Theme for April – Beans and Eggs

Springtime! Flowers bloom, gardens grow, and baby critters are found everywhere. What is the science of all of this? Time to investigate beans and eggs!

All school children sooner or later sprout something. Beans, avocado seeds, and Chia seeds are three good starters. Beans and Chia seeds sprout quickly. The avocado seed takes longer, but will produce a bigger plant.

beanswater

Soaking beans in water is the first step. Bottles made it easy to see how a full bottle of beans can hold more water than it looks like. Beans should be moved to a more open container to absorb the water or they will get stuck (We learned that the hard way).

peelbeans

Allow students to peel the beans and look for the bean “germ”. They will be amazed at how small a plant is in the beginning.

beansgerm

This hands on experience can be used as a journaling event. Seeds can be planted in a root farm to let students view their growth. Charts can be kept as the plant grows. Have fun growing beans!

Theme for March – Butterflies and Moths

Traditionally, March is a good month for a butterfly theme, but this year has been colder and the butterflies are absent from our yard.  That doesn’t keep our preschool classroom from being on a butterfly alert!  Be on the look out because they will be here soon.

I start the theme by replacing book and puzzle activities and introducing two songs:

Little Caterpillar
(Tune: Itsy Bitsy Spider)
The little caterpillar crawled up into a tree
Turned into a chrysalis and slept so quietly
He slept a dozen days and didn’t make a sound
And he dreamed of his new life
When he could fly around.

Crawling Caterpillar
(Tune: Are You Sleeping)
See the caterpillar
See the caterpillar
Watch him crawl
Watch him crawl
See him eating all the leaves
When he’s finished, he will go
And crawl away
And crawl away

The children are on the lookout 24/7 for caterpillars. Caution should be taken because there are a few unfriendly caterpillars and a few that cause allergic reactions. I stick with the Gulf Fritillary, Monarch, and Painted Lady. They are the easiest to identify and are quick-growing. If you are trying to attract butterflies, then you must be sure to buy plants that have NOT been treated or sprayed. If it will kill an insect, it will kill a caterpillar or butterfly.

Theme for January – Crystals

Crystals we see everyday are table salt, sugar, ice, snow, quartz and diamond. A crystal is formed by an arrangement of atoms, molecules, or ions. Because of the repeated units, crystals have recognizable structures.

The real fun is in seeing crystals form. Salt, sugar, borax and alum make the best crystals, but there are safety factors to be recognized. Small children will often put things in their mouth and swallow them. These activities are to be monitored by an adult at all times.

This year borax had the best result for our science classroom. It dissolved quickly and the crystals started growing as soon as the solution cooled.

Materials:
A pencil with attached string and paper clip
Wide-mouthed jar
Borax
Boiling water
Food coloring (optional)
Adult supervision

Bring a pot of water to a boil and pour into the jar. This is a job for an adult! Add 3 tablespoons of borax per each cup of water and stir. Everyone gets a turn stirring. It’s alright if some borax settles to the bottom of the jar. If you want colored crystals, stir in some food coloring.

crystalsetup

Balance the pencil across the jar mouth so the string and paper clip are suspended in the middle of the jar. Keep the jar somewhere where it is safe from being disturbed, but is easily viewed. Monitor it carefully until the solution is cooled. Chart results by the hour. Have children write about their discoveries in their journals.

saltcrystal

So, what did we do and why is it science? When the borax is in with the water, a suspension is created. A suspension is a mixture that contains solid particles large enough to settle out. By mixing the borax into hot water, instead of room temperature or cold water, the borax stays suspended longer within the water. As the borax begins to settle out, or sediment, it begins to crystallize. The crystals cling to the string and to the sides of the jar as well as the bottom. The borax continues to sediment on the string and you have crystals!

Theme for December – Traditions

Theme for December- Traditions

Traditions play a major role in every family. Traditions tell stories about a family, help individuals discover where they come from, and help them to remember their culture. The family bond is strengthened through traditions by providing a chance to do something that is special. Children love traditions because they offer comfort and security when other things change around them. December is a month of traditional activity. There are many holidays, family gatherings, and time off from regular schedules to lend to having time to do special activities that will long remain in the memory of a child!

Cookie baking is a winter activity I remember as a child. I turned the sensory area into a cookie making area using gingerbread playdough, cookie cutters and rolling pins.

Gingerbread Playdough

Ingredients
½ cup salt
1 cup plain flour
2 tablespoons cream of tartar
1 cup water
1 tablespoon oil (coconut oil works great)
Food coloring

What you do
Mix dry ingredients together in a medium sized saucepan.
Add food coloring to the water to get a tan color.
Add colored water and coconut oil to dry ingredients.
Stir over heat until dough is pliable.

Once playdough is cool enough, kneed in:
2 teaspoon of ginger
1 teaspoon of cinnamon
1 teaspoon of allspice

gingerbplaydough

Theme for October: Bats and Spiders

Bats are often viewed as being creepy creatures, but they are very important to our environment. Bats are insectivores and most nights eat their own weight in bugs. When that is added up bat by bat, it is easy to see we would have many more mosquitoes to deal with if it weren’t for bats. Bats are nocturnal and that is the reason we don’t often see them. We start the theme by learning a fingerplay on the Sticky Board.

