Pre K - 3rd Grade Science Update

Pre-K: After we learned about how butterflies eat with a mouth called a "proboscis" last week, this week, we took a look at how some birds eat. We learned that a bird's mouth is called a "beak," and that many birds like to eat seeds. Since birds don't have hands, they need to use their beaks to pick up seeds to eat them. We practiced eating like birds, using forceps (tweezers) as our "beaks" and a plastic cup as our bird tummies. The students were given a seed mix on a plate to practice picking up seeds with their beaks and putting them in their tummies.

Pre-K SpEd: This week, we made rain clouds with cotton balls and blue-colored water. The students were given cotton balls, a dish of blue water, and a pipette. Using the pipette, they transferred water to the "cloud" until it was saturated with "rain." Then, using their hands to squeeze the water back into the dish, we made the rainclouds rain.

Kindergarten: This Monday, Rooms 2 and 3 went on a field trip to the symphony, so only Room 4 had science that afternoon. We remembered the different kinds of wood we had observed, and talked about how wood is a very useful material. Room 4 brainstormed a long list of things that are made of wood, and I wrote each idea on the board, accompanied by a simple drawing. Afterwards, the students were given a story sheet to fill out, similar to what we had read at the beginning of our unit about wood, "The Story of a Chair." The first panel in the story read, "Wood comes from trees. Many things are made of wood." The students were told to draw a tree to illustrate the first panel. The three following panels each had a sentence to complete, "___________ is made of wood." From the list on the board, the students were allowed to select whichever wooden items they liked, wrote the name of the item in the blank, and drew a picture of the item. On Thursday, I posed a question to the students. We are learning about wood because wood is a very useful material that can be made into many things. One example is that wood can be used to build a boat. We have had a chance to observe and compare five different kinds of wood. The question was, if we were going to pick one of our five kinds of wood to build a boat out of, which wood would be the best choice? We narrowed that question down into a question that we could experiment to find the answer to: which kind of wood floats best? First, we determined that all of our five types of wood do, in fact, float in water. So the way to test which wood floats best would be by adding weight to it until it sinks to see which type of wood can hold the most weight before sinking. The students worked with a partner to test a wood sample. The sample had a rubber band around its middle, and the students took turns adding one large paperclip at a time, then testing to see whether the wood still floated with each additional paperclip. (To save time, we defined "sink" to mean when any part of the wood touched the bottom of the container, rather than being completely submerged.) To help us compare the results, after their wood sample was "sunk," the students would work together to link the paperclips into a chain. The chains were hung on the white board in columns labelled with the name of each kind of wood, and the students were asked to count the clips and to write the number on the board below the chain. Once each type of wood had been tested at least once, we met together on the rug to compare our data, and see if we could answer the question: which kind of wood floats best? Results varied by classroom, but from each classes' results, they were able to see that the wood that held the most paperclips before sinking was the best at floating, and therefore the best for building a boat. We were also able to determine which types of wood are not good for building a boat (particle board), although those types of wood can be good for building other things.

Vocabulary: observe, compare, basswood, pine, redwood, particle board, plywood, float, sink

Try this at home: Look for examples of how wood is used, and think about why. Is there a reason that the object is made of wood? Could it be made of another material instead?

First Grade: Last week, we began our investigation of gas by using a set of solid objects to observe some things that a gas (air) can do. We saw that air can push things and pull things. This week, we continued to investigate what air can do, this time using liquid. Working in groups of two or three, the students were each given a 12-dram vial, and a 1 gallon clear bin of water to share. After taking some time to do unguided exploration, the students observed that air can make bubbles. Since they had made the observation, I asked the students to consider the following question: What is a bubble? How can we describe a bubble in terms of matter? Thinking about the bubbles we had observed, and about bubbles that we play with outside, we were able to say that "A bubble is a gas inside of a liquid." After defining what a bubble is, I challenged the students to try making as many bubbles, and the biggest bubbles that they could, using the vials. Students had many different strategies: filling the vial with water and pouring the water from the vial back into the basin, holding the vial side ways when submerging it, submerging it upside down and then turning it over. After sharing our ideas, I gave the students a new challenge: given one of the small styrofoam balls from last week, which floated on top of the water, could we get the ball to touch the bottom of the basin without touching the ball? The students were told that they could use their vials to help them, but that the vial itself could not touch the ball either. Some students tried to submerge the ball by pouring water onto it with their vials, but that did not move the ball far enough down to touch the bottom. Once some students found the solution, it quickly caught on with the rest: Turning the vial upside down over the ball and lowering it into the water, the air inside the vial pushed the ball down to the bottom of the basin, without the vial or hands touching the ball.

Vocabulary: matter, gas, air, bubble

Try this at home: We observed that bubbles are usually spheres or hemispheres, but we didn't discuss why. Blow some bubbles with your child and observe their shapes. Is it possible to make a bubble that isn't round? There is also something else for them to consider: we have defined a liquid as being matter that gets its shape from its container, and a bubble as a gas inside a liquid. So how is a bubble a sphere? Where is it getting its shape from? The answers to these questions are probably too complex for most first-graders, but they are fun to contemplate.

Second Grade: With our meter tapes that were made last week, the students had a chance to practice estimating and measuring objects around the classroom. We learned that estimate means to make a good guess, trying to get as close as you can to the real value. They selected an object (anything they could find and reach in the classroom), estimated its length in centimeters, and then measured it with the meter tapes to find its actual length. They then had to compare the estimate with their actual measured length. I explained to them that their estimates might be far from the actual measurements at first, but given practice, they would get better at estimating, and their estimates would get closer to their measurements. 

Vocabulary: standard units, metric system, meters, centimeters, estimate

Try this at home: Students will be bringing their measuring tapes and worksheets home. On the reverse of the estimating worksheet is a place to compare the sizes of different body measurements. This is a fun activity that we just don't have the time to finish, and it is interesting to see how closely some body measurements align; for example, comparing your height and your arm span from fingertip to fingertip, or the length of your forearm between your wrist and elbow to the length of your foot from tips of toes to heel. 

Third Grade: We know that matter is defined as anything that has volume and mass. We investigated the concept of volume and the tools and units for measuring volume last week, so this week, we investigated mass. We know that mass is how much stuff an object is made of, and that we can tell differences in mass by observing differences in weight, i.e. things that have more "stuff" in them will feel heavier. To demonstrate this, students worked with a partner to sort a series of three objects, a metal circle, a plastic circle, and a wooden square, from greate