Thursday, December 20, 2012

Chemo Care Package Ideas

Confession...I'm one of "those people" who change the TV channel when I see telethons for children with cancer. I avoid images of suffering children for the reasons you would suspect; but mainly because I've never wanted to think it could happen to my own kids, or to a child in my family.

My thirteen year old niece has cancer. 

Use a soft long-sleeve t-shirt to make a matching chemo cap and cup cozy: from STEMmom.orgMaggie (not her real name) has been sick since November, but didn't get her diagnosis of Hodgkin's Lympomia until mid December. In the world of cancer, this one has the best prognosis, so for that we are thankful. However, the next year will take its toll on her, her body, and her family. 

I imagine there are many who could articulate this better than me, but I feel so hopeless. I want to help the family, comfort them, provide help when I can, without being too pushy. I want them to know we are praying for the family, but I'm scared I'll say the wrong thing. 

Maggie has asked for fun hats to wear when her hair falls out (long beautiful blond hair). This project has helped me deal with her sickness and allows me to do something constructive! I've researched what chemo patients prefer, what is popular, and what is comfortable. I am surprised not to find many tips for kids going through chemo, but maybe I'm just not looking in the right places. If you know where to go to get ideas, please let me know.

I went to a thrift shop and found lots of fabrics and scarves, and I'm hoping to sew some great head coverings after Christmas. But for now, I'm providing t-shirt caps, flower clips,  scarves, and store bought hats.  I was amazed to find out, that using really soft t-shirts is preferred by patients for around the house and for sleeping. You simply cut the the shirt under the arm pits to create a tube, put the finished edge on your forehead, and then twist the remainder at the nape of your neck.  Although I found this great tutorial for how to customize the t-shirt cap at Fehr Trade. Maybe when I see Maggie I can get her head measurements and make it fitted for her!

I found some wonderfully soft long-sleeve shirts and after I cut below the arms I realized that the sleeves would make a nice cup cozy for some hot chocolate or coffee! You could decorate your cozy with buttons and other embellishments; but I'm leaving mine plain.

Saturday, December 15, 2012

Easy Handprint Calendar

Easy Handprint Calendar;

I put this calendar together for less than $2! I decided to make two at once. I figure, since my boys' hands are painted, I might as well make doubles. However, I will be honest and say that you'll probably need a lot of patience, as my kids didn't enjoy sitting down to make the handprints all in one sitting. My 18 month old did handprints for 6 of the months, but it took two afternoons. I was able to get my 5 year old to do it in one afternoon, but it was a challenge to keep him on task, as well as the paint on the table and water from spilling. 

Here are the materials you need:

  • patience...I'm not kidding!
  • $1.00 calendar (from the dollar store) size 12x12"
  • 12 pieces of white cardstock
  • Paper trimmer or scissors
  • Corner punch (optional)
  • Single hole punch
  • Ink (optional for inking the edges of the cardstock before putting it down on the scrapbook paper)
  • Various colors of paint
  • 12 pieces of 12x12 scrapbook paper
  • Adhesive (I suggest repositionable) or glue
  • Little hands
  • bowl for washing hands
  • towel for drying hands
  • Ideas for handprints for each month: I got my ideas from E is Explore

Getting Kids organized for the Kid Handprint Calendar:

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Soil Permeability and Porosity Lab

Soil Permeability and Porosity lab: 3 student versions from

While on my journey of learning what inquiry is NOT, I now realize that I might have had a smoother transition if I had seen some of the labs I was used to doing to compare to higher-level inquiry labs  that  have similar goals. So when I have time, I've been modifying the labs I post to include both a cookbook version along with an inquiry version.  At the end of this post I offer a free single download that includes three versions of the same lab, a coobook version, inquiry version, and science notebook inquiry version. 

Cookbook Version of the Soil Permeability and Porosity Lab 

The cookbook version of this soil lab provides a list of materials, a detailed procedure complete with directions on how data should be collected and recorded. The labs have pre and post lab questions that help students process what they learned from completing the lab experience. Although the term "cookbook lab" is usually said with distain, they have their purpose. My suggestion to you is to be sure you can tell the difference between cookbook labs and the varying levels of inquiry, and use them purposefully to help build students up the inquiry levels throughout the year. 

