Monday, September 30, 2013

GET READY FOR THE CORNY MONTH OF OCTOBER WHEN LIFE IS JUST DUCKY

 
 
I just love autumn! The crisp air and changing of the seasons add fun and excitement to just about everything we do.
This is especially true for the upcoming month of October when everyone taps into their inner kid. Young or old, this post is a reminder to have fun this autumn.
Later this week, the first giveaway and educational activity for the Corny Month of October when life is just ducky will be posted. In the meantime, here is another teaser--this time with a bit of educational value.
 
 

TEACHING ORDINAL NUMBERS


 

Thursday, September 26, 2013

GETTING READY FOR A VERY CORNY MONTH IN OCTOBER

 

October and corn naturally go together. With that trend in mind, today’s post will be a teaser for the month ahead. On this blog, October will definitely be a month full of treats—no tricks will be seen here.

To get your creative juices flowing, as well as your little ones thinking, I’m posting a quick and easy-to-do sort and match activity based on October-themed manipulatives. 


Please check this blog in October for a treat bag full of ideas, printables, giveaways, and more.

Be sure to waddle back in October for MORE manipulative fun.

Monday, September 23, 2013

ADVENTURES at WALNUT GROVE: BOOK REVIEW & GIVEAWAY


Short, tall, brown hair, red hair—we all look different in one way or another. Early in life, infants quickly learn to recognize their parents by looking at their faces and hearing their voices. Our differences, both inside and outside, are what make us unique. However, sometimes the differences between us become not only a symbol of our originality but also a misguided opportunity for teasing or ridicule. Adventures at Walnut Grove, by Dana Lehman and Judy Lehman, provides parents and educators a wonderful opportunity to approach the delicate subject of teasing.

Lehman's story unfolds in a setting inviting to any child—a summer resort filled with friendship and fun. As many of us know, summer vacations can provide laughter, create fond memories, and help us to develop lifelong friendships. Lehman's story presents the reader with the all the excitement and adventure one would expect from a fun-filled resort vacation—from wonderful games of softball (walnut ball) to the friendly competition of swimming races.
At the other end of the spectrum, however, many of us can also relate to the moment when all the fun is washed away by tears brought on by an unkind word. Sammy Squirrel, the main character, experiences this sadness when a newcomer to Walnut Grove makes fun of his appearance. Sammy cries, but does not lash out at Bucky, thus presenting the first of Lehman's timeless lessons.
As the story progresses, Lehman continues to communicate to the reader how teasing effects everyone. Bucky, the beaver that teased Sammy, learns a valuable lesson in empathy when the teaser becomes the teased. This turn of events provides parents with a great opportunity to find teachable moments in their child's life. Usually, when one child teases another, there is a reason behind the unkind act. In Bucky's case, he didn't mean any harm when he made fun of Sammy; he merely wanted Sammy to strike out while he was at bat in the game of walnut ball. When Bucky is teased by another character in the story, Lehman guides the reader through the best way to solve the problem.
In the end, the animals are once again great friends enjoying their time together in Walnut Grove.
Adventures at Walnut Grove is a delightful story that is beautifully enhanced by watercolor illustrations.
 

THE DETAILS:
Total Word Count: 878
Average word count per 2-page spread: 68
Extra Value: Provides valuable lesson on empathy and a reminder not to tease others

Dana Lehman’s series of books based on Walnut Grove can be found on Amazon and her website. Please check out the other exciting stories that take place in Walnut Grove.

