Friday, April 24, 2015

20 Ways to Use Seeds and Plants in the Classroom

Twenty ways to learn about seeds and plants or incorporate seeds and plants into your lessons - everything from growing a garden in soil to hydroponics to exploring seed catalogs. Twenty different ideas for your classroom or homeschool environment brought to you by Raki's Rad Resources.Spring is here. Let’s celebrate by celebrating seeds! Plant units are a big part of Spring. No matter the age of your students, there are things that can be learned from seeds and ways to incorporate seeds into skills and lessons you are already working on. Try incorporating some of these ideas into your plant unit.

 Twenty ways to learn about seeds and plants or incorporate seeds and plants into your lessons - everything from growing a garden in soil to hydroponics to exploring seed catalogs. Twenty different ideas for your classroom or homeschool environment brought to you by Raki's Rad Resources

All Ages

1.) Plant a community garden: Ask each child to bring in a seed packet. If your school has space, plant the seeds outside for all of the school to share in. If your planting space is limited, pick up some cheap pots and build your community garden inside your classroom, in the hallway or wherever else you can find space. By asking students to bring in their own seeds, you will end up with some wonderful plants you may not have thought to plant yourself.

2.) Cook a meal with food grown by students: Too many students aren’t aware of where their food really comes from. Use this opportunity to grow something edible. Microgreens, sprouts or herbs like parsley, cilantro, mint and oregano can all be grown rather quickly and used as part of a meal. If you have a longer time, consider growing lettuce greens, peas, tomatoes, strawberries or peppers. In my experience, kids will eat things they would never have considered eating when they are part of the growing and harvesting process.

3.) Dissect a seed: Cut open a seed and see what’s inside. Look at it under a microscope or hand lens. Explore

4.) Create art with seeds and plants: From seed collages to photography of newly growing plants to leaf rubbings, there are so many ways to create art using seeds and newly growing plants.

Twenty ways to learn about seeds and plants or incorporate seeds and plants into your lessons - everything from growing a garden in soil to hydroponics to exploring seed catalogs. Twenty different ideas for your classroom or homeschool environment brought to you by Raki's Rad Resources

Preschool/Kindergarten

5.) Sort seeds: There are so many different types of seeds out there. From the teeny tiny lettuce seeds to small apple seeds to big chunky pumpkin seeds to large plum pits.  Seeds could be sorted by size of course, but also by color, shape, etc.

6.) Seed Packet memory: Buy two packets of a wide range of seeds. Turn the seed packets face down and play memory. You can also explore seed packets for words or letters or vocabulary words.

7.) Plant seeds in a wet paper towel: Help students see what actually happens when we plant a seed by “planting” seeds in wet paper towels. Put the paper towels into clear plastic baggies and tape them to a window. In a sort time seeds will sprout and you will start to see roots and stems.

8.) Draw pictures of planted seeds: Whether you plant seeds in a paper towel, a cup or the ground, this is a great time to let students document the changes of their plants with drawings.

Twenty ways to learn about seeds and plants or incorporate seeds and plants into your lessons - everything from growing a garden in soil to hydroponics to exploring seed catalogs. Twenty different ideas for your classroom or homeschool environment brought to you by Raki's Rad Resources

Primary Grades

9.) Predict what plants will come from each seed: Some seeds are more obvious – think dried peas or sunflower seeds – but most seeds don’t indicate what plants will grow from them – think lettuce seeds or broccoli seeds. Put seeds into numbered envelopes and let students predict what plants are grown by each type of seed. Then either reveal the results or let students grow their seed and find the answers to their predictions that way.

10.) Seed Packet adjectives: Seed packets and seed catalogs are famous for using descriptive adjectives to try and persuade you to choose their variety of seeds. Let students explore these writings and underline or highlight the adjectives.

11.) Grow sunflowers and track growth through measuring and drawings: Sunflowers grow quickly and get really big, so they are a lot of fun to grow with younger kids. Have all of the students plant sunflowers or plant one new sunflower plant each day to see the visual progression of growth. Either way, let students practice measuring by measuring the stem and drawing the growth they see. If sunflowers aren’t available, corn is another plant that grows tall fast.