Student working on Soil Permeability and Porosity lab: from

Materials needed for Permeability Lab
  • water
  • gravel, sand, and dirt (about 1 cup per group)
  • funnel
  • 3 coffee filters
  • ring stand (optional...we didn't have them)
  • stopwatch or watch with a second hand
Materials for Porosity Experiment
  • water
  • graduated cylinder (100 mL minimum)
  • 6 clear, plastic cups
  • permanent marker
  • metric ruler
  • large, medium, and small pebbles (about 1 cup per group)

Soil samples for a Soil Permeability and Porosity lab: from

Inquiry Versions of the Soil Permeability and Porosity Lab 

I have two inquiry versions of this soil lab. Both versions have students gather and request the  materials they'll need to meet their challenge.

Inquiry challenge: "Develop a way to measure soil porosity and to develop a way to compare the permeability of different soils."          
The inquiry versions lead students through brainstorming, and then ask them to hypothesize which samples have the most permeability and porosity. Both Inquiry versions refer to "Play Time" which is where they are guided by questions and given time to play with their materials to test ideas they have before they write a procedure they will use as a compare their soil samples. Students doing an inquiry version of these soil labs come up with their own data tables in which to put their results. 

The difference between the two inquiry versions is that the first leads students a bit more than the third version, which I call the "Science Lab Notebook" version. In this third version I don't provide any post lab questions, instead, I gently guide students in how to write a lab write up using the following categories: Procedure, Data and Results, Analysis and Conclusions, Limitations, and Social Applications.       

Final results of Soil Permeability and Porosity lab: from

I've been working with my students to increase the level at which they develop procedures themselves. Therefore, we did the first inquiry lab. I am concentrating on having them "play" and then develop their own procedures for labs we do. While I don't have them memorize the phases of the scientific method, I am introducing them to the lingo; contstants, control, manipulated (independent) variable, responding (dependent) variable, extraneous variables, control groups vs. experimental groups. You'll notice in the post lab questions, I'm getting students to think about these things. 

Challenges of Implementing Inquiry

I am finding that inquiry is easier for me to teach when I'm teaching a concept outside of my STEM passion area. For me, my passion is biology. I find I hold too closely to the procedures I used when learning a lab, and I have too narrow a view of what I think students should be learning. For this soil lab, teaching at an inquiry level was easier for me because I'm not as familiar with how scientists actually perform these measurements in their own research. My goal was not for them to figure out how scientists do it, but to find accurate, measurable ways to compare differences in soil. I'm more concerned about the scientific research thinking process, then the content-specific answers they come up with.  

In Inquiry Learning, Encourage Students to Admit Being Wrong

At this stage in their learning, students want to design an experiment, and then be able to say "it worked." However, because I let them design their procedures, there is a possibility that the method they chose didn't test what they thought it would. An important question to ask students, is "How confident are you that your results answer the question you set out to answer?" You'll need to ask this question in a variety of ways. Such as, "Is it possible that the method you designed, gave you misleading data? How could you improve your procedure to fix this?" In this particular lab, student should address how well their procedure measured permeability and porosity. We've got to stop students thinking they should "get the answer" the first time they try. STEM is about designing ways to find answers, and rarely can we do that the first time!     

Soil Permeability and Porosity lab: 3 student versions from

All three of these labs are available for FREE at my Teachers Pay Teachers store. Please visit if you'd like to download a copy of these labs. I'd love to hear from you if you download this file! Leave me comments here, or at my TPT store!

If you like having options for labs, another lab you may want to check out is my Marshmallow Flight Lab where I provide both a cookbook version and an inquiry student version. 

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Gluesticks: SUPER Science Kit! (Christmas Gift Idea)

Gluesticks: SUPER Science Kit! (Christmas Gift Idea)

Spoiler Alert to my family members! This is what your kids are getting for Christmas! Can you believe it? A Science Kit for a Christmas gift! Wonderful idea!

Nicole (former chemistry teacher) @ Thrifty Decorating, also posted about putting together a science kit!

This idea is STEM Mom Approved!  

Monday, November 12, 2012

Matching Color Pictures to Color Words

Free Student Printable: Matching Color Pictures to Color Words: from

Well, I've uploaded my first document to Teachers Pay Teachers. I've downloaded a lot of great resources through this website, and support the concept of paying hard-working teachers directly for the great materials they develop. I'm checking out how this goes, and may post more of my printables there. 

