Elementary Science

First day of school science for preK-grade 2

I'm wondering if there are some science activities that young children can engage in on the first day of school which would both provide a center for independent work and serve as an introduction to a long-term inquiry. It could be as simple as "Introduce yourself to the classroom fish by observing and drawing the fish, then drawing yourself or writing something about yourself." In preschool there are always some children who need extra support to separate from their families and science activity centers could be a helpful distraction or an activity for others to do while the teacher reassures any upset children. Is the first day of school too soon to begin science instruction? Peggy

Peggy Ashbrook
Margaret Ashbrook
9535 Activity Points

I have been doing the same activity on the first day for a few years now. The kids really look forward to it. All grades do it but the expectations are different. We observe gummy worms. First grade draw the worm in their notebook and make at least 5 observations using the 5 senses. (Yes we do taste the worms at the end. I do explain that this is not a regular thing - we normally do NOT taste things in Science. Each grade is expected to do a more entailed observation. In fourth grade I introduce quantitative and qualitative observations. It is wonderful to see the kids get excited about science year after year.

Patricia Hanafee
Patricia Hanafee
10 Activity Points

I love the gummy worms!!! I think I'm going to use that. I am excited to find a K-2 questions because I'll be working with age group this year. Usually there is a lot of info on 4 and up. I am going to also make 'black boxes'. I take wine boxes and cover them with black paint/paper and then put a cloth over the front of a hole. I place the boxes on a table and place inside different things. I have been thinking a lot about how I am going to use them to start the year. I am going to have the students think through different questions... what would you use this for? what do you think it is? How would you describe how it feels? and such... The questions would be differentiated based on grade level and then lead into "What do scientists do?" Then we could talk them out after a few times of study and reflection...and continue on with observation. I think it would really encourage thinking and using the senses besides site. We'll see... Cheers, Terri

Terri Tomassi
Terri Tomassi
770 Activity Points

What wonderful ideas - some are so tasty, too. As a physics teacher, I always had science activities for the first days of school. Either we worked as a class or in small groups and then brainstormed and shared. I never used the same first day activity from year to year since the students often commented on them and some visited me to see what we were doing on the first day. Many of you are thinking about the new academic year and what to do to make the first days science days so I did a search of the Learning Center resources and put together a small collection of free resources that we may want to look at and see if any jog our creative side to go out of the box and Enliven First Days with Science. There are 10 items in the collection and they address activities appropriate and 'vetted' for preschool through middle school first days. Shall we look at them and share additional ideas? Perhaps we can add to those good ones already spoken for. ~patty


Enliven First Days with Science Collection
(11 items)
Our Star, the Sun: Try these everyday activities that teach elementary and middle level students about the sun
     -Journal Article
Welcome to Rock Day
     -Journal Article
Geoscience for Preschoolers
     -Journal Article

Patricia Rourke
Patricia Rourke
45915 Activity Points

[b]by Margaret Ashbrook, Aug 1, 11:13 AM[/b] [i]I'm wondering if there are some science activities that young children can engage in on the first day of school which would both provide a center for independent work and serve as an introduction to a long-term inquiry[/i] I love the gummy worm idea! What a great, and fun, way to engage your students at the beginning of the year! I think the fish idea is also great! Have you considered adding a class pet fish as well? That would be a fun extension to the activity. I start each school year with a science activity that involves my students using their 5 senses. I begin by reading the book [i]Seven Blind Mice[/i] by Ed Young (ISBN: 978-0698118959) which is the story of 7 blind mice who investigate an elephant. After reading the book, we talk about our five senses and how we use them. Next I pull out a brown grocery bag with two arm holes cut out (with a whole, fresh pineapple hidden inside). Each student reaches inside and "blindly" feels the outside of the pineapple and draws the object they felt in their journals. Next, I pull out a brown paper bag with a "sniff hole" cut out (hidden inside is cut-up pineapple...if you use canned pineapple it really smells like pineapple, I have not always had great success using fresh pineapple). The students then record their observations of what they smelled in their journals (for younger students in PKD-1 I have them draw what they think they smell and then dictate a caption for what they drew). Then the students predict what is hidden in the bags and share their prediction with the class. I then pull the pineapple out of the bag to show them what was hidden in the bag. This introductory exercise serves many purposes in my classroom. 1. It begins teaching the kids that they use their 5 senses to make observations and answer questions about the world around them. 2. It introduces the idea of recording observations in their science journals. 3.It introduces inquiry and 4. It links science and literature. There are several excellent books regarding hand-on science learning in the PK-2 classroom. A few of my favorites are: [i]A Year of Hands-on Science[/i] (ISBN: 978-0-545-07475-9), [i]Hands-on Science: 20 Themes[/i] (ISBN: 1-55799-935-X) and [i]Science Experiments for Young Learners[/i] (ISBN: 978-1557997791)

