Thursday, November 14, 2013

Thanksgiving Science

This week our afterschool science club is studying density. d = m/v... Density = mass per volume - or how much matter (stuff) is crammed in an amount of space. If a substance is less dense than water it has buoyancy... so it floats.

Since our study of density is happening so close to Thanksgiving, we decided to do some SINK or FLOAT experiments using some items from the typical Thanksgiving table.

We started with Sweet Potatoes! Yes, we tested both a fresh sweet potato and canned sweet potatoes! They both SUNK.

Then we tested cranberries! The fresh cranberries FLOATED, while both the canned varieties (both the whole berries AND the strange and creepy gelled variety) SUNK.

To discover why the fresh cranberries floated, the kids DISSECTED the cranberries. The reason was obvious. Upon cutting the fresh cranberries open we discovered they had hollow pockets of air inside which causes them to float.

We learned that to harvest cranberries, cranberry farmers flood the marshes or bogs with water and then drive a harvester through the flooded fields removing the ripe cranberries from the vines. The ripe cranberries float to the surface of the water for easy collection.

Next we tried to determine if turkeys would sink or float. We discovered that turkeys are very fast and extremely difficult to catch.

Thursday, November 7, 2013

Greedy Dice - a FUN Math Game!

Greedy Dice: Goal: Be the first player to rack up 1000 points by rolling the dice. Set up: Form groups of between 4 and 6 people. Each group gets six dice. The youngest player goes first, and play continues clockwise. 

Directions: On your turn, each player rolls all six dice. Separate the 1s and 5s from the rest of the dice. 1s are worth 100 points and 5s are worth 50 points. After each roll, players have the opportunity to either stay with (bank) the points they have earned and pass the dice to the next person, or get a little “greedy” and roll the remaining dice in an attempt to roll more 1s and 5s. You may roll as many times as you like, but if on any roll you do not get ANY 5s or 1s you lose all the points and the dice are passed to the next person. Play continues until one player scores 1000 points.

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Educated Guess Guessing Jar

Educated Guess Guessing Jar

Fill containers (varying sizes and shapes) with balloons, beans, baubles, or anything that will fit.  Children begin by making a guess, but then they refine their guesses by measuring and estimating. 

Don’t tell them to measure, just ask them how they could refine their estimations and let them figure it out.  Measure the container and calculate volume estimates. 

Give them some of whatever you use in the mystery container and some empty containers of varying sizes to experiment and estimate with.

On Monday's we count the previous week's jar and find out who the winner is. On the day of the announcement, kids volunteer to help count the previous week's jar (and practice their math skills).

It's usually a privilege if you get picked to help as one of the counters and we try to pick kids that have done positive things in their community over the past week. During our round-up (community meeting) the community does a drumroll and cheers when the winner is announced. They get to take home whatever the prize in the jar is. 

We vary what we put in the jar to try and get both small and large numbers of things that relate to our theme of the month – pumpkin seeds during fall harvest theme, balloons during hot air balloon fiesta theme, or pieces of gravel during our Science Rocks monthly theme.  

Friday, October 18, 2013

Lights OFF to celebrate Lights ON Afterschool

Lights OFF to celebrate... Lights On!
October 17, 2013

Yesterday, 1 million Americans are came together all over the country, for the nation’s largest rally for afterschool programs at more than 8,000 events worldwide... celebrating Lights On Afterschool. Children in hundreds of programs are coloring images of light bulbs and decorating their programs with their artwork to tout the importance of afterschool enrichment. At Children’s Choice in Albuquerque, New Mexico, we wanted to celebrate this event, learn about science, and kick things up a notch by doing a Lights OFF Afterschool project.

We turned the lights OFF to study the science of GLOWING things.  We printed out the lightbulb templates available free at www.afterschoolalliance.orgInstead of coloring the light bulbs with crayons, kids painted their light bulbs with the chemicals inside of glow sticks, which caused the light bulbs to glow through the process of chemiluminescence.

Chemiluminescence: Glow sticks are housings for two chemical solutions. When you bend a plastic glow stick, a glass vial breaks open and the two solutions flow together, combine and rearrange themselves to form new compounds. The atoms begin emitting photons - causing a release of light energy. Special dyes give the light different colors. The energy released during that reaction produces luminescence that can last for many hours. 

They also coated, the light bulb templates with luminous zinc sulfide (also known by Steve Spangler as Glow Powder, available at The glow powder made their light bulbs glow in the dark through the process of phosphorescence. 

Phosphorescence is a type of GLOWING in response to LIGHT energy. A light bulb excites atoms in the phosphor, causing them to store light energy. When we turned the lights OFF to study the science of GLOWING things, these atoms release this energy.  

Science Standards Addressed:
- Children know that light is a form of energy, Recognize that energy can be stored in many ways (phosphorescence).
- Children know that changes to matter may be chemical or physical and when two or more substances are combined, a new substance may be formed with properties that are different from those of the original substance.

Sunday, October 13, 2013

Stop! Get Your Geometry On!