The activities that I created to accompany this book are a terrific way to reinforce the skills of identifying differences in others and celebrating those differences.
EACH OF US IS BEAUTIFULLY DIFFERENT
ACTIVITY DESCRIPTION: Students will sort animal cards by a specified attribute. They will then select animals from at least two categories to create a new animal. They will create a verbal description of the newly created animal.
Grade Range: K-2nd
Time to complete: 30-45 minutes

Materials:
Animal cards
Note cards with categories
Crayons, markers, watercolors, or colored pencils
Paper
Instructions:
1. Conduct a classroom discussion based on the following introduction—

Try to imagine a world where everything is the same. What if you had to eat the same food for breakfast, lunch and dinner every day? What if everyone had the same type of pets? Bikes? Houses? Toys? Etc. Now try to imagine a world that is filled with variety. How would that world be different? Which world would you like to live in? Why?
2. Flip through the animals cards and discuss how the animals are different. (Size, shape, color, number of legs, type of skin, etc.)

3. Sort the animals by various attributes,  similar to the categories shown below.

 
4. Students will then choose 1 animal from each of the categories and create their own unique animal. They will then name their animal.



5. Write or verbally create a description of that animal.

The artwork for the Snabbit and Butterdog were generously created by Ali from Florida.

ARE YOU A SQUIRREL, A BEAVER, OR A LITTLE BIT OF BOTH—A SQUEAVER?
 
This activity addresses not only the skills of positively identifying our individualities, but it also provides a way to embrace those differences. It hurts when someone calls us names. By creating a unique animal based on individual preferences, and giving the animal a special name, this activity provides a gentle way to deal with teasing by others.
True Story: There was once a child that loved collecting rocks. He often came home from school with his pockets loaded with rocks of every shape, size, and color. Sadly, the boy was teased and called ‘Rocks and Minerals’. He was sad that his friends and classmates made fun of him because of his hobby. The boy had a wonderful science teacher that encouraged his passion for discovery and realized that her student was as unique as the rocks he collected.
When that boy grew up he went on a rock and fossil hunt near the Chesapeake Bay. While there, he discovered a rare type of whale fossil. That fossil, a whale from the Miocene era, now resides in a museum in Maryland.
ACTIVITY DESCRIPTION: Students will create an animal based on their personal preferences. They will then use that animal to compare with the animals created by others in the class.
Grade Range: 1-4
Time to complete: 30-45 minutes

Materials:
Animal Printouts (provided)
Crayons, markers, or colored pencils
Glue
Scissors
Paper

Instructions:
1. Prior to the activity, prepare an animal glyph based on your choices for the animal components.
Ask: Looking at the animal I created, and the key, what do you think is my favorite outdoor fun? Indoor fun? Helping fun?

Explain that the students are going to create their own animal, based on their favorite things to do.
2. Show the key to the students. Discuss the options for each category.


3. Give the animal printout and the key to the students.
 
4. Students will cut out the animal components based on their choices. They will then glue them to paper to create a unique animal

5. For the section entitled Indoor fun, instruct the students to draw their favorite item, cut it out, and add it to the paws of their animal. This addition will make their animal creations TRULY unique.
6. When the animal glyphs are completed, student will share their choices in small groups.
Hint: You can mix up the groups by having them find classmates with some similarities, some differences, or all differences. This is a wonderful opportunity to help select students for classroom chores.

OR...

*This giveaway will include a free copy of Adventures at Walnut Grove (Dana Lehman & Judy Lehman), as well as a $10 gift card for a future Amazon purchase. The registration will last from the posting of this blog post until midnight, October 7, 2013. One winner will be randomly selected from the entries. The books and treat will be shipped from Amazon within approximately 2 weeks following the close of the giveaway. The giveaway is open to residents of the United States with a United State’s mailing address. The winner’s name will be posted on the blog, unless the winner chooses not to have his/her name posted. To be considered for entry into this giveaway, the entrant’s email address must be submitted to the blog administrator.
 

This post was linked to the following blogs. Please check them out:

Mother Daughter Book Reviews dot Com

Kids Activities Blog dot Com

Living and Learning at Home dot Com

I Can Teach My Child dot Com

The Mom Maven dot Com

GIVEAWAY UPDATE 10-8-2013:

Congrats to the winners of the book and Amazon gift card: Amy, April, and William.

