Category Archives: Science Experiments

Caterpillars to Butterflies to Goodbyes


Goodbye Worms, Hello Caterpillars

Moving into June, we said, “goodbye” to our worms and said, “hello” to our Painted Lady caterpillars! The entire kindergarten division ordered these ahead of time so we knew they were coming. However, since we had studied our worms so closely , had the inquiry steps almost down pat, and were always full of wonders, we were more than ready for our next study. Having caterpillars also inspired us to broaden the scope of our inquiry from one exclusively focused on worms to one that included the entire subject of insects and creepy-crawlies.

When we received our caterpillars, Madison gently placed them into their new temporary home (a laundry hamper with mesh sides). She showed us the mushy food that we needed to put in the hamper so that the caterpillars could get big and strong enough to climb up branches or the sides of the hamper, attach themselves to something, and form chrysalises.

The caterpillars didn’t lend themselves to as much of an interactive study as the worms did since they needed to be left alone inside of their mesh hamper. However, they taught the children the art of careful observation and patience.

We set our new friends up where our worms used to live. This became our little observatory. Every day the children would come in and check to see how the caterpillars were doing and if any of the caterpillars had formed chrysalises. We made a predictions graph to guess when we thought our caterpillars would form chrysalises and later on, we made another graph to show our predictions of when we thought they would emerge as butterflies.

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Spring Brings A Worm Inquiry

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Spring Brings a Worm Inquiry

April 2015 revealed the budding beginnings of a new inquiry. From all our talk on caring for the Earth, the benefits of compost and producing nutrient-rich soil, we have begun to wonder about worms and other mini-beasts. I asked the children if they would like to study worms close up by having worms in the classroom and it was a resounding, “YES!!!”. Madison and I decided we could have our very own earth worm tank to enhance our learning. If you’ve read my earlier posts, you know that I did this last year and the children not only loved it but also learned so much from it! Even those who, at first, were timid about touching the worms ended up learning the values of bravery and trying new things.

This post will showcase our journey throughout our Worm Inquiry and reveal how it transformed into a broader study of insects. As always, our scientific investigations were used as a means to also tap into math, language and the arts, allowing us to cover many curriculum expectations. The big idea that I wanted the children to understand was that although worms are small, they are indeed very important to the soil, the plants, animals and to us! I can definitely say that this goal was well reached.

Enjoy!

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From Melting Ice Caps to a Global Warming Inquiry

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Here, M wears a hat she made with a word bubble that says, “Stop Polluting!” – all her idea! She, along with many of her peers, have become passionate environmentalists over the past month. Read more to find out why!

From Melting Ice Caps to a Global Warming Inquiry

In my last post, Polar Learning Flourishes!, I shared our learning experiences throughout our Polar Inquiry, which had taken place during the winter months. One finding that intrigued the children, was that the ice caps were melting. We talked about what the possibility of melted ice caps would mean for the animals, people and the land in these regions and concluded that polar animals would need to either adapt to the new conditions or they could die off. We were sad to think that the Inuit and other people living in the Arctic would be affected negatively in various ways as well (e.g., the animals they used to hunt could be extinct, their traditions would be changed, etc.). I could tell by the children’s keen interest in this topic that I had to plan some interactive lessons and learning experiences to help the children better understand the situation. And so began our month-long investigation on Global Warming…
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Our Winter & Polar Inquiry Continues

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Our Winter & Polar Inquiry Continues

In my post entitled, The Start of a New Inquiry, I discuss the birth of our Winter & Polar Inquiry. You can see how we began our inquiry with an interest in snow and winter and began focusing our investigation with the introduction of our Animals Shelf (a small-world play area with animal figurines and a winter environment). We began delving into questions about the behaviour of animals in winter time and learned that some animals hibernate, some migrate and some adapt to the cold. When discussing animal adaptations, we naturally began to explore many polar animals (penguins, polar bears, arctic foxes, etc.) and discovered their physical and behavioural differences from those animals who hibernate or migrate. Soon, our inquiry narrowed further and became much more of a Polar Inquiry as the children’s keen interest with “the poles” continued to grow. Below I’ve outlined the evolution of our inquiry – how it began, how it transformed with the children’s questions and interests and where it has developed to at this point.
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Now that the children have learned about the kinds of animals and how they survive in the Poles, we have expanded our inquiry furthermore and have put a spotlight on the geography, land, people and cultures associated with the Arctic and Antarctica. As you will see in an upcoming post, from there, we have put an environmental focus on our inquiry and are now investigating the melting of the ice caps, reasons behind the melting and what we can do about it. For now, let me show you how this all evolved.

