1.30.2010

Chemistry and Chameleons

Physical properties, by definition, are easily observed. Color, texture, odor, size, shape, taste (when appropriate) of an object can be observed simply through the five senses. To experience the concept of physical properties, students can analyze rocks or chemicals or buttons and classify them by their observable characteristics.
Chemical properties, only observable during a chemical reaction, are more complicated to explore. Waiting for something to rust or tarnish is a little painstaking. Fire and explosives are mostly frowned upon in the classroom. But since regular grape juice is an acid/base indicator, testing ph is easy, safe and basically instant. When mixed with cheap and easy-to-find white vinegar or baking soda, grape juice changes color indicating the ph of the vinegar and soda.

Enter "Color-Changing Chameleons" from Deborah Schecter's ScienceART. Using chameleon patterns from the book as a canvas for the mixture means this experiment leads conveniently into a life science lesson on the reptiles and their habitats.
First students paint the page of chameleon patterns with grape juice using q-tips as paint brushes.Let the graped chameleons dry for a few hours or overnight. Meanwhile, students can make hypotheses about how the grape juice will react when painted over with vinegar or baking soda.

Once the chameleons are dry, students should leave one alone, paint one with white vinegar, and paint the third with baking soda mixed with water. Students will immediately see the acid and base turning the chameleons greenish and bluish. Students can compare the changing chameleons to the still-purple control chameleon.
After students have collected data and developed conclusions about the experiment and whether their hypotheses were correct, these colorful chameleons can become part of an art/life science lesson.

Read Chameleon Chameleon, written by Joy Cowley and photographed by Nic Bishop, to learn about chameleons habits and habitats.
Then let students cut out their chameleons and collage them on top of a colored-in habitat.

1.28.2010

More Free Printable Valentines

Visit handmade & homebaked to get these super-pleasant printable Valentine cards to print and exchange.
Also check out handmade & homebaked's tutorial and printable for these sweet Valentine's sticky-note covers.
Images from handmade & homebaked.

1.22.2010

Printable Vintage Valentines

Valentine's Day is approaching, and it's time to find the perfect cards for writing caring notes to friends and family. If you're hoping for something a little more original than the piles of licensed-character cards, check out these fantastic 1970s Valentines shared by ggmossgirl. These adorable, stand-alone notes can be printed to cut and send. Also check out this fun Valentine's activity page with a maze, finger puppets and more to print and play.

Then visit these past Valentine's ideas:

Make a display of celebrities' favorite books.
Make recycled crayon hearts.

Read a great Valentine's story. Then print a coloring page to go with the book.

Make anatomically-correct heart cards.

Printable Valentine images from ggmossgirl.

1.17.2010

Martin Luther King Day

Since 1986, the third Monday of January has been celebrated as Martin Luther King, Jr. Day in the United States. When Americans are asked to name their personal hero, Dr. King is always one of the most popular choices. I can relate to the respect so many people have for the civil rights movement leader. When I was in elementary school, I dressed up in a suit jacket and facial hair painted on with mascara to recite an excerpt of Martin Luther King, Jr.'s famous "I Have a Dream" speech for our living statues presentation.

"I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character."

To celebrate the day, let students watch a video of King's moving "I Have a Dream" speech at Holidays.net. Also check out their Martin Luther King, Jr. Day coloring pages.

Visit the Seattle Times Martin Luther King, Jr. and the Civil Rights Movement page for biographical information, photo galleries and lots of lesson ideas covering timeline skills, summarizing, reading comprehension and more. Then check out the His Words page where you can find pdfs of eight of King's famous speeches and several audio clips of MLK's original speeches.

After reading "Letter from a Birmingham Jail," discuss why Martin Luther King, Jr. was in jail at the time he wrote the famous message. Then learn about civil disobedience at Congress for Kids, The U.S. Congress children's website.

Click over to The King Center website to be reminded that service was one of the things Martin Luther King, Jr. valued most. After getting inspired by the audio excerpt of Dr. King's speech, "The Drum Major Instinct," go to Serve.gov to find service opportunities in your area. Just type in your zip code, and you will receive a big list of volunteer services needed near you.

Image from The Seattle Times MLK page.