Maureen Stover
Maureen Stover
41030 Activity Points

Patricia,
I can see the gummy worm observation leading into a much longer science inquiry on the needs of living things. Do your students observe live worms later? I guess we don't have to caution the children not to eat those! Worms Shadows and Whirlpools, by Sharon Grollman and Karen Worth, is an excellent guide to inquiry in early childhood. I especially like the included teachers' journals about the inquiry that developed in their classrooms.
Peggy

Peggy Ashbrook
Margaret Ashbrook
9535 Activity Points

Terri,
your "Black Boxes" sound the “Feely Boxes” I use at the beginning of the year as a way to get to know the preschool students--—Do they want to be first or do they want to watch first? Are they adventuresome enough to touch the weird blob ball? Do they have enough words to talk about what they are feeling? Are they familiar with various objects, such as cotton balls, shells, leaves, and sandpaper?

I'll have to see if they can guess a pineapple! (Great idea for an interesting object, Maureen.) Here's another book about textures, no words just photographs: Is It Rough? Is It Smooth? Is It Shiny? Tana Hoban. 1984. Greenwillow.
Peggy

Peggy Ashbrook
Margaret Ashbrook
9535 Activity Points

Peggy - what a great hands on activity with the bags and the pineapple. It is similar to one that many physics and chemistry teachers use. They build black boxes with different items glued in different places and ask students to consider balance and what is inside the boxes. Chem teachers make ones that lead students to learn more about the atom. I often make film canasters that were filled with pennies and perhaps a kernel of rice if I needed to adjust the mass. I had sets of 20 that students massed with a double beam balance. (They were learning about how to use the tool accurately and also what signifant numbers meant at the same time.) Students groups shared their masses by putting them on the board and then we brainstormed about what they meant and was there a pattern. (an ultimate goal was for them to manipulate the data and try organizing it in different modes in groups and hopefully one group would take the smallest mass and divide it into each of the other masses to ascertain that the masses were in whole number multiples of the smallest one and that none of them were fractions of the smallest - this lays the foundation for a lot of future work) -- The goals of these activities differ according to grade level and learning stage but a black box is a great black box. A bit of discombulation, perhaps some counterintuition, and some personal student discoveries. I read the article on rocks that was used in elementary school (which I included in the collection of resources that I posted) and I think that it can be modified by teachers into great first day activities. What do others think? Thanks everyone for keeping the thread going --and right as we plan our opening days :} I look forward to hearing from all of you. ~patty I'll post the journal article below to make it easy for others to look at Welcome to Rock Day and see if it makes sense to integrate it in opening days of school.

Attachments

Welcome to Rock Day (Journal Article)

Patricia Rourke
Patricia Rourke
45915 Activity Points

I had a teacher ask me how to find a collection that I had made and since she sent me a personal note, I responded directly to her. However, I want to encourage everyone who would like to search the Learning Center for Resources to click on Life Support and work one on one with an advisor even if you have taken the webinar on how to use the LC for our personal classroom use and your personal development plan. In the meantime, I'll go ahead and attach the collection we spoke about to this email as the first gateway to view the resources. Thanks so much for sharing at the start of the 'New Year!' ~patty Click on 'Enliven First Days....' to gain entry to it.


