Saturday, November 29, 2014

Sensational, Hands-On Math Workshop Resources for Grades 3-8

This post is from three years ago, but it is still so very applicable! Enjoy!

This weblog will begin with a focus on math workshop for grades 3 through middle school. Hands-on math has become more of an initiative in the past few years. It has seemed more simple for primary teachers (grades K-2) and more challenging for intermediate/middle school teachers (grades 3 and up). However, there are sensational resources online that can help make your math curriculum more dynamic!

Exemplary Websites That Will Lead You In The Right Direction:
  • Math Resources from MathLearnNC: This website is the creme de la creme of incredible math websites. If you have never visited this website, it is appropriate for the elementary level, yet a lot of ideas can be adapted for middle school students. There are "Week by Week Mathematics Essentials" (with Calculator Riddles, games, and problems (brain teasers) that can be cut and pasted in journals), "Classroom Strategies" with more games and examples, and "Grade Level Indicators". I have used many of the fourth- and fifth-grade resources for my classroom resource drawers that I fill with games. 
  • Johnnie's Math Website: I admire this individual. The math videos and games that are linked are absolute top-notch. The best thing is that there is an entire section including middle school math resources.
  • Know Which Literature Teaches Which Math Skills: Need a list of math picture books and which skills they review? I find this to be an extremely useful resource. Developed by the Miami-Dade school district.
  • Articles by Marilyn Burns: So much is including here about math journaling, games, and hands-on math in general.
  • Math for Multiple Intelligences: "How a middle-school math teacher realized she was boring and jump-started her career- and her students."
  • Classroom Lessons on Math Solutions (Marilyn Burns' website) 
  • Mrs. Beck's Math Real Life Connection Problems (Printables from Google Docs) 
  • See my upper elementary math finds on Pinterest. (Over 200 pins!) 
Make Your Own Manipulatives:
  • A phenomenal idea is to make different puzzle cubes from wooden cubes found in craft stores. Soma cubes are one example where you construct 7 different figures that fit together to make a larger cube. All you need are the small wooden cubes from the craft store and a glue gun to make several kits for your classroom. You need 27 small cubes for each kit. Another variation is the diabolic cube (scroll down a bit on this page to see the figures you need to construct), conway cube, and kinder cube. If you want to know even more, check out the Puzzle Play book from AIMS. As I stated earlier, the challenges in there are extraordinary!
Of course, you can always check into more hands-on math curriculums like Investigations and Everyday Math as well. Remember, some resources on here were better for third-graders and others were better for eighth-graders, but hopefully you benefitted from this post!

Take a Short Tour of My Classroom... For those who have never seen my room before.

I know, I know, it's nearly December. However, I was not able to share my classroom this year outside of my group of friends online. Everything is still the same, and I am excited about all the personal touches that make the classroom a unique and creative place to learn.

I hope you have enjoyed viewing our learning haven! This very special place has been a spectacular learning environment this year!

Upper Elementary Electricity Unit Ideas

My students are progressing to the electricity section of the chapter about energy in their science books. They are going to solidify their understanding of conductors and insulators, series and parallel circuits, static electricity, positive charges, negative charges, and neutral charges.

Before leaving for Thanksgiving Break, my students watched this video from Popular Mechanics Kids, which amazed them because the video was made in 1997 and felt more "current" to them--

I chose that video because it reviewed quite a few applications using electricity, which basically kept everyone interested!

When we delve into our unit, we are going to make electromagnets, which I haven't done with students in quite some time. We are also going to play around with littleBits more than we did a few months ago when we learned about the possibilities of what we could construct with them. There is also the Makey-Makey, where students make a controller for a video game, piano stairs, and so much more using conductive materials.

One thing my students had the opportunity to do last year (and will now have the opportunity to do during our electricity unit) was play around with squishy circuits when they visited an eighth grade classroom during our school's science extravaganza of sorts. This tutorial from St. Thomas University has students making conductive and insulating dough, which a few students may do with me after school-- or with a volunteer during school. Students then use 10mm diffused lens LEDs, battery packs, buzzers, and other materials to make series and parallel circuits.

We are also going to connect electricity to the holiday season. An interesting tidbit I will share with the students is about the origination of electric Christmas lights. How Stuff Works has a great explanation of how lights work, which I will be connecting to my explanation about parallel circuits. Last, my students and Technology Club members will learn about paper circuitry using circuitry stickers. In this article from Middleweb, sixth grade students illuminated poetry, which I find quite intriguing and wonderful!

