The hardware store is a place brimming with possibilities for fun and cheap science experiments. Did you know you can buy light switches for $0.69, and a foot of copper electrical wire for less than that?! Not only that, but you can buy a couple of large D cell batteries for $1 at the Dollar Tree. I will admit I already had some batteries and light bulbs in a science kit at school. Lowes sells the wire for a few cents a foot. If you tell them you are a school teacher, and look a bit pitiful, then they will cut it into foot segments for you :). I actually bought the light switches because one of my students wondered how they worked. I bought one to break apart with a hammer, so the kids could see the inner workings of the switch. The others I bought for students to connect to the battery and the light bulb with the wires. The kids were really excited to experiment with this. We had already been building circuits, so I didn’t exactly tell students how to connect the light switch to make the bulb turn on and off. I let them figure this out with the information they had already learned.
Here’s a little secret. If you want really cheap light bulbs, you can get LED bulbs if you buy a small flashlight for a dollar at Wal-mart. Then break the flashlight with a hammer to get the bulbs out. You will get around seven bulbs if you do this. However, the bulbs I used for this were in a science kit, and I didn’t have to buy them. They were little incandescent bulbs.
The next thing you can do for really cheap fun is this. Get a regular light bulb that you would put in a lamp, place one out for kids to experiment with if they have already learned how to build circuits. Challenge the kids to make the lightbulb light up. I tell them they can use up to five batteries. The kids won’t be able to light up the bulb. I know this, but they don’t. Several lessons previous to this, I had kids really examine the writing on the batteries, and some students noticed the 1.5 v. I had also had them pass around some old blown out light bulbs to study the broken filaments and the writing on the bulbs. If they make the connection, they will realize that the bulbs need 120 volts. The batteries only provide 1.5 volts each. It would take A LOT of batteries to power the light bulb. More than they could stretch out on a table (but that’s my little secret, wink wink). The fun in this activity is asking…well, why didn’t that work?
(Sidenote: I only have a few of these items mentioned above for students to experiment with when they finish their work. I don’t buy a whole class set.)
I hope you now have some great reasons to do some cheap and easy science experiments!
Do you have a seemingly unreachable child in your class? Here is the story of my climb to reach one of mine. A 5th grade girl, who seemed to hide behind her long, beautiful, brown hair and glasses, had no drive to learn and was passively, aggressively defiant at times. Angela’s defiance never was loud, but it was just enough for her to let me know she didn’t want to do EXACTLY what I said. Her behavior was also just enough not to get into major trouble.
I had already tried to talk to Angela on several occasions, and had even taken time to sit with her at lunch. None of these things really seemed to make any difference in her behavior during my class. Now, it is time for my brutal honesty. My next inclination towards this child was to say “whatever” and go on with teaching–deal with it till the end of the year. I asked myself if putting in the effort to spend time with Angela was really making any difference?
Upon doing some investigation, I found that Angela’s mother had died the previous year. I can only imagine the pain that a child must face when losing one of their parents at such a young age. How could I not give her another chance and try to reach her? When I asked her again to speak with me during her lunch, she agreed. I have met with Angela twice now, and she seems to be having a better attitude in class.
Spend time with those students who have problems that you are tempted to dismiss. They could just be hurting. 🙂
Who knew? There are magnetic materials in dirt.
I have been doing a unit with my third grade students about magnets. We have been learning about the properties of magnets such as attraction, repulsion, and polarity. In one of the extension activities, students are required to place magnetic filings over a magnet to see how the magnet has north and south poles. Immediately I thought of the little games with the bald man and magnetic pen in which you drag the filings over the man’s head to give him hair. I thought, “Oh! I could buy several of those and cut the plastic to get iron filings!”
Then, when looking for one of these “Wooly Willy” games on the internet, I happened across a You Tube video about finding iron in dirt. I didn’t really think it would work, but…….
here is what a couple of kids found after school when I made sure this would work. Now, we didn’t do it exactly like the video. I gave the kids a stack of strong disc magnets which I purchased form Hobby Lobby for about $7. They put the magnets inside a plastic bag. When they rubbed the bag in the dirt, the magnets attracted no iron. What did work was for the kids to put the dirt in a container which they collected from under some trees. They brought the dirt inside and sprinkled it a spoonful at a time on the plastic bag with magnets inside. Then when they shook the bag off onto some construction paper, the magnetic particles stayed. They emptied those pieces into a petri dish, which you see above. Sidenotes: In our case when the dirt was damp from some rain, this method worked best. At first they collected dirt from underneath some gravel in a garden. I thought it wouldn’t work because that dirt didn’t appear to have any magnetic properties. It wasn’t until they collected the dirt underneath the trees that they found the iron particles.
Now instead of buying iron filings, I am going to let the students find their own before we do our polarity experiment. I think they will very much enjoy the trip outdoors! Even though it is January, it has been 70 degrees this week.
Yesterday when I had a class, and they were watching the inauguration, one child said, ” Amen” after the first prayer. After the second prayer a few more said, “Amen,” and this continued after the third prayer. I had nothing to do with this and found it somewhat amazing :). These were fourth graders.