In our kindergarten goals, we will be learning our color words. I couldn't find anything I really liked or that had a progression of recognizing, reading, and then writing color words, so I've developed a series of handouts that we will be using. This set is just the first in a series...more to come. 

Sample Student Printable page for "Matching color pictures to color words" from

Here is my description of the handout that I posted on TPT. These student handouts will help emerging readers recognize 10 color words and to distinguish it from other color words. Product includes 5 student activity pages, with two colors per page. The colored pairs include green and red, blue and orange, yellow and purple, black and white, pink and brown. Directions at the top of each page read, "Look at the picture and say its color. Draw a line from the picture to all the words that spell its color. There are 5 for each picture." The color words are written in a variety of all uppercase letters or in all lowercase letters as well as a variety of font types.
Sample Student Printable page for "Matching color pictures to color words" from

If you are interested in downloading this free printable, you can visit my TPT store by clicking on the button.

Kindergarten, Sixth, Seventh, Eighth, Ninth, Tenth, Eleventh, Twelfth, Higher Education, Homeschooler -

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Wormy Art and Handwriting

Kindergarten Unit on Worms from No Doubt Learning, STEMmom, and The Usual Mayhem

Welcome to the last official Wormy Wednesday! I've had so much fun developing this earthworm unit with Andrea from No Doubt Learning and Erin from The Usual Mayhem
One of the art projects we did as part of our worm unit was to use rubber worms to stamp patterns. However, it became a bit more like worm throwing than stamping here at our house!  

"Ww" art piece using rubber worms:

Boy painting art piece using rubber worms:

Finished art piece by a kinder using rubber worm:

Worm-themed art and handwriting from

Like many boys in kindergarten, my son is not a big fan of practicing his handwriting. I have written    a lot about how well we've done with Handwriting Without Tears (HWT).  During our earthworm unit I continued some handwriting practice using the slate of HWT, and his workbook, but we also did some sensory activities with the letter "W" as well as the word "worm." 

Boy practicing the letter "W" using HWT:

Testing Wind Turbines: An Engineering Lab Part 2

Testing the Power of Student-Designed Turbines:

Previously I shared with you how I spent three class sessions on Building Wind Turbines from the Windwise Curriculum.  In this post I want to share how we tested to see how powerful our turbines were. 

Session 4: Increase your Wind Turbine's Ability to Do Work (its Power) 

I will admit when I read the power-testing section of the Windwise curriculum I was unsure of how it would work. They had a diagram of 2x4's to hold a power-testing contraption. I didn't feel like making an elaborate contraption for this lab, so I broke it down into what I knew I needed.

Needed to Build a Turbine Testing Apparatus

  • Fan
  • Pennies or other unit that has equal weight so numbers may be compared
  • Something to hold weight: paper or plastic cup
  • String or twine and tape
  • Way to attach weight and string to the turbines to be tested
    • straw
  • Elevated location next to the fan that allows the turbine's driveshaft to hold the string & weight  

Logistics of Power-Testing Apparatus

For those of you who are natural engineers and love to tinker, you may be able to skip this section. For those of us who are less comfortable with providing engineering experiences for kids, I want to describe the logistics behind the power-testing apparatus.  The idea here is that students bring their turbine, which includes a driveshaft attached to a hub that holds the blades (see my first post on Building Wind Turbines if you need more help with this) to the fan for testing.  Note that students don't build a vertical pole or a stand. They test their turbines by holding them next to the fan. Therefore, they can't be holding the driveshaft directly, it should slip into some sort of sleeve, like tubing or a straw. In our previous class session, students just held their turbines in front of the fan. However, now we want to know how much power their turbine has so we constructed (assembled is more like it) an apparatus.  

To test the power of the wind turbine, you want to hang weight on the end of the driveshaft to see how much weight it can lift. Correctly assembled, when the blades turn from the fan's wind, it turns the hub, which turns the driveshaft, which pulls the string. The string wraps around the driveshaft lifting the weight.  The videos below will help you see what I mean.       