Enliven First Days with Science Collection
(11 items)
Our Star, the Sun: Try these everyday activities that teach elementary and middle level students about the sun
     -Journal Article
Welcome to Rock Day
     -Journal Article
Geoscience for Preschoolers
     -Journal Article

Patricia Rourke
Patricia Rourke
45915 Activity Points

To SEARCH through Collections: Click on Home page Scroll down and click on Advanced Search Type the word 'collections' in the key word box and search When the Search page returns, one of the top rows will have Collections by Users and Collections by NSTA - click on one of these to begin your search for collections. If you come across a collection that you find useful; please don't be shy and do a quick- couple of sentence review of it so that other educators know to look at it. Enjoy the collections created by others and .....do..do...do...go ahead and create your personal collections of resources from those in your library. Share this with others and we all benefit from this collective store of great ideas and resources. Cheers...patty

Patricia Rourke
Patricia Rourke
45915 Activity Points

Hello Everyone, I'm a bit shy about sharing this information that was in this week's NSTA Book Beat sent via email to many members; however, it is appropriate for thinking about first day activities for elementary and middle school students. The shyness emerges due to my having several successive posts. I don't want to seem like the only poster; I know there are great ideas that all of you have to share. Please join the conversation. ~patty .....ps...a collection of Eichinger's chapters is attached Starting the Year Off Right Jill Swango and Sally Steward open Help! I’m Teaching Middle School Science (grades 6–8) with a wonderful collection of ideas, games, and activities designed to captivate students’ enthusiasm for science and problem solving. Read the free chapter “The First Day” for clever icebreaker activities like The Simplest Quiz and Just Read the Directions, which can help create a comfortable, lively, and active atmosphere for learning. Elementary teachers can use author John Eichinger’s activity “What Do You See? Visual Observation” (from Activities Linking Science With Math, K–4) to boost students’ observation skills; students observe closely and then sketch familiar and unfamiliar objects, honing key science process skills as they go. High school teachers will find a wealth of ideas in Lynn Bell and John Park’s chapter “Digital Images and Video for Teaching Science” from Technology in the Secondary Science Classroom (grades 6–12). The chapter includes suggestions for using images or video to introduce just about any science topic and then following up with creative questioning to capture students’ attention and set the context for later comprehension of the topic being investigated. As Yogi Berra once said, “You can observe a lot just by watching.”


Chapters: Activities Linking Science and Math K-4 Collection
(7 items)
Investigating Textures
     -Book Chapter
Exploring the Mysteries of Fingerprints
     -Book Chapter
Science and Math on Television
     -Book Chapter

Patricia Rourke
Patricia Rourke
45915 Activity Points

Patty - those are great responses - please don't be shy! One thing that I am crazy insistent upon is that every class from PreK - 5th grade get outside and find a tree during the first week of school. Sit under it. Read by it. Take a picture of it. Make leaf and bark rubbings from it. Place a piece of bright curling ribbon around one small branch to watch as the seasons change throughout the year. Take measurements - how many kids around? How big is a leaf compared to my hand? Make predictions - what do we think our tree will look like on the first day of Autumn? Ask questions? What color do you think the leaves will change to? Observe. Do any animals live here? Listen. What does the wind sound like in our tree right now? etc etc. Its a great easy way to get students engaged outside doing science and participating in a long term investigation. It also always gives me an instant connection with the kids when I come in to a room.

