Snow and More! Sounds like S'MORES!

I know that when most of you saw that title you hopped right on in here....

who can resist S'mores, after all!
Sadly, this post is not about S'mores!

First it's about this:

That's the view from my front driveway just ONE WEEK AGO! Yes, we had five inches of snow in north ALABAMA. Unheard of....

Now fast forward to today:

Why, yes, that says 69 degrees. 
I'm thinking of dragging my flip-flops out for tomorrow.

Now it's TIME FOR:
I'm linking with Holly at Fourth Grade Flipper to tell you about something I have tried lately!

 I have to tell you what third grade is doing in the STEM Lab! Most awesome stuff since the Spaghetti Challenge. And if you missed that click right {HERE}.

Anyway, I had this fairly major brain pop the other day (ok, like three weeks ago) and invented some Volume Challenges.

Here's the first one we did and it is amazingly wonderful because it is a STEM activity featuring (are you ready for this?) a picture book!

First we read this:

In the book you are told that some archaeologists found popcorn in a bat cave in New Mexico and determined that it was 5,600 years old (I'd like to know how they figured that one out, myself!) They actually found 293 pieces of popped popcorn. 

So, my challenge was this: What if you were those guys that found the popcorn and all you had with you was your backpack full of weird archaeologist stuff.  Could you make a container to exactly fit that popcorn? (And, no, you can't just use the backpack- this is a design challenge, people.)
STEM Volume

Popcorn is ready! 

Great activity, right! First, we talked a little about what volume means, but not much. (I don't like to say too much cause most kids will just do what you say since teachers always have the right answers. So, if I am intentionally vague it makes them THINK on their own!) Then I gave the kids their supplies. They began to make containers:
STEM Volume

STEM Volume

They used ten tons of tape and had a blast! Did they for one second think about how much space 293 pieces of popcorn would take up? 


In one of those photos above you can see some finished containers.
Okay, that tube-shaped  one is about three feet long. The square at the top right is big enough for me to sit in (not really, but it's about 11 inches on each side.) The 293 pieces of popcorn barely covered the bottom of the container. By the way, 293 pieces won't even fill a small bag at the theater.

So, did we learn anything about volume. Of course we did! And it's priceless learning- because as a group they all said the same thing- wow, we messed that up- can we do it again? 

I said, "No, not right now!"

We moved on to Lesson 2!
Ta-Da! Let's see if we can think about how many scoops of a material will fill a larger container.
First I demo-ed with beads. It took 6 scoops of beads to fill the container. Then the kids rotated from station to station using a scoop to fill their containers with bird seed, beans, rice, and other stuff.
STEM Volume

So about halfway through this little adventure I kept hearing this, "It's always six? Hey Mrs. Davis, we keep getting six!"
It was hard for me to hear, however, as I was grinding my teeth at the time......part of the task was to predict before counting, so why, I ask you, after seeing that six was happening over and over, why are you predicting that the next one will be 10??????

I didn't say that out loud.
But the answer is, "Because we are 8 years old."

Okay, so at the end we talked about why this happened the way it did......

THEN on to Lesson 3:
More containers.
STEM Volume

This challenge was about comparing volume. Can you place seven containers in order of least to greatest volume?
We did that activity three different ways and spilled a lot of rice....

In the end we had to use a kitchen scale to check our answers because even I could not decide which was order was right. Ha! Kids love it when then teacher doesn't know. Sometimes I even pretend I don't know just so they will pay attention.

Now, to end this volume extravaganza we repeated the first design challenge. Were the re-designs more successful than the first designs? Did all that rice and cups of beans make us really learn about volume so we could build a better popcorn container???
Not tellin' ya!

That will be another post some day!

Have a great week!


Missing a Regular Classroom......

Not very often

but every once in a while

I miss my regular classroom.......

There I said it.

Admitting your problem is the first step to recovery they say! Except it's not really a problem, just a change from regular third grade to STEM Lab teacher.


