21 December 2015

Mapping our Bones and Muscles

Ah...winter vacation...want to keep your kids' brains engaged over break? Why not learn about the HUMAN BODY by making a Human Body Map!

This is my favorite way to teach children about the parts of the body. I have done this with at least 100 kids aged 3 to 14 and they have all loved it...and learned something in the process!

You will need some very large paper (like butcher paper, oaktag, chart paper, or printer paper taped together.) Ideally your paper should be about 60 centimeters wide and 15 centimeters longer than your child. You'll also need scissors, glue stick or tape, and some colored markers.

Step One: Have your child lie on her/his back on the paper. Then trace the outline of their body. Kids can certainly do this with one another if you want to stay out of the fun.

Step Two: Print the WORD LIST below - you can copy and paste it into a document to make the font larger and, I like to print the BONE LIST on WHITE paper, and the MUSCLE LIST on RED paper). Then cut out the terms so they are ready for some "sticking". ** This is not an exhaustive or advanced list. For older children, encourage them to "go deeper"!

Step Three and beyond: Using a reference book, the internet, or the photos I've included below, have your children MAP their BONES onto their outline. I like to work from top to bottom and talk about the bone as we stick it to our map. But you can also make it a game, where kids can pick bone names randomly and find where they go on the body. ** If the bone they are labeling is on the back of the body, I like to draw a curved arrow to indicate that.

After the BONES, kids can add MUSCLES. If kids are having fun, they can research their DIGESTIVE system and add that to the map too! 





*my favorite muscle name ever!

Here are some images to get you started:

Please share photos of your work with me! And if your children LOVE this kind of exploration, they will LOVE the activities in my book ("Science not Just for Scientists!") and in my line of science kits: Explore Outside Your Door.

16 November 2015

Autumn Leaves

"The Autumn Leaves....drift by my window..." that's how the song goes, so let's do some leaf-based explorations...

Even though the leaves are almost gone, there is still some time to do some outdoor exploration with your children. On your next stroll, make observations about leaf color and shape. Ask your child if they know why the leaves are changing color - what could be happening?

Then get a collection of leaves. Try to find a variety of sizes, shapes and colors. Back home, have your child sort the leaves. They can first sort them by size. Then color. Then shape. I like to simplify a complicated concept for young children by having them sort leaves int the two “most popular” leaf shapes in the following way:

** Does the leaf look like a closed fist? 
[This would include birch, beech, elm, magnolia...and many others.]

** Does the leaf look like an open hand? 
[This includes maples, oaks, or others that appear to be “spread out”.]

If they’d like to go more deeply and explore a variety or leaf shape characteristics, you can use a chart, like this one from Encyclopedia Britannica Kids:  

The question that is always on their minds though is WHY DO THE LEAVES CHANGE COLORS? 

Before telling them, have them share their ideas on what is happening. When they’re ready, here’s the simple explanation I use with young children and a video I made to demonstrate this beautiful phenomenon:

When autumn rolls around, trees begin to prepare for winter. One way they get ready is to stop producing CHLOROPHYLL (Green!!) which is found in leaves. Chlorophyll is the pigment in leaves that allows trees to do PHOTOSYNTHESIS. When there is less sunlight, the trees make less chlorophyll and when the chlorophyll starts to disappear we see another pigment in the leaves CAROTENOID (Orange! Yellow!).

To demonstrate the "removal of chlorophyll" you can use this video and then try it yourself at home. All you will need is a plastic or paper cup (or small bowl) with a small hole towards the bottom, a straw, yellow paint or marker, water and green food coloring. Paint the inside of the cup yellow, put the straw in the hole, then holding the straw plugged, mix water and green food color. The GREEN WATER represents the chlorophyll in the leaf...then unplug the straw and as the green drains away, YELLOW is left behind!


If your children love trees as much as I do, consider getting my “Hug A Tree” kit for more at home exploration: http://www.exploreoutsideyourdoor.com/?shopp_product=hug-a-tree-kit


07 February 2014

Wintertime, and the living ain't easy...

Here in the northeast, it always seems much easier to do some outdoor science in summer than in winter. Especially when our streets are covered with 10 inches of snow. Agree?

When it is nice out and trees are in bloom, we can take kids on a walk through the park and study and identify trees, look for evidence of living things, gather specimens, collect water samples...you get it. Lots to see and do. Plus, you don't have to wear a coat.

But, don't let the winter weather keep you from doing some outdoor explorations!  There's plenty to do and they can be fun!

Here's an idea to get you started. I'll post some more next week..after we get even more snow!

Snow Melt

  • Go outside and check out the snow (bring a few glass jars for collecting samples). 
  • Have kids look at the TEXTURE, COLOR and HARDNESS of the snow.
  • Discuss their observations and gather their ideas of what would make the snow feel and look different in different locations.
  • Have kids collect snow samples in the glass jars. Be sure to get the samples from a variety of locations, BUT put only one location in each jar. Label the jars (or remember where the samples are from - if it were me, with my memory, I'd bring a sharpie to write on the lid!)
  • Decide what experiments they'd like to do with the snow once back inside:
    • collect data on how long it takes the snow to melt. Place the jars in different locations around your house/apartment and set a timer.
    • test how food coloring moves through the different samples. Does the color matter? 
    • explore what kind of material will make the snow melt more quickly (when placed in the same spot). Use a metal pan, a ceramic dish, a plastic plate, etc...

Have fun! Drop me a comment and let me know how your exploration goes...


04 February 2014

Welcome to Science Play with Dr. A!

Welcome to Science Play with Dr. A!

I created this blog so that parents, caregivers and educators can find ways to bring more science (and learning!) into the life of children. After 23 years in the field of education teaching all kinds of things but mostly science in public school, private school, museum, university, and graduate school settings, I’m now focused on sharing SIMPLE IDEAS with everyday people.

Two years ago (after being a teacher, professor and nonprofit executive), I opened Storefront Science, a living science experiment and science play space for kids in Northern Manhattan. StoSci, as it came to be known, was a fun and wonder-filled space. For financial reasons, I closed the physical doors in fall 2013, but am still committed to spreading “the gospel of science” or rather, spreading a love of WONDER, EXPLORATION AND EXPERIMENTATION far and wide.

I know that for many children, their science experiences are limited. Sadly, schools deem science an “enrichment” rather than a necessary course of study and way of thinking. But many teachers, caregivers and parents know the value of science literacy and want to encourage exploration and investigation with children. 

So, if you can't get the science you need, why not make the science you deserve?

Moving forward, I will post ruminations, activities, Big Ideas, and reviews...and I encourage you to a) read this blog, 2) comment, 3) ask questions, and 4) share it with your friends. Plus, I have a book coming out in October (Science, Not Just for Scientists) and will be sharing tasty morsels from it.

Here's to Wonder and Exploration!