Dixie cup pebble holder to test power on student-designed turbines:

Our weight holder (see photo above) was two small paper cups that we rigged with string so it would hold our pennies without tipping. Notice how our string makes an X shape to add stability. What you can't see in this photo is how the string is attached to the driveshaft. Remember, this contraption must be able to be removed from one student's driveshaft to be placed on another. The challenge is that the string must not slip when the driveshaft turns or the cup with weight will not be lifted. We overcame this challenge by attaching the string to a two inch piece of straw which then we slipped over the driveshaft and then taped to the driveshaft. This was strong enough to handle our testing yet we could easy remove the tape and slip the straw onto  the next turbine being tested.    

Sunday, November 4, 2012

Wormy Observations

In the development of our wormy experiments, we had some that didn't work so much as true scientific experiments (with something quantitative to measure), but were great at honing our observation skills and helped us to collect all kinds of qualitative data! 

Boy intently looking at his cut up worm:

Observing the Inside of a Worm Without Dissecting it!

You can place a worm between two pieces of glass and "see" all kinds of wonderful structures.  Initially I had hoped we would be able to see the pulse of blood moving through the heart or at least the dorsal vessel, but we couldn't see it. However, take a look at what we did see! See the silhouette? You can see the worm's digestive tract easily! We also got a good look at how the worms moves. As you can imagine, he wasn't so keen on being between glass, or held up to the light! 

Observing GI tract of Earthworm:

To do this all you need is two pieces of glass--ours came out of an old paned window--and some clay or playdough. The clay is to put in each of the four corners. This allows you to squeeze the two pieces of glass together without killing the worm. The photo below is us trying to slow down his heart rate by placing the glass over a bowl of ice water. 

Looking to see how worm is affected by cold temperatures:

Saturday, November 3, 2012

Physical Activities - Wormy Style

I just love how some of the best ideas seem to come out of nowhere. (Note: I realize however, that ideas most likely come from the extensive research done to prepare a unit, and the hours scouring through Pinterest.) But I digress. The first physical wormy activity I want to share is one I developed  that allows kids to role-play an earthworm in its environment. 

Materials Needed for the Worm Game

  • Sidewalk chalk
  • Visual cues of any/all of the following
    • Sun
    • Rain 
    • Fisherman (I scanned a page out of the book Diary of a Worm)
    • Moon (ours was a  Moon Lamp)  
    • Bird
Use Visual Cues for Worm Game: Sun, Rain, Moon, Fisherman:
Here'a a look at our Earthworm Chalk Course. I drew the soil line, then "tunnels" with larger burrow areas. I also made tunnels fork off one another. You see the possibilities? So fun. My son added grass to the soil line to make it more realistic! 

Chalk Worm Game: overall view:

Directions to Play the Worm Game

One person is the "caller" and you can have as many "worm" participants as your drawing can hold. 

The caller is in charge of the cues. The caller holds up the cue cards and the "worms" must respond accordingly. 
  • Sun: Worms go into their tunnels and go to sleep
  • Moon: Worms come out of their tunnels to the surface and look for food (leaves)
  • Rain: Worms come out of their tunnels to the surface (they can't breathe in saturated soil)
  • Fisherman/birds: Worms go deeper into the tunnels to avoid being captured/eaten

Moon Cue cause worms to come out of their tunnels: Worm Game at

Friday, November 2, 2012

Can Worms See Color?

Do Worms See Color?  Kindergarten Wormy Experiment from

As we wind down our Kindergarten Worm Unit, we did two last experiments. One esting whether or not worms see color and the other to see if certain areas on their body are more sensitive to light. I created a science lab notebook for kids, which you can download in my introductory post, Observing Worms

Do Worms See Color?

Boy using flashlight in worm color experiment:

For our color experiment, I had Caleb predict which color he thought the worm would most react to, and circle it in his notebook. Because we were using a flashlight with all kinds of colored filters, he had a a lot of choices. He predicted red. I think he recalled that we used a red light at the beginning of our unit when we went worm hunting at night. But he didn't make the connection that we used red light so the worms wouldn't be disturbed. Oh well.  
Ways to Make Colored Lights for Experiments:

This experiment has the same set up as the Light/Dark Wormy Experiment. We got out our trusty red school cookie sheet, lined it with wet paper towels, covered one side so it would be shaded, and then found all sorts of transparent colored object through which we could shine a flashlight on the worms. I used colored light bulbs and Color Paddles for a Light and Color Lab that I did with my high school class. The plastic lids we had from the kitchen also worked nicely, as did the Magna-Tiles Clear Colors that we already had!  I'd love to be able to tell you that the magnets held the Magna-Tiles to the metal flashlight, but they didn't. Caleb preferred the paddles because of the handle.  

