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Learning Through Exploration

Throughout the year, our 1st grade students have had many opportunities to learn through exploration. Children love to explore their world around them and to make connections from what they are learning about, to the real world.

I was reminded of this, as we have been learning about Force and Motion last week and this week. First, students learned about how objects move, by force, which is the pushing or pulling of an object. Students were given a ball and challenged to explore different ways, with their partner, to move their ball and record it. Then they loved sharing their findings with their friends!

We then explored the force of gravity by building marble mazes and watching the marble travel from a higher position to a lower position. There were 3 different types of mazes to explore with. We then built our own ramps with blocks and tubes and experimented with what may happen when we change the incline of the ramp. They explored the question, “Do the cars travel faster or slower?”

Brady Donovan Marble Maze Mackenzie & Clayton Manolo and Daniel Maureen and Brownlee Pierson and Riley Riley & Pierson Marble Maze

The students also enjoyed exploring the force of magnetism. They tried out different kinds of magnets with different kinds of materials to see which items were magnetic. They also explored how same poles repel and opposite poles attract.

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We culminated our Force and Motion unit with an Egg Drop Experiment, where students and their parents created a safety box for an egg, so that it won’t crack when dropped from the top of the playground.

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Our 1st graders loved learning about Force and Motion, through hands-on exploration!

– Melissa Davis, First Grade Teacher

“I See, I Think, I Wonder” : A Lesson in Engaging Students Where They Are

BCA Students

About a month ago, while we were on the playground, our students became fascinated with collecting rocks. Day by day, students would run up to the teachers on the playground asking, “What kind of rock do you think this is?” This started a great discussion about rocks, geodes, minerals, and dinosaur bones. A few students emerged as “the dinosaur experts” and when a student found a rock that they thought was a bone, they would scurry off to find the expert and ask their opinion. (In case you were wondering, according to our kindergarten experts, we definitely have Tyrannosaurus Rex bones all over the playground. 😉 )

This went on for several weeks and our rock collectors grew in numbers. It seemed as if each day another student was discovering beautiful rocks to bring in to the classroom and thus began our rock inquiry. I cleared off our “math table” and students started adding rocks to the table. I placed a few scales, magnifying glasses, sorting circles, rock books, pictures, measuring tape, and clipboards on the table, and the table has been full of scientists investigating our rock collection.

Bannockburn Christian Academy Studying RocksScreen Shot 2016-03-10 at 6.57.21 PM

I also displayed my rock book collection in our classroom library.

Rock Book Collection

During guided reading, my young learners were full of questions so we took out our agates and practiced writing and using adjectives by creating a list of words that described them. Then we read an informational text that I wrote for them.

Studying Notes on Rocks

Studying Rocks by Reading

Studying Rocks by Reading and Loving It!

My students came up with so many wonders and questions about how rocks were formed and began researching this on their own! They would get books from our library and share facts with their friends. They also wrote about what they were learning.

During our read aloud time, I made sure I chose books that would answer some of my students’ questions about how rocks were formed. We also watched a few Youtube videos. This was one of their favorite videos (click here to watch)

After watching a few videos and reading a couple of books, we created an “I see, I think, I wonder” chart. To do this, I gave my students Sharpies and Post It notes and my students got to work.

Writing I Think Notes

As they were working, I projected an image of a volcano on my whiteboard.

Displaying Volcanoes on a Whiteboard

After they finished a Post It Note, they placed it on the anchor chart and got to work on writing a new one.

Studying Volcanoes

At the end of the activity, our chart looked like this.

Volcanoes Chart

Many of the “wonders” included questions on HOW and WHY volcanoes blow up. So, we had to go outside to learn more about this.

I partnered my students up and gave each group a funnel, baking soda, and an empty water bottle. 

Experimenting with Baking Soda

They worked together to add the baking soda to their bottle, and then used our playground pebbles to “hide” the bottle to make it look like a real volcano.

Some of the baking soda got stuck going down the funnel, but my scientists quickly fixed the problem.

Scientist Fixing the Problem

After the finishing touches were put in place, we prepared for an eruption!

Preparing for the Eruption

Students added our vinegar mixture to their volcanoes and watched in anticipation. They ooooohed and aaaaaaahed over the eruptions and eagerly discussed why they thought volcanoes erupt!

Volcanic Eruption 1

Volcanic Eruption2

The next day, my students began documenting what they were learning. Some of my students chose to do this using clay.

Making a Volcano

“I am making a cinder cone volcano.”

Cinder Volcano Cone

Volcano

“Look, mine looks just like this one in the book. I want to make sure I get the top just right.”

Volcano Making

Other students documented what they were learning by making extra large posters in small groups.

Volcano Posters

This encouraged collaboration and teamwork. I was very proud of how well my students handled this task!

Volcano Posters

“Miss Smith, this is a cutaway painting. We are showing the inside of the volcano. “

My students are still hard at work on these art projects and are now at the stage where we are labeling them and writing out teaching points so that others can learn about what they are making.

To continue helping my students answer their wonders, we read the book, Rocks: Hard, Soft, Smooth, and Rough. This book has taught us SO much and is always in the hand of a student when they are in the book corner!

I stopped reading after we read the two pages about sedimentary rocks and showed my students a few pictures to help them better understand. We then created a “craft” to better illustrate that sedimentary rocks are made up of layers.  To do this, I bought 7 jars of colored sand from Michaels. (If you ever need art materials, I HIGHLY recommend them! They always help me out with coupons and teacher discounts! This last shopping trip I saved over $35 thanks to the kindness of the checkout lady!)

I gave each student a clear plastic cup and they got to work making layers out of the different colored sand.

Experimenting with Layers

This activity really helped them learn the word “layer” as they practiced using it over and over. 

More Experimenting with Layers

They carefully scooped each color on top of the previous one making sure that they could no longer see any of the previous color.  They loved checking out their sedimentary rocks throughout the process.

Examining Layers of Colors

When they got picked up, they could hardly contain all that they had done that day! 

Excited to Share their Progress

We are still knee-deep in our inquiry, but I wanted to share part one of what we have been up to! My students are LOVING this unit especially because it means frequent trips outside to find, explore, and discover new types of rocks!

Exploring Their World

If you are interested in any of these activities, lessons, posters, and more, feel free to check out my Rocks and Geode pack available in my Teachers Pay Teachers store. You can get it HERE!

Come back soon to read about Part Two!! (Monday we are cracking open geodes!!)

This blog post contains an affiliate link for your convenience. 

– Kristen Smith, Kindergarten

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