RAFT Activity Kit: Static Merry-go-Round

Friday, September 15, 2017

Favorite Basic Recipes for Preschool Science and Art - PLAYDough

By Betty Klem 
I'd like to share some of my favorite basic recipes for sensory activities that explore materials and the way they behave and react.  All of these are tried and true.  There are many newer recipes for potions and doughs.

This is the standard for playdough and should be available in all early childhood settings.  The basic recipe is:
·         4 C flour
·         2 C salt
·         8 Tbsp. Cream of Tartar
·         4 Tbsp oil
·         4 C warm Water
Mix ingredients in a large pot.  The mixture will be runny.  Cook, stirring with a wooden spoon, at medium heat until the mixture pulls away from the sides of the pan and is the consistency you want.  Knead.  There are many variations on playdough.  To color it, add food coloring or liquid watercolor to the water before cooking.  You can scent it with essential oils or extracts.  When I was teaching, we found we needed to make a new batch weekly, and my grandchildren love to speculate on what color the playdough will be this week.  You can also add stuff to the playdough:  try glitter, coffee grounds, sand, anything that will change the texture.

Silly Putty
Another old favorite.  There are all sorts of varieties of this weird mixture.  You mix liquids and get a kind of semi-solid. 
Mix:  2C white glue, 1/2 C water, and food coloring or liquid watercolor.
Mix:  1/3 C water with 1 tsp powdered borax.
Add borax mixture to glue mixture a little at a time.  Stir until the liquid is absorbed.  Do not add more borax.  It may take quite a while to get everything mixed.  Store in a sealed container.  The children should wash their hands before playing with this--if you play with dirty hands, it gets very sticky and will mildew.  This product has unusual properties.  It will stretch, bounce, break, and more.  Experiment.  If you set it on the edge of a table, it will slowly ooze over the side.

Goop is simply a mixture of cornstarch and water.  Make a big batch--fill a dish tub or a texture table with it.  It doesn't keep, so enjoy it freshly made. 
Add one part of water to one part of cornstarch.  Adding more or less of each ingredient will change the properties.  EXPERIMENT.  The cornstarch sinks to the bottom, and you can pick up what seems like a bare handful, but it will ooze between your fingers like a liquid.  Start with a tub of dry cornstarch and let the children help add water to it, colored if you want.  You'll want to buy cornstarch in large sacks, not the little yellow boxes at the grocery store.  I have seen engineers get very excited playing in cornstarch because the properties are so unexpected.
Goop makes a big mess on the floor, but if you use it outside, you can hose it off.   If you use it inside, it dries to a powder, and you can sweep it away or vacuum it up.

To turn Goop into OOBLEK, use about one part cornstarch to three parts water and cook until thickened.  This has a very different feel than Goop.  It's fun to divide the oobleck into parts and color them different colors.  Children add spoonfuls of 2 or 3 colors to ziplock sandwich bags, seal (a bit of duct tape across the seal prevents leaks.  Then squish and massage to mix the colors. 

This is a lot cheaper than buying bubble solution. 
Mix:  6 C water, 2 C Dawn, 3/4 C white corn syrup.  You could replace the syrup with glycerin.  Both make the bubbles last longer.  Stir until blended.  Try making bubbles with all kinds of objects--bubble wands, jar rings, your fingers.  We even used a hula hoop and a wading pool. 

Shaving Cream
You can do so much with Shaving Cream.  Squirt some on a plastic tray or a table and finger paint away.  You can draw in it, smear it, mush it--whatever you want.  You can sprinkle on powdered paint or spray or drop on liquid watercolor.  This is a great medium for marbling.  Add color and swirl to make designs.  Take a print by gently laying a piece of paper on top, then remove.  You can also add things to the shaving cream to change the textures.

Exploding Colors
These are two ways to play with color.
1.  Fill a tall, transparent container 3/4 full of water and float a thin layer of vegetable oil on the top.  Drop drops of food coloring into the oil, and watch what happens as the color passes through the oil and enters the water.  Beautiful!
2.  Fill a pie tin or other shallow dish with whole milk.  It works much better with whole milk.  Drop drops of food coloring on the milk.  Then, dip toothpicks in dishwashing liquid and touch the color.  The dishwashing liquid breaks the surface tension, and the colors swirl all over.