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Gummy Worm Measuring Activity

Worm-themed Math activities: Gummy Worm Measuring from

No better activity than one in which you get to eat the data when you're done! In this post I'll share a simple measuring activity we did with gummy worms! This is our 4th week of Wormy Wednesdays with one more to go! Be sure to check out the Wormy Wednesday posts from Andrea at  No Doubt Learning and Erin at The Usual Mayhem

Cute boy with gummy worm in his mouth from 

In this earth worm activity, we measured the worm before stretching it and then afterward. We recorded these numbers in our notebook. This idea came from K-5 Math Teaching Resources. Here is a direct link to the Gummy Worm activity.  While I am American, I prefer metric! So as you can see below, we are measuring our worms using the metric side of the ruler.     

Measuring gummy worms in metric:

Both Caleb and I noticed that he became more aggressive with how far he was willing to stretch the worm each trial. The rule was, that we was supposed to pull the worm as far as he could without ripping it. Each time he pushed the envelope a bit more! 

Stretching and measuring a gummy worm! from

Here we are adding our data into a data table in his notebook. We started with a column for #cm before it was stretched, and a column for #cm after it was stretched.  On this particular day, it showed me that we really need to keep working on number formation. Note to self: Make some data tables that have the Handwriting Without Tears gray boxes in them. 

Recording Gummy Worm data, while eating a worm! from

Then to determine how MUCH longer the stretched worm was than the original worm, we guessed it poker chips. We have all sorts of manipulatives (counting bears and Uniffix cubes) but there is just something special about the texture and weight of a poker chip! 

So for example. We had one worm that stretched a total of 22 cm, and his original length was 10. So We Dad helped Caleb to line up the 22 chips and then "take-away"10. The number that remained, is the difference. We added another column to our data table and recorded these numbers (as we ate our gummy worms). I hope this activity helped him begin seeing how differences can be measured and compared. Even if it didn't, its a process right? And we had fun!   

Also, Andrea at No Doubt Learning and Erin at The Usual Mayhem have posted their week 4 activities for Wormy Wednesday! Go see what they've been doing with worms this past week! And just to give you a heads up, I'll be hosting a worm-themed linky opening next week, so if you have any earthworm activities, I'd love you to get them ready to link up! Have a wonderful week! 

My Button   Photobucket

If you liked this worm activity, you may enjoy the other earthworm ideas I've posted: You can click on the Worm Unit graphic in the sidebar, or if you prefer, here are some direct links to the individual posts (with more still to come).  

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Bonbon Break-New Hot Online Magazine for Women

Bonbon Break
Bonbon Break is an online magazine that features women bloggers! Kathy and Val scour the blogosphere each week in search of posts they want to share in their magazine. Bonbon Break has been rewarding for me, personally. Not only because I was asked to be a post contributor in the premiere issue, and several times since, (Toot! Toot!--that's me tooting my own horn!) but it has also been a great place to connect with other bloggers. All of the contributors have the option of joining the private Facebook group, and are able to make pins to the Bonbon Break's Pinterest board. It has been a real joy to meet other women passionate about their lives, and sharing it with anyone who wants to read about it. I know there are other sites whose goal is to unify the blogging community, but I really like Bonbon Break best. 

First, the name. Bonbon Break. I mean, don't we all need a Bonbon Break? So 'nuff said. Another reason I like Bonbon Break is because of the visual style of their site. In the pink ribbon across the top of their header, you can see the categories:
Front Porch, Kitchen, Family Room, Bedroom, Playroom, Mom Cave, and Backyard  

Sample Header of Bonbon Break: on

Each week Bonbon Break features 3-4 posts in each category. These posts really are the cream of the crop. I feel that Kathy and Val have a knack for picking a wide variety of topics that will appeal to most everyone. As you can see from the screen shot I took of the magazine this week, they feature each post with an image to help you quickly figure out where you want to go! (If you sign up for their email, you'll get the same beautiful layout!) 

