Saturday, February 27, 2016

Five for Fraturday: STEAM Night

For this week's Five for Fraturday, I want to share some pictures, ideas, and thoughts about our school's STEAM Night. Thank you to Doodle Bugs Teaching for hosting!

I wrote about last year's STEAM Night in this post. This year, one of my colleagues and I wanted to try something different. We had attended a STEM Conference at UNC-Charlotte. At one of the sessions, we learned about an elementary school whose teachers hosted a parent night for Pre-K to First Grade that revolved around STREAM (Science, Technology, Reading, Engineering, Art, and Mathematics). We were excited about the idea and discussed it with our K-2 teachers.  They quickly jumped on board and we decided to add a hands-on element to our already scheduled STEAM Night. While different grade levels had different activities, I'm going to share the ones I decided to use in second grade. They are either aligned to or an extension of our second-grade curriculum.


I have to start off with the favorite station of the night, Oobleck. We connected each of the stations with appropriate books and, of course, this one was tied to Bartholomew and the Oobleck by Dr. Seuss. We've been teaching about types of matter and how matter changes, so this was a natural fit. For those of you who've never experienced it, Oobleck is a non-Newtonian liquid. In some ways, it acts like a liquid; in others, it acts like a solid. For me, the kids, and their families, it was just lots of fun! 

If you'd like to try it, the recipe is simple: 1 part water to 1.5-2 parts cornstarch. Add a little green food coloring to the water before mixing and that's it. Make sure you cover your work surface with newspaper or bulletin board paper. It does get messy, but the looks on the kids' faces are worth it!


This year, the kids learned about weather and the water cycle. I thought a nice extension of that would be a couple of experiments related to surface tension and adhesion. First, students explored how many drops of water could fit on a penny. I provided recording sheets from Lakeshore Learning, the water, pennies, and some droppers. Our families loved exploring surface tension! Some of them were very surprised when they found out how many drops would fit.

I'm sorry that I somehow I missed taking pictures of our other water experiment. In this one, students used a toothpick to try to drag a drop of water along a path from start to finish. We spread waxed paper over the activity sheet (a simple picture of a curvy path with a start and finish line). The students used the dropper to put one drop of water at the start. They then dragged the water along the path to the finish. Simple, but fun - and a great demonstration of the property of adhesion (water is attracted to other substances). 

We also had several weather and water-related books at this station that our families enjoyed. My favorite is The Magic School Bus At the Waterworks


We had two activities at this station along with several books that dealt with sound. 

Mystery Sound Canisters is a great activity to explore our sense of hearing. I put several different objects in separate film canisters: marbles, rice, pennies, rubber bands, dry lima beans, and paper clips. I labeled the containers A, B, C, D, E, and F and then taped them shut. Students and families tried to identify the objects by gently shaking the canisters and listening closely to the sounds. Not an easy thing to do! I tried to share this activity with you, but because I created it on my workplace google drive, I wasn't able to. Here are the pictures of the slides so you can create your own if you'd like.

We also explored pitch, vibration, and sound waves using tuning forks. We were lucky enough to get a set of tuning forks with our new science kits last year. The kids had a blast making the rice "dance" on the waxed paper using the vibration of the tuning fork.

Here are the directions for this activity:
Life Cycles

It really bothers me that I didn't take pictures of all the books we had out. What was I thinking? Anyway, we brought out a ton of books about animal life cycles. We haven't begun this unit yet, so I wanted to do a simple activity just to introduce the concept and review prior knowledge. I had several life cycle models on display. Some came from our science kit; others I had picked up at Michaels. A colleague also had a cute center with pictures of animal life cycles that students could put in order. I provided life cycle sheets, paper plates, and supplies so students could create their own model of their chosen life cycle. Not many of the kids completed this activity, but a few of them really enjoyed it!

STEAM Night was a welcome reminder of why I enjoy teaching. I didn't have any data to record. I didn't have to complete any paperwork. I didn't have to mediate any arguments. I didn't have to motivate anyone to complete their work. Students were naturally engaged and excited about learning. Some parents had to literally drag their children away. The event was supposed to end at 7:00. The last family reluctantly left at 7:25. Our principal had to do an all call to tell them to go home.  

While we had a willing audience - only about 1/3 of my class was there - I wonder how our days would go if we were always allowed to teach this way. The students who did come were excitedly sharing their experiences with their friends the next morning. The ones who couldn't make it begged me to do some of the experiments in class that day. 

It was a reminder that I need to make learning fun and engaging everyday. It isn't always easy, because I'm bound by district and state mandates, but I can try.

