March/April 2017 – Vol. 29 No. 6

Last Minute Science Idea for the First Day of School

Posted: Thursday, August 1st, 2013

by Valerie Joyner

During your travels and/or at home this summer you undoubtedly came across interesting and intriguing object that could inspire your students.  Found objects like corals, shells, rocks, lichens, dry flowers, pine cones, skeletons, worms, and caterpillars make wonderful mini science lessons.

  • Start by showing the object to your students and asking what they think it is.  Record their responses.
  • Allow (if possible) students to observe the object by feeling, smelling, hearing, and looking at it and share what they observed.  You can record their words by listing them as given or organizing them by senses (sight/touch/sound/feel).
  • Ask students to predict what the object is or does and explain their thinking.  Encourage the students to interact and discuss their own thoughts and ideas.  This can be an initial step towards Science Talks throughout the year.
  • After time for discussion, ask the students to help you develop sentences telling what the object is, a description of the object, and something they learned about it.

I have done this mini lesson several times on the very first day of school with pieces of lichen I have found over the summer.  The students often think they know what lichen is, but many times it turns out that they do not.  Many have seen lichen somewhere, but do not know anything else about it.

After the students observed, shared, and discussed the lichens, I often asked if the students would like to find out something else about lichens.  One year they wanted to know what would happen to the lichen if we put it in water.  This was a great question because in their observations they discovered that the lichens were dry.  So the class developed an activity to see what would happen when they put the lichen in water.  By actively investigating and observing the lichens absorbing water, students soon began more discussions between themselves and developed additional inquiry questions like, how these were like sponges, how much water could lichens hold, etc.

Some years this lesson last 15-20 minutes, other times it went on for days.  The importance of the lesson was to start from Day One with SCIENCE in the forefront of your classroom.

Have a great school year!

Written by Valerie Joyner

Valerie Joyner

Valerie Joyner is a retired elementary science educator and is CSTA’s Primary (grades K-2) Director.

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The pre-publication version of the new California Science Curriculum Framework is now available for download. This publication incorporates all the edits that were approved by the State Board of Education in November 2016 and was many months in the making. Our sincere thanks to the dozens of CSTA members were involved in its development. Our appreciation is also extended to the California Department of Education, the State Board of Education, the Instructional Quality Commission, and the Science Curriculum Framework and Evaluation Criteria Committee and their staff for their hard work and dedication to produce this document and for their commitment to the public input process. To the many writers and contributors to the Framework CSTA thanks you for your many hours of work to produce a world-class document.

For tips on how to approach this document see our article from December 2016: California Has Adopted a New Science Curriculum Framework – Now What …? If you would like to learn more about the Framework, consider participating in one of the Framework Launch events (a.k.a. Rollout #4) scheduled throughout 2017.

The final publication version (formatted for printing) will be available in July 2017. This document will not be available in printed format, only electronically.

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Written by Guest Contributor

From time to time CSTA receives contributions from guest contributors. The opinions and views expressed by these contributors are not necessarily those of CSTA. By publishing these articles CSTA does not make any endorsements or statements of support of the author or their contribution, either explicit or implicit. All links to outside sources are subject to CSTA’s Disclaimer Policy: http://www.classroomscience.org/disclaimer.