Example of how Bonbon Break organizes its posts:

And yes, that's my son in the playroom. Our Light/Dark Worm Experiment, is being featured this week. 

Example of how Bonbon Break organizes its posts:
If you are a blogger, you MUST familiarize yourself with Bonbon Break. Not only for the great friends you'll find here, but also for a chance to become a post contributor. The submission link at the top of their page describes the upcoming posts they are looking for, describe the qualifications for being featured.  And even if you're not a blogger yourself, you'll still love the great pieces featured at Bonbon Break. So, if you haven't already, be sure to stop by and check it out! 

Monday, October 29, 2012

Math-Themed Worm Activities

Worm-themed Math Activities from

Science and math go hand in hand. As part of our kindergarten earthworm unit, Andrea from No Doubt Learning and Erin at The Usual Mayhem have assembled some great math activity that will be a great addition to any worm unit (or just for fun)! Some of the activities I'm going to share we developed ourselves, and others we've borrowed from the wonderful resources available. 

The first math activity I want to share are some AMAZING math manipulatives that focus on tens and ones. Andrea from No Doubt Learning designed these, and I can't say enough how great they are.  She actually has several different games in this free download. The bucket of worms represents the 10's and the single worms represent the ones.

Free Worm-themed Math Manipulatives from Do Doubt Learning:

Clever huh? In the first activity, children count the buckets and worms to and then write the double digit number the image represents. I used the answer sheet as an additional activity, by cutting strips apart and separating the answers so he could match the correct numbers with each row. My son still struggles with writing his numbers, so this was a nice warm up to the activity!   

Tens and ones..wormy style from

While my son can recognize numbers, but often forgets how to get started when writing numbers himself. So I  keep a laminated strip of the numbers that I copied from Handwriting Without Tears book. It ensures we are writing our numbers properly each time! (And yummy grapes...brain food?)

Tens and ones..HWT number writing at

Once I saw Andrea's first activity we brainstormed an idea to make tens and ones a game using the same graphics. The cards are designed so that the bucket cards have a different background as the one's. See my photo below. I laminated the Tens and Ones Recording sheet and used Dry Erase Crayons to record our answers. I've seen a number of unfavorable reviews of these crayons, but we love them. The complaint is that its too hard to erase. But this is why I like these crayons. The markers often wipe off way too easy, not allowing you to finish the activity. We keep pieces of felt handy to erase our crayons, and it works well.    

Tens and ones wormy worksheet by No Doubt learning @

To play the game each contestant draws a card from both the 10's and the 1's pile and writes the number the graphics symbolize. We made it competitive by seeing who would win each round. You can see that we put a check mark by the winner in each row.

Tens and ones wormy worksheet by No Doubt learning @

Rowdy in Room 300The next math activity I want to share is one we found on Mrs. Alderson's blog "Rowdy in room 300." She did all kinds of cool wormy activities in May 2012. The math activity came from a free TPT download called "Wondrous Worms." I used the Fact/Opinion assessment sheet found on pages 12 & 13, and then the "Ordering Those Squirmy Worms" activity on pages 16 and 17. I printed mine off on colored paper, because...why not? The children cut apart the numbers 1-20, and paste them in the correct order on the table.

Cutting and Counting Numbers:
But I took it to the next level, by having Caleb use poker chips (didn't have anything worm-themed) and cover up certain numbers to introduce him to skip counting. We started with even, then odd, then moved onto by 3's. This was a great way to begin talking about skip counting as he could visually see the missing numbers covered up, and then only say the numbers he did see!

Cutting and Skip Counting Numbers using poker

I am spending an entire post on our gummy worm measuring activity, but we also did this simple measuring activity called "Centimeter Worms" designed by Cynthia Vautrot. You can get this activity for free at her TPT store. The child uses playdough (or anything really) and makes various lengths of "worms." It was a simple concept but helped us work on the measuring skills (yeah metric..!) It was also neat to see how my son manipulated the dough to fit the measurement. Instead of taking dough off of the worm, he just squished it to fit. Hence the obese worms you see below!

Centimeter Worms: Playdough Measuring from

As you can see, we had a lot of fun with the wormy math activities we did! If you haven't already, be sure to check my earthworm page to see what else we have been doing.

I'd love to hear what ideas you have to integrate math into your themes! What else could we have done?