Caryn Meirs
Caryn Meirs
26205 Activity Points

Along those lines, I will share a unit that with my grade 5-6 students that was an integrated science/social studies/language arts unit. Each of my students did what Caryn suggested to start. They chose a tree of their own to study and they studied it through the seasons. Then they extended their learning to the village where they each learned about a new tree , photographed and eventually created a Field Guide to Peacham's Trees. I will share some of the work in a posting later today as I am work and do not have access to all my files. Kathy

Kathy Renfrew
Kathy Renfrew
34175 Activity Points

Along the lines of Caryn's passion for tree observation (which I share), two of the articles in the Science Inquiry in Early Childhood: PreK, Kindergarten-Grade 2 Collection are about observing the growth and changes in trees.
From "Adding Inquiry" to "Doing Science" by Diana Weller and Carla Finkelstein
A Walk in the Woods: A partnership with an arboretum gets preschoolers outside--and into science. by Cynthia Hoisington, Nancy Sableski, and Imelda DeCosta.
Trees do grow and change in locations with subtle seasonal changes but changes might be more dramatic in other perennial plants.
Peggy

Peggy Ashbrook
Margaret Ashbrook
9535 Activity Points

Thanks everyone for sharing these great ideas. Since I teach Kindergarten, I am always trying to make those first days of school very engaging for students, both to distract them from the separation anxiety and also to help them enjoy and look forward to coming to school. Recently, I have been using www.pbskids.org to access Sid the Science Kid. This animated show includes actual labs/experiments that students can try, and the labs are geared toward young children. For the past two years, I have had students try one of these Sid the Science Kid labs during the first week of school. They dig their hands in the dirt to get them really dirty. Then, they try to wipe off all the dirt with a paper towel. They use magnifying glasses to observe their hands, and they can see dirt lingering. Then, they dunk their hands in tubs of soapy water, sing the ABC song, dry with a paper towel, and again use the magnifying glasses. Of course, their hands are much cleaner. After they do the lab, I have them watch the Sid episode where the animated characters and real children do the same lab. They love seeing other kids and characters doing something they just did. Finally, the show closes with Sid and his classmates drawing and telling about their observations in their science journals. I then have my class record their observations in their journals too. I like this science activity because they are experimenting, exploring, using scientific tools, making hypotheses, and recording observations. It is also a great link to the importance of hand washing, which is another important topic for early in the Kindergarten year. Thanks again for sharing the other ideas about the gummy worms, feely boxes, and five senses books and resources. I’m going to try some of those activities as well.

Jennine Tambio
Jennine Tambio
1355 Activity Points

Jennine, Thanks for sharing a productive use of video. Doing the activity first, and then showing the video is so powerful—it keeps the real children at the center of the question-asking, not just mimicking others without thinking. Peggy

Peggy Ashbrook
Margaret Ashbrook
9535 Activity Points

I just wanted to jump in and say I have loved reading this thread. I've seen Sid the Science Kid on television before but never really watched it because my kids are older. I had NO IDEA they offered resources like that for teachers. I had to pull myself away from the videos! I know some elementary teachers I can't want to share this with! Great thread everyone! Kendra

Kendra Young
Kendra Young
17180 Activity Points

Kendra - I had the same reaction to Sid! Jennine - thank you so much for sharing how you use the video - awesome technique. Does anyone else have go to videos to share for this age group?

Caryn Meirs
Caryn Meirs
26205 Activity Points

These are all great activities! I found this really great website that lists a ton of different activities for all ages. If you go into the Pre-K link and find Bubble Fun #3, this can be a great first day activity. Kids of all ages love bubbles!

Stephanie Shaffer
Stephanie Shaffer
240 Activity Points

Wow - I really love the gummy worms idea! I also loved the lesson on using "Seven Blind Mice" - I have that book and I read it all the time, but never really thought to incorporate into my science lesson! as for sid the Science Kid - we watch that in show in Kindergarten and I really enjoy it...I guess I should try to icorporate that into my science curriculum. Thanks everyone for the great ideas!