I will post the final winner's name when I receive confirmation from that winner.

Thank you to all of the entrants to this giveaway.


 

Monday, September 16, 2013

DECOMP PROJECT Connection Activity: Ignite Their Curiosity with Water

Now that a couple of weeks have passed since your students took out the trash (i.e. buried items in their decomp tub), it is almost certain that your students have begun to ask questions.

“What’s happening under the dirt?”
“Why do we have to add water to the dirt?”
Or, better yet…
“WHEN can we dig up the trash?”
These are all good questions that will encourage your students to seek answers.
Today’s connection activity will answer one of those questions, but will also motivate your students to pose more questions to be answered as the Decomp Project continues.
The following activity is a demonstration on the breakdown of material that occurs during decomposition. While this is not a complete example of the decomposition process, the activity will serve to illustrate one very important fact.--The plastic in our world affects many aspects of our lives.

IGNITE THEIR CURIOSITY WITH WATER

Grade Range: K – 3
Time to complete: 20-30 minutes
VA STANDARDS of LEARNING: SCIENCE K.1, 1.1, 1.3, 2.1, 3.1, 3.10

The purpose of this activity is to provide a visual example of how paper breaks down when it is exposed to water.
ACTIVITY DESCRIPTION: Students will place several types of paper into a water bath (one set placed directly into the water and the other set protected in a sealed plastic bag) and shake the contents of the water bath. They will compare the results of the paper that is directly placed in the water with the paper that is contained in plastic. They will then make predications about some of the items that are buried in the decomp tub.

MATERIALS:
3 Pint-sized plastic containers with lids
1 cup measuring cup
3 cups water
2 4” x 4” squares of toilet paper
2 4” by 4” squares of bargain brand notebook paper
2 4” x 4” squares of bargain brand paper towels
3 zippered sandwich bags
2 cups dry soil
Small strainer

INSTRUCTIONS:
1. Prior to the activity, prepare the materials by placing one of each type of paper into a sandwich bag and sealing it.

2. Conduct a discussion about paper and what paper is made from (wood pulp or recycled paper).
3. Pour 1 cup of water into a plastic container.
4. Place a plain piece toilet paper into the water and put the lid onto the container.
 
5. Shake the container vigorously for 30-45 seconds. Note any changes in the paper.
 
6. Using the strainer, drain the water from the paper pulp that was created. Set this pulp aside for later.

7. Repeat steps 3-5, substituting the toilet paper in the sealed plastic bag into the water. Hint: The paper in the sealed plastic bag should remain dry and unchanged.

8. Continue steps 3-5, substituting the remaining paper that is pictured above.
Ask: Why did the paper in the plastic bags stay in one piece? Why did some of the plain paper (not sealed in plastic) take longer to break into smaller pieces?
9. Take the pulp that was strained in step 6, add it to the dirt, and mix well. Take the plastic bags with the paper sealed inside and ‘stir’ them into the dirt. Discuss why stirring the sealed bags doesn’t work as well.

 
Explain that when water is added to the decomp tub, some of the items might change. It will take longer than it did today, but there will be changes by the end of the year.
Ask: What items in our decomp tub do you think will change by the end of the school year? What items in the decomp tub do you think will not change? Why?
 
10. Make a list of the predictions to display beside the predictions made at the beginning of the Decomp Project. Discuss any changes in the predictions.

EXTEND THE LEARNING; EXTEND THE DISCOVERY; EXTEND THE FUN:
Now that your students are beginning to comprehend the process of decomposition, plant more seeds of curiosity.
Ask the students what happens when the plastic trash bags that every home, every school, every store, every restaurant, every—well, you get the idea, EVERYONE uses gets taken away by the trash trucks. More activities based on this very important question will be added to the Decomp Project later in the year.

For now, however, the pulp that was created (and possibly more paper pulp from your classroom recycle box) can be used to create their OWN paper. Your students will have fun while they are adding to their awareness of their impact on the environment.

