Friday, 14 December 2012

Science with Santa

To finish off our Physical Science unit on forces and to have a bit of festive fun we conducted an experiment to see which surfaces would be easiest for pulling a sleigh across.
The children were introduced to the idea via a letter from Santa which told them that Rudolph was too sick to pull the sleigh this year so he was going to have to use one less reindeer. To make it easier for the remaining reindeer, Santa needed to know which surfaces were the best for pulling the sleigh.
You can read about our experiment from the students' point of view on my class blog.
The first lesson involved the children discovering the letter from Santa and then thinking about different surfaces that Santa might travel along (when he wasn't flying, of course). We are seriously lacking snow and ice in Brisbane this Christmas!
The next lesson was very fun and creative. The students has to design their own model Santa sleigh to be used in their experiment. We had round tubs for them to use as the base. A more rectangular shape might be a bit easier (such as a margarine tub) but we needed something that we could get 24 the same.

In the following lesson we used spring balances to measure the force in Newtons (which was not really in the Year 2 Science curriculum but it was fun anyway and it did allow them to do a real experiment with simple measurements). If you would like to use the experiment worksheet we used, it is available from my TPT store.
The final part of the lesson sequence was to write a letter back to Santa with the findings. One of my students who struggles with writing used the iPad to record his letter instead.

This was a great assessment of the students' understanding of Science. It was interesting to see which students clearly understood the purpose of the experiment and were able to articulate this in their letter to Santa. A few of my "super-competitive" types were at first confused because they decided that the surfaces that had "the biggest number" must have been the best. It took a little while for them to realise that they were looking for the surface that needed the smallest number of newtons because they needed the "easiest" surface.
Since we had no icy surfaces, we used soapy lino to make something slippery that might be similar to ice.
The children's measurements were not exactly accurate and they didn't quite grasp the idea of having to keep the weight the same each time but they seemed to get the idea that some surfaces were easier to pull things along than others, which was the main aim. And they had a lot of fun!

Poinsettias for Christmas

During the last few weeks of school we did a number of Christmas related activities based on some beautiful Christmas books I own.
The first of these is The Legend of the Poinsettia which is retold and beautifully illustrated by Tomie dePaola.

The story is set in Mexico and tells of a little girl whose mother falls ill just before the town's Nativity celebration. Her mother is unable to complete the family's gift for the baby Jesus and the little girl is unable to complete it on her own. Luckily a Christmas miracle occurs and the girl has a beautiful gift for the baby after all.
This story is a good Christmas story because it opens up conversations about gift giving at Christmas and how it is "the thought that counts". It also explains one of the Christmas decorations - the poinsettia and introduces the Christmas colours of red and green. We had a discussion about how the people in Mexico celebrated Christmas in the story and how this is the same and different from some of our own Christmas customs. We are a catholic school so many of the children do go to the Christmas mass and take part in the nativity so it was nice to see how another culture celebrates this idea.
To reflect on the story and to brighten our classroom, we made a very simple Christmas craft: a poinsettia.

I prefer to use painted paper because it has a richer texture than coloured construction paper and it is fun to paint the paper yourself. Each child painted one A4 sheet of red and one A4 sheet of green on one day and the next day they used this paper to assemble their craft. We re-used paper from our classroom to make the activity even more environmentally friendly.
I make hand-drawn "star" templates on light card in red and green and write "cut 1" on the green and "cut 2" on the red. The green one is slightly larger than the red one. If you are not game to free draw yours (even though I think they look better) you can print this image. (You will need to adjust the size to suit your paper.)
I make only enough templates for about a third of the class for each colour (about 8 red ones and 8 green ones for a class of 24). It doesn't take them long to trace the shapes and it is good for them to be a bit patient and practice their turn taking skills.
They turn the paper to the "white side" before tracing in case they make a mistake and they push the star to the edge of the paper so the leftover pieces are useful for other Christmas crafts later on. They need to be careful so they fit two red stars on the same page. 
To assemble the craft, simply stack the two red shapes on top of the green on and turn them slightly so you can see the different points from behind. A little dab of glue in the centre is enough to hold them together. I give them little squares of yellow crepe or tissue paper to scruple into balls for the centre of the flower.
They are really simple to make. It took me longer to explain it than it does to make them.