Category Archives: EDUC 514 – Teaching Science

514 – Parachutes with 4th Graders at Haw River

At Haw River Elementary last Monday, we did the parachute activity again with the students.    This time we worked with 4th graders, which was a very different experience for me.  The students had been excited all morning about getting to do this activity, and we thought it was our best science experience yet!    As opposed to the 2nd and 3rd graders, these students were very vocal in expressing their opinions and ideas about the activity, discussing gravity and parachutes and how they work.  I did feel a bit restricted by the amount of time we were able to devote to this activity.  My students were more interested and involved in this science element than in any of the other subjects we worked with.  I would have liked the science, math, and literacy activities to have been INTEGRATED so that they flowed more smoothly.  I think this would make our time more beneficial for both us and the students.



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514 – Parachute Activity at Haw River

Parachute_300On Monday, October 19th, we traveled to Haw River Elementary school to work with 3rd graders in literacy, math, and science.  This experience was actually quite different from working with the 2nd graders just a few weeks earlier.  First, we worked in groups of 3 instead of in pairs.  We were also able to make a lesson plan overview in advance so that we knew exactly what we were going to be doing with the students and in what order.  The bubble experiement had been a little hectic with the 2nd graders, so we wanted to have this activity flow as smoothly as possible.

We asked students to predict which would fall faster, a ball of crumpled paper or a stick of chapstick.  Of course, they predicted that the chapstick would fall faster because it was heavier, but they realized (we hope) by the end of the lesson that all objects fall at the same speed, regardless of weight because of gravity.  The students were engaged and dedicated to the activity, constructing their parachutes and taking interest in timing the drops.   We had to do a bit of explanation when it came time to record the times in the table because they appeared not to have had much experience with decimals. 

I noticed that these students had an increased attention span when compared to the 2nd graders.  They were able to complete the science, math, and literacy activites back to back for almost 3 hours!  They were also more self-sufficient when it came to constructing their parachutes than I would have expected them to be. 

If I was to do this experiment over again, I would have had materials for each student to make their own parachute.  Since they were sharing, the students only got to drop the parachutes half as many times each.  Although students worked well in pairs, I think more personal hands-on experience would have led to better understanding of the concept.  I think it might have also worked better if the students had previous knowledge of “time.”  They had trouble seeing that smaller numbers meant that the parachute had fallen faster and bigger numbers meant that the parachute had taken longer to fall.

In all, we think this inquiry-based parachute activity was successful with these 3rd grade students.


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514 – UDL in My Classroom

I enjoyed learning about UDL, Universal Design for Learning, this week.  Although i was quite confused at first, it was very helpful to learn about how Universal Design actually began with archichitecture.  People used to design buildings and then go back and make them user-friendly.  Now, architects think about ramps and wide doors and emergency exits before they even begin construction.  As teachers, we must take into consideration the needs of our students before we even start planning or teaching.

I have been thinking about how I can implement elements of UDL in my own classroom.  I hope to be able to provide lots of different methods to present information to my students.  I know that people respond to various presentations differently, and I want to make sure I can reach all of my students.  I also plan to use more than just quizzes and tests to determine what my students know and have learned.  Games, projects, songs, and other activities are good tools for student assessment that often go unnoticed.  I want to meet the needs of my diverse learners by using lots of pre-assessments and taking time to discuss with my students what they know, what they want to know, and what needs to change.  Of course, I will set high expectations for all of my students so that they are encouraged to strive for their best work in all aspects of learning.


For more information on UDL visit:


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Science Misconceptions Interview: Sound


            Hi, ___________.  My name is Ms. Jordan and I am a college student, learning about being a teacher.  How are you liking 2nd grade?  Well thank you for helping me with this project.  It’s not for a grade, but it’s going to help me learn to be a better teacher.  There are no right or wrong answers to the questions I am going to ask you, it’s just an interview because I want to know what you think about the question.  Here are some pencils and colored pencils for you to use if you want to draw anything to help you explain your thoughts and ideas.  This interview is going to take about 25 to 30 minutes.  Do you have any questions before we start?  Ok here we go.

Interview Questions:

  1. What is sound?
  2. What is music?  An art?  A science?  Both?
  3. What do you think sound looks like?  Draw it here.
  4. If student doesn’t draw a wave, ask “Can you draw a sound wave for me?”
  5. How is sound made?
  6. Name some things that make sound.
  7. What is an ultrasound?
  8. Can sound travel through liquids? 
  9. Can it travel through solids?
  10. Can you tell me how telephone wires work?  How can I have a conversation with my grandmother in Ohio?
  11. How do you hear sounds?
  12. What part of your ear helps you hear sounds?
  13. What is an instrument?
  14. Do different instruments make different sounds?
  15. What do megaphones do?
  16. Tell me about this noise. (Make a high pitched hum)
  17. Now tell me about this noise (Make a low-pitched hum)
  18. Are loudness and pitch the same things?
  19. Why are some sounds louder than others?
  20. When a book falls on the floor, do you hear it hit at the exact same time that you see it hit the ground?
  21. When a car drives by, what happens to the sound it makes as it passes by you?
  22. If you see a car driving really far away and you can’t hear it, is it making sound?
  23. How do people talk or make sounds?
  24. What is happening to their vocal cords?
  25. How do vocal cords work?

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Science Interview Questions – any suggestions?

These are the Misconceptions Interview Questions I have so far for the topic: “sound”.  Any suggestions?  Anything your students are having trouble with?