12.) Write a story from the point of view of their plant: A great creative writing project is to let students pretend to be their plant and write a story about what happens around them. What would life be like if you couldn’t move around, if you had to make your own food, etc. etc.

Twenty ways to learn about seeds and plants or incorporate seeds and plants into your lessons - everything from growing a garden in soil to hydroponics to exploring seed catalogs. Twenty different ideas for your classroom or homeschool environment brought to you by Raki's Rad Resources

Upper Elementary/Middle School

Great Plant Experiment for intermediate age students from Raki's Rad Resources. 13.) Experiment with the needs of a plant: Rather than simply telling students that the needs of a plant are: air, sun, soil and water, let them experiment with these needs. Have students choose one of the needs and experiment with it by determining some variables. Students can document the changes over the course of time and use their data to create a project. My Great Plant Experiment Project provides you with all of the resources to make this experiment happen.

14.) Price compare seeds using seed catalogs: Like just about anything else, seeds cost different prices when purchased from different venues. Seed catalog companies will send you free catalogs each year. It would be very easy to let students comparison shop seeds from different companies. Great math/science connection!

15.) Create a stop motion animation of the plant growing: Like every living thing, plants grow very slowly. However if we take the same picture each and every day at the same time, we can line them up and see the plants grow. Even better, we can put the pictures into a stop animation video software. Check out this blog post for links to these types of softwares.

16.) Grow bean sprouts or microgreens: Sprouts and microgreens are both very popular (and very expensive) in health stores these days. Both are new plants, which contain a lot of nutrition and both are extremely easy to grow.

To grow sprouts, rinse beans (or grains) and put them into a glass mason jar with cheese cloth or screen over the mouth of the jar. Sit the mason jar near the window. Each day, rinse and drain the beans and replace the jar to it’s place near the window. Repeat for a week or two, or until the sprouts are long enough for your liking. Once they are grown, boil the sprouts until soft, cool and toss with shredded veggies and salad dressing for delicious salad!

To grow  microgreens, put an inch or two of soil into a shallow container. Add plenty of seeds of pretty much any leafy variety (lettuce, spinach, kale, carrots, beets, broccoli, etc.). Water daily. Wait about a week until they are about the length of your finger. Pull and eat. They can be eaten raw, mixed into a salad or used to top a pizza. 

Twenty ways to learn about seeds and plants or incorporate seeds and plants into your lessons - everything from growing a garden in soil to hydroponics to exploring seed catalogs. Twenty different ideas for your classroom or homeschool environment brought to you by Raki's Rad Resources

High School

17.) Research new and old farming methods: Sustainable farming is an important thing for students to learn about. It is not only an important political and social topic in today’s world, but the growing of food is necessary for our survival. Students should be aware of the methods being used to farm. Students could research “conventional” farming methods with the use of chemical fertilizers alongside the “organic” farming methods. Even further, students could compare different organic farming methods. Today’s organic farmers often go back to older, well tried farming methods like using the “three sisters” methods from Native Americans where the beans are planted around the corn, eliminating the needs for supports and the squash is planted in between and it’s leaves are used to block out weeds. Other farmers have developed new, innovative methods of farming like hydroponics where plants are grown in water without soil and gain their nutrients mainly from the fish waste in the water. These topics could be used in a science class, as a current event study in social studies or as the basis for research reading and writing in an English class.

18.) Write a persuasive essay about a piece of the organic farming movement: Persuasive writing is the cornerstone to online writing these days. Students could write an opinion piece for any English, Science or Social Studies class about whether we should have more or less organic farms, which type of organic farming methods should be used or what farm policies we need in place from the government.

19.) Create a plan for a container garden with a proposed timeline and budget: In a Math class, students could plan out a container garden. How many containers would you need? How much soil would be needed to fill the containers? How about fertilizers or compost? Will you need any supports for plants like beans or peas? Do you need to purchase labels for your pots? How long would it take to get a finished product? How much do you expect to get? Would it be enough to cook a meal? Would have extra to sell to others? Gardening can be a real business and students should have time to explore the process and apply their math principles to it.

