 1 funnel for each team
- a couple of tablespoons
- food coloring
- sugar
- salt

What we did:
  1. My class has 6 tables or "teams," so we made 6 water cycle baggies per class. 
  2. Two kids at each table got to work drawing the 4 steps of the water cycle on the baggie with permanent marker. The other two remaining kiddos at each table filled a plastic cup about halfway with water and got the funnel and food coloring ready. 
  3. When the drawing on the outside of the baggie was finished {similar to this}, the kids worked together to pour the water into the baggie with the funnel. 
  4. Two of the tables tested fresh water, and they colored their water blue with food coloring. 
  5. Two of the tables tested salt water, so they colored their water red with food coloring and added 1 tablespoon of salt. 
  6. The other two tables tested sugar water, so they colored their water green with food coloring and added 1 tablespoon of sugar. 
 Here are some examples:

My kids took their baggies back to their homeroom with them, where their teacher taped each baggie on a window. Not all of my second grade teachers have windows in their classroom, but there is a clear, windowed door that overlooks the parking lot in the second grade hallway, so they used that, too.

The idea is that, over time, the sun will "start" the water cycle inside each baggie. But since the baggies are closed at the top, the cloud will form at the top of the bag, and it will "rain" down the sides of the bag. It worked okay last year, although I think the kids were expecting actual rain, so who can compete with that?! I like that kids see how the water cycle works with all kinds of water in this experiment -- it's always interesting to me to listen to how they reason out their hypothesis before we leave class.