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Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Seriously Spectacular Space Projects



2 Summers ago I saw these little bags of styrofoam balls at DollarTree. They caught my attention instantly because an idea had already been tumbling around in my head for a couple of years but
styrofoam balls from the craft store are ridiculously overpriced, especially when you need about 8 (sorry Pluto :{ ) for 25 or so kids.  

I just couldn't believe how perfect these little $1 bags were.  Each one has 8 styrofoam balls AND 4 of them are small and 4 of them are larger!  Could it be more perfect?  
(Well... actually, yes, I suppose it could, and I did have a little discussion with my kiddos about how these 8 little balls weren't PERFECTLY proportionate to all 8 planets, but they are perfect for approximately representing the 4 inner Rocky Midgets and the 4 outer Gas Giants.) 

Anyway, I'm sure you can see where this was headed.  I saw the bags;  The idea was already brewing and just waiting to burst out of my brain; I had to buy them, that is 30 bags of them.  :)  So there they sat in my classroom cupboard for 2 years waiting for the perfect opportunity to be put to use.  I wanted to use them with my little firsties last year but it just seemed like a little much.  So this year when I switched to third grade the timing was perfect and they couldn't have turned out any more amazing!

WANT TO MAKE SOME WITH YOUR STUDENTS? YOU CAN DOWNLOAD THE INSTRUCTIONS FOR FREE HERE.

I gave each student a little bag of balls and a note of instructions that explained that they needed to represent the sun, all 8 planets, (and Pluto if they wanted), the stars, and the asteroid belt and each celestial body needed to be labeled.  I gave them some ideas for mounting/displayed their project and offered wire hangers for any students that wanted them, but most found their own way and they seriously turned out so awesome.  Can you believe 3rd graders did this?

We left them on display in the entryway of the school and they were quite the hit!  

Some kids cut them in half and mounted them.  Some kids used wires and sticks to mount them.  Some hung them.  
Quite simply: They were amazing.
This one was quite possibly my favorite. It's impossible to tell from this poor phone photo, but she went far above and beyond.  She labeled several stars and even added little labeled moons to the planets with toothpicks.  And of course you can just barely see little Pluto there on the end.  The whole thing was about 5-6 feet long and pretty impressive hanging from our ceiling.



When we were all finished learning about the solar system and completing our Planet Books, (click image to purchase)


and had finished our test, we celebrated by making delectable Solar System Cookies. 

I haven't quite caught back up with blogging/teaching/mommying/and creating teaching projects... so I don't have a picture of the 3rd grade cookies from this year, but here's one from a few years ago.  You can check out more details about the cookies and a few highlights of our Space activities from last year here.  


Friday, April 11, 2014

Hooray for the Humans...Part II

Since our little angel was born I have been busy with returning to teaching half-day, adjusting to life as mommy and teacher, and settling into our new home.  My third graders and I recently had a blast learning about the Human Body.  We used the Human Body Book that I created last year, 
  
and of course displayed the Human Body System Posters I created. 

Plus we added lots of fun new things to our learning! 
Unlike last year, we didn't have access to real-life skeleton so we had to settle for this little guy that the 6th grade let us borrow:

Like most, my kiddos love everything hands-on.  They were so fascinated with the human body and all of it’s amazing systems and I wanted them to have the opportunity to CREATE something to help solifidy their understanding of each system and its parts so I created this Human Body System Craft Book.  We used common household/classroom items to represent the different parts of the system (for example – little pink water balloons for the lungs, gold pipecleaners for the nerves, and a sponge for the brain).  When we finished learning about all of the systems we bound them in a book and wow, they look fabulous!  What a neat learning souvenir. 
 

You can purchase the Human Body Systems Craft Book here.  It includes a materials list and instruction page for each system, as well as a template for each body system, covers for the book and pictures of the completed crafts.

Of course we also made our little body system paper dolls (the kids LOVE them) before we took our test.  


Want a copy of the study guide and test I used?  You can download it for free here:


 And I had a wonderful TPT follower ask if I could provide her with the Human Body System Posters so she could translate them into Spanish.  Well… since I work in a school with a Spanish emphasis and LOTS of great Spanish-speaking teachers I went ahead and did it myself (with their help of course) and you can purchase those here if you’re interested.  They are PERFECT for Spanish-speaking schools or Spanish-immersion schools where science is taught in Spanish.  I hope somebody finds a good use for them!


Wednesday, March 26, 2014

I'm BACK!!! With good reason {and adorable pics} of my absence

So... I really don't know how many people ACTUALLY follow this little bloggie thing of mine, especially since I have been absent from the blogging world for quite some time, but I have a really good reason.  
And here she is:


If you've visited my blog before you probably know I have a bit of a Dr. Seuss obsession... so I just can't get enough of these pics of my little girlie holding Daddy's glasses and sleeping on some of my favorite stories.

She was born in October so of course I couldn't resist a few Halloween-themed baby photos...

 And a little Very Hungry Caterpillar one too...

And one to capture it all.  LOVE.  We Love her. She loves us.  We love having her.  We love our little family.  We love it all.  