The video below is a fantastic demonstration of the paper making process.

 

Monday, September 9, 2013

DECOMP PROJECT: My Goodness, That's a LOT of Water!

Your Decomp Project is under way and your students have adjusted to their daily trek to the classroom. Those changes are behind you. However, big changes in weather patterns are still on the horizon. In our area we have progressed from the soggy summer to the unpredictable weather patterns of the fall. In fact, since our rainfall on September 1, we have had nothing but sunny days. However, I am certain that the sun will soon be replaced with downpours and all out gully washers. With the inevitable heavy rains ahead, I thought I’d take this opportunity to provide the first of my connection activities to accompany the Decomp Project.(Link)

On those days where your area can easily receive 2 or 3 inches of rain in a 24 hour period, you might begin to wonder how on earth your little ones are going to manage to get all of that water into the decomp tub without spilling it. During the setup you placed the lid under the tub to catch the water run off. This is the time to remind you to regularly empty that lid, so that you do not end up with a muddy mess on your classroom floor.
Hint: If a huge autumn storm is predicted in your area, I recommend that you move the decomp tub to an outdoor location until the rain has stopped. Make sure it is placed where the drainage holes can do their job!

Now, back to the activity—an efficient way to make ‘rain’ fall on your decomp tub that is paired with a math connection.

Adults and children know that a gallon is bigger than a cup. How many times have your little ones tried to pick up a full gallon of milk only to find out it’s a bit more than they can handle? With that in mind, this quick activity and visual aid can help your ‘rainfall’ days with your decomp tub run more smoothly.
MY GOODNESS THAT’S A LOT OF WATER!
While this activity is intended to be conducted as an extension to the Decomp Project, it can easily be modified to serve as a stand-alone activity.

HINT: This initial measurement activity takes a long time to complete (60-75 minutes). It can be divided into more than one session. Once this activity has been completed, it lays the groundwork for a faster and more efficient way to transfer rain water to the decomp tub.
Virginia: Math Standards of Learning: VA SOL 2.11c; 3.9b
*Common Core Connection: CCSS Math Content 3.Md.B; CCSS Math Content 4. Md.A
*The common core standards base liquid measurement in terms of liters. If you are following the Common Core  State Standards to the letter, then substitute liters for gallons. The visual aid will not apply. It may not be suitable in classrooms that strictly adhere to the metric system of measurement.

ACTIVITY DESCRIPTION: Children will use various containers to build understanding of the concept of volume. They will pour water from one container to another and draw conclusions about different units of liquid measurement. They will compare volume in forms of cups, pints, quarts, and gallons.

MATERIALS:
Decomp tub (link to set-up andmaterial list)
Additional plastic tub the same size as the decomp tub
Containers for liquid volume: cup, pint, quart, gallon
Funnel *optional
Permanent Marker
Ruler
Rain Gauge
Visual Aid Chart (provided)
Watering Can


INSTRUCTIONS:
1. Prior to conducting this activity, gather various containers that hold cups, pints, quarts, and gallons.
2. Show the containers (pint size shown) to the students.
Ask: Which container do you think holds the most amount of water? The least?
ALL CONTAINERS HOLD 1 PINT
3. Using the 1 cup measuring cup, fill each container with water. Count the number of cups required to fill each container. Explain to the students that all of these containers hold the same amount of liquid. Discuss why the containers can look different, but still hold the same amount of liquid.
4. Show an example of each of the following liquid measurement containers to the students: cup, pint, quart, and gallon. For younger students, writing the size on the container with a permanent marker is recommended. (Cup-C, Pint-P, Quart-Q, Gallon-G)
**5. Mark the inside of the tub with permanent marker to indicate inches of rain (half inch increments for second and third grade).
**6. After the rain falls in your area, bring the rain gauge into the classroom. Show the gauge to the students and discuss how much rain had fallen. For grades K-1, estimate to the nearest inch. For grades 2-3, estimate to the nearest half inch.

