Wednesday, January 7, 2015

Planning Some Winter Fun

We are back into the swing of school after a wonderful holiday break. We are in process of wrapping up old business, assessing progress and planning for the second half of our school year.

With the frigid weather, First Sprout has been showing a lot of interest in the science of snow. I sat down with some resource books and the internet to plan out a few ideas for a cross-curricular unit. I tried to fancy up my notes a little bit so that I could share them here in a friendly, printable format.

This photograph does not adequately convey the snow or the cold that is happening right now.

I didn't go into a lot of detail on materials or procedures on the print out, but here's a more detailed description of what we're planning:

*solid, liquid and gas balloons*

I found a really neat blog post from A Day in First Grade that helps children to identify the states of matter and distinguish the characteristics of solids, liquids and gasses using balloons. The idea is to fill two balloons with water and freeze one. Then, fill up a third balloon with air. Children can then observe and compare the three balloons to introduce and reinforce science vocabulary.

*ice melt observations*

This activity will help children explore the question; "What happens when frozen water is warmed slowly?" Since many children have seen ice melt before, this activity provides and opportunity to slow down and use science processes such as prediction, data collection (measurement), recording observations with pictures, and drawing conclusions. Children can also compare how ice melts in air versus water, if you are so inclined. 

*boiling ice*

I found this idea in Dad's Awesome Book of Science Experiments by Mike Adamick, which was one of my husband's Christmas presents. It's a great book, and I plan to use it as a school resource since dads shouldn't get to have all the science fun. This activity helps children explore; "What happens when frozen water is warmed rapidly?" The basic idea is to freeze water dyed with food coloring in an ice cube tray. When you ice cubes are ready, boil a pot of water, add the ice, and watch what happens. This would be a natural progression from watching ice melt because you can compare and contrast what happens when the ice is warmed up rapidly rather than gradually. (Obviously requires constant adult supervision.)

*make it snow*

So, there were quite a few videos circulating last year of people throwing boiling water into very cold air to make instant snow. It seems cool, BUT I plan to be very very careful when trying this because a lot of people also got burned trying it out. If you have a safe place to try it, protected from the wind, that won't potentially harm any passersby, then it would be a really neat experiment to try. Otherwise, this one might just be better to check out on video. This activity helps to explore: "What happens when boiling water is cooled rapidly?" It can also be useful for addressing science process skills such as making predictions, observing reactions, and recording results. (Again, this one requires constant adult supervision. Please be careful!)

*Read aloud: Snowflake Bentley by Jacqueline Briggs-Martin*

Snowflake Bentley is the kid-friendly biography of Wilson A. Bentley, a photographer and scientist who devoted his life to studying the structure of snowflakes. It's a great book for tying mathematics, art, and history into a winter unit.

*snowflake observations*

I pulled this activity from The Kids' Science Book by Robert Hirschfeld and Nancy White, and it is pretty simple. The idea is to take a piece of black paper and a magnifying glass outside on a snowy day. As snowflakes, land on the paper, children can use a magnifying glass to get a closer look. It's a great opportunity to practice observation and it ties in beautifully with Snowflake Bentley!

*paper snowflakes*

Explore symmetry and geometry with this classic winter art project. There are tons of tutorials and guides available on how to make snowflakes with paper. The two most helpful tricks I've discovered are starting with square (or circular paper) and folding it into sixths (fold it in half first, then into thirds). This results in a more realistic hexagonal structure that can be tied into your observations and reading.

*snow painting*

Make the snow your canvas by putting dyed water into squeeze (or spray) bottles and painting the snow. I haven't personally tried this one out yet, but I am hoping to review color mixing by starting with the primary colors (red, yellow, blue) and seeing what we can create from there.

*Read aloud: 100 Snowmen by Jennifer Arena*

This book is super cute and chock-full of math. The snowmen are outside playing, and the book playfully leads you through a series of math sentences building to a grand total of 100. It's a great way to play with math, and you can challenge your children to see if they can create a different way of proving the math correct.

*How to build a snowman*

I wanted to include a writing project with our winter unit, and it seems like a good opportunity to practice informational writing. Children can create a list of needed materials (independently or with help via shared writing) and then plan out the steps for building a snowman. Of course, this is a good excuse to get out and build some snowmen for... umm... educational purposes. Kids need background knowledge, after all. I am planning on creating templates for this project and more "how to" writing projects since I think they are a fun take on informational writing-- please stay tuned for more!

Until next time, I hope you all are staying warm!

Happy Learning!

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