Thursday, May 15, 2014

Ideas for a middle school science fair project

Here's a great website that has interesting science fair investigations. A quote from the website:

"Science projects can be a lot of fun, even if you aren’t a science whiz. However, once you are in middle school, the old volcano eruption project just doesn’t cut it. You actually need to demonstrate more complicated scientific principles in action and elaborate on them."

Click the link below to see 20 great ideas!
Middle School Science Experiments

middle school science fair project ideas

Monday, May 12, 2014

What now? A science fair? I don't have time for that!

Dear extremely busy parents who are concerned with the turn around time on this final project for sixth grade: I DO realize how quickly the date of  the science fair is approaching, and that your sixth grader just now received his/her information packet. I did not want the science fair to distract from camp. I doubt how well any of us could have been juggling a science fair project and getting the kids ready for camp anyways. Maybe I'm only speaking for myself! :) 

May 22nd is the evening exhibition for the 6th-8th grade students. Normally there are three weeks between camp and the science fair. So, NO, there is not much time to do an elaborate project or fancy display board. 

The good news is, they are not being graded on a fancy display board. The display is only necessary if the student wants their investigation featured at the exhibition on May 22 from 6-8PM in the commons. It is purely optional and will only be extra credit. 

In class we discussed choosing a project that can be completed in one evening. Granted, there may be some supplies to shop for which will take extra time. It may take some scheduling to allow kids to partner up for their project. (Groups of two only). But once the investigation is finished, everything else can be completed in class. They will need to bring their data and step-by-step procedure to class on May 27th. In class, we will write a report that describes what they investigated and what was discovered.  The students will also have time to write and practice a presentation in class. They will sign up for a date to present that last week of May. On the day of their presentation, they will need their materials or some pictures in order to explain and hopefully demonstrate what was investigated. It is okay to make a poster or Power Point, but the most important visual aid is the demonstration of what was tried at home. 

The guidelines for choosing a project:
  • It must be safe and non-messy in a classroom setting. Yes, the classroom has carpet. 
  • There must be an element of inquiry, not just a model of a volcano for example. A variable must be manipulated and compared. 
  • Data must be collected. That means, something has to be quantified and measured. Kids will be making a graph of their data in class. 

There are many cool websites with sample science fair projects. But, I don't want the students just to find something to copy. The idea is that they are thinking for themselves, solving problems, and asking questions. 

Please email me to discuss specific ideas. 

Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Native Plants and Camp Cispus

Not only is it Native Plant Appreciation Week, it is the week before we go to Camp Cispus. Click the link (below) to visit a great website. You'll find a list that contains links to photographs and descriptions to some of the more recognizable native plants of Washington. Next week at camp, the kids will go on a scavenger hunt to identify the plants we discussed in class.

Washington Native Plant Society

Speaking of Camp Cispus, it's finally here! They have worked hard to sell candy bars, magazines, and ran laps during the hottest day of the year in a fun run in order to pay for four days and three nights of outdoor fun (and learning)!

Read below for 4 important reminders. 

1) Mr. Beasley and I will be at the school till 5:30PM on Monday if you'd like to drop off luggage or  any non-perishable donations. Perishables and luggage can be delivered Tuesday morning from 8-8:25AM. 

2) Pack your child a sack lunch for Monday. I MEAN TUESDAY!! OOPS. :( 

3) It looks like rain next week! The kids need jeans and sturdy shoes, and options for drizzly days. They aren't allowed to wear shorts when we are tromping about through the woods. They need sturdy shoes for being out on the trails. 

4) If you are going to meet us at Mossyrock Park on Friday, May 9th, I've listed the park information here for you. We will be there around 11:30 and will leave for Adna around 1:15. (Times might vary slightly!)

DIRECTIONS FOR FRIDAY: Drive east on Highway 12 for approximately 21 miles. Turn right on Williams Street (flashing yellow light). Continue several blocks on Williams Street to a "T" intersection in the town of Mossyrock. Turn left onto State Street. Outside of town, State Street becomes Mossyrock Road East and then Ajlune Road. Ajlune Road leads into the park.
Mossyrock Park
202 Ajlune Rd
Mossyrock, WA 98564

Photo taken along the waterfall hike May 2013. 

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Studying Salmon

Because we are going to the fish hatchery May 6, we are spending this week learning about Salmon! 
I've chosen some pictures to show off my teaching methods, and linked some websites for you to enjoy from home (or in case a student has been absent, they can view them from home). 

First, we played Balderdash. I introduced words like estuary, alevin, and anadromous. The fake-out vocabulary game was a lot of fun, and the kids got to at least test out the new words even if they aren't able to use them fluently yet.

Second period science. Adding their answers to the poster
before rotating to the next question. 
Next, we did a "what do you know" activity in a carousel fashion. Kids shared what they already knew about salmon habitat, life cycle, etc.,  in small groups. They wrote their answers on a poster that then was rotated around the classroom to all the other groups. It was a quick way to see prior knowledge, and fun for the kids to work cooperatively. Their posters will be a an easy way to gauge progress over the course of the next two weeks. (I learned this carousel strategy at a monthly training I attend called Rural Science Teaching Project- funded via University of WA.) 

Currently, we're reading an article about the life cycle of Pacific salmon. Students are trying a new comprehension technique. I call it Reading With the Pencil. In the photo below, you can glimpse the notation key. The goal is that students are THINKING while they are reading! (By the way, Reading With the Pencil is another new technique I learned at another recent training. I hate missing a day with the kids but it's great to come back with worthy new teaching strategies!)