Do you have any ideas for our electricity unit? Of course, we will be taking notes as well so we can use them to apply to our hands-on lessons. I think we will have a phenomenal December because there is quite a bit to look forward to!

Quick Ideas! Surface Area with Wrapping Paper

On the forefront... Quick Ideas, Holiday 2014 Edition!

The premise of Quick Ideas is to share an idea that takes minimal preparation that meets a standard you are required to teach. Quick Ideas will be posted at the start of every month.

The linky is at the bottom of this post... and on your page, you can either just provide the link to this page or the link along with the image at the top of the post. I cannot wait to see the holiday-related ideas that are going to be shared!

Note: Although you may have seen where people have linked to Teachers Pay Teachers products, that is not what I want done. Please write a post about a quick idea you can use in your classroom. Read below to see what I have written as a "quick idea" suggestion. Thanks. 

The quick idea I am sharing is about... Surface Area and Wrapping Paper. It is appropriate for grades 4-6.

I actually wrapped my first holiday gift last night. I usually am not that efficient; normally I begin wrapping a week before Christmas and crank things out at the last minute. While I was wrapping, I realized I purchased the kind that had the square inch grid on the back. Although the grid is intended for cutting straight lines, it can also be used to review surface area.

Let's say you show your students a 12 in. x 12 in. x 12 in. box that has a surface area of 864 square inches. (There are six sides with dimensions of 12 x 12, or an area of 144 square inches.) You then know if you were to wrap your box without any slack at all, you would need an area that consists of exactly 864 squares. You can cut six 12 x 12 arrays and tape them to the box or cut a net that perfectly meets the dimensions of the box.

That is my Quick Idea for December 2014!

Our list for December 2014 is as follows...

Friday, November 28, 2014

What I Learned From Attending a Regional NSTA Conference in Orlando, Florida

Needless to say, attending the regional NSTA (National Science Teachers' Association) conference was a phenomenal experience I would not trade for... anything. It was all I imagined and more with a plethora of workshop offerings, a wonderful store, and a bountiful exhibit hall.

Here are my notes from each workshop--

What's In My Lunch? Genetic Modifications Workshop--

This workshop (hosted by Edvotek) was intended for upper middle school and high school students, though curiosity lured me to this 8:00 offering my first morning at NSTA. In the workshop, we extracted samples from Tostitos yellow corn chips, Sun Chips, and Herb's Corn Chips to see which contained genetically modified organisms.

Genetically Modified Organisms (GMOs) came to the forefront in the 1970s. Mutations in foods grant advantages in tastiness, but are dangerous. Scientists directly manipulate DNA sequences to generate desirable traits. Changing one place in the DNA preserves genetic diversity. Corn was inbred but then lost resistence to fungus, so DNA was directly manipulated.

The process consisted of-- 1. Extracting DNA from the samples, 2. Amplifying the samples using PCR, and 3. Analyzing the PCR using electrophoresis.

30 microliters of sample were loaded in each well. I then took the micropipette and conducted the experiment. It was pretty fascinating, though working with micropipettes and electrophoresis is never something I had the opportunity to do (ever) before that morning. I think that was lured me to that workshop-- I was curious, and because of my innate curiosity, I will always remain a lifelong learner.

Argumentation Workshop, Hosted by FOSS--

I then headed to a workshop that was intended for elementary school teachers. The presenters talked about interactive notebooks and assessment systems. My group of four explored magnetic fields using ring magnets and paperclips. We increased the number of magnets from 1-3 and saw how the distance in which a small paperclip was attracted. We used a ruler to measure that distance.

This statement was one I underlined a few times in my notebook-- "Data is evidence, but evidence is data."

Atoms Workshop from CPO Science--

This workshop offering was fascinating because of the build-an-atom activity below! The essential question was: What are atoms, and how are they put together? 

In the picture below, electrons are yellow, neutrons are blue, and protons are green. You can see this game in the CPO Science Online Store here


Polywhat? (hosted by the Polymer Ambassadors at was my favorite Thursday workshop offering. Their ideas were phenomenal, and I think visiting the website will help you to see everything that made this workshop intriguing. 

Modeling a Black Hole 

The last workshop on Thursday had to do with modeling a black hole, which was a challenge because we had to wrap Reynolds Wrap around a balloon. However, we were successful, and it may be something I try with my fifth graders in the future.

Middle School Chemistry Workshop--

Molecules Matter was the 8:00 a.m. workshop offering I attended on the second day. Visiting will help you to see the activities the instructors introduced at this workshop. Since attending this workshop, my fifth graders have completed a few of these activities. 

