Thanksgiving Then and Now STEAM Centers

Hey y'all! Science centers have been a game changer in our classroom. If you haven't tried them yet, you can check out how we do them in our classroom here (and grab a freebie!). 

Thanksgiving centers are integrated with reading, writing, science, and social studies—an awesome way to fit it all in! 

On Monday, we work as a whole group. We read a book about the first Thanksgiving, then do a "then and now" sort in our notebooks. 

Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday, students go to six different centers to learn and explore about pilgrims and Native Americans.

Students will build pilgrim houses, make quahog necklaces, and build a Mayflower.

Three centers in this unit include informational books about the first thanksgiving and the people that were there.

On Friday, we come together as a group to make butter just like the pilgrims used to do. (You know, with heavy cream from the grocery store and using Tupperware containers!) The kids LOVE this activity and it's a fabulous way to get the wiggles out on a Friday afternoon. 

And the best part of these science units is that ALL THE LESSON PLANS ARE INCLUDED! Materials needed, how tos, science notebook pages, plans, the whole nine yards…They're all there!

You can check out the Thanksgiving STEAM Unit here and all of the science units here. Stay tuned for more Thanksgiving and Christmas STEAM centers coming soon. Have a wonderful weekend!


Four Things Your Kindergartener REALLY Needs Before School Starts

Hey, y'all! School is starting, supplies have been purchased, lunch boxes have been filled, but what does your child really need to start school. The list is simple and all things are free.

1. Your child needs to know how to tie their own shoes. In a world of Velcro and slip ons, we need to take the time to teach our children how to tie their own shoes. This is a step toward independence and your child's teacher will thank you for it. I assign this task for homework the first week of school. Those who already know how get a free week without homework. Those who don't, learn a meaningful skill.

2. Your child needs to be able to recognize and write his or her own name. And if your child goes by a nickname, they need to know what their real name is since that's what the teacher and school are going to recognize first. I was helping a kindergartener in the breakfast line one year on the first day of school. The students were to tell the cafeteria person their name to be charged for their breakfast. I asked one child what her name was and she responded, "Baby Girl." This baby had no idea what her real name was because her family had always called her "Baby Girl." Since she didn't know her name, she certainly couldn't write or recognize her name, and couldn't tell where her stuff was supposed to go in the classroom. It was a tough start to the year for her. So please, teach your child how to recognize and write their own name. Your child will thank you for it. (You know, when they're like 35 and taking their own kid to kindergarten!)

3. Your child needs to be able to read the words "the" and "said." In addition to having a firm foundation in letter sounds and identification, you child needs to learn these two sight words as soon as possible. This will make learning to read so much easier on him or her. I can't tell you how many times I've sat with a kiddo who's trying to sound out the word "the" and saying "tuh-huh-e." It's painful. Both of these words are in almost every picture book. Find the word together, say it together, spell it together. Do this repeatedly until your child starts finding them on their own. Your child's teacher will thank you for it.

4. Your child needs to know how include the lonely kid. There will always be a kid who's playing by alone. Teach your child how to include others in their play. I know some kids are more shy than others, and you may have to teach your child to accept the new kid rather than reach out to them. It's totally your call. But in a world full of exclusions and divisions, teach your child to be accepting of others and compassionate. Your child's teacher and classmates will thank you for it.

There are obviously many more skills that you can teach your child to set them up for success in school. Manners, using an inside voice, and following directions right away are also extremely important. I included the skills above because they are so often overlooked but so powerful in education. You don't have to have lots of money or a huge supply of books or pencils to teach these skills. You only have to care and that's the best support your child could ever have.

I hope your school year is off to a smooth start and you and your child have a wonderful year.

Halloween STEAM Centers

Hey y'all! Fall is in the air! I know it's still over 100 degrees in much of the country, but that won't stop me from drinking my salted caramel mocha from Starbucks and dreaming of pumpkins!

Now we all know academics are TOUGH during the week of Halloween. And this year, Halloween falls right smack dab in the middle of the week. So rather than fight it, our class is going to embrace it!

In our class, science centers are the norm. We LOVE the independence and exploring things on our own. Why should Halloween be any different.

On Monday, we read "Five Little Pumpkins" and check out what happens to candy pumpkins when we dissolve them in different kinds of liquids.

Tuesday through Thursday, we rotate centers. We build bridges from popsicle sticks to hold our 5 little pumpkins.

We race spiders across the table by blowing into straws. We learn about force and motion by creating our own wind. If you can't find plain plastic spiders, you can cut the ring part off some spider rings. 

We learn about engineering and anatomy by building skeletons out of cotton swabs. This picture was of a cat skeleton but it got a little wonky. :-p

We learn about light and shadows by making shadow puppets out of construction paper. Oh the excitement! Who doesn't love shadow puppets?

Wanna blow your students' minds? Teach them how to make optical illusions! They will still be making these long into next semester. What better way to teach a love of learning and exploration!

Totally gross out your students by building a maze for an eyeball! You can use a marble or draw an eye on a ping pong ball. Either way, your students will love building their own maze and trying to get the ball from one end to the other. Talk about problem solving in action!

On Fridays, we do whole class experiments/activities. For this week, we'll be making catapults and launching marshmallow ghosts into a cup. I purchase plastic cauldrons from the dollar store for this activity.

Now, I am the LAST person that wants to shoot things across my classroom. (Can you say "chaos?") But if there's one thing my high school physics teacher taught me is that you have to take chances. And that those chances are the things that stick with your students and get them excited about science. (Thank you Mr. Didier!) So…we're going to launch ghosts.

In this activity, students learn physics, momentum, velocity, problem-solving, teamwork and so much more. It's a win-win.

To check out the full Halloween STEAM Unit, click here. I hope you enjoy these centers in your classroom and stay on the lookout for Thanksgiving STEAM Centers coming soon!