Aug 30

Science Activities for Kids

The following is a guest post highlighting science activities for kids:

Not all science activities require laboratories and expensive equipment.  In fact, many can be done easily and inexpensively from your own home.  Here are three fun activities to get your kids learning about the stars, making lava lamps, and having a great time with bubbles.

1. Learn about the constellations and bring them into your kid’s bedroom.

The night sky makes a great opportunity to learn about astronomy from home.  At night, a child can throw on a pair of fun kids pajamas and go outside to observe the stars.  He can bring a star chart (a map of the night sky – available online or at the library) to help find constellations and stars.  Then, pick a few favorite constellations and take note of them.

Once back inside, he can recreate these constellations with a flashlight, a cardboard tube, black construction paper, chalk, and a needle.  First, make a tube that extends over the flashlight lens (for small flashlights use a toilet paper roll, for larger ones make a roll from black construction paper).  Then, draw the constellations on the construction paper, drawing each one in an area as wide as the tube mounted on the flashlight.  Once all the constellations are marked, prick small holes through the stars’ locations on the paper with the needle.  Then cut them out and put them on the end of the tube on the flashlight.

With a flashlight on in a dark room, point it towards a wall, he should see each of the constellations he saw outside earlier displayed on the wall.  This can make a great nightlight, or serve as a tool for teaching children astrology, even on cloudy nights.

2. Make lava lamps

The swirling and whirling blobs inside lava lamps can easily be recreated at home.  While a child makes them, show him how some things are soluble in water, but not oil.  For younger children, this can be a great way to show how colors can combine to make new ones.  All that is needed is a clear plastic bottle, food coloring, Alka-Seltzer and vegetable oil.

Fill up the bottle ¼ of the way with water, then the rest of the way with vegetable oil.  After waiting a few minutes, the water and oil should separate into two clear layers, with the denser water on the bottom and the lighter oil on top.  This is a great opportunity to show a child how even liquids can float or sink.  Next, put about 12 drops of food coloring into the bottle.  The drops should visibly fall through the oil un-affected (because they are not oil soluble), and then spread out as soon as they hit the layer of water (because they are water soluble).  The last step is to drop an Alka-Seltzer tablet in.  This will sink through the oil without doing anything, but should start fizzing as soon as it hits the water (again, because it is not oil soluble).  After a minute or so, the oil, water, and food coloring should start swirling together like a lava lamp.  When it stops fizzing, you can just add another tablet to get the same reaction.  To really highlight the effects, put a bright flashlight under the bottle and turn off the lights.

Try making variations with this experiment, such as changing the water to oil ratio to see its effects on the lava, adding sparkles to bedazzle the lava lamp, or just mixing different colors together.

3. From Dry Ice Volcano to Dry Ice Bubble

Note:  Only adults should handle dry ice, and then only with tongs or gloves.  It’s extremely low temperature can damage exposed skin if it comes in direct contact.

This demonstration has two things kids may get excited about: a fog spewing volcano and a giant cloudy bubble.  Best of all, it is fairly inexpensive, quick and easy.

You will need:

– Dry Ice (a baseball sized chunk will be enough)

– Gloves or tongs to handle the dry ice

– A large bowl (a clear one will be the most exciting)

– Bubble solution

– A piece of cloth that is longer than the diameter of the bowl

First fill the bottom of the bowl with 2 inches of warm water.  Then drop the dry ice inside of it using a glove or tong.  A fog should almost immediately start spilling out from the bowl.  This is safe as it is just carbon dioxide (the same thing that makes soda bubbly) and water vapor.

After the child has finished oohing and ahhing at the foggy volcano, it is time for the real fun part.  Dip the rag in bubble liquid and then use it to coat the rim of the bowl with the soapy solution.  Next, dip the rag in the solution again, hold it taught, and drag it from one end of the bowl to the other, so that it’s pat covers the whole opening of bowl.  This may take a few tries, but if you do it right, there should leave a layer of bubble solution over the top of the bowl.  This should quickly begin to fill up with the fog from the dry ice, forming a giant bubble that will eventually spill over the top and pop in a foggy burst.

There are a variety of variations to try with this activity.  For example, try making bubble solutions to see which will allow the biggest bubbles without popping, or even add food coloring to the bubble solutions to make different colored bubbles.

From shining the night sky on a bedroom wall to making exotic bubbles from dry ice, there is no end to the science demonstrations to do at home.  With a little time and creativity, anything can be taught from astrology to physics without leaving the house.