With another class of fifth graders after the inauguration itself. I had the students working while all the talking etc. was going on in the background. This class is VERY spirited to say the least, so I really just wanted them to work. However, the national anthem started playing, and one kid asked if they should stand up. At first, I told him no and that they should continue working. After a few moments, I saw him with his hand over his heart seated, and I realized I was wrong. I told them all to stand, and all did with utmost respect.
And, yes I teach in a public school.
This is all not to say that I didn’t have students who disagreed with the current president and who didn’t support him. Some of the fifth graders had been very vocal about the fact that they didn’t like the incoming president. Nevertheless, the students’ solidarity was refreshing.
So my school district decided to have the kids come to school the Monday before Christmas. This was the ONLY day the kids came. Because of this I decided to do some fun science and Christmas stations. In one of the stations the kids were able to decorate Christmas cards for veterans. When it was time to clean up this one child who definitely made his share of mess with glitter and paper shreds decided to fool around for a while instead of cleaning. Finally, when he started cleaning while picking up pieces of paper with his hands, he said, “You need a vacuum cleaner!” I said, “That’s what I have you for :).” The next thing I know this fourth grader is literally picking up pieces of paper off the carpet with his mouth.
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I wanted my students to enjoy their last class with me before the Christmas break, so I planned several stations for them to work on. The students really enjoyed the engagement of every station.
Station 1: Students picked out a pine cone and were instructed to find seeds inside the pinecone. I showed them a picture of what pine cone seeds looked like. I gave them magnifying glasses so they could look closely and deeply into the pine cones. I instructed them to draw a picture of their pine cone and to draw a picture of the seed. In preparation for the next station, I instructed them to find two more pine cones that were really “pretty” and “tree shaped”. I really wanted them to find two that were opened up really well so they could see the difference in station 2.
Station 2: I had students place two nice flared out pinecones in water. Students made predictions before they placed one pinecone in cold water and one pinecone in warm water. I have no sink in my room, so I had a gallon jug set up for the cold water and a crock pot set up with warm water for them to dip from with a measuring cup. Make sure to have paper towels on hand for any water that is spilled. Now, students can watch the pinecones for a while, but it will take about 30-45 minutes before students will see any changes. I make students look and notice what happened. I don’t tell them. Now the last group that does this station probably won’t notice what happens. They won’t have enough time in an hour long class period to notice the pinecones change.
(So what does happen? Pinecones close up when wet. Why does this happen? Pinecones don’t want to release their seeds when weather is wet because they want to allow their seeds to fly as far away as possible during drier weather so that they won’t compete with the parent tree.)
After students have noticed the pinecones closing up, make sure you leave time at the end of the stations to ask the students why they think the pine cones are closing up in the water.
In case you are wondering, yes the pinecones will open back up when dried out.
Station 3: What happens when you place a peppermint under water? After students have watched, then what happens when you place M & M’s under water? This experiment wasn’t that impressive in my opinion, but the kids loved it! The experiment works best in a white bowl. The plates were way too messy when kids tried to throw out the water. Water, of course, spilled everywhere.
Students predicted first what happened with the peppermint. Most guessed it would turn white, but few guessed it would streak the way it did. You must keep the dish still and not shake the desk to get the full effect of this.
After students watch the peppermint for about five minutes, have them predict what would happen when they place out M & M’s around the bowl. I bought the small ones so there would be more color. If students place them around the edge of the bowl, it makes a dramatic rainbow like this. Again keep the bowl as still as possible.
Station 4: Light up a Christmas light with alligator wires and batteries. This station by far had the biggest WOW factor for the kids. I didn’t give kids many instructions with this station. I wanted them to do experimentation to figure this out. I made the kids predict which type of batteries would work to light up the battery. They lit up a small LED bulb. (this wasn’t actually a Christmas light bulb). To get these bulbs I bought a $1 LED flashlight at War-Mart and banged the flashlight with a hammer until I broke it enough to get the lightbulbs out. It’s cheaper to buy bulbs that way :0. To light up the bulb students need at least three batteries placed end to end with at least two alligator clip wires–one each touched to the positive and negative ends of the battery. I used D batteries because I had a bunch in a science kit, but this will work with smaller batteries. I hovered around this station because I knew students might struggle here. I made it a point to talk about how scientists struggle until they figure things out. We talk about how Edison didn’t give up the first time his improvements of the light bulb didn’t work and they shouldn’t either. Now in reality, it would have been a lot cooler if I actually did have Christmas light bulbs, but I already had LED bulbs on hand so we used them.
ChristmasScience Here is an editable document I used when students visited science stations. This is nothing fancy, but you are welcome to use it for your classroom and make it your own.
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I collect trash at times. Sometimes because I always think, OH! I could use that for something!” Other times I collect trash for school projects. In particular, I especially collect small cardboard boxes in which items are mailed to me. One day, I had a brainstorm and the beginning of this bulletin board emerged. Most of the time bulletin board ideas just come to me. In this case I thought of this clever puzzle to put on the board using a box. I used colorful tissue paper to put inside the box and hot glued it inside. Next, I used different fonts of different sizes to make the words “Think” in different colors. I attached these all around. Now, what do you think this bulletin board says?
You guessed it! Think outside the box! 🙂