Pulleys, Pinecones, & Planets!

The past two weeks have been p-p-p-pretty exciting. Last week, we introduced two simple machines: the wheel and the pulley. We discussed how machines make work easier. Getting to “work,” the students used strong muscles to push a heavy jug of water back and forth across the table. It was difficult because the bottom of the jugs were rubbing against the table and causing lots of friction!

Next, we put the heavy jugs on top of wooden cylinder blocks and pencils. The jugs were much easier to push with the help of our first simple machine, the wheel.

The wheel made us work less because it reduced friction. Instead of the entire bottom of the jug rubbing against the table, the very bottom of the wheel was the only part that came into contact.

Moving on to our next simple machine, we observed that a pulley is a wheel plus a rope. After a demonstration of each, the students took turns exploring four pulley centers. The first one contained two pulley systems, a fixed pulley system (one pulley) and a block and tackle pulley system (two pulleys).

The students compared how much easier it was to lift the same water container using two pulleys verses one. More pulleys meant more machines doing work for us!

The second pulley station was a tall fixed pulley system. We loaded blocks into a net and pretended to lift those “building materials” to the construction crew on the roof.

The third station was another fixed pulley system hung from a rocket ship. We loaded up pretend presents to send to outer space.

At the clothesline pulley center, we placed toy animals into a bucket and helped them cross over the imaginary volcano safely. We took turns carefully pulling the line to pass the bucket back and forth.

In gardening, we talked about pinecones last week and this past Tuesday. Last week, we made pinecone bird feeders since birds have a harder time finding food in the winter. This week, we talked about seeds and recalled what a seed needs to grow—dirt, sun, water, and air. We read The Tiny Seed by Eric Carle and discussed several different ways seeds move to get to a good spot to put down roots.

Then, we examined different types of seeds and investigated how their characteristics help them “move.” We compared sunflower seeds and pinecone seeds first. We observed sunflower seeds fall straight down when we dropped them, but pinecone seeds flutter in the air and fall slowly due to a small transparent coating shaped like a wing.

We explored what other seeds move easily in the wind—and we loved making the wind through our straws!

We even had seed races!

To see how seeds hitch a ride, we put socks on our hands and “walked” softly over the seeds. We noticed that the stickiest seeds were slightly prickly.

We guessed many ways that these seeds could move. They could get stuck to an animal’s fur or to our clothes or hair to travel somewhere new.

Finally, we tested to see whether seeds would float. Everyone made a hypothesis and everyone ending up being correct. Some seeds did float and some didn’t.

Parparim and VPK also made tiny seed pots out of paper towel and toilet paper rolls and planted seeds in them. We learned that cardboard is biodegradable, so we can plant the whole pot in the ground when the seed sprouts.

It was challenging to fold the cardboard but exciting when we figured it out!

We carefully filled them with dirt…

 

and we planted nasturtium seeds, which will grow into edible flowers. YUM!

3…2…1… Blast off! We went to outer space yesterday. The students entered the dark science room through a rocket ship.

We learned that there are 8 major planets in our solar system and they rotate around the sun. We pretended to be planets and walked in a circle just like we were in orbit. Afterward, the students studied the planets on the ceiling as we talked about why each planet was special.

We learned that Mercury is the closest to the sun and has no moons or rings. Venus is the hottest planet and only second to the moon as brightest in the night sky. Earth is the only planet with life. Mars is a small red planet with dust storms that can cover the whole planet. Jupiter is the largest and has storms much larger than Earth. Saturn has 150 moons. Uranus was the first planet discovered by telescope and Neptune spins very fast. Whew!

Doobonim pretended to be astronauts and got into the rocket ship, ready to blast off.

Kofim made outer space in bowls. They rolled yellow playdough into a sun and stuck it to the bottom of their black bowls.

Then, they rolled blue playdough into a small planet and made it rotate around the “sun.”

Parparim and VPK conducted an experiment to measure the distance of each planet from the sun. We used toilet paper squares as units of measurement. Practicing counting, we laid out the squares for each planet.

While Mercury was only 1 square away from the sun and the Earth was only 2.5 squares away, Neptune was 76!

Eek. That’s far! We decided if we visited there, we would turn into snowmen or popsicles.

Beneficial vs. Baddie Garden Bugs & Exploring Magnets

On Tuesday, we talked about garden BUGS. Specifically, beneficial “superhero” good bugs and “villain” baddie bugs. In Doobonim and Kofim, we read In The Tall, Tall Grass by Denise Fleming. We discovered there were many living things hiding in the tall grass—ants, caterpillars, hummingbirds, beetles, bats galore. It was fun to buzz like a bee and croak like a frog. Then, the little ones hunted for (pretend) creatures in our (pretend) tall, tall grass.