The Exhibit Hall

The Exhibit Hall was a really intriguing and fun experience. Carolina Educational Supply had an exquisite display, but one of the items I was most impressed with was the T-Bot II Hydraulic Arm from Pitsco. It is inexpensive and pretty fascinating at the same time. Pitsco's website states the arm "is a great project for illustrating hydraulic power and mechanics. See how syringes, tubes, and water work together to power the parts of this robotic arm. Each control moves one of the T-Bot II's axes. The four controls can be used one at a time or all at once by a team of students-- they can try basic maneuvers or moving objects as a team-building exercise!" 

Miniature Golf Workshop--

This workshop was intended for upper elementary educators. The instructor recommended "Engineering is Everywhere" and "Engineering Design Process" from NASA's Best, which is here. She also recommended these Gizmos activities-- Force Fan Carts, Ants on a Slant, and Golf Range (regular, not miniature). One of the videos she showed was NBC Learn's "Science of Golf-- Potential and Kinetic Energy". 

I found a few links after the workshop-- 
- Boston Children's Museum activity for constructing mini golf holes (very similar to what our school's second grade students complete annually) 

Carnival of Science

I liked this offering because it was intended for upper elementary teachers in Florida. Hosted by two science coaches who work for Hillsborough County Schools, they shared a plethora of activities that make test preparation review exciting. Below are two of my favorite activities they shared-- especially the second one!

Hosting an Engineering Fair

My second-to-last NSTA workshop, the instructors talked about hosting an engineering fair/invention convention. They mainly showed examples, which were pretty interesting and made me think of my Technology Club students as they are coming up with exhibits for the Maker Faire we will be holding at the end of the school year. The students in this group started out as fifth graders last year and will improvise their designs through the eighth grade, which sounds somewhat similar to my Technology Club students, too! I taught a number of the sixth graders last year, and they will be in the club through the end of eighth grade... =)

Density-- Life Jackets + Toy Soldiers

This workshop was pretty interesting! Intended for middle school students, I saw where my fifth graders could complete this activity as well. Students are given a piece of foam to cut a small "life jacket" that helps a toy soldier to float in a container of water. The mass, volume, and density of the toy soldier are calculated with and without the life jacket. This activity comes from a NSTA booklet I purchased later that morning at the store called Everyday Engineering. Here is a preview from a different part of the book.

Overall, I learned a lot! It was a wonderful experience I cannot wait to have again when the opportunity arises.

Product: Winter Festival! A 40-Question Math Game for Grades 4-6+

Hello, readers!

I am shaking the dust off this weblog and hopefully rejuvenating something wonderful! I have not been a part of Teachers Pay Teachers for quite some time, though I have thought about it the past few months and feel excellent about coming back to the scene. 

This past week and particularly this morning, I have worked on finalizing my first file in quite some time! Plenty more will be coming!

It costs $4.00. 

This 40-question set of holiday- and winter-related questions is sure to captivate your students' attention! This 14-page packet includes a three-page answer key with explanations about the solving process and three problem-solving pages as well for the most challenging questions from the game. 

The questions fall into these categories-- 
Decimal Multiplication
Measurement Conversion
Double/Multi-Digit Multiplication 
Decimal Division
Long Division
Fractions/Simplest Terms
Surface Area

Here is the first question from the set--
Hot cocoa with marshmallows was sold in the cafeteria the evening of the Winter Festival. 598 cups of hot cocoa were sold for .75 each. How much money was made off of the hot cocoa sales? 

Here is the second question from the set--
2. Snow was brought in to the festival so families and students could enjoy snowball fights. The snow was put into an area that is 30 feet long, 50 feet wide, and 5 inches deep. In inches, what is the volume of the area where the snow was transported? 
12 inches= 1 foot

Here are my explanations for the solution to questions 1 and 2--
1. Decimal Multiplication: You need to multiply 598 x .75 to solve this problem. The answer is $448.50. 
2. Volume, Measurement Conversion: You need to convert the two measurements in feet to inches first. 12 inches are in 1 foot. 30 feet is equivalent to 360 inches, and 50 feet is equivalent to 600 inches. 5 inches does not need to be converted. You now need to multiply 360 x 600 x 5 to find the volume of the area, which equals 1,080,000 cubic inches. 

Many of the problems are multi-step and correlate with Common Core standards, particularly fifth and sixth grade. 

There are numerous ways in which you can use the game questions. I am sketching a game board where kids "navigate" through the "winter festival", though two no-prep solutions are using the cards for Scoot and an around-the-room scavenger hunt (20 at a time for two days). 

I hope you enjoy this file!