Ice Castles
This activity demonstrates how salt affects ice.
1.  Sprinkle rock salt onto a large block of ice.  Watch how the salt melts caverns into the ice. Drip color into the caverns.  Using pipettes or turkey basters, or even spoons to pick up the meltwater and baste the block can keep children enthralled. 
2.  Freeze water in various containers such as milk cartons, plastic storage containers, bowls, balloons, etc.  Dump them into the texture table or a tub.  Sprinkling with salt will cause the ice pieces to partially melt, then freeze together.  Add color and baste.

The old baking soda and vinegar mixture gets a bit of body and excitement here.  In a pitcher mix one part water and one part white vinegar.  Add in a couple of squirts of dishwashing liquid.  The dishwashing liquid gives the bubbles body so that they flow like lava.  Add red color if you really want "lava."  This is really messy, but very cool since the stuff will flow up and out of the cups.  Have the children put a spoonful of baking soda into a small paper cup.  Then pour in some of your volcano juice.  Instant eruption.
Web Resources
Some so many people post cool science and art activities on the internet that my first suggestion would be that you go to Pinterest.  Look for science activities for preschoolers.   Since all of the events listed above are old tried and trues, I suggest you simply Google "science experiments for preschoolers."  There are pages of them.  My recipes are all pre-web.

Tuesday, August 22, 2017

Starting the Year Off Right: 6 Tips to connect with both your students and parents for a productive year of learning.

By Jeanne Lazzarini, RAFT Math Activity Developer & Mentor, and the National Council for Teachers of Mathematics, NCTM
  1. Create a classroom that engages you and your kids.
Make your room a place that you like be in.  Some suggestions include:
    • Fill your classroom with examples of the real world.
    • Dedicate a bulletin board to certain topics.
    • Include a “Problem of the Week.”
    • Create a center including puzzles, thinking games, and manipulatives that could be explored by students.
  • Develop a plan to connect with parents.
Provide parents with a welcome letter followed by monthly newsletters that include a brief overview of topics their children will be learning about in the coming month. For the younger grades, a take-home “manipulative of the month” made out of sheets of craft foam or other inexpensive material could also be shared. Suggest activities for parents to do at home to reinforce the concepts and activities that the students are investigating in the classroom.
  1. Know and believe in all your students.
Before school starts, find out who your students are. Do any of them have special needs and/or an Individualized Education Plan (IEP) that you should be aware of? What level of English development are the English Learners in the class? Do you have students that are identified as gifted and talented? Having more information about your students will help you better plan for their needs. On the other hand, make sure to give each student a clean slate if you hear about past performance or discipline problems. If you begin to have issues, focus on giving the student positive attention by assigning more responsibilities instead of negative attention by punishing him or her.
  1. Create problem solvers.
Start each class with a set of questions and riddles that promote logical thinking. Allow students to work in small groups, and emphasize that they should discuss solution strategies and how they got their answers. This activity shows students that your classroom is a place where communication and collaboration are encouraged.
  1. Set up classroom norms so that everyone knows their role in the classroom. 
Maybe have students learn to use a hand signal to indicate one of three types of replies:  “I have a question,” “I have an answer,” and “I have a comment.” The teacher’s role includes orchestrating discourse by:
    • Posing questions to challenge student thinking.
    • Listening carefully and monitoring understanding.
    • Encouraging each student to participate, even if it means asking, “Who can repeat what Andrew said?” or “Who can explain in another way what Bailey did?”
The student’s role includes:
    • Listening and responding to the teacher and one another.
    • Using a variety of tools to reason, make connections, and solve problems.
    • Communicating and making convincing arguments of particular representations, procedures, and solutions.
  1. Ask questions that assess the students’ learning. Try Think-Pair-Share.  Call on students by name to invite them to contribute. These questions are not “Do we all get it?” or “Does anyone have any questions?” Rather, these questions must give the learners an opportunity to communicate their reasoning process—why they chose a particular method and how their choices made sense. Transform some of your closed questions, those that can be answered with one word, to open questions, those that require explanation.