  1. What is music?  An art?  A science?  Both?
  2. What do you think sound looks like?  Draw it here.
  3. If student doesn’t draw a wave, ask “Can you draw a sound wave for me?”
  4. What is an ultrasound?
  5. Can sounds be made without any material objects?
  6. Can you tell me how telephone wires work?  How can I have a conversation with my grandmother in Ohio?
  7. What part of your ear helps you hear sounds?
  8. What do megaphones do?
  9.  Are loudness and pitch the same things?
  10. Why are some sounds louder than others?
  11. When a book falls on the floor, do you hear it hit at the exact same time that you see it hit the ground?
  12. When a car drives by, what happens to the sound it makes as it passes by you?
  13. Are lightning and thunder caused by the same force?
  14. When people talk, what is happening to their vocal cords?
  15. How do vocal cords work?

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514 – Bubble Activity

bubbles We spent all of Monday, September 21st at Haw River Elementary School, a Title 1 school just west of Chapel Hill.  We had been doing math and literacy activities all morning with the 2nd graders, and after we returned to the room for lunch and a final debriefing, we gathered our materials for the science activity.  I had already told the two students I was working with that we would do the science activity at the end of the day, and I knew that Alondra and Matthew were excited about this part!  Sarah Gleason and I put our four children together to conduct the bubbles experiment. 

 I was a little nervous…I didn’t want to mess up the experiment or confuse the students.  But things went much more smoothly than I would have imagined.  The students loved guessing which objects would float and sink and of course blowing bubbles in the soapy water!  Sarah and I decided to alter the experiment a little and we used the dropper to see how much water we could put on the penny before the surface tension would break.  The students were amazed by this activity and I wish we had spent more time on it.  If I was to do this experiment again, I would definitely enhance this part of the activity.  Unfortunately we couldn’t get the paper clip to float in the container of water, even after Nick’s technique of using another paper clip to lower it down.  But surprisingly, the students understood that it was sinking because our fingers were breaking the surface tension.  I was amazed that they understood the idea of the “skin of the water”.  When we used the wiki sticks as wands to blow bubbles with the solution, the students were making predictions right and left about on what types of surfaces the bubbles would and would not break.   

 If I conducted this experiment again, I would definitely be more prepared in terms of my materials.  Although Sarah and I had almost everything out and ready in front of us before the kids came in, we didn’t think about needing paper towels to wipe up the mess or extra water to add to the containers.  I will have to think of these little things next time I do a science experiment with children.

I enjoyed this interactive learning activity and I am sure the students enjoyed the experience.  It is so much better to let the students experience surface tension (and many other science concepts) firsthand rather than watching the teacher do a demonstration from afar or reading about it from a textbook.

In all, I was amazed at the eagerness and insightfulness of the students I worked with.  I think I gained a lot from focusing on individual students and how their thought processes worked in the different activities.  It is a great strategy for any teacher to take time to work one-on-one with his or her students to learn how they think and figure out what strategies will work best for them.  After doing the bubbles activity, I am much more excited about doing interactive science activities in my own classroom.

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Science Blog #2

I must admit that the columnist’s remark at the beginning of the article about American students having the heaviest backpacks was quite humorous, but it led into an article that was quite disheartening.  “Not a single one of the books examined met even the minimum requirements for teaching science.”  What?!

It makes me nervous to find out that so many teachers are relying solely on textbooks to teach subjects because they themselves have limited prior knowledge in the area.  That is probably one of my biggest fears…that I will be unprepared for my students’ learning.

I wholeheartedly agree that science is more than “a heap of facts and vocabulary words.”  We must guide our students through science, allowing them to gain knowledge through exploration and discovery, not having them write out definitions over and over again.  As it was best put by the article: “Science is not just facts to be memorized or terms to learn, but a process for building up a picture and explanation of the world from evidence.

The idea that textbooks have become overwhelming in design and formatting does not surprise me in the least.  I remember being distracted by all of the little blurbs and sidebars and not even paying attention to the actual textboxes.

I do not think that textbook editors and manufacturers should be using the state standards and laws as an excuse for producing inadequate textbooks, but I also think that it is the teacher’s and not the textbooks’ responsibility to present the information to the students in a way that is meaningful and productive.  Not only must the textbooks be reformed, but teachers must rethink how these textbooks are used in the classroom.

I also enjoyed learning about the “new way of thinking about science” as it was presented in “Ready, Set Science!”  I had never heard of the Four Strands, but it was interesting to think of the subject in this new way.  Just as a reminder to myself later in the course, I am going to list the Four Strands of Science here in my blog:

  1. Understanding Scientific Explanations
  2. Generating Scientific Evidence
  3. Reflecting on Scientific Knowledge
  4. Participating Productively in Science

The strands would not “work” in education if they were not meant to be intertwined.  I wholeheartedly believe that inquiry-based science is what is lacking the most in the majority of elementary schools today.  As I mentioned in my science autobiography, the experiences I most remember were those in which I was able to “dig in” and get my hands dirty, exploring all the wonders of science. 

After reading the articles for this week, I realize how “deprived” I was of science instruction in elementary and even in middle school.  I know I had wonderful teachers, but I know that I don’t have the same lasting experiences to draw on that I would have if there had been meaningful, inquiry-based science lessons in my classrooms.

It may sound corny, but literally everything in the world deals with science on some level.  There is no excuse for a teacher not to incorporate the subject into every day.  Teachers must utilize all of their resources in order to instill a love for or at least and understanding of science at a young age.  I hope that through this course I will realize many more ways I can present science to my own students in the classroom.

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