Thursday, November 27, 2014

Welcome the Christmas Season with Clip Art!

This is a Christmas clipart collection I designed three years ago and featured on my old weblog, love4thgrade, which I still have (privately) and will share some posts from in the near future. I really hope you love these graphics and find uses for them!

Only disclaimer: If you choose to use this in a TpT file or something else you distribute online, please give me credit. You may use it for any educational purposes, as long as you credit me, Victoria Jasztal, owner of

Have a blessed and wonderful holiday season!

Christmas and Winter Math for the Upper Grades!

Last night, I posted numerous ideas on how to infuse science during Christmas and the season of winter. Now I am beginning to think about what I want to accomplish for 2 1/2 weeks in math. I am going to extend the students' study of fractions a bit, begin reviewing the coordinate grid (four quadrant for a challenge), and properties of geometric figures. Also, because it correlates well with gifts and wrapping paper, I am beginning to review surface area and volume. Although I am giving a final exam in math soon, I want to make December a unique, hands-on, exciting month.

The only challenge is that it is somewhat difficult to find wonderful winter and Christmas-inspired math activities for upper elementary in comparison to the primary grades, where it is quite simple to find a treasure trove of activities.

However, I worked hard for you! I aspire to do the best (and only the best) with my fifth graders, challenging them while having FUN at the same time. Here are the activities I found (as well as thought of on my own) below.

1. TpT: Teaching with a Mountain View: To Grandmother's House We Go!
Grades: 4-7
Explanation: When it comes to stellar educators online, Mary from Teaching with a Mountain View is phenomenal. Her holiday packets encourage higher-order thinking on so many levels. This packet reviews multi-digit multiplication and long division, perimeter and area, measurement, decimal computation (money), fractions, problem-solving, multi-step problem solving, elapsed time, and data and graphing. She offers options for differentiation, and the best part is that you never have to focus on every part of the packet to have a wonderful lesson for your students.

2. A few things you can do that relate to theme parks during the holiday season are...
- Focus on Disney's Candlelight Processional. If approximately 400 high school students perform in every show and there are three shows a evening for 33 days, approximately how many high school performers will be on stage for the processional this holiday season?
- Look at the length of one of the songs from the show, such as "O Holy Night". If this song is performed 99 times this season, how many hours and minutes will it be performed in all?
- Each group of performers consists of the bass, tenor, alto, second soprano, and first soprano sections. Listen to one of the songs that has distinct male and female performance moments. What fraction of the performance did just males perform vs. just females? (Seconds performed/Seconds the song lasts in all) Can you reduce the fraction to smallest terms?
- Think about the stage of performers. There are those who make up the "tree" section, dressed in green, and then the Voices of Liberty. How many performers make up those two sections? If there are approximately 400 high school performers, what fraction does the Voices of Liberty comprise? What fraction does the "tree section" comprise?
- Write problems for your students (or have them write some themselves) using facts from Disneyland Resort: Holidays by the Numbers.
- Determine how much it would cost you (and your family, or you and a few friends) to purchase a 3-day ticket, tickets to Mickey's Very Merry Christmas Party, and/or show/meal tickets to EPCOT's Candlelight Processional. How much would it cost for you to stay with your family and friends in one of Disney's hotels for a few evenings during the holiday season? (Decimal computation connections-- How much would it cost per person in your group to stay in the hotel? Remember, four people typically share one room. (Decimal Division) How much would it cost to stay at the hotel in December vs. staying in January? (Subtracting Decimals) How does staying in one of the luxury hotels compare with one of the moderate or budget hotels? (Subtracting Decimals))
- Determine how much it would cost you to visit all kinds of attractions and watch all kinds of shows during the holiday season. If I choose to do this, I am going to hand my students a calendar and have them come up with a schedule of events they will "attend". Since my students live in Florida, they have quite a bit to choose from in Orlando, Tampa, and further cities. (Don't forget to tally tax for each event.)

3. Shopping during the holiday season... 
-  Have your students "purchase" gifts for family members and friends. (I am combining products from a variety of catalogs into one packet so they have one central store to shop at.) Have them tally in sales tax. (Further challenge-- Have them apply various "discounts" of 10%, 25%, and 40% off to their purchase to see how much money they are saving.)
- Can you or your students come up with some word problems using this infographic from Forbes-- Black Friday by the Numbers? (For example, 417 million iPads were sold in 2013. Approximately how much in commission came from iPads?)