CUSD Shares Possible STEAM Projects by Grade

Twelve STEAM Innovation Leaders from the Campbell Unified School District (CUSD) came to RAFT earlier this month to create new motivational activities for the start of the school year!  They met in grade-level teams with our RAFT Education staff to generate new ideas using RAFT materials that will motivate, challenge, and inspire their students.
Each team was given a RAFT Makerspace-in-a-Box containing a wide variety of upcycled materials. They were asked to create a Design Challenge that directed students to solve the instructor’s challenge with the materials from the box. The Design Challenges addressed an engineering standard appropriate for each grade level and could include standards from other subjects. Here are some of their exciting back-to-school ideas:

Grades TK – 2
Engineering Standard:
K-2-ETS1-1:  Ask questions, make observations, and gather information about a situation people want to change to define a simple problem that can be solved through the development of a new or improved object or tool.
  • Create something and share it with the class.
  • Make a gift:
    • For someone in your family to tell them about your day.
    • Learn about a classmate and make a gift for them based on something you learned about them.
  • Create something that tells us about yourself.
  • In a small group create something that:
    • Solves a problem you might have at school.
    • Is a team mascot or a team symbol.
Grades 3 – 5

Engineering Standard:
K-2-ETS1-1:  Define a simple design problem reflecting a need or want that includes specified criteria for success and constraints on materials, time, or cost.
  • Create something that tells us about yourself.
  • Design a gift for someone—use the Design Thinking model (empathy, define, ideate, prototype, test, reiterate and then create a final gift)
  • Make something that represents a character trait of yours.
  • Create a narrative with postcards. Pretend you were on a summer vacation, and design it.
  • Create your own nameplate to describe something about yourself.
  • Create a way to organize lots of materials for a group table activity, including math manipulatives.
  • Design your favorite classroom or learning space.
  • Create “fidgets” with a variety of physical challenges.
  • Create an improv speech using the materials for inspiration.
Grades 6 - 8

Engineering Standard:
MS-ETS1-1:  Define the criteria and constraints of a design problem with sufficient precision to ensure a successful solution, taking into account relevant scientific principles and potential impacts on people and the natural environment that may limit possible solutions.
  • A sentence frame task is taped to each Makerspace-in-a-Box. Each team of students uses the same number of items from the box to design one of the following school-wide challenges:
    • Choose a school project.  Award those who come up with the plan that most helps with a school or a real world problem.
    • Students gather feedback (take interviews) from the school population and prototype, test, and redesign their projects. Students could involve the entire school community in this challenge
  • Design fidget spinners or other devices.
  • Create a machine that has a function relating to a visual aid.
  • Build something from the materials that promote positive ideas/values/beliefs.
  • Create a work of art that generates active conversation and evokes compassion. Students must be able to defend and to explain their art.
  • Students use materials to tell stories, improve/redesign new uses for objects, etc.

Campbell Unified School District STEAM Leaders want you to “Make This School Year Awesome!!!” Check out their shared goals for the new school year:

Goal #1: Increase the availability of high quality, integrated STEAM education for all students, and bridge the world of the classroom with STEAM career opportunities and the local community.

Goal #2: Create a thoughtful, cohesive system that produces students who think logically, work both independently and collaboratively, and are able to apply their understanding of how the world works across integrated disciplines of STEAM.

Goal #3: Provide teachers ongoing professional development opportunities to extend their knowledge and application of STEAM integration.

Many thanks to all the excellent Campbell Unified School District’s STEAM Leaders for sharing their ideas and thought with our RAFT members!

Sunday, August 20, 2017

Trending Question This Week: Does RAFT carry eclipse-viewing glasses?

RAFT does not carry these glasses, but you do not need to look at the sun to enjoy the experience of a solar eclipse. As you may know the Bay Area will see about 75% of the eclipse on Monday, August 21. The eclipse will be at its fullest at approximately 10:15 that morning. We are hoping there will not be any cloud cover! Even if there are overcast skies, students will be able to observe the darkening effect in the sky. If the sun is shining, you can do activities with your students such as observing the rays cast by the sun on a plain surface, holding up a piece of peg board, a colander, or anything with round holes in it. Students will see tiny images of the eclipsed sun without having to look up into the sky. They can also observe other shadows and images of the sun’s rays coming through leaves on a tree or shrub, or even used their own hands, fingers splayed and over-crossed, to observe these images.
If possible, have your students do the same activities at the same time of day before or after the eclipse so that they can observe the differences. The next solar eclipse occurring in North America will not be until 2024.
It is important to remember never to look at the sun without NASA rated glasses.
For more on information and activities on the solar eclipse check the following links:

By Sandra Woodard, RAFT Greenroom & Membership Associate

Thursday, June 22, 2017

Harvesting an Orchard of Innovative Makers! Orchard School District Teachers share 1st year RAFT Makerspace Experiences

Written by Peter Holley, Middle School Orchard teacher and this year's Makerspace Cohort Lead Teacher

The maker space at Orchard School came into being this year with a community build in October.  Although our space is small, it is well put together and well stocked.  Several teachers have had the opportunity to use the maker space this year and we hope that more teachers will discover the maker space and use it in their lessons in the coming year. 

