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Growing in Pre K


This Pre-K Class is Headed to Space

Posted by Eilis on November 24, 2012 at 8:00 PM

I have been using the same themes for years now.  Thanks to the great ideas I find on other teacher's blogs, I have new and improved activities each year.  However, this year I am stepping out of my comfort zone and adding a new theme!  I went to a wonderful Preschool Summer Institute at Region 4 in Houston last summer.  We all went home with lots of great teaching ideas AND materials.  We were each given a Lakeshore astronaut costume and several space related items from Lakeshore.   So...when, while planning the year's themes with my team , we noticed that we have an "extra" week between Thanksgiving and December this year....  I decided that we had to do a space theme so I could use my cool new stuff.  ( I also have access to a second uniform since a friend who attended with me was willing to share hers as long as I share mine another week.)

But .. as the week approached, I got concerned.  I knew I could make a rocket out of a wardrobe box for dramatic play....but frankly I wanted something quick, inexpensive, and educational.  Then....I saw it....on PInterest of course.  Check out this amazing International Space Station at The Very Busy Kindergarten.  I barely got through cooking Thanksgiving dinner.  All I could think about was how to turn my classroom into a space station.  I had been worried about what the other kids would do while two dressed up as astronauts and had all the fun.  Then I saw those experiment boxes made from cardboard boxes, dishwashing gloves, and clear wrap.  I already have an "Is it magnetic ?" center that I haven't put out yet this year.  I also have some space looking linking pieces from Oriental Trading that usually collect dust at the back of the cabinet.  I was planning to use free cardboard boxes.....but then I saw these gray boxes intended to store photos.  They were sturdy and the just had "the look" I wanted. experiment boxes were not free ($7 each at Garden Ridge) plus about a dollar for the dishwashing gloves...but the good news is that I WILL use them to store my space stuff until next year....

I also splurged on a Solar System map for our Tag Readers 

I added head phones to each one and then two kids could easily use the mat at once:

Here's the link to my space board on Pinterest if you are interested.  I found some free printables photos of planets at Montessori Mom and phases of the moon also at Montessori Mom.  I used my home laminator to turn those free printables into sturdy materials for my students to handle.

    and of course the 10 cent laminating sheets from Amazon....


Now (drum roll please) on to the space station (or shuttle depending on imaginations)  that I made from a science board.  I turned my Little Tykes kitchen around so that just the white side was showing.  I decorated the poster board with Solar System posters from the local Teacher Supply store and added sheets of paper that had been run through our printer each time it tried to align because we had inserted a new ink cartridge. ( didn't really need to align all those times...but it thought it did and now I am glad I didn't throw away all the paper it wasted...).  Guess how I made the "switches?"  I cut strips of black adhesive foam sheets and folded them in half, letting about half of that stick together and using the other two quarters of adhesive to stick on my science board.  Not bad for a total of 99 cents...  I got really lucky on the chairs.  I had purchased them at Marshall's last year for independent reading places.  I had not brought them to my small classroom yet this year, so these students have not seen them and they are for all intents and purposes.....astronaut seats.

The silver on the seat is one of the Lakeshore astronaut uniforms.  Here's a student wearing one:

Here are some pictures of my progress on the experiment boxes:


This one is constellation cards with holes in them.  The student shines a flashlight in the box to see the constellation through the holes.  (One of the Lakeshore items that I was given last summer...)  I had to add a piece of black cloth for the student to work under to make it easier for kids to see the constellations in a small area.

The lower shelf shows some space themed easy readers for the kids to enjoy. 

I put some flour and baby oil in a plastic container as moon sand or fairy sand.  It does have an interesting soft texture and smells great.  I added this assortment of tiny astronauts: 

I am limiting this experiment to one student at a time since he/she will need to wash hands after playing.

Lucky again... my normal sensory tub and the gray closets behind have that "Space Station" look...

Here's a picture of me assembling the experiment which involves building with the Oriental Trading pieces:

Here it is in use with the cellophane taped over it:

After cutting two holes for the dishwashing gloves, I hot glued the gloves to the outside of the holes.

We also made constellations:

I demonstrated the Big Dipper, but let the kids be creative on their own constellations.

Everyone cooperated on a floor puzzle:


Since I found a bag of golf practice balls at the Target Dollar Spot, each child will take home his/her own pipe cleaner model of revolve/rotate.


I found this idea HERE.

Here's a link to my Space Printables ( $1.50) at My Teachers Notebook Shop.

The printables include the following:

Sight words on planets for a pocket chart game.



Class Book.

There is also an emergent reader about space:

and this Race to Trace Dice Game.  I found some ten sided dice at the Teacher Supply store.  If you don't have these, students will need the option of rolling one or two dice each time so they can get a one.

Lots and lots of educational space fun!

Pumpkin Life Cycle

Posted by Eilis on September 12, 2012 at 10:30 PM

A couple of years ago I added a little soil to a pumpkin pie pumpkin, it sprouted, and lots of you found this website/blog through Pinterest.  Here's the original photo:

  and here are links to that project:

The Original Pumpkin Post


The Pumpkin Project Revisited


So...I am very excited to offer this Pumpkin Life Cycle FREE PRINTABLE.

Just click on the picture or HERE to download it free at my Teachers Notebook Shop.

And....if you need more pumpkin life cycle printables...and who doesn't?....for one dollar you can download the same cards in black and white, some pocket chart strips to go with them, label cards, and BOTH color and black and white emergent readers in my Teachers Notebook Shop.


Here are some links to wonderful pumpkin life cycle books:




Germs Are Not for Sharing

Posted by Eilis on August 23, 2012 at 5:30 PM

Today was our fourth day of school.  I used my favorite back to school science lesson (with a few improvements).  We read the book Germs Are Not for Sharing.