4. Pure Awesomeness from!
- From this website on, I was able to find out this fact about the 2012 holiday season regarding trees: 24.5 million "real" Christmas trees were sold in 2012, and approximately 14% of them were "cut-your-own". How many of the trees were "cut-your-own"?
- Also, more than 70 million poinsettia plants were sold in 2012 over the course of a six-week period, so approximately how many were sold weekly? (What is 70,000,000 divided by 6?)
- 2.7 million candy canes were manufactured by the Spangler Candy Co. daily in 2012. How many candy canes were manufactured every hour? (2.7 million divided by 24) How many were manufactured over the course of one week? (2.7 million multiplied by 7) How many boxes of 12 candy canes can that accommodate? How about boxes of 18?
- If you need to see a stunning infographic with even more information, go here--

5. Baking: 
Link to tons of sugar cookie recipes:
Classic Christmas cookie recipes:
Sandwich cookie recipes:

- As students bake cookies, of course they have to use fractions! Only once before have my students made delectable goodies from scratch, but this year I am going to do it as well. Last night, I mentioned students are going to learn about the connections to thermal energy and physical and chemical changes, which they likely already know, though the fraction coverage will be wonderful as well.
- Furthermore, you can have each group of students double their recipes before they bake, which requires them to add fractions.

6. Surface Area and Volume with Gifts!
- Students are going to wrap some gifts for me for the holiday dance.
- They are also going to donate decorated shoe boxes with gifts inside to our local children's hospital, All Children's Hospital. I initially got this idea from Beth Newingham; here is the letter she wrote to her students' families about the cause.
- Both these activities can relate quite a bit to surface area and volume. Students have to estimate how much wrapping paper they need to adequately wrap a gift, which relates to surface area. Then it's also interesting to look at items like video game consoles and what adequate volume of a box needs to be to accommodate it.

7. Coordinate Graphing from a Seventh Grade Teacher!
Explanation: Needless to say, these student products are fantastic. You can provide coordinates for your students or have them come up with some on their own.

8. Pi Ornaments (With All Kinds of Challenge!) from Miss Math Dork: 
Explanation: "Miss Math Dork" used some wonderful higher-order questioning with her students to make five batches of Pi ornaments. Though this is intended for middle school, I may try this!
Here is the recipe she used for the ornaments:
Pi Cookie Cutter:

9. TpT: Geometry Town Project: 
Grades: 5-10
Explanation: I know this is not specifically intended for the holiday season, but it could be used during the holiday season with Christmas elements.

More will be added as I think of ideas! Also, if you think of one, submit it to me and I will put your name there as one who submitted. Thank you for your support, and have a beautiful holiday season!

By the way, this snowman is from a clipart collection I designed three years ago!

It's a Post That Goes Ding! How on Earth (or Gallifrey) does Doctor Who have to do with math or science?

So I was pondering this morning, which is Thanksgiving, about Doctor Who and how I can incorporate it in my math and science classroom. My fifth grade populace is inundated with some intensely dedicated Whovians. I then began searching how individuals on the Internet, whether classroom teachers, homeschooling parents, or just parents in their spare time, have incorporated concepts of the show in lessons and hands-on activities.

Stop 1: A homeschooling mom and her daughter constructed an amazing cardboard replica TARDIS at home. 
Explanation: This individual, Gwyn, completed a world-class project with her daughter! She pointed out they learned about problem-solving, electronic circuit building, the Pythagorean theorem, fine motor skills, engineering, assessing the qualities of various materials, construction design, patience and commitment, and consumer ethics while constructing a TARDIS. She covered a grand plethora of math and science standards with her child and taught her skills she needed for life as well.
P.S. Here is Gwyn's other weblog. 

Stop 2: A girl made a fez for her Halloween costume because she could not find it in stores. 
Explanation: A girl made an amazing fez the evening before Halloween! There are tons of fez patterns on the Internet, and specifically, she used this one. By looking at the illustrations, imagine all the math standards you could cover by making a fez. You may notice it covers quite a few geometry and fraction concepts.
Vocabulary: perpendicular, angle measurement, acute, vertical, internal diameter, arc (of a circle)

Stop 3: Someone constructed a TARDIS to scale. 
Explanation: This is something neat to read. Perhaps you can connect this blog post to a lesson about surface area and volume.

Stop 4: Making your own sonic screwdriver teaches you quite a bit about circuitry. 
Explanation: If you choose to construct this, you may have to modify a bit, but it's a neat concept. It doesn't seem that difficult to complete, either.

Note: If you are skilled with Arduino, then this from Instructables is valuable! 
Note: If you want something that is already premade, you can purchase this customizable set from 

Stop 5: 3-D print and light up your own TARDIS. 