1.16.2010

Hand-Washing Bliss

Teachers, parents and others who work with children, need to wash their hands many, many times every day. In the winter, this can mean brittle, dry skin. Commercial soaps have skin-softening ingredients extracted to sell as moisturizer, so they can be hard on your hands. Hand-sanitizing gels are full of alcohol, so they are even worse. Nevertheless, hand-washing can still be a pleasant experience! With warm-water and good soap, washing your hands before each activity and after every mess can actually be enjoyable.
My favorite soap is handmade by Blue Moon Soap Company. All their soaps are made with ingredients like olive oil, rice bran oil and cocoa butter, all known to soothe and moisturize skin. Scents like Mist, Nutty Pear and Mint Chocolate make you look forward to washing your hands. Knowing all their products are made in small-batches packed with animal-free, food-grade ingredients including herbs from their garden means not worrying about the trade-offs of staying squeaky clean.
Blue Moon's soaps and other products are available at a few stores, through their website, and at craft shows and fairs in various places around Texas.
Also, right now Blue Moon is holding a special promotion for the new year. Think of a soap scent you'd like to try. Then send your suggestion using the link on their home page. If you submit the suggestion they decide to make, you will receive 3 bars of the soap you imagined.

Give your hands a break. Ditch the detergents and alcohols for moisturizing, smells-so-good-you-want-to-taste-them, handmade soaps and hand-washing will become an experience you can happily anticipate.

Also check out tips and tools for teaching students about hand-washing.

Images from Blue Moon Soap.

1.09.2010

Force and Motion Experiment

As students progress through elementary and middle school, their science curriculum tends to double back, repeat and slowly build on the same topics. This means, many activities can be used with a wide range of student age-groups. Such is the case for this force and motion lab, which I've seen bring out the inner race-car-lover in both 2nd-graders and 6th-graders.

Using just a few basic materials, students build tracks and conduct race car experiments to test the effects of increasing the tracks' angle of incline and then the tracks' surface texture on the speed of the cars. We used three of the same toy cars from the dollar store, cardboard boxes, scissors, tape and a ruler. Students will also need something to prop up the tracks. In a classroom, stacks of identical textbooks are an obvious choice. If you're conducting this experiment at home, try stacked cereal boxes, DVDs or magazines.

After making their hypotheses about the outcome of the races, students should cut three equal tracks from cardboard. Ours were 1 1/2 feet x 4 inches. Then attach the tracks to the three stacks of different heights using a small piece of tape. Line the cars up at the starting line, and observe which car finishes first, second and third. Repeat this test several times, and then determine the average speeds for each track.
In my class, four groups of students conducted races simultaneously, so the different colors of the tracks above are just two different pieces of cardboard.

After the test, discuss or have students write about the outcome of the races. Were their hypotheses correct? Did the slope of the tracks affect the speed of the cars?

When that's done, save all of your tracks, cars and stack-making materials for experiment number two: How does the texture of the tracks affect the speed of the cars? This time, you will also need two texture-y materials to cover the existing tracks. We left one track alone, covered the second with aluminum foil and the third with snowy-white felt. The foil was easy to attach with transparent tape. The felt had to be stapled around the edges. Once students predict the outcome of this test, they should attach the three different tracks to stacks of equal height.

Race the cars several times, making sure to record which order the cars finish each time. Then find the average standings for each of the three tracks. After collecting the data, let students reflect on the effect of the tracks' textures on the outcomes of the races. Were their hypotheses correct? How did friction affect the cars' racing times?

1.03.2010

Tools for New Year's Resolution Success

Now that the new year has begun and students have made their New Year's resolutions, check out these tools for keeping kids' goals on the track to success.

For kids who've resolved to save money for a coveted big item, print and fold this paper cupcake bank from Love. obsess. inspire.
Fold it, seal it, and start dropping in change right away.

For students who plan to show thoughtfulness and keep in touch with friends and family, visit Lemon Squeezy and print this birthday calendar printable.
After printing, help students write down names beside birth dates through the year. This chart will make remembering to write a birthday letter or make a card or gift much easier.

For kiddos who've committed to reading more in the new year, stick around at Lemon Squeezy for her super-cute bookmark printables here and here.
Then go to Orange You Lucky to print a set of three bookplates to help kids manage their book collections.

For learners who've promised to be less messy this year, get to Rubber Punkin for a huge set of organizing labels including a few pages of blanks for personal collections.
Get newly committed organizers started on the right foot by pre-labeling toy boxes and storage containers with these cheerful tags.

Images from Love. obsess. inspire., Lemon Squeezy, Orange You Lucky, Rubber Punkin.