Deanna Spain
Deanna
1195 Activity Points

Peggy, I think that how you introduced a book first was a wonderful idea. You not only had a follow up activity but introduced students to writing in their journals as well. This included a literary device in science which is so important and helps the students make connections. The students were also involved in a scientific inquiry experiment using their senses. This not only helped students make connections but allowed for them to use their journal as a useful tool. This helps give young students a feel of being a scientist, which is so important for them to develop. I also liked how you gave examples of books at the bottom that will help teachers find more activities like this. This can really help teachers make science more enjoyable for the students, as well as help them with the process of becoming scientists themselves. Thanks, Amanda

Amanda Moeller
Amanda Moeller
110 Activity Points

Thank you Amanda, I agree with you, but it is Maureen Stover who posted her lesson beginning with reading The Blind Men and the Elephant. (My name is on her post because she was quoting me.) I plan to use her pineapple exploration in my preschool class of four-year-olds, including having the children describe what they think they smell, and draw what they think they feel.
Peggy

Peggy Ashbrook
Margaret Ashbrook
9535 Activity Points

I have enjoyed reading these posts. There are wonderful ideas for creating interactive science lessons for young children. I loved the idea of using the gummy worms. I am studying to be a teacher, and I will keep these activity ideas in mind for future use. I will also be passing these posts on to my mom, because she teaches Kindergarten. Thank you for all of the wonderful ideas. Take Care, Justine

Justine Romito
Justine Romito
1240 Activity Points

I have really enjoyed reading this thread because it highlights the importance of introducing science to young children right away. I feel a lot of times science and social studies are put on the back burner, but I can see them being extremely beneficial in the first days of school. A lot of the ideas mentioned are cross curricular activities that incorporate many different skills. Why should we only teach writing if we could teach writing AND science? I think it is important to build lessons that are cross curricular because they will be more effective at reaching children and building lasting knowledge. Many of the ideas mentioned can be expanded to get students actively working right away in the year. These high expectations will lead to a very successful, hard working, motivated classroom.

Danyelle Hanes
Danyelle Hanes
855 Activity Points

Danyelle Hanes, December 1, 2011, 12:07 PM wrote:
I feel a lot of times science and social studies are put on the back burner, but I can see them being extremely beneficial in the first days of school. A lot of the ideas mentioned are cross curricular activities that incorporate many different skills. Why should we only teach writing if we could teach writing AND science? I think it is important to build lessons that are cross curricular because they will be more effective at reaching children and building lasting knowledge.

Hi Danyelle,

Welcome to this great discussion we have going in this thread! I couldn't agree more that it is important to build on cross curricular lessons. With today high-stakes testing environment, it can be difficult to find time to for subjects like science and social studies. Do you have examples of how you create cross-curricular connections in your classroom?

Thanks!

Maureen

Maureen Stover
Maureen Stover
41030 Activity Points

Hi everyone! I also will have to agree with Danyelle. I think that the majority of the reason why science and social studies are left behind, is because some…not nearly all educators may not feel comfortable with certain topics. I think that by team teaching and incorporating interdisciplinary units will benefit all learners and all types of learning, while making teachers “comfortable”. Using literature is always a great way to cross-curricular content. Using literature to engage students into science is very beneficial and a great way to keep progress in a lesson. The trade books by Gail Gibbons are a great resource for teachers, parents and students. Hannah

Hannah Lestan
Hannah Lestan
1100 Activity Points

I think it is very important for educators to grasp the interest of students, so that they in turn will be more curious to participate. If students are engaged in science they will on their own ask questions and create their own inquiries. I agree with Hanna Lestan, I think it is very important to incorporate literature across the curriculum. For a unit my plan on stars and constellations I thought that it would be appropriate to read to the students little legends and mythological accounts as to why certain constellations are named after people or animals. I do not think the first day is too soon to introduce science; in fact it could be the day in which the students have an opportunity to do observations and tie them to their own experiences and prior knowledge. -Rocio

Rocio Garcia
Rocio Garcia Rangel
750 Activity Points

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