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Processes, Projects & Possibilities

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Well… it’s finished! The project we’ve worked so long and hard on during the month of December and into January: Our space mural! Behold weeks and weeks of learning all rolled into one beautiful masterpiece to showcase not only the knowledge gained, but also the thinking done, the problems solved, and the creativity exercised. Roosevelt truly summed it up so nicely for us. The effort put in is definitely important and where the magic happens. However, when the final result is as wonderful as this – well, the satisfaction is like no other. I think I can speak on behalf of the children when I say: We are SO proud of our mural!

Come and see it in person! From the intricate and captivating multi-media piece of art made by the children… to the facts posted around the mural (in the children’s own words) to enhance each of the features… to the photos, captions and descriptions that document the evolution of our Space and Gravity Inquiry… you will not be disappointed!

So just how did we get here?

A recap and some updates are in order!

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Blasting Off Into Inquiry!

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I may have gone a little overboard there but you get the idea: Our Space & Gravity Inquiry has not only taken off but has become a richly engaging learning opportunity with limitless possibilities for our SKs. I must say, this inquiry has been one of my favourites to facilitate. I can shamelessly admit with a sense of pride and honour that I have been learning alongside my students every step of the way and it has been utterly rewarding.

As a child I did not have much exposure to this topic area and I’m not sure scientific concepts were ever explained to me in ways that captured my interest and motivated me to explore more. As an adult I’ve come to understand how much of that was partially a result of the kind of education I received. Back in the early 90s when I began my schooling, inquiry-based learning was definitely not “on trend” nor understood by Ontario’s education system. I learned primarily from textbooks or chalkboard lessons and rarely participated in interactive activities. The topics covered were the same ones that were covered the last 10-20 years and were delivered in mostly the same way. To me – and probably many of my classmates – school was where you went to listen to and then remember information being presented by your teacher. I was marked on how well I retained that information and was expected to demonstrate it and “prove” my understanding at the end of each unit in some form of a test or big assignment.

Now, coming from a family of artists, I loved art. I loved drawing, colouring, painting, crafting, experimenting with line and texture and form. My teachers often took notice of my talent and that began to define me, as a person and as a student. As much as I loved art, when I reflect back on my childhood, I question whether or not my abilities outside of art were ever noticed and nurtured to their fullest potentials. In fact, I would argue that they simply were not. I was that kid who made the eye-catching art displayed in the hallways. As I grew older and entered University, I started to feel that my art was not all I wanted to be and began exploring what else I was capable of by pursuing a degree in Sociology – completely shocking my friends and family who assumed I would’ve went into the Arts. I learned so much about myself in those years but what was most life-changing was my realization that: I was, and could do, more than one thing; I could use my mind in other wonderful ways. I found out that I got so much personal fulfillment from learning about the world, researching, reading, analyzing, teaching and creating through my writing as opposed to exclusively through my art.

All of this to say that – what I want for my own students is something more than what my childhood school experience offered me. I don’t want my students to go through school being pigeon-holed into one area of strength in their abilities – or worse, being labeled based on their weaknesses. I don’t want them sitting and listening to my voice all day long. I don’t want them being forced to learn things that are completely irrelevant or uninteresting to them. I don’t want them to be afraid to ask questions and to question even their own teacher when they’re unsure. I don’t want them being assessed only at the ‘end’ of a unit or inquiry and in only one way.

What I want is for them to be thrilled about going to school to learn new things. I want them to be inspired to share their own ideas, thoughts and opinions and to allow these to evolve. I want them to realize that they have a ton of knowledge, understandings and potential within themselves and to offer the world. I want them to ask questions – lots of them. I want their understandings of curriculum content and larger concepts to be assessed using authentic strategies that recognize the many ways and opportunities people can demonstrate their learning. I want them to learn to think about their own thinking and to push their thinking further. I want this to happen while they are still young enough for it to all make a difference and shape their future. This is what I want.

So now, as we begin to unravel and witness the magic and wonderment that has been made possible by this Gravity & Space Inquiry, I encourage you to consider how all of us – in each of our different roles – can contribute to the educational experience I’ve described above. Educators, administrators, families, community members – we can all teach children to love learning. How can you help to shape a child’s vision of herself as a strong, capable and courageous learner?