They discovered lizards, worms, frogs, snakes, and more!

 

Parparim and VPK first evaluated the results of the Plant Requirement Experiment we started two weeks ago, and they recorded their results in their garden/science journals. We learned that plants need sunlight, water, air, and soil in order to stay alive and healthy. We hypothesized what would happen if we took one of those important elements away from the plant, such as water or sunlight. Our guesses ranged from death to shriveled leaves to nothing happening. Then we placed a “control” plant in the garden where it would get sunlight and water. We covered another plant with a large pot so it would be in the dark and we kept the third plant under cover where it wouldn’t receive water. After two weeks, only one plant looked alive.

The students examined the three plants and recorded how happy and healthy each plant looked.

Next, the older students watched a short video about the top good and bad garden bugs. We learned that aphids use their needle like proboscis to stick the plant and suck out the nutrients. And an adult ladybug will eat over 5,000 aphids in its life! Also, some bugs, like bumblebees, help the garden by spreading pollen from plant to plant, which allows them to flower and produce fruit.

The students drew their favorite bugs onto superhero masks. They were inspired by black spotted red ladybugs, black and yellow striped bees, and colorful beetles.

Wearing those proudly, we ventured into the garden to hunt for creatures.

We found “baddie” caterpillars eating our bean plants.

We also found monarch caterpillars in the milkweed bed and left those caterpillars alone since they weren’t hurting our vegetables.

No aphids this week, but we will likely see some soon!

 

On Thursday, we investigated magnets. First, we noticed that a magnet has two sides and learned that one side is call the south side and the other side is called the north side. We put the north side of one magnet near the south side of another magnet and discovered that they were pulled toward each other. However, when we tried to put two of the same sides together, they moved away from each other. Opposites attract and same repels!

After hypothesizing, we tested some objects to see if they were magnetic. We observed that objects like books, keys, plastic spoons, nickels, and rulers were not magnetic but clothespins, paperclips, and screws were magnetic. The older students recorded whether each item was magnetic or not on their science journal worksheets.

The students moved to magnetic centers next where they examined water bottles filled with magnetic objects like hair clips, twist ties, a necklace, and screws. It was exciting to see the water bottles stick to the wands and even hang upside down.

Kofim went fishing for colors and Parparim and VPK went fishing for letters.

Last, we made crazy “hair” on our magnetic wands!

 

Fall Planting & Bridge Strength Test

Last week was all about shapes in our garden and in our science room. On Tuesday, we had our big fall planting in the garden. Each class had an assigned bed and a variety of herbs and vegetables to plant. We used a grid (made up of 32 squares) to plant into our rectangle shaped garden beds. The grid helped us pay attention to plant and seed spacing so each vegetable will have enough room to grow.

Doboonim planted rosemary, thyme, oregano, chives, parsley, and sage.

Kofim explored seeds big and small. First, they lined up to plant big yellow wax and green bean seeds, as  well as sugar snap pea seeds. We tried to plant 5 beans and 8 sugar snap peas per square. Using their fingers to poke deep holes, our little monkeys then pushed the seeds down into the dirt. In another bed, Kofim planted yellow squash seeds, Brussels sprouts, broccoli, and bok choy. Last, each student got a cup full of carrots seeds, which we saw are tiny! Instead of planting them one by one, we used our pincher fingers to sprinkle the carrots seeds carefully over the garden bed.

Before the older students got to planting, they worked together as a class to design their garden layout. We discussed how some plants, like tomatoes and broccoli, get huge and need more space to grow. Those plants need to be planted far apart. Other plants, like eggplant and peppers, can be planted closer together. Using the square foot garden method, the students assembled pictures of each vegetable into a plan that we used for reference while planting.

Parparim planted a stir fry bed full of broccoli, Brussels sprouts, bok choy, carrots, and beans, including dragon tongue beans!

VPK 1 planted an bruschetta bed featuring tomatoes, eggplant, basil, chives, and carrots. They decided to plant their tomatoes, eggplants, and carrots in long rows that stretched across the length of the garden bed.

VPK 2 planted a salsa bed. Since their shape of the week was square, they grouped their 4 tomato plants and 4 pepper plants into blocks instead of rows. Next to those, they scattered carrot and cilantro seeds and also planted garlic chives.