Other ideas-- When teaching about the kinds of energy, have your Whovians come up with how the different kinds of energy are represented in the show. Also, have them come up with math questions for a game-- I have had a few theme questions after Doctor Who in the past two classes.

Hope you enjoyed this eccentric and fun post! There are tons of neat ideas out there!

Science + Winter/Christmas= MAGICAL!

Science + Winter/Christmas= MAGICAL!

I have done a pretty decent job infusing holidays with math and science concepts this year. I dedicated the month of October to chemistry and plan on dedicating December to energy/electricity. I also plan on doing some other things that focus on winter and Christmas in my fifth grade science class. I am writing about this now because I realize when I best prepare, it's at least a week or two in advance. Want to find out more? Read on. 

1. Fake Snow: 
Connection:  Chemistry
Explanation: Purchase diapers that have sodium polyacrylate, which is a fine white powder within a small compartment of the diaper. To make snow, your students have to add water to the sodium polyacrylate until they feel they have "snow". Sodium polyacrylate consists mostly of water, so it feels cold to the touch. The Instructables page also suggests putting the snow in the freezer for ten minutes to make it "extra cold". The snow does not melt; it dries. Sodium polyacrylate absorbs 200-300 times its mass in tap water. This page states it is a super-absorbent, cross-linked polymer containing sodium atoms. When sodium polyacrylate comes into contact with water, sodium atoms leave and are replaced with water molecules. Water then swells the "polymer network". 

2. Make Light-Up Holiday Cards and Winter Scenes Using Circuitry Stickers
Connection: Electricity
Explanation: Circuitry stickers are awesome. This kit for $29 has 40 stickers! You need these along with copper tape and a coin cell battery (with something along the lines of a binder clip) in order to light up holiday cards.

In an LED sticker, as shown in this file, the positive charge is at the top of the sticker while the negative charge is at the bottom. There are two metal pads, a wide, flat one at the positive end and the pointy one at the negative end. There are white, red, blue, and yellow stickers that come in clusters of six. Copper tape, as your students likely know, is a conductor that is soft enough to cut, bend, and rip. Last, you need a three-volt coin cell battery and possibly a binder clip to hold the battery in place. 

3. "Spark" a discussion (I did not intend to be punny at all!) about series and parallel circuits...
Connection: Electricity
Explanation: We all get agitated about that one faulty Christmas tree light that keeps the entire string of lights from lighting up! Here, I think about Clark Griswold checking all the bulbs in National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation (though their problem was obviously not related to faulty bulbs!). Ask students why the lights on a Christmas tree do not light up when there is one faulty bulb!

BBC has a good explanation of series and parallel circuits here.

4. Christmas Cookie Mystery from
Connection: Chemistry
Explanation: The Science Spot, first and foremost, is one of my favorite science websites and offers quality resources. This resource focuses on mystery mixtures that students test. The teacher directions are here, which includes the list of materials you need. Mystery sample #1 has flour, cornstarch, and powdered sugar. Mystery Sample #2 has flour, baking soda, and powdered sugar. Mystery Sample #3 has flour, baking soda, and baby powder. Mixture #2, obviously, is the correct mixture to make the cookies because it fizzes in vinegar, turn black in iodine, and melt/bubble when heated.

5. Christmas Chromatography with a Chemistry Carol, also from
Connection: Chemistry

Explanation: According to a weblog dedicated to chromatography, it is "the science of separating mixtures from complex to simple". This website states there are materials that may appear to be homogenous, though they are rather a combination of numerous substances. The dyes in the markers are dissolved and separated.

6. Construct a Model City:
Connection: Chemistry
Explanation: Students are going to spend time constructing a model city with a winter/holiday theme in groups where they will use series and parallel circuitry to illuminate it.

7. Making Ornaments from Dough: 
Connection: Chemistry, Energy (Thermal Energy)
Explanation: Linking measurement and chemistry, making ornaments from salt dough is exciting. This is an ideal time to talk about physical changes, chemical changes, and thermal energy. Heat is transmitted to the dough mixture through radiation, convection, and conduction.
- Radiation: Waves of infrared energy radiate throughout the oven.
- Convection: There is an obvious movement of molecules in the dough going on during this process. The convection consists of rapidly-moving molecules while the molecules are the dough are slow-moving. How rapidly heat diffuses depends on how rapidly the air is moving in the oven. The turbulence of the air in the oven is causing convection to occur.
- Conduction: Thermal energy is transferred to the dough because of its direct contact with the tray it is placed on.
(I used this page and this page to do a little research; both are pretty neat!)

