Sunday, January 25, 2015


My kids are not big fans of coloring but they love the cutting and the pasting.  This makes History Pockets (and similar) from Evan Moor a great resource.  For their study of Explorers, they used the Explorer's of North America History Pockets and a Explorers Unit from Mrs. O's Rockin Resources on Teachers Pay Teachers.

They spent a few months on this unit, working their way through one explorer at a time.  As they studied each explorer, they would mark his route on a small map, on our big wipe-off map, and locate the explorer on their timelines.  The timeline is from the first pocket in the History Pockets, while the map is from Mrs. O.

The first topic/pocket is "Introduction to the Explorers of North America".   These pockets follow the pattern of most of the other history pockets we've done in the past.  They include a folder heading, a brief synopsis of the topic, a fast facts page, and in this case, a map of the explorer's routes.  There were ten explorers included in the History Pockets, but Jen and the kids learned about a few others.

Mrs. O's unit started with a brief overview of various explorers and a chart to fill out telling where they came from, when they explored, why they wanted to explore, and where they would up.  This unit also included worksheets and tests, so was a nice balance with the craftiness of the History Pockets.  The first test included vocabulary words such as scurvy, navigation, cartographer and saga.

The first explorer was Christopher Columbus.  After reading about Columbus in both the History Pocket synopsis and Mrs. O's, they mapped out his various trips on a world map.  Columbus made four trips in 1492, 1493, 1498 and 1502 trying to find a shorter path to India.

Mrs. O's unit worksheet asked them to visualize various things they read about, such as the size of the Bahamas.  George completed the sentence "The island was as small as.... a worm". That's a pretty small island.  ;-)

The kids made models of the three ships Columbus sailed using egg cups and toothpicks.

They wrote up a letter applying for a job on one of Columbus's ships:

Vicki wanted to be a musician on a ship:  "Dear Columbus, Im a good singer.  I can sing high.  I can sing low.  From Vicki"

The made a compass and learned about hardtack.

Their next explorer was Ferdinand Magellan, the first explorer to sail around the world.  He was not included in the History Pockets.  They read about him in the Mrs. O's unit and answered the worksheet.   One of the questions this time was "Did you know that you can survive on eating rats and sawdust? Explain your thoughts."  George's thoughts were "2 words:  Super.  Gross."

With each explorer they filled out an information sheet (I'm not sure if this was from Mrs. O or another resource) that included information about the explorer and his home country, years of exploration, sponsor, what they hoped to find, how their exploration affected the lives of others, a timeline of important dates, and whether the kids thought the exploration was successful or not.

Here is Vicki's for Ferdinand.

The next explorer was John Cabot.  Cabot, like Columbus, was trying to find Far East.  Instead he landed in Newfoundland and sailed down the coast.

One of the History Pocket assignments for Cabot was to illustrate a shoal.  John Cabot fished for cod in the shallow waters of the coast, called shoals.  Do you think it was George or Vicki who has the shark attacking the ship?  :-)

George's visualization this time "The weather was foul Evil Ghost."
Our next explorer was Hernando Cortes.   After learning about Cortes's quest for Aztec gold, the kids made a sea chest with a list of the things they would want to bring on a voyage.  George's is heavy on the electronics, while Vicki's is heavy on the craft supplies and food.  And that pretty much sums up my kids.  ;-)

Our next explorer, Hernando de Soto was not included in the History Pockets.  Desoto explored the West Indies, helped conquer Peru, and explored Cuba and the southeastern United States.  The worksheets from Mrs. O's ask the kids to infer something from each biography. In this case, they were asked "What makes you think 18,000 ounces of gold was a lot back then?"  George's reply "because it's a lot now!" 
I was curious so I looked it up.  Gold is worth $1292.60 per ounce, so 18,000 ounces is worth $23,266,800.  I'd say that's a lot.
Our next explorer is Jacques Cartier.  Cartier was also trying for a short route to the Indies by finding the Northwest Passage.  (he was unsuccessful).
The kids created their own ship's logs while learning about Cartier.  George's ship was The Ghostly Skull and set sail in 1578, met up with seals, discovered a bug called googli's and named an island after them, and purple apples called plupples.


While Vicki's ship was the Fairies Gust.

They also made up their own version of a board game about Cartier's journey.  George actually received a board game making kit for Christmas because he loves making up his own games.

Cartier wasn't covered by Mrs. O.

Our next explorer, also not covered by Mrs. O, was Sir Frances Drake.  Sir Drake was sent to attack Spanish ships, and sailed through the Strait of Magellan and up to the California coast.  He was the first Englishman to sail around the world.

The kids put together a booklet of weather reports from Cape Horn while learning about Sir Drake.

Next was Henry Hudson.  Hudson was sent by the Dutch East India Company to find a northern route to India. 

They wrote a news article about the mystery of what happened to Henry Hudson....

They also made models of two navigation tools, a parallel ruler and a divider.

Mrs. O did cover Henry Hudson and after reading the article about his life George chose "It was expensive like....a golden pig."