On Thursday, we tested the strength of bridges. In Parparim and VPK, the students watched a short video about what makes bridges so strong. We noticed that bridges are built using different shapes. For example, a beam bridge makes rectangles, a truss bridge uses triangles, and an arch bridge features a semi-circle. We learned that some shapes, like triangles and semi-circles, are very strong building shapes because any weight that is placed on them is distributed across the shape!

All the classes watched a demonstration of how much weight each type of bridge could withstand before collapsing.

Here are the different bridges we built:

It was fun to guess how many weights each one would hold. Then, the students “built” their own bridges using wooden blocks and paper. Doobonim and Kofim tested the strength of their bridges with tops and cars, while Parparim and VPK used tops and pennies.

August Update for Science & Gardening

I’m thrilled to be this year’s Science and Garden Teacher at the Dubow Preschool! I am looking forward getting to know each child and joining them for an exciting year full of exploration.

The first two weeks were filled with discoveries inside the science classroom and outside in the garden.

After a quiet summer, the garden was a bit wild and overgrown. We investigated the plants and found many hidden surprises, including small broccoli “flowers” (florets), baby carrots, herbs like lavender and mint, green tree frogs, and squash bugs!

The students in VPK and Parparim enjoyed collecting leaves and flowers into scavenger bags, then using those items to make crayon rubbings that are now displayed in the school hallway. Kofim and Doobonim practiced fine motor skills by pinching and attaching their nature findings to sticky bracelets that they wore during the hunt.

Last week, we did garden yoga to stretch and learn about the parts of a plant kinesthetically. We crouched down to be seed balls, anchored our feet to put down strong roots, straightened our legs to grow our stem, and stretched our arms wide to wave our leaves in the wind. Our arms circled overhead to become a flower and then we drooped forward when our plant became heavy with fruit. Last, we crouched back into our seed ball to start the process again.

As we pulled out the garden, we examined all these plant parts up close. We rubbed mint and lavender leaves to release their fragrance. The students loved using teamwork (and big muscles) to yank out the larger plants together. It was amazing how thick some of the stems had grown.

Additionally, we loved finding roots and exploring them up close. From unearthing carrots to “tickling” the larger root balls, everyone was tickled to see what was hiding in the dirt.

The neatest discovery wasn’t uncovered until weeding the last raised bed… our first monarch caterpillar of the year. We will keep checking the milkweed plants over the next week or two to see if we can find the chrysalis!

In the science room, the students were excited to encounter each center: an eye spy window wall (with corresponding pictures of playground items to match up), the brainstorm chalkboard, the tool cabinet, and the discovery depots. There are two “discovery depots,” one bookcase for Doobonim and Kofim and one for Parparim and VPK, both full of developmentally appropriate challenges like sensory tubes and magnetic building blocks for the little ones and gear assemblies and cricket skeleton puzzles for the older students.

We were introduced to a few science tools and practiced using tweezers to rescue pretend bugs from a spider web trap.

Then we used magnifying glasses to match up tiny pictures.

When things got tricky, it helped to have our thinking hats handy!

Last week, we discussed our class rules–how to use good senses to stay safe while learning.

  1. Look first.
  2. Listen carefully.
  3. Ask lots of questions.
  4. Sniff out new discoveries.
  5. Touch with permission.

Then, we put the scientific method to work while experimenting with baking soda and vinegar. We attached a balloon filled with baking soda to the top of a bottle filled with vinegar. We hypothesized that mixing the two ingredients together would cause the balloon to blow up (and maybe explode!)

While it didn’t explode, we observed a chemical reaction take place as carbon dioxide bubbles formed in the bottle creating the gas that inflated the balloon.

Next, the students got to interact with the baking soda and vinegar. Doobonim and Kofim gave plastic animals and boats a “bubble bath” as they engaged in sensory play, touching the fizzing bubbles of the reaction.

Parparim and VPK poured vinegar carefully into trays, causing the baking soda to bubble and reveal a hidden color. Afterwards, they recorded what happened in the experiments in their very first observation journal entry.

A big thank you to all my new Dubow friends for such a welcoming start to the year!

Foam is Fun!

For this lab we added liquids together to create a fun foam!  There were a couple of interesting points about this experiment…

 

Mixing the two liquids together caused a ‘reaction’.  We talked about how it isn’t always the case that when you mix two things together a reaction occurs.  The cause and effect of this experiment was lots of fun!

We made two colors of foam.  By making yellow and red foam, we could also mix them and create another effect… a color change to orange!

When the foam was created, it was warm!  The reaction is exothermic and a very small amount of heat was made as the foam was created.  We compared and contrasted the difference in how the warm and cool foam felt.

