Monday, March 24, 2014

Our new worm compost!

As part of our exploration into what happens in spring, we are making a classroom worm compost! I started off by writing a "How to Make a Worm Compost" book, which ties in perfectly to our "how-to book" unit that we are doing in Writers Workshop right now. Here's how we did it!

First, you need some worms, and of course you need to spend some time exploring what worms look and feel like.

If touching a worm is a bit too creepy, you can just observe it from afar and take notes in your science journal.

You could even build a home for the worms using pencils!

And now, onto How to Make a Worm Compost. First, you need some red worms, a bucket of soil, some newspaper, and a compost bin.

Then you need to rip the newspaper into skinny shreds.

It is so fun!

Then you get the newspaper damp (not too wet and soggy).

Next, you put the newspaper into the compost bin and fluff it up.

Then you add the worms to their new home! And observe what they do, of course (which is squirm away from the light as quickly as possible).

Finally, you need to make signs so the rest of the school knows that our classroom has a worm compost. Older classes can bring food that would otherwise go to waste, and the worms will eat it! Here are the signs we made, which included information on what worms can and can't eat. Each pair of kindergarteners got to choose anywhere in the school halls to display their poster, which was so exciting. They also used great teamwork designing and making the posters together!

And happy spring break! Hopefully we will see some worms coming out due to warm weather and rain soon!

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Studying families in social studies

This post is a little late, since we studied Families in social studies a long time ago by now! But I wanted to share some of the things we did. We read lots of different books about all different types of families. Our main definition of family was "the people who love you," since families can be so many different shapes and sizes. Here are some of the projects we did while sharing all about our families:

Family photos and drawings

Saturday, March 15, 2014

What happens in spring? Our investigation

This month we are starting an investigative science unit organized around one central question: What happens in spring? I hope to increase the kindergarteners' observational skills through this open-ended, integrative unit. Each week we will look at a different aspect of springtime, including birds, worms, chicks, and bugs. I'll also have lots of ways for the kids to explore both outdoors and in, so that they begin to notice signs of spring all around us. Here are some ways we have started investigating:

Sit Spots
I first posed our essential question to the class at the beginning of March, when the weather was still freezing and snow covered the ground. We kicked off the unit by going outside and finding a "sit spot," where the students sat with their science journals and wrote or drew everything they saw around them. We'll do the same thing again several more times as the weather gets warmer and warmer.

The Wonder Table
We have a new Wonder Table in our classroom, complete with magnifying glasses, balances, and other tools for observation. Kindergarteners have been bringing in items to add to the Wonder Table, as they notice them outside in their yard and around their homes. So far we have collected a snake skin, a wasp's nest, lots of types of rocks, shells, and a bird's nest. Hopefully as the weather warms up we'll continue to add items to investigate! Below are some pictures of the kids exploring the Wonder Table. Particularly popular is the set of animal tracks that have suddenly appeared hidden around the room, plus the kid-friendly field guides for identifying animal tracks!

Learning about Birds
We have also been doing an in-depth study of birds from our area for the past week. I am lucky enough to work at the local nature center, so I have access to bird mounts and lots of other environmental education materials that I can bring into the classroom. For Mystery Bag Monday, I hid a bird mount of an indigo bunting, and the kids guessed what was hidden inside the bag based on my clues.

Then we passed around six different bird mounts and shared our observations about them.

Next I hid nine different types of stuffed birds in the school library, and the scientists had to work together to find them all and identify them from a checklist. This was SO exciting and definitely something to try again later!

Next we looked a great-horned owl mount, and talked about the parts of a bird. We focused in particular on bird beaks, and how different birds have different shaped beaks, in order to eat different things in their environment! We did a "Bird Beak Experiment," where each group of scientists got a different mock beak, to emulate the shape of a certain species of bird. For example, tongs emulated an owl's curvy, sharp beak; a straw emulated a hummingbird's long narrow beak; a tweezers emulated a robin's thin pointed beak. They then rotated between food stations and tried to see which item was easiest to eat - water (to represent nectar), gummy worms (to represent worms and insects), cookies (to represent meat), and sunflowers seeds (to represent nuts and seeds). They then shared their conclusions and we looked at which beak represented which type of bird! Here are pictures of the investigation:

For the last part of our bird study, we got to choose between searching for animal tracks, reading bird books (including an amazing one that plays bird calls for different types of birds), playing a bird matching game on the ipad, and making a Backyard Bird Field Guide. It was so much fun!

Last, we had a station during Literacy time where each pair of kids could make a bird feeder out of Fruit Loops. After recording the colors they used, they got to go outside and find a place in our playground tree to hang the bird feeder. Here are the little scientists pointing to their creations!

At the end of the week, we shared signs of spring we have observed so far. Here's to hoping that the weather continues to warm so we can learn and play outside even more!