Our next explorer was not included in the History Pockets, Robert LaSalle.  LaSalle did most of his exploration in canoes.  He explored the Great Lakes, the Ohio and Mississippi Rivers, and established settlements. 

The kids next studied George's favorite explorer of all - Daniel Boone (even if he did insist on pronouncing it Boon - eh for a long time).  Boone helped the English fight in the French and Indian War, he explored Kentucky and became known for his singing.

As part of learning about Boone, the kids wrote their own limericks and a brief legend about Daniel Boone. 

Our next explorer was James Cook.   Cook studied the animals of Tahiti, explored New Zealand and Australia, explored and mapped the Hawaiian Islands, sailed along the coast of Canada and Alaska.  He reached Antarctica on his second journey searching for the Southern Continent.  Since over 400 stamps have been issued worldwide for Cook, one of the assignments the kids had was to design a stamp and write a postcard to a friend.

Next were Louis and Clark.   Lewis and Clark were sent by President Thomas Jefferson to explore the newly purchased Louisiana Territory.  Lewis kept extensive journals of his exploration, so the kids made a brief journal describing their day.  It's a rough life.

The final explorer was John Wesley Powell.  Powell was the first European to travel through the Grand Canyon so the kids each made their own brochure for the Canyon.  

The final assignments to the Explorers unit were to fill out a Explorer Job Application Form and fill out a reflection sheet.
When George looks through his Explorers book he feels "held back because I can't go outside and explore on my own".   
Vicki enjoyed doing the ships log the most, and what she would do differently is "make everything Pink.  Make the weather clear everyday.  Make James Cook crash with Leif Erickson".  I'm thinking that whole timeline didn't make much of an impact.  :-)

Simple Machines

I briefly mentioned the kids study of Simple Machines with my Halloween post, when Vicki mentioned that George was using a Class 2 Lever when using the wheelbarrow to carry our pumpkins.  I love it when the kids apply what they are learning.  :-)

For this unit, Jen and the kids used units from Teachers Pay Teachers, posters from the Mark Twain Media, the Thames and Kosmos Physics Simple Machine experiment kit...

and Simple Machines from the Step by Step Science Series from Carson-Delosa, Simple Machines by Deborah Hodge, and Explore Simple Machines by Anita Yasuda.

First, using a Movement and Simple Machines unit from Teachers Pay Teachers, they explored the various ways different objects move, including spinning, bouncing, rolling and tossing.  They tested different objects to determine which moved the best.

They found that pencils were the best spinners (out of pencil, marker, paperclip, straw, crayon, and ruler), a golf ball bounces higher than a football, a ping pong ball bounces higher than a tennis ball, and a ping pong ball bounces higher than a golf ball.   Marbles roll faster than golf balls, the yellow car rolled faster than the purple car, and the marble rolled faster than the yellow car.  And finally crumbled paper was easier to toss than a tissue.

They then read about forces and friction from Explore Simple Machines, and did a demonstration to create different amounts of friction and see the effect it would have on a car moving down a slope.  They recorded their results - it took .25 seconds for it to move down cardboard, .63 seconds to move down sandpaper, and .81 seconds to move down a towel.

The first simple machine they explored was Inclined Planes, and how they cut down the force needed to move something to a different level. 

They experimented with ramps by varying the angle of the ramp and seeing how far a car rolled down the ramp would roll.  Of course, it rolled the farthest with the steepest angle.

They then compared the result when an egg was dropped versus when it was rolled down a ramp, and determined how many pennies need to be added to a cup to be able to pull a car up a ramp and whether it would take more with a steeper ramp (it does).

They finished up inclined planes by doing the ramping up activity from the physics kit.

Next they explored Wedges, which is an inclined plane with one or two sloping sides that come together in a sharp point.   Wedges are used to split, lift, move, or stop an object.

They then explored wedges further by comparing whether a block of wood or a wedge of wood was better at keeping a door open, and seeing which was better at cutting a piece of clay. 

The next simple machines they explored were Levers.

After reading about levers, they did some experiments testing how the position of the fulcrum affected the amount of force was needed to lift something, identified fulcrums in common objects (like a stapler, broom, seesaw, wheelbarrow), and used a variety of levers such as a claw hammer to remove a nail, a screwdriver to open a can, a nutcracker to crack a walnut.  They did the Lever activity from the Physics kit.

The next simple machine they explored was screws.  A screw is a type of inclined plane, wrapped around a shaft, used to pull things together. 

The kids made their own screws by wrapping paper around a pencil, and made a paper helicopter that acted like a screw.

The next Simple Machine they learned about was Wheels and Axles.

Wheels and axles are two objects joined together in the middle, that rotate together.  After reading about them, they explored how much easier it was to move something using rollers, rather than pushing it over the ground, and how well a toy car moves with and without it's wheels.

Next they learned about Pulleys.

Pulleys are wheels that are used with ropes to lift and lower heavy things.    They made their own moveable pulley and did the pulley activity in the physics kit.
For the last demonstration, using a milk carton, pencils and rubber bands, they made a toy boat that would move through the water.  They didn't have too much luck getting it to move in the sink but later on in the tub they had better success.