Afterschool Rap Videos

Creating rap videos is a great way to engage kids in meaningful and pleasurable learning. 

This is a great strategy afterschool programs can use to promote and support literacy, reinforce school-day learning, and in this case... teach important math concepts.

Anyone who knows us also knows that creating a rap video is outside of our typical "box" but that we also love to BLOW UP the box. 

The word RAP doesn't immediately come to mind when you look at either one of us. RAP means Rhythm And Poetry. 

We used a website... to help us write the rhyme. Then our kids ran with the idea and created a great rap video. Check it out. 

Based on the Common Core State Standard in math... "Identify and describe shapes... squares, circles, triangles, rectangles, hexagons... "

Please share, like, and comment on YouTube! 

Friday, August 9, 2013

FilmCamp Facilitates FUNdamentals

Film classes and camps directly teach about technology and design and also facilitate the development of literacy skills: reading, writing, speaking, and listening.

We have been having a blast with our film classes this year. Enjoy this great example.

Title:  The Haunted School

Description:  Students learned what makes suspense in movies.  They were then given the challenge to make a movie that would actually build suspense in the audience.  They brainstormed ideas, and made an outline of the movie.  They also wrote dialogue for all the characters. They did their own make-up and gathered props and costumes.  During production, students took turns directing and filming scenes.

Subscribe to our YouTube Channel and stay tuned for more episodes!

Thursday, July 11, 2013

Storytelling for Success: Promoting your Programming

The Story of the Storytelling Party.

For Children’s Choice in Albuquerque, New Mexico, this year has been the Year of Storytelling. Children’s Choice Child Care Services provides high-quality, before-and-after-school programs in eight Albuquerque Public Schools.  

Mike and Chelsea Ashcraft, the co-founders and leaders of this organization, know that it is important for afterschool programs to invest in storytelling. Storytelling begins not with a crafted marketing message, but with the genuine culture of the organization. It begins with ensuring your story is worth telling. It begins with quality. 

Chelsea Ashcraft says, “Everyone in our organization knows that when you are on the job, everything you do or say is storytelling.  What you say and how you act and what you do defines who WE are. When you are part of our team, you are ALWAYS telling our story, so tell it very WELL.”

Thursday, April 25, 2013

Capture the Answer

You’ll need some cones with numbers written clearly on both sides. We write numbers on coffee filters, cut a hole, and slip them onto the cones – removable. 

Explain that the object of the game is to solve a math problem and grab the cone with the right answer. Divide players into teams and line them up facing each other, side-by-side, with a 15-foot alley down the middle.  

Place cones in the middle, with their numbers clearly visible to both sides. Begin game by reading the first math problem. Players run and grab the cone with the correct answer, return to team. 

The team who captures the cone gets the number of points on the cone and then both players join their teams to help tally their teams’ points. Read problems until all cones are captured. Team with the most points wins.

Thursday, January 31, 2013

Science of Valentine's Day

Every week, Madison (my 10-year old daughter) and I teach a 1.5-hour afterschool science club for K-2nd graders.  Each week she helps plan the lesson and then write the blog about what we did. 

We have provided links to the books we used to sneak in some literacy.  We learned most of the science experiments and activities from Steve Spangler (awesome speaker and science guy extraordinaire).  We have included links to his science supplies, experiments, and videos.  We have also included links to our YouTube videos. These links take you away from the blog and to external websites.

Lesson 17
Science of Valentine’s Day

Science Standards Addressed:
  • Identify human organs and their function (Heart).
  •  Know that when substances are combined, they may create new substances with different properties (Carnation and Secret Valentine Messages).
  •  Observe that magnets attract and repel each other (Kissing Bears and Stick it to Me).
  • Know that bacteria and viruses are germs that can be transmitted (by coughing or KISSING!)
  • Describes ways of spreading germs (Simulated Germs & Mono).
  • Know that air takes up space and exerts a force (Heart-Shaped Peeps).

Plus we snuck in some speaking and listening standards like asking questions, expressing ideas, following multi-step directions, and participating in discussions.

Snack – The heart is the image, the icon of Valentine’s Day.  So for snack, we snacked on a human heart. 
Don’t freak out, we didn’t go all Hannibal Lecter or anything.  We found this cool gelatin mold of the human heart, and whipped up a batch of peach-flavored gelatin with some evaporated milk and food coloring to give it the disgusting look of flesh!

It looked gross, but we sure enjoyed dissecting and eating it!
As they ate we played the song, Take Another Piece of My Heart, by Janis Joplin; and Achy Breaky Heart, by Billy Ray Cyrus.  We’re so funny.
I Heart Science!
Hearts are an obvious theme for Valentine’s Day.  We were surprised how many kids were surprised to see the shape of a real heart. 
We heard one of the kids say, “Wow that (model) is NOTHING like the
shape of a REAL heart!”
We created a model to demo the pumping action of a heart by putting red colored water in a clear balloon. We put a straw in the balloon and gently squeezed to see the “blood” pump with each squeeze.

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