As a fun side project, the foam created is just a very thick version of dish soap foam… so all of our tables in the classroom had a really good wash down that day! 🙂

Here are a few pictures of our fun….

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And the oil lasted….

Oil is such an important part of Chanukah.  It seemed like it would be fun to explore some of the properties of oil for science class!

 

First up, we explored what it felt like.  We put some on foil, and some on paper… and we did a little finger painting!  We used our senses to compare it to water, and we also saw how the paper absorbed the oil.

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Next up, we used oil and some other liquids to make a density column.  We poured honey, dish soap, water, oil, and rubbing alcohol into a bottle.  By identifying where they settled, we could determine which liquid was denser than another… Which were ‘lighter’ or ‘heavier’.

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Finally, we put inside the bottle a coin, paperclip, popcorn kernel, and a cherry tomato.  We hypothesized where they would fall and seeing some of them suspend in the middle of the bottle was very cool!

 

Science Fun for Chanukah!

As we were celebrating Chanukah, a lesson on different states of matter and how things can move from a solid to a liquid seemed to be fitting!

First, we talked about where beeswax came from and we saw what beeswax looked like and felt like as a solid in it’s original form.  (Thank you for the wax donation, Jen and AP!)

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We took small sheets of wax paper and string wicks and we made our own candles by rolling the sheets.

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Next, we explored with hot wax that we melted.  We put a wick into a tea light mold and we watched, as it cooled we could see it turn back into a solid!  It was amazing! (if you notice students standing on the stars in a safe spot of the room, they were standing back as hot wax was being poured)

We also poured the hot wax into recycled straws that someone had donated to our recycling closet.  Inside each empty straw, we placed a long wick.  We put the straw with the wick inside an egg tray that was filled with sand.  This made sure that the hot wax wouldn’t fall straight through the straw.  Then, after we poured the wax, we waited for it to cool.  When we peeled the straw off, much like a banana peel, a tall taper style candle that we made entirely ourselves was created!  It worked perfectly and each class made a set of candles that they could use in their classrooms and role play using real candles with their Hanukkiahs!

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Tiny Tastings…

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We started off the fall by planting some of our usual favorites, as well as some crops that were new to us!

As I am walking through the halls of school, or even setting up one of our market tables, I often get just as many questions about our garden as I do looks of amazement that our students are growing such amazing plants!

Our garden is a ‘tasting’ garden, and it is just as educational as it is delicious!   We often do not get enough of one particular type of food to make entire dishes for our classrooms, just based on the amount of space and student body we have.  So our focus goes to giving each student an opportunity to learn about gardening in general, specific plants and what they look like and how they grow (when to decide when things are ripe and when to pick them is a big topic!!) and also how each edible tastes!  Our classrooms also cook with the items…

In our garden, we do not use any pesticides.  Usually, even composting (or fertilizing with organic methods) is kept to a minimum… by starting of with really great soil, our plants do pretty well given a consistent water supply.  We do wash the edibles before they are served…

Here are some photos of our youngest class as they enjoyed some of our grape tomatoes.   I have to admit, I think these are the tastiest tomatoes that we have ever grown… and *almost* all of our little friends agreed with me.  It is always an added bonus when snack is fresh, delicious, and fine motor pincer grasp practice.  🙂

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We also harvested rhubarb for the first time, and potatoes too!  Unfortunately a sneaky squirrel got wind of our delicious potatoes.  We were able to salvage one, and our students couldn’t have been any prouder!  Not only did we grow potatoes, but they were so delectable even a local squirrel wanted to try some. 🙂

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See What our Seeds are Sprouting….

Our garden has certainly been growing!

As part of our gardening lessons we have been learning about where seeds are located on many different plants… and specifically on some of the plants that we are growing!  We pulled the wilted flowers, or ‘deadheads’, off and we took out the seeds on the inside and dried them.  We have flowers in our garden beds to help promote beneficial insects, and we also have an entire floral bed devoted to our butterfly garden that we will be setting up in the spring.

The seeds that we have been collecting can sometimes be found on our DuBow Preschool Farmer’s Market table… next time you see them feel free to take them home and plant them with your little ones! We are also using the seeds in some very special ‘thank you’ gifts that will be given to parents and faculty that have gone out of their way to help our garden grow… More on that later.

Want to see what kinds of flowers will grow?  We have standard sized orange and yellow marigolds, *giant* yellow and orange marigolds, and even purple flowered butterfly bushes.  We also have milkweeds that we maintain for our butterflies, but usually the caterpillars eat them before we can get to them! 🙂

Aren’t they lovely??

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