Our STEAM Night was awesome - for the students and for me.  Have you ever hosted anything like this? I'd love to hear about what you did. I'm planning to do this again next year and I'd love some new ideas. Please share them in the comments!

Saturday, February 20, 2016

Five for Fraturday

I'm back with the Saturday edition of Five for Friday (also known as Five for Fraturday). Thank you to Doodle Bugs Teaching for hosting!

I don't care what the calendar says - February is a ridiculously long month! Groundhog Day, Valentine's Day, Presidents' Day, Dental Health month, Black History month, snow days, picture days, Science Fair projects, parent conferences - it's exhausting trying to fit it all in and also teach the curriculum we are required to teach. I'll be glad when this month is over. Not that I'm counting, but, at least there are only 5 weeks to go until Spring Break!

Here's a picture of my cat, Boots. He loves boxes. We're getting some things together to donate, so I pulled some boxes out of the garage. I set this one down and he immediately jumped in. Isn't he cute?

My class and I love the videos and inspirational quotes from Kid President. When we found out he had surgery on Monday, we just had to make some get well cards to send. Here's my favorite one:

For those of you who don't know, Kid President, whose real name is Robby, suffers from Osteogenesis Imperfecta. He had surgery to replace a rod in his leg. I follow his Facebook page and, according to his brother-in-law, Brad, the surgery went well and they hope to get back to making videos soon.

Presidents' Day was originally supposed to be a Teacher Workday for us. Then it was a snow make-up day, so we were supposed to have school. On Monday, there was a last minute cancelation due to the weather forecast of a wintry mix in our area. So, no school for students and an optional teacher workday for us. Now we have to make it up on Memorial Day. To add insult to injury, although there were reports of ice and slick roads in the northern part of our county, we didn't get any snow/sleet/ice at all where I live. Sigh. The joys of living in the south during the winter.

So, we learned about the President's job this week. I shared my One Day When I Am President poem from my Patriotic Poems and Activities for Primary Grades.

After we read and discussed the poem, we read this book:

We talked about what would be important to us if one of us became President one day. Here are a few of my favorite written responses. If only our elected leaders would listen to the nation's children, right?

Don't they all look very presidential?

This one's my favorite. It gave me a giggle and a warm fuzzy as it reminded me of the innocence of children.

Our STEAM Night is next Thursday. We're scrambling to get our science project done in time. This year, I decided to have my students investigate what happens to a liquid when it freezes. I found a great project idea on My kids were so excited about it. I wish we had time to do more activities like this.

We'll probably do some follow up activities and finish up the board next week. I'll try to share some better pictures in next week's Five for Friday.

So, that's it for this week. Now I better get busy and get all my weekend chores done. Don't forget to check out this week's other great Five for Friday posts!

Saturday, February 13, 2016

Five for Fraturday

It's been awhile since I wrote a Five for Friday (or in this case, Fraturday) post. It's been a busy week, so I thought it would be a great time to get back in the habit.  Thanks as always to Doodle Bugs Teaching for hosting!

100 Acts of Kindness Challenge

We didn't quite make our goal of 100, but we're going to keep it going until we do. In the meantime, I'm experiencing a lot of warm fuzzies as I tape up the cards. So nice to read about one student who "brot me a tishu because I was bliding and askd if I was okay." (Don't you love phonetic spelling?) Another student "asked me to play at recess when I was left out." Here are a few more:

And of course, my favorite one this week:

If you'd like to know more about my 100 Acts of Kindness Challenge, make sure you read my blog post from last year. If you'd like to start your own (who says you can't start with Valentine's Day and make Spring Break or the end of the year your deadline?) you can download your freebie here.

I love having season passes to our local theater's Broadway Lights Series. Charlotte is lucky to have The Blumenthal Performing Arts Center. Teachers here are lucky they support educators with discounted tickets and receptions through their Teacher's Lounge affinity group.  On Tuesday, we were treated to the amazing show, Matilda.

We had a Behavior Management PD at our faculty meeting on Wednesday. While much of the information presented was a review for me, this slide really resonated.

Three things that should never, EVER, happen on the same day:

1) Valentine's Day Party
2) Snow
3) Class Picture Day

Enough said.

The Miraculous Journey of Edward Tulane

On Friday evening, I broke from my usual routine of falling asleep on the couch by 8:00 and instead attended my second show in one week.  This one was performed by the Children's Theater of Charlotte at ImaginOn.  It was a wonderful adaptation of the book by Kate DiCamillo. I had just finished reading the book to a captivated audience of second graders last week, so I was excited to see the show. It did not disappoint. If you haven't read the book, find out more about it here or here. I highly recommend it!

And there you have my Five for this week. I hope you have a great weekend and a Happy Valentine's Day!