May 1, 2012

Spring Science Times Three!

Skim through Don't Throw It, Grow It! 68 Windowsill Plants from Kitchen Scraps by Deborah Peterson.

Choose a plant growing experiment of your own, or try this one using a sweet potato or an avocado pit.

Obtain a wide-mouthed jar, 1-2 cups water, 4-6 toothpicks, and a sweet potato or avocado pit.  Or try both if you like!

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1.  Insert toothpicks around center of sweet potato or avocado pit.
2.  Fill jar with water.
3.  Set sweet potato or avocado pit over the mouth of the jar.  The toothpicks will support the potato or pit while the bottom of it dips into the jar.
4.  Set in a sunny window and watch it grow!

It's so easy!  Children will be excited to see the plant grow on a daily basis.  Encourage them to describe what they see.  Use words to describe the color, size, texture, what is changing, what is staying the same, what they think will happen next, and so on.


While our sweet potato and/or avocado plants continue to grow (and ironically, mine bake in the oven), we will begin another science project.

Read:  In the Tall, Tall Grass by Denise Fleming.

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Oh, what a wonderful read!  This makes me want to be right there with you reading these engaging words and imagining all that is coming alive in the tall, tall grass.

Before we get on to the science project, first a bit of literacy.  This book has great rhyming words.  Use highlighting tape to draw children's eyes to the rhyming words.  Give them a small piece of tape and allow them to cover one of the rhyming words with the tape.  Continue, giving each child a turn, as you cover all the rhyming words.  Encourage all the children to recite the rhyming words.

Rhyming is an important early literacy skill.  When children learn rhyming they are simultaneously learning the concepts of "onset" and "rime".  These terms are used to determine the beginning consonant or consonant blend of the word (onset) and the vowel(s) with any final consonants (rime).  {Link up here and here for more about onset rime in early literacy.}

For example, on pages 3 and 4 of In the Tall, Tall Grass the rhyming words are "crunch", "munch", and "lunch".  The onset parts of the words are "cr", "m", and "l".  The rime parts of the words are all the same: "unch".

You can use two different colors of highlighting tape to encourage children to distinguish between the onset and the rime.  Rhyming, as well as segmenting onset and rime, are important phonological awareness skills.  Phonological awareness is the biggest predictor of reading and spelling acquisition.  That may sound kind of intense for young children.  The good news is the best way to acquire literacy skills is simply to play with words.

Whew, on to the science project now!  This one ought to be relaxing!

Obtain the following for each child:  blank sheet of paper, pencil, markers, and a clipboard.

Instruct children to draw one line down the middle of the paper and another line across the middle of the paper, dividing the space into four rectangle-ish areas.

Go out to a grassy place:  your yard, the playground, a park, the crack in the sidewalk, etc.

Lay down on the ground.  Get right down to eye level with the grass.  What do you see?  Are there bugs?  What does the grass look like?  Is there a random Cheerio or a wrapper?  Is there dirt?  What else?  These are your observations.

Draw one observation in each of the four rectangles.  Lay on your bellies in the grass and color your observations (you did draw pictures, didn't you?).  Written words are encouraged as well, of course.  Allow each child to share his or her observations with the others.

Next Time
I love how spring opens the doors (quite literally, actually) to all kinds of science projects!  Today we have a third experiment to observe and test!

This is best done outside, with children sitting down if at all possible.

Supplies per person: a clean jar with lid, about 1 cup of dirt, about 1 cup of water.

Combine dirt and water in jar.  Seal lid tightly.  Shake!

Watch what happens to the dirt and water.  Do they mix?  Do they combine?  Do they make mud?  Shake again.  Roll the jar on the ground.  Does anything change if you change how you shake it?

This is a fun time to delight in dirt.  Children will watch with wonder as they mix, shake, and think.

Read:  Mud Puddle by Robert N. Munsch and illustrated by Sami Suomalainen.

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