This year we had a cohort of teachers that was comprised of those that are passionate about making.  We met together monthly to learn how to use the space effectively and to incorporate making into our curriculum.  Each teacher in the cohort used the maker space with their classes and all had a positive experience and indicate that they hope to use it more frequently in the coming year. 
In the cohort we learned about a design process developed at Stanford called “design thinking”.  In this process students first use empathy to learn about the target audience for a design before defining the project and brainstorming ideas.

One of our cohort teachers, Ms. Jackler, used the space for students to build bridges as part of a connection to our “mystery science” curriculum.  Students needed to build bridges to allow a car to pass underneath.

Ms. Jain, another cohort teacher, had her students design and build leprechaun traps.  The students were able to choose from the wide variety of materials in the maker space.  They worked in cooperative groups to solve the problems associated with catching an elusive leprechaun.
Ms. Gould and Ms. Sakoda challenged their students to design a device that would safely allow an egg to be dropped without breaking.

Ms. Sakoda’s class also participated in an activity for students to build a tower using only a limited selection of materials.  Their empathy goal was to make the tower sturdy enough for a character to feel safe while “standing” on it.
We are excited to see the maker space being used and look forward to it becoming an integral part of classrooms across Orchard School! 

Find out more about Orchard School. District at: www.orchardsd.org

Wednesday, May 24, 2017

Are You Burned Out? - What To Do Now

By Myesha Mebane, Science Department Chair at Martin Luther King Jr. Junior High School

It’s May and you may be experiencing “Burn Out”, what do you do now? It is too late to consider what you could have done to prevent burn out in the first place. What do you do?

Symptoms of Burn Out

You are exhausted. Your energy level is low and it is apparent because everyone says that you look terrible. You have pushed your professional clothing to the back of your closet and thought about wearing those Saturday sweats on casual Friday. Your tolerance for having to repeat your classroom expectations and your patience with the little noises and frequent giggles is gone and you have resulted to referrals to the office. Every single day you think about calling in sick because you know you need a mental health day.

10 ways to get you through the last few weeks of school

There are a lot of things that you can do to make sure that you don’t crash and burn during those last few weeks of school. Below is a list of things that I do to endure until the end of the school year.

1. Do not do the infamous countdown to the last day of school! That makes the days much longer. Instead try planning some fun activities for your students that they can look forward to for the closing of school.
2. Surround yourself with positive people. Stay away from the colleagues that complain about their job (adopt this practice year around). If there are no positive people around, then lose yourself in a good book.
3. Grab your fitness watch and take a walk with a peer during lunch or your prep time.
4. Plan a vacation. By planning a vacation, you give yourself something to look forward to and anticipation can be major motivation. Even a planned Stay-cation is effective. Plan to explore your local areas.
5. Buy or make your colleagues some snack packs. They are experiencing the same problems that you are right now. Chocolate is the cure for the midday blues on any day. Your co-workers will appreciate it and they may return the favor when you need it.
6. Take a day off of work and rest. If it will help you to better serve your students, just take a day. May is a long month and depending on when your spring break was given you may have had more than two months straight without a long weekend. Take a day. Your students will thank you for it (they need a break from you too).
7. Plan something fun for your students. Don’t result to movies and shallow lesson plans, do that cross-curricular unit that you wanted to do for your students all year long. They will love it (just make sure that it is well planned).
8. Get a mid-day massage during your prep. Just cover your windows and call your favorite masseuse if your administration will allow it. If you can’t have visitors, put on some soothing music get out your favorite lotion or oil and rub your own feet and legs.
9. Maximize your weekends with a fun but relaxing activity that you can enjoy either alone or with your family.  Take a scenic drive and just breathe. Go for a walk in nature’s glory. Don’t let four walls hold you.
10. Reflect. Spend some time thinking about ways that you have been effective and how you may have to change for the next school year.  Try writing in a journal and make it a routine that you can revisit regularly. Many well-adapted people journal.

Author - Myesha Mebane, Science Department Chair at Martin Luther King Jr. Junior High School cozysocks08@gmail.com

That’s it. Take care of yourself. See you next year.