They finished up by watching Bill Nye The Science Guy Simple Machines (available on youtube!).

The kids are now learning about the Solar System.  Hopefully it won't take me months to write up that one.  :-)



The kids did a very detailed, extensive electricity unit last year. 

They started out by watched School House Rock - Electricity, Electricity (available on youtube!) for a nice overview of the topic. 

Since electricity can be dangerous, they next learned about safety rules.  They read the "Safety Rules Around Electricity" chapter from one of the What Your x Grader Needs to Know books and watching the Bill Nye - Safety Smart video (Lots of Bill Nye is available on youtube, but not this one from what I can tell - check your local library!).

Bill Nye, The Science Guy: Safety Smart Science: Electricity (Classroom Edition)

They read about the various ways electricity is generated including batteries, in plants that burn coal, oil or gas, by water or by wind turbines.   They learned about the various ways electricity is used around our homes.

They did some reading about Thomas Edison in What Your First Grader Needs To Know and took a field trip to Edison's museum in West Orange, NJ to check out some of his inventions.  (We had gone there before, in 2013 when we first started our study of New Jersey. )

They then learned about static electricity and the transfer of electrons that causes it. 

They did an demonstration using a balloon and a small piece of wool to statically charge the balloon and cause it to stick to the wall and divert a stream of water.

Next they did a demonstration where they were able to make salt jump and dance.    They started out by choosing a hypothesis - will the salt jump off the table and into the spoon?  will it do nothing?  clump together?   Vicki chose jump off the table into the spoon, and George chose clump together.  They then conducted the experiment.  

They started by sprinkling a small amount of kosher salt onto a clean table or plate.  They then rubbed a plastic spoon on their hair quickly for 20 seconds.  They then held the spoon over the salt and observed what happened.    They salt stuck to the spoon.

Their next demonstration involved separating out salt and pepper.   The idea was to mix a small amount of salt and a small amount of pepper on a piece of paper.  Then comb their hair quickly 20 or 30 times and hold the brush over the mixture.   Unfortunately this one didn't work so well.

They watched the Magic School Bus Gets Charged.   While watching they filled in a video guide from (which has guides for Bill Nye, Eye of Nye, Magic School Bus, and Liberty Kids) and answered questions about what things they already knew that were confirmed by the video, what new things they learned and some fill in the blanks questions.

They learned about lightning next and did a demonstration to make artificial lightning.   Using a large baking dish with a piece of clay inside to move it, the dish was rubbed on a sheet of plastic for about one minute.    The dish was then taken into a dark room and a coin placed near one corner.  They were able to see the contact between the coin and dish cause a spark.

Next they learned about how electricity generates light and heat, and made a bulb light up just by attaching it to a battery with aluminum foil. 

They learned about loops, and open and closed circuits.  They did a worksheet that showed various circuits and they had to determine if they would work or not (whether it made a loop or not).

To learn more about circuits, they did some activities from our Snap Circuits set. We have the S-300R Snap Circuits set.
They made an Electric Light and Switch, a DC Motor and Switch, a Laser Gun, a Tone Generator, and an AM Radio with Transistors.  
Next they learned more about batteries and used a battery to light a small bulb and run a small motor. 

They learned about switches and made a switch using prong fasteners and a paperclip.   By creating a loop from one prong fastener to the battery, then the battery to a small motor, the motor to the other prong fastener, they could turn the motor on and off by using the paperclip to complete the circuit.  They then used this same idea to create burglar alarms for their rooms.  Using a couple pieces of foil taped to the door and frame and connecting them to a battery and a buzzer, they were able to make an alarm that would buzz whenever the door opened. 

That lasted about two days before they mysteriously disappeared. 

They continued the lessons on circuits by learning how flashlights work, and using multiple batteries in a line to get more power.

They next learned about conductors and insulators.  This lesson led to a lot of questions from Georgie about where it was safest to be in lightning or if there were live wires (in a car or out of a car, if you were wearing certain shoes, if you were standing in water).

They made another loop using batteries and a light bulb, and placed various objects in the loop.  If the circuit was competed and the light lit, the objects were conductors.  If the light didn't turn on, they were disrupting the circuit and were insulators.   The tested materials included: a penny (conductor), paper clip (conductor), crayon (insulator), foil (conductor), nickel (conductor), balloon (insulator), pencil (insulator), eraser (insulator), toothpick (insulator), tagboard (insulator), thumbtack (conductor), chalk (insulator), marker (insulator), ruler (insulator), book (insulator), button (conductor - most have been metal), cloth (insulator).

Next they learned about Electromagnets by reading the section from What Your Fourth Grader Needs to Know and making their own electromagnet using a battery, rubber band, copper wire, a bolt and several paper clips.  They then did an experiment that showed how an electromagnet only worked when the electrical current is connected.

They finished up by learning about the different forms of energy and making a windmill generator from a Green Science kit.

They used a bunch of books during their study.  They learned about Thomas Edison, Nikola Tesla, and loads of information about electricity.