20.) Grow seeds using hydroponics: I know we think of growing seeds as a childish project, but the project could definitely be stepped up by having students plan out a hydroponic garden, learning how the fish and plants can share nutrients!

 

How do you incorporate plants into your lesson plans?

Heidi Raki of Raki's Rad Resources

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Why Kids Should Learn to Play Chess in School

Why kids should learn to play chess in school - an editorial blog post by Heidi Raki of Raki's Rad Resources.

Spring has brought us a lot of rainy days lately, which keeps us inside a lot. Instead of giving in to the constant requests for t.v. and video games, we have been trying to pull out the chess board more and more. Both of my older sons learned to play Chess in first frade, but my youngest who is only just four is interested enough that he knows the names of the pieces and how they move. To me, Chess is more than a great rainy day activity. It is also a beneficial part of any home school or classroom setting.

 Students who play chess can expand their knowledge in many ways, such as:

- Critical Thinking Skills: Chess is essentially a thinking game. You have to remember the many ways that different pieces to create a strategy that will not be outdone by your opponent. All of this builds critical thinking skills, which are vitally important in all types of math problems.

- Strategy building a.k.a “There are Multiple Ways to Solve a Problem”: Developing a strategy to win a game is the same mental skill as developing a strategy to solve a math problem. When playing Chess, you often have to change strategies mid-game in response to the moves of your opponent.

- Vocabulary: From the names of the pieces to the word “check”, there is are history and language lessons to be taught through the vocabulary of Chess. Additionally, these words have made it  into our every day language. For example, “Treating someone as a pawn.”Chess for kids book

- Reading about Chess: There are tons and tons of books about Chess, books where you can learn how to play or increase the number of strategies you have. My boys have Chess for Kids and love reading about new strategies that might help them beat their father in Chess. This could also be a great opportunity for a lesson into the beginning of internet research as there are many online sources to learn about chess as well.

 

Biography project for elementary age students from Raki's Rad Resources - Learn about the History of the Game: Chess is a very old game, dating back to Ancient India. Learning about the history of a game they enjoy can help expose them to the concepts of the spread of ideas between civilizations, the changing and tweaking of ideas over time due to new political and religious environments and even government censorship as Chess was banned in France in 1254 through an anti-gambling law. Students could even do Biography Projects on famous Chess masters.

- Character Education: Chess is a hard game and someone always loses. Kids need to learn to be good winners and good losers in life. My middle son has a hard time when he loses a game. However in Chess he is always learning new moves and so his goal now is not to beat his brother, but to learn something new each time he plays.

- Use Simulation Games: There are lots of ways to play Chess against the computer. This means that students don’t even need a partner and it gives them a chance to learn new moves. When we play Chess, we talk about observation. Observing what our opponent is doing can be more important to winning than knowing our own next move. Also, it is a way to learn new strategies that you can use in future games.

- Building Global Citizenship: Chess has essentially the same rules worldwide nowadays (this was not always true!) and with the advancement of the internet, children can play with other kids around the world. I have seen students who do not speak the same language sit down to a game of chess and play happily together for hours. My boys use the website Chess Kid to play chess with kids all around the world.

Chesskid.com is a great website for kids can play chess with other kids around the world.

In a classroom, integrating Chess can be as simple as having boards available for indoor recess, math centers, or other downtime. Or it can be an integral part of your day using these strategies:

- Teach all of the kids the rules at the beginning of the year. Split the class into two teams. Set up a game board in the front of the room. When a student is caught being good, they get to choose a move for their team. The winning team gets a special prize.

- Play against another class. Send e-mails or letters between the two classes playing a long distance game. This would be a great addition to a penpal or e-pal program.

- Have chess boards available each morning as morning work or at the beginning of math class as an activator. Teach kids how to track their moves so that boards can be put away quickly and games can continue from one class to the next.

Have you ever thought about playing Chess in your classroom?

Heidi Raki of Raki's Rad Resources