Aug 27

Taylorism: An Education Assessment

taylorism Taylorism came under the leadership of Frederick W. Taylor in the early twentieth century (Spring, 2011). Taylorism was known as pre-packaged scientific management like factory workers working under controlled environments. According to Au (2011), teachers use standardized testing and scripted curriculum in a controlled corporate environment in classrooms. Because of this pre-packaged curriculum, there are rigid controls placed on teachers and the curriculum is viewed as teaching to the standardized tests instead of teaching to student needs and styles. Teachers are viewed as forming factory workers through these controlled environments. School administrators, teachers, and legislators must realize the need for individualized student needs in how they plan, teach, and assess achievement. Not all students learn in the same methods; therefore, not all students can be assessed with the same techniques. Students at the pre-k level can be assessed through observation and interview as well as through forms of standardized testing. Older students can be assessed in similar methods based on their learning styles; however, standardized testing should not be the final assessment measures in determining student knowledge and achievement. These assessment techniques require more work on administrators and teachers, but allow them to perform more professionally rather than as factory-controlled workers.

Spring, J. (2011). The American School: A Global Context from the Puritans to the Obama Era. New York, NY: McGraw-Hill.

Au, W. (2011). Teaching under the new Taylorism: high-stakes testing and the standardization of the 21st century curriculum. Journal Of Curriculum Studies, 43(1), 25-45. doi:10.1080/00220272.2010.521261


Aug 23

Pre-K Students choosing Learning Centers

To avoid a free-for-all atmosphere in a pre-k classroom at center time, have the students take the responsibility to place their own markers or sticks on center signs. In this class, the teacher made apple signs with velcro dots for the appropriate number of students allowed in each center. Students have green sticks painted like a worm with their names printed on them. Once the dots are full on the signs, then students must move on to another center. When students are finished working in that center, they take their worms with them to the next learning center. Students begin to actually remind classmates: Where’s your worm?

Then at the end of center time when it is time to clean up for the day, students place their worms back on the big red apple near the door to be ready for the next day.


Aug 23

Teacher Gifts to Start the Year

Here is a great inspirational idea for teacher gifts at the start of a new school year. Or this gift could be given at any time of the year for that matter.

Tie a bouquet of markers together with a ribbon. Hole punch a card and a packet of seeds together and attach to the marker bouquet with the ribbon.

On the card:

Making Marks and Planting Seeds in Early Christian Education

(Note: You may need to adjust the Christian Education part if you are in a non-faith based environment.)



Aug 22

100 Days 100 Books

One of the highlights of the school year in pre-k is counting up to the 100th day of school. We started our count this year and decided to add another element to the count: 100 books.

The students will add a circle a day with the number and the book they feature that day. Stay tuned to this blog for updates and count with us up to 100. We hope to be able to count by 10’s, 5’s, and maybe by 2’s as well.


Aug 20

Lesson Plans must meet Student Interests

Johann Herbart contributed to the Harbartian movement to introduce and provide class lesson plans for any class size (Spring, 2011, 251). Teachers needed a formal lesson plan with instruction and classroom organization to prepare students for the workplace. With the development of lesson plans, supervisors could quickly glance on teacher activity and evaluate order and planning. Spring stated an idea that “perception is the first stage in cognition, but its equally important correlative is apperception, or mental assimilation” (Spring, 2011, 251). The most effective instructional method is for material to be presented to interest students. Teachers must organize lesson plans with subject matter that is of interest to students. If they are not interested in the material, then they will lack the motivation to participate and accomplish the learning standards.

 Teaching History’s article stated that teachers were confined to departmental lesson guidelines and lacked the freedom to cater plans to student interests. In the article, Simon Montfort welcomed the prepared lesson guides at first but soon became frustrated and struggled with the restrictions. Simon’s mentor worked with the system to coordinate his lesson plan ideas with the structured ones; however, he continued to struggle with the department head’s approval. He and his mentor devised a plan to work with the lesson plans and see a broader picture of the department’s expectations and he could incorporate his plans. Lesson planning must remember, “presentation is organized so that the material is related to previous interests and knowledge” (Spring, 2011, 251). Teachers must use previous experiences and ideas to build upon new material at student interests.

Spring, J. (2011). The American School: A Global Context from the Puritans to the Obama Era. New York, NY: McGraw-Hill.

This issue’s problem: Simon Montfort is given very little freedom to learn how to plan. (2013). Teaching History, (150), 56-59.

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