And here are a few winter family photos taken in the blustery cold of January.  

Want to see more? Well don't you worry.  I have LOTS more (more than I can possibly ever post) and more Human Body System products & updates.

*Our baby girl's newborn photos were all inspired (with thanks!) by ideas I saw on Pinterest, so I don't claim them as my own, except for the Very Hungry Caterpillar one... that one I came up with with just the inspiration of my mind :) , and they were all taken thanks to the talented Alesa Larsen 

Friday, July 19, 2013

123... ABC {A Plush, magnetic alphabet crafty tutorial}


Now that summer school is done, and for the first summer in a few years I'm no longer working on my masters degree I have found myself with LOTS of crafty nesting time (see here just in in case you missed the announcement). While perusing Pinterest (yes, very productive use of time... I know) I saw this adorable magnet board with magnet letters on it: It was love at first sight.
DIY Magnet Board in kids room with fabric magnetic letters.
(click the image to view the original source)
I followed her link to check out the alphabet on Etsy but I just couldn't swallow spending $50 on it, adorable as it is.  So I determined I would make my own.  Now be warned.  I am a VERY amateur sewer (I don't even dare venture use the word "seamstress".  NO way!) And this project is not for the faint of heart, nor can it be done in a jiffy. Hopefully these instructions are of use to someone :)

Materials:
lowercase alphabet block letter template (free PDF)
26 fabric scraps (~4x4in)
26 Batting squares (~4x4in)
26 Felt squares (~4x4in)
52 1/2 in. diameter magnets
1. Select your fabric scraps.
(I arranged mine by color for a rainbow-ish effect to help my baby girl learn the sequence of the alphabet as she visually sees the color scheme in order).
 2. Create or print your alphabet template on cardstock.
(I chose lowercase letters because as all you early-childhood teachers know MOST of the English language is represented with lowercase letters.  Simply learning to recognize the letters by name, while helpful, is a far cry from learning to read.  That is why I always begin by teaching the sounds of lowercase letters before names or introducing capital letters.)

 3. Cut out your template and lay each piece with it's corresponding fabric.
(I used an exacto for the center of the tricky ones).
 4. Cut the fabric, batting and felt into approximate rectangles/squares for each letter.  Layer them in that order. Make sure you have at least a 1/4in. edge of fabric, batting, and felt around each letter.
(I considered using the same fabric for the backs, but ultimately decided on black felt to make it easy for baby girl to recognize the front and back of the letters).
 5.  Now I know I'm breaking lots of true seamstress rules here... but I didn't bother to pin OR trace my template. I know, I know.  Shame shame on me! I simply used the letter template as a guide and stitched through the fabric, batting and felt, making sure they all stayed aligned, and making sure to backstitch as I went.  If you're not as inclined to wing-it as I was, then by all means pin and trace away! But wait!  Don't forget the magnets!  I almost did, a few times in fact.  Think carefully about where to place your magnets.  They must be balanced on opposite sides of the letter or somewhat centered, otherwise the weight of your letter may cause it to hang crooked.  I found it was easiest to DECIDE where to put my magnets before I started sewing, THEN sew the letter ALMOST all the way (without the magnet), and finally stick them in at the last moment, and then finish up the last few stitches.
6. For those fun letters with the holes (a,b,d,e,g,o,p,&q) sew the outside edges and place the magnets first, then sew the inside of the letter (this part can be tricky!) and then finally cut out the center once the whole thing is sewn.
7. Trim all the excess around the edges and another letter is done! With each completed letter I found myself feeling happy and triumphant. Hopefully you do too.  When they're done, hang them on you refrigerator, a magnet board or a filing cabinet and admire them to your heart's content.  Hooray!






PS - I just have to add that after completing my alphabet I COMPLETELY understand why these are around $50 on Etsy. If I were selling I would have to charge at least $100 to make it even remotely worth my time. So go make your own and have fun!  Let me know if you do, I would love to see pictures!

Saturday, July 6, 2013

Best. PTO. Ever.

 I've just got to say it: Jefferson Academy has THE BEST PTO in the world.  I'm sure going to miss it.  I have taught at 5 different schools and no other PTO has even come close to comparing.  They go way above and beyond.  Teacher Appreciation week is always the best! Besides food and gifts galore, they always decorate our doors so fun.  Here was mine this year:

 And some other fun favorites that I had to share: (I figured some wonderful PTO moms would be looking for ideas sometime in the future...)


 My door was DEFINITELY one of my favorites, but I have to admit that I coveted Mr. Young's candy just a little bit (I like to chalk it up to my increased pregnancy appetite :) and couldn't help but notice that the packages were quickly emptied. So, a tip to any perusing PTO parents - if you know of a pregnant teacher I'm sure she would LOVE this door!
 So cute!










Aren't they clever and creative? I just love them! It's so fun to walk through the halls and see how different doors are decorated and the kids love it too.  And this was less than half of them!  (Although I did capture my personal favorites :) 
If you have decorated door pics, or other teacher appreciation ideas link them in the comments!  I would love to see!