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Halloweek in SK

Halloween + Week = Halloweek 

Halloweek in Room 209 was busy but also filled with a ton of excitement. Although I try to stay away from themes, it was the first time that all of my students celebrated Halloween. For that reason, I didn’t see the harm in integrating some Halloween festivities into our program. Each activity was still open-ended, play-based and inquiry-focused and thus there was no departure from our regular curriculum. Have a look at what we were up to…

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On Monday, we surprised the children by decorating our door to look like a mummy. Madison led the children in creating blow paint monsters. They used straws to blow air onto wet paint to create the splash effect. After they dried, they added details like eyes, mouths and horns. Each one was unique and was added to our classroom mummy door.

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A Worm Inquiry (Part 2)

Picking up from where I left off in which I explained where this worm inquiry came from and how I prepared for it (see the last post), I will now describe what happened when the children were introduced to the worms. Enjoy!

Engaging Students at the Science/Worm Centre:

My prized worm tank was complete and ready for its worm inhabitants. This new provocation was, at first, hidden from students when they came into the classroom the next morning. I started off reminding them of their wonderings yesterday about why there were no worms in the soil at the mud table. I told them I wanted to read them a story about a worm to get them thinking more about worms. I read, “Diary of a Worm” by Doreen Cronin.

As we read the story, certain questions arose about whether or not the book was giving us real facts about worms. Initially the students stated that the book was fiction because they could tell it was more like a story and did not have a table of contents like the non-fiction books we have looked at did. As students asked questions or made predictions as to whether or not something in the story was a real fact about worms, I recorded their thinking on chart paper. I was surprised when some children talked about worms being good for the soil and the environment! This was something I kept note of because it told me that some children had a fairly good background on worms. The chart paper became quite crowded and messy but the children know from me reminding them, that thinking is sometimes ‘messy’ and not always ‘neat and tidy’.

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Our ‘busy paper’ as we wondered and talked about worms.

After the story, we review our thoughts from the chart paper. I asked the children how we could find out the answers to our questions as well as find out more about worms. The children are becoming very familiar with this process of “researching” or “exploring”. Some answers included: Look on the iPad or iPhone, look on the computer or Internet, ask Scientists in Sweden (yes, Sweden!), look in non-fiction books, and finally…. look, study and feel worms by bringing real worms into the class. A few children actually suggested this last idea. A few children immediately stated that this would be impossible because there’s still snow outside and the ground is frozen. Other children brought up that fisherman have to buy their worms from a story so maybe we could buy worms from a store too. The children discussed a possible plan of action with one another for a few minutes while I left the circle to go grab the tank.

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A Worm Inquiry (Part 1)

Introduction & Pre-Inquiry

The worm inquiry developed from smaller inquiries surrounding the topics of farm life, dirt/soil and mud. It grew into something we had never expected, integrating so much of the curriculum and developing, within our students, a tolerance and respect for other living things, an understanding of the careful balance of systems within our environment and for some, the courage to step outside of their comfort zone and open their minds and hearts to these tiny (but important) creatures. This post will set the stage for how it all unfolded. 

As we moved into the spring this year, I read the story “Stuck in the Mud” by Jane Clarke as directed by the Early Literacy Intervention Program (ELIP) that my school’s Kindergarten team was taking part in. The program and the books utilized are geared towards improving language development for Kindergarten-age children.

Both of my classes of students really enjoyed the book but seemed to be most interested about the subject matter – the farm, farm animals and farming in general.

We found an old farm toy in storage and brought it out along with some farm animals to see what the children would do with it. They absolutely loved these toys and said that we should build the rest of the farm like in the pictures from Stuck in the Mud (the fields, landscape, etc.). We asked how this could be done and some children suggested putting the farm toys in the sandbox.

That evening my teaching partner and I emptied the white sand from the sandbox and filled it with real potting soil to make it more like a real farm. We also thought it may be interesting to add soil to our water table and let the kids mix in some water to discover what would happen.

The children were ecstatic over the more ‘realistic’ farm landscape and brought other materials over from around the room as they saw fit (e.g., tree/wood pieces, rocks, etc.). They set up the farm in various designs over the days. They were also over the moon about adding water to the soil at the water table. They easily predicted it would become mud and played for days at this table, mushing it between their fingers, using different mixing/measuring tools and molding shapes with it. I also read them a book about mud and after, we made a word web of words that describe mud. They began to use many of these words at the ‘Mud Table’ while playing. A DECE from another Board visited our classroom to learn more about inquiry and took careful notes about what the children were saying/doing. She concluded that surprisingly, many of the children had admitted to never actually playing with mud before and told her how interesting and fun it was for them.

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Top Left & Bottom Left: Our water table/sensory bin filled with mud. Top Right & Bottom Right: Our sandbox filled with soil and farm toys

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