Sunday, August 12, 2012

Lab Notebook with Early Elementary

With summertime, comes cool bugs! July brought us two new bugs--a walking stick, and a freshly molted Cicada. I'm proud to say, my son always points them out to me. I thought I'd share the photos of our bugs and use this as an opportunity to share how we enter these into our science lab notebook.  

Photograph and Discuss  

The first step in the process is, of course, to capture the moment. I've become very conscious of balancing the time it takes to photograph an event, with being an active participant in the moment. I really don't want the photos to become to focus, I want to be talking and interacting with what's happening. I want to be alert to what learning moments can be pulled out of any situation. (I'm geeky like that!) Do any of you struggle with this? I don't want to pose photos, but capture them as they happen, and not be upset if I don't get the shot I wanted. Its the experience and discussion that occurs that matters!   

Google It

The phrase "Google It" is common in our house. Whenever Caleb asks us something that we either can't answer, or that we want to know more about we yell out "Google It." Dad also likes the phrase "Let's ask the Big Brain." Its not always easy to find age appropriate information, but we try.  

Ok, now. Gather everyone in your household around your screen, and play this video from Wikipedia  of a cicadia molting. Its is as we say in our house, "Gross-slash-Cool." This video is a perfect example of why eventually we will be moving to an electronic science lab notebook.

Cicada's wings aren't fully extended yet.

Choose Age-appropriate Terms for Labeling

After drawing in the kindergarten lines (using blue for upper and lower lines, and a red dotted line for the middle line), I use a dry erase board and Crayola Dry Erase Crayons (I LOVE these) to show him the term he will be labeling. For our Cicada notebook page, we pasted 4 photos and the terms we labeled were; Cicada, wings, eyes, and shells. My son doesn't yet have the attention span to do this in one session. We glued one day, and we've split the writing into 2 days.  (You can see why we are practicing handwriting so much!)

As of today, I have the photos printed out for the Lab notebook pages on: Wind Turbine, our Owl Family, Owl Pellet Dissection, and Corn germination page.  And we've already completed our Baby Bird entry! While the corn pages are part of a unit I've planned, all of the other pages, are just documenting the science that happens around us! STEM doesn't have to be "hard," its just taking notice of what happens around you! At these early stages its about making observations.

I'm completely modifying the science lab notebook for early childhood education based on what I've taught as a high school teacher. Some of you reading this have a much better understanding of teaching elementary-aged children. Understand this is a work in progress. If you have any suggestions, PLEASE leave comments! I would love to hear your ideas! What do you do to help our young scientists make observations and to record what they've learned? 


  1. There are some awesome resources for early childhood lab notebooks on the NSTA website and in their bookstore. One thing I often do to ease the writing part is to write lightly in pencil or yellow marker and let the kids trace. If you want your child to have narrated observations, it's perfectly appropriate at this age to have your child dictate the info to you as you write.

    1. Yes....Heddi, you are so right. I love the idea of highlighter and then they trace. That follows the HWT philosophy! and I've also done the writing for my son, so that we can concentrate on what he's thinking!



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