**7. Fill the large tub with water to match the level of water in the rain gauge.

7. (Stand Alone Activity Step) Fill the plastic container approximately half way with water.
**8. Using the cup-sized measuring cup, take turns filling the watering can with water, counting the number of cups it takes to fill the can. This step does not need to be completed until the can is full. The intent of this step is to show that it takes MANY cups to fill the can.

Ask: Which container do you think would be a faster one to use to fill the watering can? Why?
**9. This is the opportunity to assist students with making connections between container sizes as well as provide an easier way to ‘water’ the decomp tub.. Suggest that while the gallon container provides challenges, it might be the fastest way to get the water from the rain tub to the decomp tub. First, the students must determine how many gallons it takes to reach the level of water from the rainfall.

10. Take turns using the cup-sized measuring cup to fill the gallon container, scooping the water from the plastic tub. Count the number of cups necessary to do so (16). Repeat this process until the plastic tub is empty. If the gallon container is not full at the end, use the visual aid to determine how much of the gallon container is actually filled.
 
**11. Each time the gallon container is filled, the teacher or parent can use that to fill the watering can. Sprinkle the watering can over the decomp tub.
 
**12. In the future, before adding the rainwater to the decomp tub, use the markings on the plastic tub to determine how many gallons and cups of water are needed. For example, with the tub used in this demonstration, it took 2 gallons and 3 cups to equal 1 1/2 inches of rain water.

1.5” of rain= 2 gallons 3 cups
**Steps with the double asterisk are intended to be used with the Decomp Project. If your students are conducting this activity as a stand-alone activity, you may omit these steps.

More Math Measurement: This activity will provide countless math extension opportunities. Track how many cups, pints, quarts or gallons of rain are poured onto your decomp tub. By the time yearly educational assessments roll around, your students will have mastered the related math objectives and had lots of fun while do so.
Check this blog frequently for additional activities to add to your Decomp Project.

This post is shared on the following blogs. Please check out their terrific ideas:

The Educators Spin on It

 

Friday, September 6, 2013

PUMPKIN CIRCLE: Book Review & Sequencing Activity



September has barely begun and in our area there is already a distinct crispness to the air. The insects can sense that changes are on their way. The hummingbirds have begun their yearly migration to warmer areas. It’s definitely time to prepare for autumn.
With the changes of the seasons at my doorstep, I thought I’d celebrate this transition with another book review and giveaway. The timing of this review and giveaway will allow the winner of the giveaway the chance to receive the treats before the month of tricks is upon us. So, without further delay, check out this month’s book review and giveaway times TWO!
Books available on Amazon.com
PUMPKIN CIRCLE by George Levenson & Shmuel Thaler
Where does life begin?  How does life evolve? When does life begin again? These are questions that children and adults seek answers to. In Pumpkin Circle by George Levenson and Shmuel Thaler, the circle of life is showcased through vividly detailed photos that are punctuated by the well-chosen words that dance across the pages.

The book begins with a cascade of pumpkins tumbling across a two page spread. The stage has now been set. Interest has been piqued. Immediately following this introduction, Levenson and Thaler lead the reader on a guided tour of a pumpkin patch that progresses from the long lazy days of summer to the crisp and fleeting days of fall. Leaves grow. Blossoms bloom. Pumpkins swell. Vines fade. Pumpkins are harvested. Yet, that is not the end of the story. Whether you are a curious child or an inquisitive adult, read this story to discover how the circle of life begins again.
As an added bonus, Levenson and Shmuel cleverly obscure the identity of the pumpkin farmer. By doing so, the reader is invited to place himself in the role of the gardener. So, go ahead— carve into that freshly harvested pumpkin. But don’t forget to save some of the seeds to start your own Pumpkin Circle next spring.

