Center Series #3 - Science! (Freebie)

I'm a bit late getting this out - I was completely wiped out by our trip to the water park on Saturday - 5 hours of swimming and corralling 9 youngsters wore me out! I actually didn't work on this post until Sunday afternoon and then it took me a bit because I kept getting interrupted by real life :)

This week I'm focusing on Science Center! I truly believe you should devote at least a corner of your room to Science. It is always one of my students' favorite centers. This is exploration and discovery at its most pure. Many of the Science standards can be covered in ways that enable them to be displayed in a Science Center.

My Science Center includes our classroom pets:
 We have a beautiful hermit crab tank made possible by a Pets in the Classroom grant from Petco.

The hermit crabs are our year-round pets, but we add others as well:

Baby chicks and ducklings in the spring!
We also have those pets that just stay with us for a little while:
The top picture is a lizard one of our friends brought in after catching it at home, the lower picture is a lizard we captured in the neighboring classroom (that teacher was nearly hysterical lol!). Both stayed with us for a while before being released into the "wild".
Here is a picture of Science Center - note the butterfly net on the left - we study the Painted Lady butterfly's life cycle in the Spring as well!
We also have a no-killing rule in the classroom as pertains to spiders and beetles etc. We have a backdoor that leads right outside, so any insects caught in the room get scooped up for release outside. Sometimes they spend an hour or two in this Insect Lore Creature Peeper first though:
My kiddos absolutely love to look at the insects or spiders under the magnifying glass!

I have to add a disclaimer - I am actually highly squeamish about insects/spiders. At my house, my husband is the go-to-guy for bug disposal.  But, in the classroom I struggle to make sure that my fears are not conveyed to my students - I practice the "fake it till you make it" approach and just suck it up. Thus I'm the teacher called upon to remove any creature in our hallway - it's a great way to get new critters for my students to learn about!

Once we find a bug, I act on that teachable moment! We do a Google search to try to identify it - this means we have to examine it and describe it - "black and white spots 6 legs beetle Oklahoma" might be our search term. Then we look through some pictures and decide which variety of beetle we have, then discover what they eat and any other particulars about it. I then jot everything down on a sheet to display in Science Center  - now the children can write about our find and take it home to share with their family. It is one of the easiest ways to get them writing and looking up the bug only takes about 5-10 minutes usually!

We also have some plants in our Science Center! In the spring we plant seeds to make into Mother's Day gifts - just add some terracotta pots hand painted by the kiddos and presto you have a gift that involves learning about life cycles!

 The rest of the year we also have plants:
The Root Vue Farm is fabulous - just make sure you plant the seeds close to the glass so the roots are clearly visible. I was lucky enough to have this given to me a by a student one year. She was a major Science buff and wanted to share her Christmas present with the class! The Madagascar plant kit is also fabulous - we planted them 3 years ago and they are still going strong! It's also a great way to teach about the water cycle as you'll see from this picture of them in my kitchen window right now:

In addition to the living things in the center, I also keep Otto the Robot! He is from the Science Museum in OKC and every year I take my class there on a field trip (usually funded by Target!). Joining Otto are other plush friends - some Audubon birds (beware, they are rather noisy but they have authentic bird calls!) and some raccoons since those were our class mascot. The orca and koala bear were lent to us by classmates after we read stories featuring them. My kiddos love bringing things in from home to share with us!
In addition you  can see a bowl of rocks gleaned from the playground or brought in from home. These got examined for fossils, sorted, counted and written about all year long! Sometimes we brought in sticks and leaves as well and that white thing is a deer antler my husband found in the woods! Our magnifying glasses were in constant use! I am so glad I got a set of 6. In fact, I probably need more since there were rarely any free! That box on the right has our Science Specimens Sorting Center which has 23 specimens including sponges, pine cones, rocks, shells etc and 8 sorting mats for sorting them by physical characteristics such as heavy/light, shiny/dull, smooth/rough. The basket is full of non-fiction books about everything from wings to seeds to different animal species.

Not pictured is our magnet set, similar to this one:
Our door jams are metal, and I've had kiddos sit for 45 minutes, experimenting with the magnet wands and various materials, coming to their own understanding about what magnetic means. We also have some of those fun magnetic rocks that you find at those culture/novelty stores (ours is called "Romancing the Stone") and can link together to make bracelets etc - I always enjoy trying to link up as many as I can when I'm in that store!

I  have writing paper and pencils in this center too so that students can write about our pets/plants/inanimate objects. Sometimes they are fiction stories - as when we had a few weeks when all of my students decided to write about what our guinea pig did at night (going to the movies, investigating the cafeteria etc). Sadly she died of old age 2 summers ago, but she was a fabulous class pet! Most of the time though, my students like to write non-fiction stories about what a creature eats, or their life cycle.

In order to help get their writing juices flowing, I created this mini word wall for our science center. I put the pages in sheet protectors and place them in a binder, then I make multiple copies of the writing sheet and put them in the binder pocket. I don't grade this writing or correct it in any way - this is just their time to experiment with getting thoughts down on paper. I will sometimes ask them to share it or ask if I can put it in their cumulative folder as one of their writing samples. Click the picture to grab it for free in my TPT store!
The binder is also a great place to keep all of our life cycle diagrams and labeled pictures!

I could go on and on about Science Center, but I think this post is long enough! Hopefully I gave you some ideas on what to have in your center or encouraged you to have a Science Center in your own class!

By the way, don't forget to enter my giveaway for 3 Donorschoose Gift Cards - maybe you could fund a Science Center project!

2 Rustle Up A Response!:

Angi Manalli said... Reply to comment

I really want to create a science exploration area in my classroom (I'm in a STEM school). You've given me so many ideas here! I can't wait to get back into my classroom and start rounding up some supplies. :)

I try to promote the no-kill rule for bugs in my room too. We've caught some really interesting spiders and beetles in the past!

★ First-Graders from Outer Space ★

School Sparks Renee said... Reply to comment

You have such great ideas! What an inspiration. Renee