Then we did the apple slice and germ experiment.

 I used those cool scienctific looking clear plastic water bottles this year.  The neck on them is almost as wide as it was on the glass jars that I used in the past.  I wrote clean (with a happy face) and dirty (with a sad face) right on the bottles with a permanent marker.  Then I sliced up an apple into ten small pieces. (I have ten kids and knew they would love each getting a turn.)  I had the kids each drop one slice using their clean hands into the jar labeled "clean."  For extra good measure, I had the kids rub their hands with hand sanitizer just before doing our experiment.  Then, when we came in from the playground, I repeated everything for the "dirty" jar. (Well...I did not repeat the hand sanitizer...)  I noticed a difference in the apples before I even left this afternoon!  We will be observing our "germs" over the next couple of weeks.  

Color Mixing Bottle

Posted by Eilis on July 6, 2012 at 10:55 AM

Why would I spend $1.25 on one bottle of water at the grocery store?  Because it will be so cool as a discovery bottle.  The brand is VOSS and apparently the water is from Norway.  The bottle is 16.9 fl. oz. I tried it for a reusable yellow/red color mixing bottle that I saw here and wanted to make for my classroom. They used wax shavings or tempera paint.  I actually cheated and just used red food coloring in water for 1/3 of the bottle and canola oil (yellow) for another 1/3.  When shaken, the mixture is a pinkish orange. (If you just shake it gently, you see red bubbles in the yellow oil which is another cool thing for the kids to observe.)

I do like the bright orange color better and I plan to make one with paint soon.  As always, I will hot glue the lid on to prevent spills.  I am thinking about moving the contents of all my old discovery bottles into these VOSS bottles because they just look scientific. The two clear adhesive labels were very easy to remove. These plastic bottles will also be more compact to store.

Earth Day Idea

Posted by Eilis on June 10, 2012 at 4:05 PM

Here's another great idea that was shared at the "Little Hands Investigating Science" workshop that I attended recently.  (Previous Post)  

These adorable dancing bugs are currently at the Dollar Tree.  

They are powered by a little solar cell.  What a fun way to demonstrate solar energy to young learners.  I picked up a couple and plan to bring them out next April when we do our Earth Day unit.  I may put one in a box and one in the sun to show the difference.


Posted by Eilis on June 9, 2012 at 10:20 AM

I attended a very inspiring training at Region 4 in Houston this week.  Maria Gonzales and Diana Morales from Aldine I.S.D. presented "Little Hands Investigating Science."  They teach at a Pre-K only campus that has 600 or more students - imagine!  Their campus has a permanent science room  which they visit to teach science lessons and rotate the students through science centers.  They shared many great hands-on activities that we could bring back to our classrooms.  There were many great make and takes.

One was this print and cut out car.  We attached a large paper clip to the car and used a magnetic wand behind the cardstock "road" to manipulate the car on the track.  Fun and easy!

They also shared this sentence strip magnetic activity.  Four items are taped to a sentence strip.  Note the inexpensive magnetic wand!  They just attached an adhesive magnetic dot to a tongue depressor. They send these items home with their students to share  what they have learned about magnets. (The magnet is attracted to some of the items, but not others). They emphasized telling students not to touch anything electronic with the magnets.  I would only send these magnets home if I could speak directly to the parents first.  It would make an excellent activity for an open house night.

These activities inspired me to creat a an interactive emergent reader about magnets.  You can print it HERE.  I laminate each page and then tape (the top only) of a snack size plastic bag  with the appropriate item in it.  I attach one magnetic wand to the book using a short string.  On each page the kids can test whether the item is attracted to the magnet.  If it is, the bag will lift up as the magnet is held over it. (The bag pictured is a sandwich size bag with the top half cut off).

I took this picture before laminating, binding, and attaching the magnet because I find that the lamination doesn't photograph well.  

I would love to hear your comments!!

Parts of a flower

Posted by Eilis on May 6, 2012 at 8:40 PM

Here's this year's version of the labeled flower.  Last year we used a yellow paper plate for the flower.  The kids cut all around the plate to create the petals. This year (inspired by Pinterest) we made a loop from a strip of construction paper.  The 3-D effect really popped on the bulletin board.

Even better than a Dollar Store deal

Posted by Eilis on March 25, 2012 at 5:50 AM

Look at these cute magnifying glasses that I picked up in the Easter section at Walmart this week.They were 97 cents each.  Yes, they even magnify


Happy Spring!

The pumpkin project (revisited)

Posted by Eilis on October 14, 2011 at 7:05 PM

I have been getting lots of questions about the pumpkin seeds growing inside the pumpkin.  We started the pumpkin project for this year today.  I sure hope it is as successful as it was last year.  Anyway, my first post may not have made it clear that we only opened up the pumpkin, added a little soil and water, and watched the seeds (which were already inside the pumpkin) grow.  The pumpkin we used was intended for making pumpkin pie.  I am not sure how well a big pumpkin would do.  Here is a picture of today's "before" soil:

We left all the "guts" and seeds as they were (except the few that came out with the lid).

Here is last year's plant when it sprouted:

You can find pictures of the full grown plant growing outside our window here:

And as I mentioned previously, I LOVE to read the book Pumpkin Jack to my students several times while we observe the pumpkin life cycle.

Kiwi Crate Craft Kits

Five Senses Activities

Posted by Eilis on October 13, 2011 at 6:40 PM

Here are two of the activities we did this week in learning about how we use our five senses:

We tried to guess whether the liquid in the glass was water or vinegar.  We discovered that we had to use our sense of smell....

We also tried to guess sugar and salt by appearance.  We labeled our guesses and then did a taste test to find out....