The Details:
Word count: 459 (excluding fact page at the end of the story)
Average words per page: 12
Recommended age range: 4-7
Extra value: breathtaking photography, rich vocabulary, fun subject material.

How Do You Grow a Pumpkin?

This simple sequencing activity is great for children ages 4 through 6. Simply print the images, cut out the 6 pictures, and conduct a quick lesson on how a pumpkin grows. For younger children, placing the images in order with a loosely guided discussion might be the best option. For children in first grade, creating simple sentences to accompany those images can make this not only a science lesson, but also a language arts activity, as well.
Have fun ‘growing’ your pumpkin with your little ones.
 
CHALLENGE: Where do you think this picture fits into the sequencing activity? There are many answers, provided the explanation is correct. J
 
*This giveaway will include a free copy of Pumpkin Circle (George Levenson & Shmuel Thaler), Pumpkin Jack (Will Hubbell), as well as another treat. The registration will last from the posting of this blog post until midnight, September 18, 2013. One winner will be randomly selected from all entries. The books and treat will be shipped from Amazon within approximately 2 weeks following the close of the giveaway. The giveaway is open to residents of the United States with a United State’s mailing address. The winner’s name will be posted on the blog, unless the winner chooses not to have his/her name posted.

 

This post was linked to the following blogs. Please check them out:

Fantastic Fun and Learning dot Com

KidsActivitiesBlog dot com

The Mom Maven dot com

No Time For Flashcards dot com

Rainy Day Mum dot CO dot UK


 Giveaway Update 09/19/13: Congratulations to the winners of Pumpkin Circle and Pumpkin Jack. So far, the winners are:

Katie B., Lynn N., Renee C., and Julie G.

I am awaiting a response from the other winners before posting their names.

Thank you for entering.

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

SYMMETRY: Balance in Nature, Balance in Education


SYMMETRY: Balance In Nature & Education
Butterflies: Nature's Ultimate Example of Symmetry
With cooler days ahead, it’s only natural that kids want to head outdoors for exploration. Today’s activity taps into children’s natural curiosity by striking a balance between building skills, adding to a child’s knowledge base, and having lots of fun while doing so.
Teaching the concept of symmetry can begin at any age. As soon as a toddler is able to walk, he taps into his own natural symmetry to navigate his environment. As a parent or teacher, you can use that awareness to help your child make connections to symmetry in the world around him.
Age Range: 4 to 7
Time to complete: 45-60 minutes
Subjects/Skills Addressed: science, math, physical education, fine motor skills
ACTIVITY DESCRIPTION: Children will use their reflections in a mirror to build understanding of bilateral symmetry. They will then gather leaves and use those leaves to identify lines of symmetry.

*Please note: For the purpose of this activity, when the term symmetry is used, it refers to bilateral or reflective symmetry.
MATERIALS:
Full length mirror
Removable painting tape
Symmetry stick (straw or other straight object that can be used to visually divide a leaf or flower.
Leaves of various shapes
Crayons
Scissors
Construction paper

INSTRUCTIONS:

1. Prior to completing the activity, place a vertical strip of green tape on the mirror that is a bit longer than your child’s height.
2. Have your child stand in front of the mirror so that he is visually divided in half by the tape.
3. Practice standing in various positions with both feet on the floor, keeping his head and arms balanced. Point out that each side of his reflection looks the same.
Ask: Is it easy to stand in one place when you look the same on both sides of the green tape? What do you think will happen if that changes?
4. Have your child raise his foot slightly. Then raise it higher.
Ask: Is it still as easy to stand in one place? Why do you think it takes more work to stand with only one foot?
5. Practice hopping on two feet and hopping on one foot.
Ask: Is it easier to hop on one foot or on two feet? Why?
6. Explain that when objects are balanced (have symmetry), they are able to stand better without falling. The same is true in nature.