So, what happened? Why the change?

Well, here's the truth.
I taught third grade for 18 years and fifth grade for 9 years before that. Some years were amazing and great, some years were hard, some years I don't even remember. 

But, then one day last spring my principal said, "I'm thinking we need a STEM Lab at this school!" I sat up a little straighter at that faculty meeting. I never hesitated to apply for this new job!

I love Science. I love watching kids explore and discover. I love seeing kids mess up and start over and invent a way to make things work. And that's what the STEM Lab is all about. I'm having a FABULOUS time with it. It's heavenly wonderful, really.

But, I miss reading. I miss reading to my class. I miss that time when I have them glued to me to hear the next word. I miss dissolving into laughter with them when the book is funny. I miss the way my voice breaks when there's a really  sad part and I'm trying not to cry. I miss those little kids that want to sit close to you while you read. I miss just sitting in the floor with kids with a book in my hand.

Well, that was way too sad.

Had to throw something in there to get the mood around here in better shape.

So, what is it you ask, that I used to read aloud that was so wonderful.
Glad you asked!

Here's the few I can think of -off the top of my head -that I can wholeheartedly recommend and I would love to come to your school and read them to your class:

Oh my, goodness, I love this book so much! It is so ridiculously funny. In the beginning the mouse mother, Antoinette, says to her family, "There will be no more mice babies!" You have to read that with a French accent and wave your hands in the air very dramatically. And when Despereaux gets his tail cut off......oh my!

This one is so beautifully written. I always read it at the beginning of the year. The teacher, Mr. Fabiano has routines in his classroom that are so very similar to mine that it made such sense to the kids. And the kids in that classroom write all the time! The premise of the book is that Mr. Fab is absent and the sub doesn't show up. The kids decide to just run their classroom alone! Beautiful book!

During a study of poetry you have to read this. It is amazing. Purely. And then you have to read this one:

Too funny - both of them - although both will make you cry. But they also make your kids write poems.....

Speaking of crying.....

It's a picture book with the most gorgeous paintings. It's about a country family and the babies born to them. For each birth the grandpaw carves their name on a rafter in the barn.... You cannot read the page about the baby girl being born and not tear up....

Need a way to talk about being truthful in your classroom. Here it is. This book was written by MADONNA. Yes, that is what I said. When the boy in the story spreads a rumor about Mr. Peabody, the boy is told all he has to do is cut open a feather pillow and let all the feathers fly. After he does this, Mr. Peabody tells him, "Now go collect all those feathers." The boy says this will be impossible and Mr. Peabody replies, "It's just as impossible as stopping the rumor that you began." Profound.

Okay, well, I just realized that I could keep going here with books for quite a while.
I'll stop.
You try some of these books if you haven't already.

And just so we end on a happier note here:

Made me laugh.

Cause I did that once.
It was a lizard.

Have a great week y'all- it's supposed to snow here tomorrow. Someone totally forgot that it does not snow in Alabama. We are expecting a whopping two inches and I need to leave right now and go get bread and milk....


Chemicals AND What I have Learned from TPT!

So, I was scanning over that list of posts that pops up when you go to your blogger opening page, 
you know what I mean,
and noticed that almost every post of mine is tied to a linkie of some sort. Well, that is not a bad thing. I mean I have met some great blog friends that way and get tons of teaching ideas and hints, but, well anyway....this post is going to be 

a loner
a selfie

but very informative.

The subtitle should be:
"What I Have Learned from TPT"
Wait I already put that in the title......

So, anyway, I decided to jump into TPT. Before I did I blogged for about a year, studied other blogs, went to TPT, bought things, practiced designing pages, bought some more things, blogged some more, and then in the fall last year decided to try it.

One of my first products was this:

I know, it's a little busy, but maybe cute. Maybe a little too green. Maybe a lot too busy....
And it has been update many times! Look at it now:
Wow, right!

