SCIENCE LESSON IDEAS
During our Habitat unit, we spend a significant amount of time discussing the different adaptations that animals and plants have to help them survive in their habitat. We learn that structural adaptations are parts of an animal's or plant's body that help them to survive and that behavioural adaptations are something about the way the plant or animals behaves that help it to survive. Once students are comfortable with these terms and their meanings, I present the "Create-A-Creature" challenge!
Students are required to create a creature that doesn't exist. Combining animals that they already know about has seemed to be a popular trend in our classes. Some examples that we have had include the 'walrusphant' (half walrus and half elephant), the 'porcusnake' (half porcupine and half snake) and the 'mougirwhale' (part mouse, part giraffe and part whale). Next, students determine the habitat that this creature will live in. This takes some thought, particularly if they have combined different animals together. The final (and most important) task is for the students to decide upon, and write about the adaptations that their creature will have to help it survive in it's habitat! The final product includes a picture of the creature and a written report about the habitat and adaptations. Explanations about why the particular habitat has been chosen and how the adaptations help it to survive are key in evaluation of the children's understanding. After displaying our work for a period of time to allow discussion, we combine our activity pages to create our own "Creatures of the Unknown!" book.
"What Can Sound Travel Through?"
One of our required science units is the study of light and sound. We often combine these together for one very large unit as the principles of light and sound parallel each other. During our study of the basic properties of sound, we learn about the types of objects or materials that sound can travel through. Specifically, we learn that sound can travel through solids, liquids and gases.
To begin, I hand out an experiment sheet that outlines the Problem (What can sound travel through?), Materials and Method. For this activity, the students are only required to complete their Predictions, Observations and Conclusions on their own. Once we are set up and ready to go, we quickly review the mini "tests" that the students will need to do to discover exactly what materials or objects sound can travel through. The observation chart that the students receive is something like the one below...
After giving a brief demonstration of what each test entails, the students head off in partners to complete their observations. After completing the "tests" they should discover that sound travels through solids (the chalkboard and the desk), liquids (the bell and tuning fork under water) and gases (the air of the room and the air in the balloon). Encourage the students to be specific and report on details as they complete their observations. For example, while holding the balloon against the speaker while the music plays, they feel the sound vibrations, whereas when they listen as their partner knocks the chalkboard, they hear the sound and the vibrations travel through the chalkboard. The kids love the mini tests because they are quick and easy to do. They have fun as they learn about the science of sound!
"Transparent, Translucent and Opaque"
While studying the science of light, students must understand the difference between transparent (light can travel through), translucent (some light can travel through) and opaque (no light can travel through). After discussing what these terms mean and exploring some examples of materials that have these three qualities, the students are ready for a challenge. I bring in lots and lots of materials and place them on a table for display. As a group, we go through each item, writing it's name on the chalkboard. This creates a list that will later help the students to be sure they have explored each and every item. After going over each item, the students create a chart like the one below...
The remainder of the activity is simple. Students choose any item from the table to determine if it is transparent, translucent or opaque and record it in the proper column of their chart. They explore every item, being sure to use the list on the chalkboard to help them. Below is a list of some of the items that I bring in.
* One of the best places to visit to collect lots of glass samples is your local mirror, window or stained glass business. When I visited ours, I was given about 10 free samples of a wide variety of glass and the person working there smoothed all the edges free of charge so there wasn't a risk of the students being injured!
After completing the sorting activity, we discuss if we can write any "set" rules about the type of material and whether it is translucent, transparent or opaque. Plastic is an interesting material to discuss as the students discover that it can be all three. After our discussion, students record their findings. This is a fun and easy activity for the students to complete. It sparks lots of discussion and when it is all finished, my class always knows the difference between transparent, translucent and opaque!
This is an activity that I decided to try at the very beginning of our Rocks and Minerals unit. I was very surprised by how excited the kids got when we did this. If you are looking for a fun way to get kids involved and interested in your unit, a rock hound exploration is it! About two weeks prior to this activity have the students bring in a shoe box. This box will serve as their "Rock Specimen" container. The day before we went on our rock hound exploration, the students decorated their boxes. We covered them in construction paper, decorated them, etc.
The next day we set out to explore our playground, the woods behind our school and the sidewalks in front of our school with our specimen boxes in hand. The students were simply told to collect any interesting rock specimens that they could find. Several were armed with magnifying glasses (plastic lenses) that they could use for an "up close" investigation of a potential rock sample. We spent a good hour searching, discussing and collecting! When we returned to the class, the kids were incredibly excited! They shared their samples with each other and began to talk about their different rocks.
We used these rocks throughout the entire unit. While we were using Moh's Scale of Hardness, the kids got to bring 3 of their personal samples for testing. We completed a "limestone" test and "magnetism" test as well. Even though I had samples for the kids to test, their own samples proved each and every time to interest them the most!
At the very end of the unit, each student chose their favourite rock and we made pet rocks. After decorating them with google eyes, paint, sparkles, etc., the students wrote (from the perspective of their pet rock!) about the unit, commenting on their favourite parts and what the most important things were that they learned. Although it seems too good to be true, this is a super fun activity that really motivates the kids (and it doesn't require a lot of work on the part of the teacher either!)