Ms. Caitlin's Science Update!

I hope everyone had an enjoyable spring break. Our Engineering Expo was a great success, and we are now beginning our final science unit of the year. Now that we are back to our normal schedule, the science update should return to its usual, weekly schedule as well. Thanks for your patience!



Pre-K: We learned about an animal called a beaver, and how the beaver makes its home called a dam. Beavers live on both the land and in the water. They have big, flat tails for swimming, and for slapping the water to warn other beavers of danger. Beavers eat plants, and they use their strong teeth to chew through trees and branches, and they use the branches to make their dams. Dams have different rooms in them, for eating, for sleeping, and for taking care of babies. We tried making our own beaver dams using cracker sticks and cheese.

Thinking about how beavers use their tails to warn other beavers of danger, we thought about another way that animals can send messages to other animals: warning coloration. We learned that many animals use certain colors and patterns, like red, orange, yellow, white, and black to tell other animals to stay away. Some animals, like poison dart frogs, can be very poisonous, even to touch. Other animals, like lady bugs and certain moths, tell predators that they will taste bad if they are eaten. Animals like bees and wasps use their colors to warn animals that they will sting. Skunks use their coloration to warn animals that they will spray them with stink. We learned that humans also use these same colors to send warning messages to other humans, like with orange hazard cones, reflective vests for construction workers, and traffic signs in red, yellow, and orange. Each student was given a worksheet with an outline of a frog and a butterfly, and told to color the animals with warning coloration to tell other animals to stay away.

Pre-K SpEd: We have started learning about different kinds of transportation. We have practiced making wheels roll down ramps, we made a spinner with blades like a helicopter, and we practiced seeing what kinds of objects will sink to the bottom of water, and which will float like boats.

Kindergarten: Our final unit for Kindergarten will be Animals Two by Two. We began our new unit by reviewing some of our big important science words that we learned about in the first unit, observe and compare. We remembered that observing means looking closely at something to learn about it, and comparing means observing two or more things to understand the ways they are the same, and the ways they are different. We will be reading from two books to help us as we explore animals. We began reading the first book, which teaches us about comparing two animals to each other. We practiced comparing the animals in the book. Our second book teaches us about the animals that we will actually observe in the science room, beginning with fish. We are observing two kinds of fish: goldfish and guppies. Both kinds of fish have eyes, mouths, gills, fins, tails, and scales. They both live in the water. But goldfish are bigger than guppies, and while it is easy to tell male guppies apart from female guppies, male and female goldfish look the same. We began our observations by labeling the parts of goldfish and guppies on diagrams. We will use live fish to help us color in our fish diagrams, and to observe fish behavior.

Vocabulary: observe, compare, gills, fins, scales

First Grade: Our final unit for the year is called "Plants and Animals." We learned a lot about plants and animals in Kindergarten, so we began by reviewing what we knew about plants and animals, and what they need from the world to live and grow. Plants and animals are both living things, and plants need soil, water, light, air, space, and heat to live. Animals need food, water, shelter, air (oxygen), heat, and rest to survive. Comparing the two lists, we saw that all living things need water, space, oxygen, and heat to live. Our first lesson was about the places where plants and animals live, called habitats. There are many different types of habitats around the world, and even though some of them are difficult to find the things needed to survive, there are plants and animals in almost every place on Earth. We will be learning about five habitats: rain forest, desert, tundra, temperate forest, grassland. We began by exploring the plants and animals that live in each habitat. There were five stations set up around the classroom, one for each habitat, and the students were able to move freely between the stations to explore each habitat. The station included a big card with the name of the habitat, a picture of the habitat, and a short description of the habitat. Each station also included a set of eight cards showing the plants and animals that live in that habitat. The cards had the name of the plant or animal, a picture, and information about their food and shelter. Midway through the free exploration, I asked the students to keep an eye out for any plants or animals that appeared in more than one habitat. Once students had had time to explore each station, we met back on the rug to read from our book and learn more about the habitats. We learned that in the rain forest, it is always warm and wet. In the tundra, it is always cold and dry. A desert, even though most people think it is hot, can be hot or cold. A desert is different from other habitats because of how dry it is; it is the driest habitat. A temperate forest is different from a rain forest, because the temperature changes with the seasons, being warm in summer and cold in winter. The grassland habitat is similar to a temperate forest, except a forest has many trees, and grasslands have few or no trees. This is because the grass will die and dry out in the fall, and sometimes a wildfire will sweep through and burn up all the plants. It is very hard for slow-growing plants like bushes and trees to grow back after a fire, but grasses grow very quickly, so they thrive in the grasslands. 
Vocabulary: habitat, rain forest, desert, tundra, temperate forest, grassland, survive, thrive.

Second Grade: A portion of this week's science time was dedicated to updating our science notebooks to get ready for the new unit, "Balance and Motion." Once our notebooks were updated and ready, we discussed what we know about balance. Most of the students were familiar with balance beams and trying to balance on one foot. We had some great insights and background information with students sharing that balance meant equal weight on both sides, and that something balanced would not fall over. I introduced the students to a toy that we could use to do balancing tricks: the paper crayfish. The crayfish's body is able to balance on our fingertips in different spots on its body. The first challenge was to find a spot on its belly where it would balance. Most students quickly found the spot in the center of the belly that made the crayfish balance on their fingertip. We thought about why that spot on the belly would balance when other spots wouldn't. We realized that it was because, even though the front and back of the crayfish's body are different sizes and shapes, they  must weigh the same. We tried to get the crayfish to stand upright on its pointy nose, and it seemed impossible. I asked the students why it wouldn't balance on its nose, and they realized that it was because most of the weight was above their fingers, and very little below. I asked them whether there were something we could change about the crayfish to get it to balance, and with some coaxing and strong hints, we realized that we could add extra weight to the claws to get it to balance. We also observed that, when adding clothespins for weight, the lower down on the claws they were placed, the straighter the crayfish would stand.

Vocabulary: balance

Third Grade: We spent a lot of time getting our notebooks in order before beginning our new unit (things really fell behind when we were getting ready to start our engineering unit). During the rest of our time, I introduced the students to the new unit: Structures of Life. I asked the students what they thought of when they heard the word "structures," and most students answered that it made them think of buildings and the play structure on the yard. When we talk about structures of life, however, we will be talking about the parts of organisms like plants and animals, and what those parts do to help the organism survive. We reviewed what we remembered about the structures of plants, and what each structure does for the plant.

Vocabulary: structure