Also when the dough is mixed, a physical change occurs, and a chemical change occurs as the dough comes in contact with the heat source.

8. The Chemistry of Baking Pizza and Cookies:
Looking at the explanation above, thermal energy is also a part of baking pizza and cookies. We are probably going to hold our Italian feast this year as we had in the past, so we will be making pizza for our celebration. We are also going to bake cookies from scratch!

Since I am a HUGE TED-Ed nerd =), I found a spectacular video I will show my students the day they bake their cookies...

I am also showing them Untamed Science's "Chemistry of Baking Soda and Yeast":

9. Christmas Tree Fire Safety: 
Connection: Chemistry

Explanation: Steve Spangler is PHENOMENAL, and this is obviously just a video I am showing because I cannot by any means demonstrate this in my classroom! Though authentic evergreens are wonderful to have in the home, they can also pose a major fire hazard. I am going to have my students focus on how to avoid potential fire risks.

Furthermore, here is a "Christmas Tree Science" lesson intended for third graders. I probably won't use it, but I definitely wanted to share it.

10. Ski Slope! 
Connection: Mechanical Energy
Explanation: The ski slope is something I am setting up at our school's grades 3-5 holiday dance, hosted by the middle school Technology Club students I sponsor. I am going to have pool noodles cut in half and painted white to make them look like a ski slope. My fifth grade students are going to construct five different "slopes" and have a marble race for the students who attend the dance. Students will see the potential and kinetic energy transfer as the marbles race down the slopes! They will use timers to determine the winner.

11. Elephant Toothpaste: 
Link: and
Connection: Chemistry
Explanation: Elephant toothpaste is an exciting chemistry demonstration. I used the kid-friendly version from Steve Spangler at Halloween, but it wasn't the best for demonstration purposes. Hopefully at our holiday dance, we can do something bigger and better! Of course, hydrogen peroxide decomposes into water and oxygen gas, and the process is sped up by a catalyst, which in the case of the Middle School Chemistry website is potassium permanganate.

12. Making a Snowstorm in a Jar: 
Connection: Weather, Chemistry
Explanation: Though this is intended for younger kids, I really think older kids will enjoy looking at what gets this demonstration to work on a deeper, chemistry-centric level. This can also be really neat if your students have younger elementary Book Buddies.

13. Making Snowflakes: 
Link: and
Connection: Chemistry
Explanation: I feel "kids" of all ages (as young as pre-school and as old as my fifth graders) can enjoy this demonstration on different levels. First, I shared the instructions with you. Out of many websites I perused, this website had a nice explanation about the chemistry behind the demonstration! Even on a middle school level, this .pdf file focuses on the science behind growing crystals.

- Students are preparing a supersaturated solution.
- When the pipe cleaners are immersed in the supersaturated solution, a crystalline structure forms. Crystals are comprised of ions or atoms, depending on what is in the solution. The crystal formation mimics what comprises the matter that is added to the solution. As it states in the .pdf file I shared from Nano-Link, some structures are cubic while others are prismatic. Crystals repeat because of their internal molecular structure and unique chemistry.

You may want to show this website to your students as well, which has a good explanation tailored to upper elementary and middle school students.

p.s. If you are somewhere that snows (which is DEFINITELY not where I am in Florida), frozen bubbles sounds like a ton of fun. Enjoy, if you are truly in a winter wonderland!

Hope this helps jump start your holiday season in your upper elementary (science) classroom! Upper elementary students should have as much fun as younger elementary students... and with these hands-on activities and wonderful demonstrations, I know their scientific knowledge is going to expand even further.

Happy Thanksgiving from Jasztalville! Have a safe, heartwarming, beautiful day with your family and friends. I'll be back in a few days with yet another post!

Sunday, November 23, 2014

Thanksgiving Math, Photo Booths, Water Chemistry, and Toob-Inspired Learning

Good evening-- this week is finally Thanksgiving! I am also coming back from a pretty extensive hiatus.

If you have the week off, you're amazingly fortunate! However, there is this other part of me that feels quite fortunate to have my students for two days this week. I get to hold one Technology Club meeting (canceled last week due to weather), host a Thanksgiving feast with a photo booth, and talk about hydrophilic and hydrophobic molecules. I am also thinking about Toob-inspired learning because I found a wonderful deal at Michaels today that I could NOT resist!

Thanksgiving Math and Feast--

I have used some wonderful lesson plans from Teachers Pay Teachers this year as well as some of my original, creative ideas to intertwine math and Thanksgiving. Around every holiday, I try my best to make learning fun while reviewing a grand plethora of skills.

