Memorial Day Activities

Memorial Day is a U.S. holiday designated for remembering men and women who died serving in the military. The last Monday in May has been set aside since just after the Civil War, but it became an official federal holiday in 1971. The first celebrations of the holiday were called Decoration Day. Thousands of people assembled to put flowers and decorations on fallen soldiers' graves.

Visit Skip to My Lou for a printable Uncle Sam Hat pattern, perfect for this weekend or any of the upcoming patriotic holidays (Flag Day is June 14, Independence Day is July 4, Constitution Day is September 17). Just print the free pattern, and students can easily assemble their own personal American flag top hat.
Then try your hand at Skip to My Lou's Patriotic Pinwheel. Printable patterns come in small, medium and large.
When all the crafting is done, read Patricia Polacco's book Pink and Say to learn about the difficulties endured by soldiers in the U.S. Civil War.

Craft images from Skip to My Lou.


Sort it Out Engineering Lab

Earlier this month, schools around the U.S. celebrated National Lab Day with hands-on science learning experiences. Students in my district completed the Sort it Out experiment provided by Try Engineering.

Before beginning the lab, students can be briefed on the role of engineers through the Discover Engineering website introduction and What's Engineering page. For this experiment, students begin by collecting household materials including cardboard, wire hangers, and disposable plates and cups. Then students work in teams to plan out the design for a machine that will sort coins or buttons by size.
In my classes, this phase took most of a 45-minute class period. On the second day, students request the materials they need and begin construction of their machines.
Construction in my classes took an hour or more. After students have built their machines, it's time for testing.
As you can see, the approaches were many and varied. Some of the machines worked well, while others had low accuracy rates. This creates a great opportunity to discuss the scientific method and the fact that incorrect hypotheses are just a chance to try again.

Once the machines have all been tested, students can reflect and write reports of their success rates and possible ways to improve the machines.

Since the materials for this experiment are all reused junk, this lab would tie in well with a unit on environmental science and conservation.