So, what's inside??
Well, glad you asked! It's an exploration plan I put together that has kids observing, reading, building vocabulary, investigating, and synthesizing to bring all that learning together. I call it ORBITS! Pretty cool, huh!?

Well, here's the next thing. Over the last few years the teaching world has pretty much exploded with interactive note-booking. TPT is covered up with it- as are most  of the blogs I follow. Not to be outdone I decided to add note-booking to my science class (a few years back).

We bought those gridded notebooks. I found some that are the size of a regular notebook, not a composition notebook. We jumped right into it. We made a table of contents and sectioned the last 20 pages or so and made a glossary. We added words as we used them. We did all the cute foldables and drew charts and graphs and everything. It worked for the most part.

Fast forward to this school year. I no longer have a regular classroom. I am the STEM lab teacher now. I see every class in the school once each week for 45 minutes. Soooooo, does notebooking work......


Taking the time to cut and glue, draw and invent charts, draw data tables, cut and glue some more.....

just doesn't work. 
We don't have the spare minutes in the short class time. So, I am in the process of revising a lot of things and adding pre-made lab sheets to lessons and activities.

Anyway, the Physical and Chemical Changes package I made has notebooking, but it also has lab sheets- in case you prefer one over the other!

Here's the first activity:

Kids observe vinegar and baking soda and then combine them in an empty bottle:
Physical and Chemical Changes: Can you sort the cards into those two categories. Some of them are tricky!

For this task the first version of this package had a teacher page that looked like this:

That is just a mess for an organized here's the new version:

Okay, better, right... little labeled boxes for prep and materials, procedure, and science explanation.

The first version had the kids complete an accordion foldable for this task. The accordion folding thingie is cute and fun and folds right up. But, I promise, it takes 75 years for third graders to cut it out and glue it right. The new version of this package has a lab sheet.
And it works very well! Kids were able to complete the fun little task and did a great job on the lab sheet. Personally I think they like the fact that it is called a lab sheet! It sounds cool!

Well, that , plus they get to wear cool little lab coats and safety goggles:
Chemical and Physical Changes: This is the most fun ever! Lab coats for kids. These are so easy to make. Just buy large white t-shirts and cut them down the middle of the front and you have lab coats!

NEXT, there is a non-fiction reading selection about Chemical and Physical Changes. We read that and then tested a tray of chemical powders with vinegar.
Chemical Reactions in STEM Class: Use your pipette to drop liquids on several mystery powders to see what happens!

One of those powders is baking soda and it fizzes- which reinforces the first task we completed and further cements the changing aspect of chemical changes. This is followed by a sorting activity. It's the Vocabulary Building part of the package!

Now, for the most spectacular part:


With a few simple ingredients:

Chemical and physical changes in STEM class: Making elephant toothpaste is one of the culminating activity of this fabulous unit!

The original version had a post-it note foldable for this task. The new version has a terrific lab sheet with plenty of space to draw and write. There's another sorting activity after the elephant toothpaste and a writing task!

The sorting strips (that you can see in one of the photos above) have situations on them that describe a chemical or physical change. After sorting the kids have to write situations of their own. By far, the wackiest one I have heard was this: "You leave your dog outside in the cold overnight and he freezes. Is this a chemical or physical change?"

I don't even know the answer to the that one. There were some very well written sentences, though!

AND FINALLY: the best ever, most amazing, grand-prize winning task:


Chemical and physical changes in STEM class: Using Inst-Snow is one of the culminating activity of this fabulous unit!

This culminating activity is splendid as it makes the kids think and WRITE about why the last task is a chemical change or a physical change.

So, you ask, what have I learned from TPT?

Teacher-made products are great and SAVE so much time for busy teachers. I hope, sincerely, that my customers find useful items that provide a thorough explanation and all the parts they need to make it work.

I constantly take a second look at all my things and revise them when it is needed. Especially since I use all my products I go back and add more details when I learn something new!

Thanks for reading through this loooonggg post. Perhaps it will be helpful!

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