So, I've been busy getting my beginning of the year science units together. I start the year off in science the same way I start everything else off--by teaching routines and expectations!
We start science on the very first day of school!
Day 1: What is Science?
I ask the kids what they think "science" is and I record their answers on a chart paper. Be prepared for some pretty funny answers!
Then I read What is Science by Rebecca Kai Dotlich. I love this book--it is colorful and fun and really gets kids thinking about science and the world in general!
Then, with their minds buzzing with possiblities, we add more ideas to our list.
Then I introduce our science notebooks. I tell the kids that these are very special notebooks that will help us ask questions about science; make predictions; record observations and data about investigations; and explain their thinking about what they have learned.
I hand out the Science Notebook Expectations and we go over them one by one. Then I show the kids how to glue the expectations in their notebooks--focusing on how to turn one page at a time and how to use glue appropriately and neatly!
Day 2: What is a Scientist?
We start out reviewing what we learned about science from yesterday. Then I ask the kids What is a scientist? What does a scientist look like? What does a scientist do? What kinds of tools does a scientist use? Again--I record their ideas on a chart. Then I show a PowerPoint I made, What is a Scientist?
Then I ask the kids to think about what kind of scientist they would like to be. I have them draw a picture in their science journals. I encourage them to add details to their pictures, including the things scientists study and the tools they use.
This little boy is very ambitious--he wants to be an archeologist and an astronomer! Notice he included tools (a telescope) and things scientists study (a pyramid, stars and planets). There are no "wrong" answers with this activity. One of my little boys last year wanted to be a "rescue paleontologist" (he wanted to bring dinosaurs back from extinction!)
Day 3: Tools Tools, Tools...
We start the day by reviewing what we learned about scientists yesterday and talk about what kinds of scientists they want to be. Then I tell them a big secret--that they already ARE scientists!
I read another book called What is a Scientist? by Barbara Lehn.
This books uses very simple language to tell what scientist do, for example:
"A scientist is a person who asks questions and tries different ways to answer them."
Kids can quickly see that they do those very same things!
I then tell the kids that as scientists, they are going to need some tools to help them investigate things. I ask if anyone already knows some tools that scientists use. Then I get out some very simple tools that we will be using throughout the year: hand lens, magnets, various measuring cups and bowls (and something to put in them, like beans or rice), tweezers and tongs, droppers, and a balance. I ask if the kids have ever seen any of these tools before and what they are used for. I record their answers on a chart paper. I set these tools out at various centers throughout the room, and let the kids free-explore with them for a little bit. Of course, we go over all of the expectations for using them!
My favorite place to buy science stuff = Steve Spangler Science!
After they have had a chance to explore all of the tools, the students write in their science notebooks with pictures and words about the tools they used. I also take this opportunity to stress that our science notebooks are very important tools that we will use--to ask questions, make predictions, record our observations and data and explain our thinking!
Because I want them to really know their science vobulary, I also have them glue these picture/word cards in their science notebooks.
Download Vocabulary Science Tools
Day 4: Scientists Stay Safe
Today we take some time to go over all of the safety expectations in the Science Safety Contract. I start by asking the kids "Why is it important for scientists stay safe? What kinds of things do scientists do to stay safe?"
We watch the PowerPoint What is a Scientist? again. I ask the kids to look for things that these scientists are doing to stay safe. (The chemist is wearing gloves and goggles; The geologist is wearing a hard hat; etc.)
Then I ask the kids about specific slides, for example-- "Do you think the volcanologist plays around with the hot lava? Do you think the chemist tastes the chemicals? Why not?"
We take a few minutes to discuss all the horrible catastrophes that could befall these scientists if they are not safe (the kids are very imaginative that way!) Then I tell the kids that, although we will not be near any volanoes or tornados, it is still very important that we stay safe while doing science!
I hand out the Science Safety contracts. We go over each expectation--one by one. We talk about why that expectation is important and what could happen if we didn't follow them. When we are done, we sign them and glue them in our notebooks!
Day 5: Practice Makes Perfect
Today we are making Milk Rainbows! It's a fun activity that serves 3 purposes:
1. It gives kids a chance to practice safety expectations.
2. It gives them a chance to practice the Super Scientist procedure explained here.
2. It gives kids a chance to practice recording what they see in their science notebooks.
Making the rainbows is super easy--here's a video to show you what I'm talking about (that's not my class).
You will need:
- a pie plate or other deep plate
- whole milk (I put a cup on each table)
- food coloring
- dish-washing soap (I put a small cup with a little in the bottom on each table)
- q-tips (one for each student)
- Super Scientist Badges
First, we review the safety expectations in our science notebooks. I tell the kids that it is very important that they listen and follow directions so that the experiment will work and so that they can stay safe! I set all the materials out on the tables.
I am going to be very specific in these instructions, so that you can get a good idea of how the Super Scientist System works. Here are the instructions I give (I also model each step before I let them try):
- Scientist #1, carefully pour the milk in the plate.
- Scientist #2, squeeze 3 drops of red food coloring in the center of the milk.
- Scientist #3, squeeze 3 drops of yellow food coloring next to the red.
- Scientist #4, squeeze 3 drops of blue food coloring next to the yellow.
- Scientist #5, squeeze 3 drops of green food coloring next to the blue.
I stop here and ask the kids to make predictions about what is going to happen when we put the soap in the milk. They usually tell me that the food coloring will disappear (because the soap cleans it) or that it will make bubbles. Then...
- Scientist #1, dip your q-tip in the dishwashing soap and then carefully press it into the food coloring and hold it down.
Pause for oohs, ahhs, and a few screams...the kids LOVE this part
- Repeat last step until all scientists have had the chance to press a q-tip in the milk.
When the kids have observed the rainbow for a while, I instruct them to draw what happened in their science notebooks. We talk about what a good recording would include...the plate, the milk, the colors. I talk about how, in science, it is very important to record your observations accurately as you can. And I make sure to give them lots of positive feedback!