Below are some videos and websites that we are using in class. And in a few weeks we will see a salmon hatchery "in real life!" 

Sockeye's journey, video:

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

It's spring? Well that escalated quickly... Just an update on the day to day! *and an excerpt about homework*

This post should inform you regarding science topics, language arts lessons, and might give you some help understanding your role in helping your child with homework.*read the excerpt below*

This image is just for fun.
But seriously-- how is it spring?
I can't hardly fathom that it is spring! I haven't blogged in so long. And it's not for lack of subject matter.

There has been a lot of day to day routine with the students... Spelling pretest, Monday. Homework due Wednesday. Hopefully improving for the post-test on Friday... Read about natural disasters, watch a video about natural disasters, write about natural disasters, model how natural disasters occur... Lots to do!

To mix things up in February, I threw in a Book Report project. There were some nicely typed (and equally nicely hand-written) reports that addressed all of the elements we learned about in class. 
I did have a few students turn in a very drawn out retell instead of following the outline I gave them. But everyone got up front and gave their speech! I know it's probably the least favorite thing to do. I tell them that it gets easier every time they present. For example, the first time you go up to bat you are probably really nervous. And although you can still feel pressure and be anxious about doing well, over time it becomes familiar. Your confidence builds. The analogy transfers to public speaking for many people. It gets easier! 

It was inspiring to see students excited about a book they liked. I was very proud when a student was able to convey that enthusiasm. It was great to see so many kids ask to borrow each other's books, and seem genuinely interested in what their peers were recommending as a good read. (Note, a good teacher-blogger would delve into her lesson plan and grading rubrics right here.... I don't have time for that tonight!)

Mostly the sixth graders are pretty well-engaged in their history report. Which, side-note, is a project intended for the student to do, not the parent! *read the excerpt below*
Dear Parents~ Do not feel like the teacher will judge your parenting skills if the report isn't a "five star" report. ~Sincerely, Your child's teacher

Moving on....

In Science we are learning about catastrophic events. Hopefully I will get some good pictures of classroom activities soon. 

In English, we spent a couple weeks learning about figurative language. Your sixth grader should know some new idioms, be fluent in similes and metaphors, and might even impress you with some alliteration!  I also read aloud some excerpts from one of my all time favorite novels, Island of the Blue Dolphins. It's a great book to teach figurative language, word choice, and inference. Ask your sixth grader what a devilfish is. If he/she was paying attention, he/she used inference in order to explain what a devilfish is. ;)

Finally, on a professional level I have been attending several classes to help me understand the latest acronyms in education. Have you heard of CCSS, ELA, NGSS, TPEP, or SBAC? I hope to compose a thoughtful and informative post for parents in the near future.

As always, comment or email me for clarification on any thing I blogged about! Thanks for taking the time to read my post.

*Back to that homework comment, I know it's challenging to raise independent, confident kids. 
I see that sixth grade is a place where some parents struggle to find that balance of how much to help and how much to let go.  Every situation is different, and I don't mean to judge. 
But truly, how you help matters. Here is an excerpt of this interesting article I found online. 

How You Help Matters!
Homework can be frustrating for students and for parents as well. Researchers have found that how parents help children, especially those who are struggling with schoolwork, can determine whether homework helps or hurts children’s learning and motivation in school. Here are some suggestions on HOW to help with homework.
Let children take the lead - support their independence and self-reliance and be less controlling and intrusive. Dr. Eva Pomerantz at the University of Illinois has found that when parents are controlling, struggling children actually begin to do more poorly in school. Being controlling means:
  • Doing assigned work for children,
  • “Taking over” and telling children what to do or how to do it, or
  • Using threats or punishment
According to Dr. Pomerantz, controlling parents might actually prevent children from developing important skills. Although parents might feel like they are “helping” they may be unintentionally undermining children’s confidence in their abilities.
Being controlling might be especially detrimental for how girls feel about their abilities in math and science. University of Illinois researchers Ruchi Bhanot and Jasna Jovanovic found that parents who were more intrusive had girls who were less confident about their math abilities. Being intrusive includes:
  • Giving help without being asked,
  • Checking homework without being asked,
  • Frequently reminding them to do homework.
~Link to parenting24/ for original article and more great info! 
What works for your family? Comment below! 

Wednesday, February 19, 2014


Are you an animal lover?

Do suffering animals
tug at your heart strings?

Are you compassionate towards children? Perhaps children who live in poverty, or children who are disabled and need assistance, who are ill and need hope for the future?  "Our name is what we do."   "Help us step up to eliminate poverty." "Reaching out to help America's youth."

"Equality enriches life for everyone." "Let's be the generation to find a cure for AIDS." 

"To empower and unite the world with kindness."
  "Donate stuff. Create Jobs."   "Doing the most good."    "Housing first."    "Helping the developing world walk."  "Where there's a wheel, there's a way."


Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Student Computer Lab Activities

To mix it up a bit, we will visit the computer lab this week during English. Students, your job is to comment below to let the world wide web know what you thought of the activities! If you don't have an email address with which to comment, you will use a sticky note in class.

Student website from
Computer Lab Favorites

Okay so it's geared to 3rd-5th grade students, but this website has some good review. In class we will use Fish Up Word Endings to practice spelling, and Create a Character Scrapbook.

Fish Up Word Endings
Fish Up Word Endings
(Multiple choice quiz)
Choose the proper spelling after adding –ed or –ing to words.

Create a Character Scrapbook
Create a Character Scrapbook
(Writing activity, book connection)
Create scrapbook pages and write about your favorite book.