This year, my students were able to "plan" a Thanksgiving dinner for their families and friends using a wonderful packet from Teaching with a Mountain View. Intended for 4th-7th grade students, this mini-project includes tons of multi-step questions that mirror higher-order Common Core Standards. Students do more than just planning a dinner. I love how she focused on time it takes for people to prepare and cook various delectable goodies. Mary also included differentiation options for the most advanced learners, which is impressive and amazing since she teaches fifth grade gifted students as well!

I also used Thanksgiving Trivia Math and Thanksgiving Fractions from this packet, which includes quality word problems as well as tons of other kinds of questions. Math Mojo, the creator, also differentiated this packet for third- and fourth-grade students.

I am continuing the focus on Thanksgiving this week by incorporating these two free resources-- the math of Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade and Mayflower Math.

In light of this, we are having a feast tomorrow afternoon. My math-minded self will be asking my students some questions, of course. Seeing the general rule of thumb is about a pound and a half per person, how many people can generally be served by our class' 22-pound turkey? We also have some turkey on the side from smaller packages, so students will estimate how many can be served from those containers as well. We will talk about how long it took to prepare the turkey, also, and estimate how many minutes it took per pound.

I also went to a wedding this weekend, so I am excited to have my very first photo booth for families and friends to enjoy tomorrow. There will be all kinds of crazy props, which will hopefully get everyone laughing and having a wonderful time.

Water Chemistry--

I am quite excited to talk about hydrophilic and hydrophobic molecules this week using growing cubes from Educational Innovations and five kinds of growing figures from Michael's (which were $1.00 each).

The essential questions will be-- What is a polymer? How are the figures you are seeing polymers? Why do you think the figures are "behaving" the way they are? 

First, I will show students this video from TED-ED and explain that many, many, many things in our world consist of polymers. Polymers are comprised by strings of tiny molecules and "behave" in different ways based on how their atoms and molecules join together. Most polymers are linear, though some also tend to branch. They repeat in specific patterns.

I am going to engage my classes by showing them a glass of water that appears to not have anything inside, though one of the cubes (expanded to full size and transparent) will be immersed. I am going to pull out the cube and ask students why it appears invisible when immersed. In the midst of that, I will show what the cubes look like before being immersed, which have a yellow hue and are quite a bit smaller. Of course, I will ask students what they believe is occurring as the cube expands in volume and "loses" its yellow hue.

I am also going to display the five winter-inspired figures and ask students what the science is behind their "expansion capabilities". Overnight, they will be immersed in containers filled with water so the conversation can continue the following day. We are going to compare the mass and area (in square centimeters) of the figures.

After discussing and exploring a bit, I will explain to them what is happening scientifically.

The growing cubes are like the "ghost crystals" that are referenced in this document from the Polymer Ambassadors.

Essentially, hydrophilic water gel "spheres" consist of a polyacrylamide polymer that water "clings" to. The cubes absorb water and expand until they are quite a bit larger (which is approximately 300%). The absorption is dependent on how much salt is in the water, so it is recommended tap water is used rather than purified or bottled water.

Changes in appearance happen almost automatically. Within ten minutes or so, it is intriguing seeing how water molecules are "clinging" onto the cube, which begins taking on the shape of a several-sided prism. When the cubes are fully grown, their refraction index is almost like that of water, so that is why they appear invisible. Light rays are not bent when they travel between two substances with the same refraction index.

With the "expanding figures", they consist of both hydrophilic and hydrophobic polymers. The figure absorbs water because of the hydrophilic polymers, and then it maintains its shape because of the hydrophobic polymers, which are known as "framework polymers". (See a really neat lesson here and the explanation I read before writing this, if you desire.)

Toob-Inspired Learning--

Now onto something I am going to explore later in the week when I have a few days off-- my two new Toob purchases from Michaels. They are two different sets of World Landmarks. Here is one of the Toobs on, if you are curious about what is inside... or if you don't know what I am talking about. There was a buy one, get one 50% sale, though the second Toob I purchased was already discounted.

I am thinking of designing a math game on poster board where I sketch out the world and lay out the landmarks (perhaps carving a groove into foam). The questions will then be about the actual dimensions of the landmarks (not the Toob figures), how far away the students are from home when visiting these particular destinations, and more.

I am also thinking about asking students which three Toob figures have the greatest volume-- and why. I am interested in seeing what their thought processes will be when determining which three are the greatest.

Do you have any other ideas? Have you used figures from Toobs in the classroom before? The only thing I have used them for is game pieces, so I am pretty excited.

I hope you have a wonderful week! It's nice to be blogging again! Thanks for reading.