Science rocks! It sells itself. So I actually have to do very little to motivate kids in this area. They're naturally curious... they ask endless questions... and they touch everything. Isn't this the work of scientists?
At the beginning of the year, before we really dive into any specific science study, I want to set the stage for the work we'll be doing all year.
Step One: What are scientists?
This is when we talk about what a scientist is and learn about other famous scientists, like Albert Einstein and Thomas Edison.
Step Two: Nailing the look.
At this point, we decide we are scientists, too. So, of course, we have to look the part. Einstein Hair is very easy to make and the kids love it. Just make a white paper head band and cut about 10 strips of white construction paper for each child. Show them how to accordion-fold the strips and glue them to the inside of the head band. Voila... wild Einstein hair! We wear these for a few weeks as we continue our introductory science lessons... it ramps up the level of excitement as you can imagine. We also received a class set of Lab Coats from my mother-in-law who found several white men's button-up shirts at her church thrift shop. With a little imagination (and rolled up sleeves) they were transformed into our lab coats!
Step Three: The Tools of the Trade
It's no surprise... kids love using tools and when you pull out that super fun box of science tools, they can't get their hands on them fast enough. We take a few days to learn all about the tools scientists use to explore the world around them. It's important for the kids to know the name of each tool, its purpose, and how to use it safely. One of our favorite activities is the Timed Tweezer Challenge. In this activity, students are challenged to use the tweezers to transfer various objects from a paper plate to a plastic cup given only one minute. And, because I like to make things a bit tricky, they have to wear their safety goggles, too.
You can put anything on the paper plate, depending on the age and motor control of your students. I include a few objects that are fairly easy to pick up such as a cotton ball and a deflated balloon, but I also include several items that require more skill and patience to pick up. I even include an easily-crushable cereal so students learn how to control the pressure with which they squeeze. No matter what you select, try to vary the size, weight, shape, and texture of the items. And rules? That's up to you. It should be fun, not frustrating. I tell my students if they drop an object, they can pick it up with their hand and put it back on their plate and try again.
Another popular tool? The magnifying glass. (Try to get good ones.) Who doesn't love to see what stuff looks like really close up? When you introduce the magnifying glass, consider studying a piece of food... it's fun to observe what it looks like inside and out (plastic knives only) and then eat it!
Step Four: Collect your work.
I don't have a pattern for these beginning science notebooks because I want the kids to make them on their own and personalize them, but they're pretty easy to copy just by looking at the pictures below. The only step I do for them is pre-fold the white construction paper to look like a jacket or lab coat. The rest is easy for them, especially if you provide a sample of your own. They'll just need scissors, glue, and construction paper.
Note: We don't use these folders all year long... they're not strong enough. We use them to put our initial science work in... all the introductory work from our foundational unit: "What is a scientist?" After this folder goes home, we use a regular science folder & science journal for the remainder of the year.
I don't know what your particular science program requires of you, but these are a few ideas you could easily embed into your existing plan if you're looking for something new. I've had these photos on my laptop for a while now and was just thinking I should share them. I hope you found something you liked.
Happy teaching! :)