Tuesday, August 30, 2011


When I taught elementary science, one of the units we had to cover was called "Forms and Functions of Living Things". We ordered live mealworms which weren't the cutest of animals for little kids to observe. Much to my surprise, they gave the worms names, kept journals about their behavior and even had funerals for them when they died!

When the ant farms arrived at school the next year, I immediately began scratching. LOL! I couldn't imagine the kids wanting to watch ants dig tunnels.  I was right. They had very little interest in the "farm".  

One day, a boy brought a Monarch butterfly cocoon to school. He had found it in the milkweed plants near his house. It was bright green with incredible little jewels around the top of it. The kids (and me!) couldn't wait for the butterfly to emerge! We waited and waited and waited until one morning, the majestic cocoon began to vibrate. The kids (and me!) went wild.  

After a time, the crinkly creature emerged and we watched as it slowly tested its environment. Imagine its first breath! Its first time balancing on a twig! It wiggled its feelers. The kids giggled. Very slowly it unfolded those gorgeous orange and black wings and stretchhhhhhhhhhed. There were oooh's and ahhhh's as we watched this beautiful creature emerge from its emerald green "castle".  It was magic!
If I was still teaching elementary kids, I'd have a butterfly cocoon every year. Today, you can purchase butterflies online. Imagine wedding packages that are set up so you can release live butterflies for the bride and groom! Take a look at this site, where you can purchase Monarch, Painted Ladies and other butterflies for your kids at school!


Bloom Balls
A great beginning of the year activity! Have your students create BIO Bloom Balls.  Display these colorful works of art for all to see! You can use these for any subject, too!
A Bloom Ball report is based on Bloom's Taxonomy that encourages higher level thinking. Your students will have fun as they work together to write, draw, cut out and glue the edges of the circles together when they are finished creating their reports. Included in this 17 page packet are: templates in color and black and white, teacher and student instructions, templates in two different sizes, and more. When the balls are completed, they are colorful, interesting projects to hang around the classroom. Great for all grades!

Check out PBS's NOVA! Incredible videos! Middle and high school teachers take note! Great articles. Topics include: anthropology, archaeology, earth science, engineering, environmental, space and forensic sciences, geography, health science, history, life science, math, paleontology, and technology.

NOVA scienceNOW | PBS

We survived Irene! We have damage on our property, but are very happy that no one was injured! I pray for all of those who are still without power and who are dealing with the terrible flooding problems. Volunteers in all states are helping those in need.  The American Red Cross has set up shelters all up and down the East coast. Check out their site to see how you might be able to help.

American Red Cross

  Hurricane Irene 

All day I've been keeping my eye on the Weather Channel and checking Hurricane Irene updates. Where I live, it's predicted we're going to get the full brunt of the storm. Hurricane Gloria in 1985, was the last really strong hurricane to hit and they say this one is probably the most destructive and dangerous storms coming up the coast in the last few decades. 
  I took out my hurricane preparedness list and began adding things to it. Loss of electricity is minor compared to the downed power lines that are often live, the tornados that accompany the storm, trees falling on anything in their way. 

                   Jeffrey and Frederick
 Football stars waiting for Hurricane Irene.

And then there's the thunderous sound of it. The last one came through overnight. It's like a freight train, roaring down the tracks. The house bravely stands up to the force of the winds as they scream  and howl, trying to take her down.
We'll tape the windows with masking tape in X patterns to keep the windows from shattering if they do break. Shades and blinds are kept down in case they do break to prevent the glass from spreading all of the rooms.
I've tried to concentrate on teacher thoughts and household chores, but  the monster is gaining strength and I have so much more to do, in order to be ready. The first day of school is Monday, only teachers meet but it won't happen if we're hit.  When hurricane Gloria slammed into us, schools were closed for TWO weeks because roads were impassable. Power crews came to our aid from neighboring states and Canada. Kids weren't allowed outside until the crews took care of the lines. Without power, most didn't have water because around here we have wells, not city water. No electricity means no computers. Not going outside means moms go crazy because their kids are bored. Do you think that most kids would read and entertain themselves? No.  We read books, wrote in diaries and played board games during blizzards and storms when we were young. 

  Our dogs cower when there's a thunderstorm and I fear they'll be a wreck enduring hours and hours of the monster pounding its fists on the house. They love their stuffed footballs so I'll give them their toys to divert their attention, but how long that will last is anyone's guess.
Mother Nature has been very busy this week. First an earthquake followed by a hurricane.
More later...


I have to teach in a world of COLOR. Splashes of azure sea colors, corn husk greens, deep grape purples, radish reds, lemony yellows and tints of blue/gray skies. 

Visuals do it for me. 

I've wandered into colorless classrooms of all grade levels and it makes me feel like painting a rainforest mural all over the room. If I had paints and a brush, trust me, I would.

The next time you see a young child of two or three, coloring on a blank piece of paper, watch carefully. First, they have to figure out the best grip to hold the crayon. Usually they wrap all of their fingers around the crayon, index finger in the top position. Then there's the thumb and not quite knowing what to do with it. Pesky little thumbs are an enigma. They rewrap their fingers, and the thumb wiggles as if it has a mind of its own. They continue adjusting their finger positions until they get their very own style of holding the crayon. Isn't it wonderful?

One of my first lessons, the first week of school is to encourage creativity using color and design.
I explain that we're going to design our very own personal signatures, a kind of trademark that makes them special. Kids love to feel special. Don't we all? :)

I model my signature for all eyes to see. I first tell them that they have the freedom to add anything to their signature that will tell me something about them. A large letter "O" could be the face of a cat, if they love cats.

I also explain that the first letter of their names should be the fanciest, just like the German printer, Johannes Gutenberg, who introduced modern book printing in the 1400's. Gutenberg, who printed the famous Gutenberg Bible, often used a huge, colorful first letter to begin paragraphs and included swirls around the pages.

This incredible book that's on display at Yale University's Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library is in a free standing glass case with a light shining on it. The first time I saw it, I was speechless. To imagine that this was one of the first modern day printed books and I was standing right next to it... I can't even begin to describe my feelings about this incredible antiquity.

Please note that I mention the Bible to my students and my experience of actually seeing it, only from a historical perspective and not a religious one. I clearly understand and follow separation of church and state mandates.

Back to the kids' fancy name tags.

To make their fancy name tags, use 8"x11" piece of white construction paper. Fold it in half. They should design their signature on one side and then on the back side they should do some drawings of things that represent their "world". Examples can be drawings of: books they've read, favorite foods, musical notes to represent they play an instrument. The possibilities are endless!

Once they've worked on their personal signature name tags that will be used to help me learn their names, I ask that they describe to the whole group how they designed it and what they drew on the back of it.

FYI When decorating your rooms, check with the fire marshall. I covered one wall with a type of bamboo fabric one year, and after a check by the fire marshall who was checking the building prior to the students' first day, I was told that it wasn't up to "fire code" and had to remove it. :(

                               Color, Color and More Color!

Here's a fun, yet very educational activity to use with your students. Get them into groups and have them work together, as they follow the instructions of how to color the states. Polka dots, stripes or solids! Do this at the beginning of the year so they become familiar with state names, shapes and capitals. You'll be amazed when you see how different each map is. Display them around the room for all to see! 

                                            Click on the link to


  1. Thanks for posting my blog button and keep safe. Maybe Irene will decide to leave you alone. Let's hope.

  2. Thank you so much! We survived but with a lot of damage on our property. Many homes right on the water fell into the ocean. All shoreline towns don't have power and school openings have been delayed to whenever the power comes back on. They say it could be a week or more. Love your button. Do you design your own clipart??