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Back to school!

I have been neglecting my blog over the summer.  I have been to busy gardening, reading, relaxing and traveling to Hawaii!  Now it is time to get back to thinking about school.  This year I will be teaching early childhood special education.  My science activities will change a little bit.  I cannot wait to get into all the different sensory table ideas!  I am hoping that the ideas I post will be easily adapted to older children.  Just by adding vocabulary like buoyancy, viscosity, weight, density etc. you can appeal to older children. 


I love Spring!

Spring is a busy time in our science center!  I was getting a little stir crazy with this long winter so I planted a mini desert to put in the science area.  It is a glass container with a cover (so no one touches the cacti) and three different types of cacti.  One is very spiky, one is furry and one is a succulent with smooth leaves. I found the glass container at a Michaels craft store.  The cacti were on a clearance rack in Lowes. They were looking lonely and ready for a home. After carefully planting the plants in sand I added some plastic scorpions and some dinosaur bones from an earlier project.  It looks something like this.

Anchor Hocking 69349T, 1 gal Heritage Hill Glass Jar w/Cover



Meet Larry, Curly and Moe.  I wanted to have plants with different textures.  The kids were interested in see the different kinds of plants that live in dry areas.  The little dinosaur bones tucked in behind the cactus plant were a big hit too. 

I also have some tropical plants there were also on the clearance rack. These will go along with our rain forest unit next week.  I am planning on adding some poison arrow frogs and snakes to the pots.  This kids think it is interesting that the topical plants get watered several times a week and the desert plants rarely get watered.

Spring is also see planting time.  We planted a variety of herbs in little terra cotta pots.  There are 9 total pots. I am planning on having the kids decorate the pots once they have sprouted and they can give them as gifts to some of our other teachers and assistants.  Next week we will plant some herbs for the kids to take home. We might plant sunflower seeds too.  I will have to add pictures once they have sprouted.  They are not very interesting looking right now. 

The biggest excitement is the incubator. We have 18 eggs in a little incubator.  They take 21 days to hatch.  It is so hard to wait that long.  Some of the kids seem a little skeptical about whether there are really going to be chicks in the eggs. We will find out in 17 days……










Last week we were focusing on the Savannah.  We discussed what makes a Savannah different than a forest, polar area and desert.  We read about various animals that live on the Savannah.  We made a big 3D savannah on paper and added animals to it.  The kids could have the animals hide in the paper grass or drink from the water holes.  They were surprised at how many big animals live in such a dry area.  I have been using the posters from oriental trading about the various habitats.

These would also be a good addition.


This week we are focusing on desert animals.  We made a book about desert animals.  I have a box with sand, plastic scorpions, spiders, sand crabs, camels, ostriches and even pyramids.  I was looking for little plastic cacti but have not gotten any.

I love the Toob animals.  They are very realistic and the perfect size for a water/sand table.

We sorted animals by habitat, number of legs, carnivore/herbivore, mammal/reptile/bird, there are lots of ways to sort them. I have also used pictures from nature calendars to use for sorting or for decorating the room.

Desert plants

There are some interesting plants that live in the desert. They have some adaptations to help them survive. 

Barrel cactus

Why does this plant have spikes instead of leaves?  Is this cactus part of a food web?

Brittle bush

hedgehog cactus

Joshua tree

prickly pear cactus

The prickly pear can be eaten.  Would your students want to eat one?  How are they harvested?

Saguaro Cactus

Why does the this cactus grow so slowly?

Here is an animal that lives inside the cactus.  The pygmy owl

What advantage does this owl have when it makes a nest in a cactus?

How does this animal contribute to the food chain?

Desert Spiders and other creepy critters

     I know some of my boys will love learning spiders. The creepier the better.  Here are some pictures of desert spiders

Desert Tarantula

Photo © by Bob Kolbert

wolf spider

a wolf spider, Arctosa, from the Sonoran Desert photo © by Mike Plagens

crab spider

Photo © by Mike Plagens

jumping spider

Phidippus californicus photo © by Laurie Nessel


Let’s not forget the scorpions

Photo © by Marc Borom

Photo © by Mike Plagens

Photo © by Marcus Watson

This site has the pictures and more information about the various critters shown above.

Some questions that you could ask students are;

-how are the spiders and scorpions the same/different?

-What adaptations do they have in order to live in a desert environment?

-Are all of these harmful to humans?

-What animals prey on these spiders.  What do these spiders prey on?

-If one of these spiders or scorpions were in danger of becoming extinct is it worth saving?  Why or why not?





Polar animals

     I have been busy with teaching and have not taken the time to add to my blog.  Here are some things that we have been up to this year. 

We have been studying polar animals.  We made a “blubber bag”  by putting crisco in a sandwich bag and then putting another sandwich bag inside of it.  I taped the edges so the crisco did not come out.  Then the kids put one bare hand in melted snow and then put one hand in the blubber bag and then put that hand in the melted snow.  They were surprised that the bag of fat kept their hand from feeling the cold water.  The pictures that I took did not turn our. I am using a picture from another site

I also wanted to make a bag with feathers and have them compare the two different bags. This is a great illustration for how insulation works. When we were finished with the blubber bags I mixed some bird seed with the crisco and set them outside.  The birds love me!

In the science area I put some styrafoam blocks and little penguins, walruses and seals for them to play with.  In the sensory table there are packing peanuts, a scale, little shovels and penguins.  They were surprised to find that you could fill the bucket on one side of the scale with the styrafoam and the scale did not move. 

Later we are going to investigate styrafoam peanuts and the packing peanuts that melt in water. (I think they are made from corn) This will introduce the idea of biodegradable.  Then we will come up with an idea to use the styrafoam peanuts. Since they have been played with in the sensory table many of them are broken and not usable for shipping.  I am thinking of putting them in a plastic bag and then making a cover for it.  It will be a small pillow for the reading area. They can help me make the pillow. 

We have also been learning about where these animals live.  I taped the pictures of the animals to the globe.  They got the idea that penguins never see polar bears.  Books that show these two animals together must be fiction.

Here are some other fun science ideas that I have found that I would like to try.

Blowing bubbles when it is close to 0 degrees

Frozen Bubbles - SubZero Science - Steve Spangler Science

Snowman in a Bag by Teach Preschool. I think the best part is the “Snowman Science” observation sheet where the kids draw a before and after picture. :)


Christmas gift ideas

Here are some fun gift ideas that are still educational.

I like using small animal models on a map.  The kids are interested to learn what animals live where we live.  They are surprised to learn how many animals they are familiar with live in Africa. I need to get some animal models that are animals from North America.

Arctic animals