Five Black Bats

Five black bats hanging upside down.
The first black bat did not make a sound…
The second black bat said “I’ll fly far into the night.”
The third black bat said “I don’t like the sunlight.”
The fourth black bat said “I want to eat some bugs.”
The fifth black bat said “Let me give you a hug.”
Five black bats hanging upside down
Shh! It’s daylight, don’t make a sound!

5blackbats

 

Bats are the only mammal that truly flies and with their hands! To demonstrate this to the students, I trace their hands on folded paper and then draw a bat wing around their fingers.

 bathand

When cut out and folded in the middle, it’s wings will flap. The students are ready to do the fingerplay again with their own bats!

Theme for September: Earthworms

Most people say “EWWW” when I mention earthworms. Sometimes a small critter that grosses out  some people  is very important to us!  They play an intricate part of our circle of life. Worms eat old dead stuff. They help us recycle newspaper and leaves back into the soil. Plants benefit not only in the rich soil, but also in the aeration of the earth as the worms tunnel about. They soften the earth and this allows the rain to penetrate and easier growth of the plants. A great place to start learning about the earthworm is The Adventures of Herman.

Our first project is making a Worm Farm.

Worm Farm
The students help spray shredded newspaper with water and tear it into smaller pieces to make the bedding.

baby earthworms
Worms that hatched out in last year’s Farm are on display.

 

Tomorrow we will add earthworms! They can be purchased from local stores that have a sports or bait section.

Theme for August: Space

Summer is winding down and the new school year is about to start. My classroom runs year round for children ages 2½ to 5. VPK students have already said their goodbyes and are busy getting ready for Kindergarten. That leaves a short time in August to tackle the final theme… The Final Frontier… Space! Each year I add to and subtract from this theme. There are many ways to approach Space. Planets, star gazing, astronauts, constellations, and rockets are a few of the subjects that seem to be of great interest to preschoolers.

The light table in my room has been transformed into a Planetarium. I covered a piece of tissue paper with contact paper (best done alone in a very quiet space). This made the tissue paper durable, but still translucent. It was well worth the struggle. After punching a few holes in the paper, I added some window clings that are space themed (planets, stars and rockets). The students arrange the objects on the table. This is a good activity for dictation. Interview the child working at the light table and ask why the pieces are arranged the way they are.

Space Light Table

Have fun!

Theme for July: Summer Fun!

July is a great month in the summer. Families vacation and visit each other. Our nation celebrates its beginnings. During the sunny days children off from school have more time to be with their parents and visit parks, zoos, museums and be outdoors. Some families take trips to specifically go fishing, camping or horseback riding. Others relax at home and grill out by the pool.

Making homemade ice cream is one of my family’s favorite summertime activities. We have tried recipes using fruit, flavorings or yogurt. It is a nice way to spend a hot day after supper. Hot summer nights also bring back memories of a circus and carnivals. Adults may see these things as cheap entertainment or even a waste of money, but for the child they are places of adventure.

A chart can be made in the classroom about what students do over the summer. Charts help teach children to count, recognize numbers and letters, develop one to one correspondence, and even help develop basic skills in addition and subtraction. Open ended questions help them remember the fun things they have experienced. What did you do while on vacation? Who did you go see while you were away? What is your favorite thing to do in the summer? What would you like to do next time you are on vacation? Poll the classroom to see what activities are the favorites. Post the chart in the classroom.

Encourage children to write stories and draw pictures about their summer favorites. Drawing and writing (dictation) help children to learn how to express their feelings. They will also develop their imagination and pay attention to the details of things around them. They will learn how to make comparisons between different shapes, textures, and sizes. The product can be sent home to be posted on the refrigerator or send to a grandparent. Their skills in communication will become better through all of this, too.

Hope you are enjoying the summer. Whatever your favorite activity, be sure to share it!

 

Theme for June: Ocean and Beach Life

My first theme for the summer is Ocean and Beach Life. I live very close to the beach and know my students visit there regularly. The beach is different each day and there always seems to be something new to learn. The classroom library has books about the ocean and beach with a box full of sealife puppets and stuffed animals nearby.

Computers have uploaded all the Freddi the Fish series that I have onhand. There is an old program called O’Dell Down Under for the older students who are ready for a challenge.

I have been busy updating my Discovery Bottles. The one below one has water, a little blue water coloring, Make It Shimmer (from Discount School Supply), shells, and sand. I taped the lid on the bottle to keep it from accidently coming off. The students can cause a storm by shaking the bottle and then watch it calm to see the shells.

Ocean Discovery Bottle

I find that mouthwash bottles make excellent Discovery Bottles. They have a better viewing surface and the lid already locks.

The classroom is ready for it’s adventure at the beach! Stay tuned, there is more to come. *hums the Under the Sea theme song*

Theme for May: Dinosaurs

My theme for May is dinosaurs.  Children are very interested in these prehistoric creatures.  We discuss how extinct animals are those species which are no longer living.  Try explaining that to a four year old for the first time!  Why are dinosaurs extinct?

“They’ve been dead a really long time and dead stuff stinks!”