Symmetry*: When you draw a line down the middle of something and both sides look the same, as if they are a mirrored reflection of each other.
7. Go on a nature walk to collect leaves and look at tree trunks. As you collect the leaves, use the symmetry stick to visually divide the leaves to see if they have symmetry. While many trees have leaves that are mainly symmetrical, there are trees with leaves that are naturally asymmetrical. Refer to the photos for examples of each.




8. Sort the leaves by whether they are or are not symmetrical. How many of each type are there?
 
AFTER THE NATURE WALK:

1. Use construction paper to create your own special type of Symme-Tree. Fold construction paper in half and cut free-form leaf shapes. This is not only a great way to practice fine motor skills, but it also reinforces the concept of lines of symmetry when the paper is folded and cut.



 2. Use the leaves that were gathered to create leaf prints by placing a leaf under a piece of paper and rubbing with the edge of a crayon. Once the rubbing has been created, use another crayon to draw the line of symmetry.

Another connection: Use wooden blocks to create towers that are balanced and towers that are not balanced. Which type of tower can be built higher? Count the number of blocks of each type of tower built.

DECOMP PROJECT: AFTER THE RAIN FALLS Phase 2


The trash has been collected. The trash has been taken to the dump. The late summer rains have started. In other words, the stage has been set.
Now that you and your students have buried the trash into the decomp tub, the seeds of curiosity have been planted. Your students, and maybe even you, are anxious to discover what will become of the treasures hidden beneath the soil. Over the next few months, take advantage of that curiosity and build an educational unit around it. In the process, your students will learn about their environment, their impact on the environment, and how to become better stewards of our beautiful blue planet.

Today’s post contains the continuation of the decomposition project with the posting of Phase 2: After the Rain Falls. For the sake of continuity, every time a new phase is added to the project, the preceding phases will be included as well. Whenever an adjunct activity is added, a link to the phases will be posted through an image.

WHERE WILL WE PUT ALL THIS STUFF? Phase 1
Link to previous post with all images.
Grade Range: K – 3
Time to complete: Preparation: varies, Activity: 60-75 minutes
Objectives:

Students will make predictions based on their prior knowledge about which items placed in a plastic tub will decompose.
Students will list and describe the conditions necessary for an object to decompose.
Students will gather and interpret data related to weather.
Students will read a grid map to locate and identify objects.
Students will identify and describe various types of soil based on appearance and physical properties.

Words to know: decompose, precipitation (rain, snow, sleet), weather, plastic, paper, metal, glass, measure

This project is designed as a cross-curriculum activity to address the environmental impact caused by the things we use for normal daily living. Students will conduct a year-long decomposition project, culminating with an excavation activity and seasonal planting, just in time for Earth Day in April. Additional, but optional, areas of study include weather patterns, regional climates, sorting materials, daily record keeping, identifying various forms of precipitation, grid and map reading skills, and implementing the scientific process.

MATERIALS:

Plastic tub with lid
Plastic tub the same size as the decomp tub (for activities conducted inside)
Wire snips
Ruler
Awl
String or thin ribbon
Dry soil from the area
Enough gallon size zipper bags to allow one for each student
Various items to place into the tub of dirt of different materials (paper, cardboard, metal, plastic, cloth, glass, etc.)—i.e. trash
Rain gauge or plastic container (if project is conducted inside)
Plastic drop cloth for classroom (if project is conducted inside)
Camera (optional)

INSTRUCTIONS:
For demonstration purposes, the items placed in the decomp tub are geared towards a target audience of first to third grade students.

Preparation:
1. Prior to the activity, prepare the tub by cutting slots at regular intervals across the edges of the tub. These slots will be used to add the rope grid.
2. Using an awl or drill, add several small drain holes at the bottom of the tub. These will simulate natural drainage of many types of soil.
3. Involve the students in the preparation process:
a. Conduct a guided classroom discussion and collection of objects in your school that are made of various materials. Assign a homework project to bring in 2 small objects—one they predict will decompose and one object they predict will not.
b. Have each student bring in 2 cups of soil from their yard in a sealed plastic bag to place into the decomposition tub. Depending upon the size of tub used, you may need to supplement with soil from your yard. A follow-up activity based on this task will be added later in the year.

ACTIVITY:
1. If the project is conducted inside, place the plastic drop cloth on the floor.
2. Sort the items that were brought in by the students by material. If an object is composed of more than one type of material, choose the prominent material for the category.
3. Select the items to be placed into the tub. This step is a great springboard for a discussion on size as not all of the objects will fit into the tub. The goal is to select a sampling of material types. (Plastic, paper, cardboard, metal, glass, Styrofoam, coated paper, etc.) Set the selected items to the side while step 4 is completed.

*It helps to cut some of the larger items to a smaller size to allow room for more objects.
4. Fill the tub half way with the soil that was collected by the students. Mix the soil well with hands or a small shovel.
5. Arrange the items on the layer of soil, avoiding overlaps.
6. Add the string or ribbon grid to the tub. This will be used to help locate the items near the end of the project in the spring. Take a photo of the tub with the objects. This photo will also be used for a follow-up activity later this month.
7. Carefully add the remaining soil to cover the objects. There should be at least 2 to 3 inches of soil over the objects.
8. Place the rain gauge outside and wait for the next rainfall. If possible, set the decomp tub outside where it will receive the full effects of weather changes (sun, rain, wind, etc.)

*If the decomp tub is going to remain in the classroom, find a suitable area where the students can see the tub but it will remain undisturbed. Placement close to a window is also a good idea. Place the lid under the tub to catch the water that drains from the holes in the tub.
9. Check this blog for the next segment of this year-long project.

AFTER THE RAIN FALLS Phase 2

Grade Range: K – 3
Time to complete: Preparation: varies, Activity: 15-20 minutes, completed on a regular basis
This phase is, in essence, the meat of the project. It will take several months to complete, which will allow for many opportunities to provide related activities throughout the year. The phase focuses on the process of decomposition and the criteria necessary for decomposition to take place. As differences in regional climates may affect the decomposition process in your area, please take note of modification suggestions.

MATERIALS (continued from Phase 1):
Watering can
Ruler
Calendar
Wall chart (see sample)
INSTRUCTIONS:

Hint 1: This activity is conducted in an east coast community with a climate that experiences an average of 3 to 5 inches of rain a month. Summers are hot and humid.  Autumn weather varies, but are typically wet and warm. Winters are cool with infrequent snowfall. In order for decomposition to take place, the trash must be placed in a location where there is heat and moisture. If one of these components is missing, then the results may vary. If you live in an area that is cooler and/or drier, you might find this a good opportunity to reach out to schools or homeschool co-ops in different regions to use as a comparison for results. You could even set up 2 decomp tubs and control the climate effects for a direct comparison. This project is great for sharing with other students!
Hint 2: This activity is best conducted outside. However, if this is not possible in your area modifications are provided.

1. As soon as your area receives rainfall, bring the rain gauge inside. Measure the amount of rainfall. Add a color coded strip of paper to the wall chart rain gauge. For younger students, it helps to increase the size of the color blocks by a factor of 3. Each inch of rainfall is represented by a 3 inch strip of paper.
 
 
 2. Mark the calendar each time there is rainfall in your area.

*If the decomp tub remains outside, skip steps 3 and 4.

3. If the decomp tub is kept inside, fill the extra tub with the water level to match the rainfall total for the day. Pour the water into the watering can.

4. Take turns slowly pouring the water over the soil in the tub, making sure to wet all areas of the soil.
 
5. Explain to the students that water is necessary for the trash they buried to decompose.

6. Repeat these steps every time there is precipitation in your area. Adjustments for snowfall will be added at a later date.
For now, focus on tracking the amount of rainfall, the dates of each rainfall, and the daily high temperatures. Check back frequently for additional activities to be posted.

Just as with the process of decomposition, this project takes time.