Student Scientists: Making Rain

Sunday, September 30, 2012

With quite a few rainy days towards the end of September, my DECE and I decided to jump on this as a learning opportunity to engage our students in how the clouds look different when it rains. Many of our students were able to compare the "rainy" clouds to our initial exploration on the soccer field and recall how those clouds looked different. Words like "puffy," "fluffy," "white," and "cotton candy" described the "sunny day" clouds and words like "angry," "grey," "black," and "dark" described the "rainy day" clouds...interesting! To take our learning one step further, we decided to ask our student scientists questions related to these natural occurrences. Below are their theories:

Why do we need clouds to give us rain?

"So they can rain on trees so they can grow." - J.S.
"To make flowers grow." - R.F.
"We need water to grow and an umbrella to keep us dry." - T.B.
"The birds need to drink water." - L.D.
"Animals need to drink too." - A.M.

How do clouds make rain?

"They rain when they want." - S.M.
"When clouds get dark that means it's going to rain." - L.D.
"The clouds all come together to make rain." - I.D.
"First one cloud gets the rain and then brings it to the sun and then gives it to the other cloud." - L.D.
"The clouds go over each other and they turn into a big black pad." - W.V.
"The clouds get the water from the splash-pads." - T.B.
"The clouds get the water from the ocean to make rain." - L.D.

After listening to our students fascinating propositions, we decided to introduce the water cycle with a read-aloud. "The Falling Raindrop" by Neil Johnson and Joel Chin was given to me as a gift by my mentor Tania Sterling (@taniasterling / and is a wonderful book that not only illustrates and teaches the water cycle in simple terms, but it also is one that has a deeper message of creating a positive climate for learning. After reading the story, we had our students become the raindrop and use their bodies to retell what happened to him (with our prompting) throughout the story. This dramatic representation of the water cycle helped our students understand the four simple steps to creating rain and was the perfect precursor to our experiment! Coupling this kinesthetic approach with a diagram, our students were able to remember what happens when a raindrop is born and how it becomes a cloud again. 

Keeping in mind that all this learning took place over the course of the week and is still ongoing, we decided to celebrate our learning about the water cycle with an experiment! We were going to illustrate our theories about how a cloud makes rain by making rain ourselves! Our students were thrilled and fully embraced the role of becoming scientists by remembering that scientists needed "magnifying glasses to look at things, a camera to take pictures, a clipboard to write stuff down, a pencil to write our words, and a marker to draw pictures." After setting up the learning space for this experiment and creating a "Materials" list with our student scientists, we modelled how to complete the Experiment chart. Next, we took estimates as a class as to how many raindrops our cotton ball clouds could hold before they started to make rain! Estimates ranged from 10 drops to 100 and students were very eager and excited to test their theories! 

Each group had: 1 baking tray, 1 jar, 1 cotton ball, 1 eye dropper, 1-3 magnifying glasses, 1 cup of water, markers and an Experiment Chart

As a Rain Team, our students scientists worked in small groups of 3-4 to see how many raindrops their cotton ball cloud could hold before it started to rain into their jar. 

Using our "rain water" (water with blue food colouring), students took turns with the eyedropper as they dripped rain onto their cloud. Using magnifying glasses, other members of their group watched closely to see if and when a rain drop would fall. 

My DECE and I circulated amongst all the groups with a clipboard, camera, and pencil in hand documenting their conversations and discoveries! We were amazed to see how focused and collaborative our student scientists were as they worked together to complete the experiment and fill out their Experiment chart. One group shouted out "Our cloud is making rain!" and another "We see rain dripping in our jar!" - it was all very exciting!

To consolidate our learning, we had our class meet back in a community circle:

What did you see during your experiment?

"We saw raindrops and some clouds." - I.D.
"First [the cotton ball cloud] was white and then it turned blue. [The cloud] was dark blue and then we squeezed it and it became light blue." - S.M.
"We squeezed the eyedropper on the cotton ball and then the rain came!" - I.D.
"We put the water in the glass and it makes rain." - V.D.
"[The cloud] looked heavy and blue." - R.L.
"[The cloud] couldn't hold anymore water so it started to rain." - T.L.

How many drops did it take for your cloud to make rain?
"26!" "83!" "16!" were some of the groups findings! 

All in all, our experiment brought together science, peer learning and inquiry and it was huge success! Our students continue to talk about it and we look forward to venturing more into the science behind clouds and trying more experiments in the near future! Stay tuned!

Jack's Tree

Saturday, September 15, 2012

A Little Tree
A little tree for me to sow.
A little earth to make it grow.
A little hole, a little pat,
A little wish and that is that.
With sun and rain and family,
Up will grow my little tree! 

Our Tree Inquiry of last year lead to some wonderful learning and discoveries as a class. As a way of celebrating our learning at the end of the school year, my DECE and I thought what better way to do so then work with our school's ECO Team and have our students receive a tree sapling of their very own? As educators, this tree would not only serve as a token of their learning about trees, but it would most importantly act as a reminder of their Kindergarten year in our class and all the wonderful memories made there since it would grow with our students! 

This past Thursday one of our students came to school even more excited than he usually is. To our surprise, he brought with him a very special photo album that documented the planting of his tree that he received last year! We were thrilled to see that our vision for the tree saplings and what they symbolized was being celebrated and we are fortunate that his parents can let us share his story with you! Without question, we asked Jack if he would like to share his album with the class since we knew it would spark connections to our other SK's who received trees and inspire our new JK's. He did a wonderful job telling his story and used the pictures to talk about the steps he took to plant his tree with his family. This led to a great Question and Answer discussion amongst his peers to which he answered each question with a huge smile on his face! 

Thank you Jack for sharing your story with us and we can't wait to see your tree grow! 
Take a look at Jack's story!

"This is the spot my Grandma and I picked for my tree."

"This is me cutting the stuff down."

"This is me digging the hole."
"What did you use to dig the hole?" - S.M.
"A shovel."

"This is the hole for my tree."

"This is my Grandma and me planting the tree."

"I am adding soil to my tree."

"I had to add water to my tree."

"Where did you plant your tree?" - I.D.
"At my cottage." 

"This is me and my tree."

"What is the stick for beside your tree?" - Ms. Theis
"We put the stick beside my tree so that when the tree grows we can see how big it gets."

"How did you make the beautiful sign for your tree?" - Ms. Schmidt
"My Dad painted a rock green and then used white to write Jack's Tree."

Using the sky as a canvas for learning

Thursday, September 13, 2012

"It's a bird! It's a plane!...It's a dinosaur!" - The Beginning of our Cloud Inquiry

What started off as our first Nature Walk has now lead to an incredible provocation for our class! After taking the time to consolidate our initial discoveries from last week, my DECE and myself wanted to provide our students with the opportunity to elaborate more upon their student voice. Should we do a mind map? A Think-Pair-Share? All of these instructional strategies came into our heads and we decided to launch our curiousity with a read-aloud since it would allow for multiple opportunities for discussion. Given that it is only the second week of school, we wanted to find a book that sparked their interests from our Nature Walk but still had a moral message related to building our classroom community; "Cloudette" by Tom Lichtenheld was the winning choice and it was perfect!! With this story, we not only acknowledged the thinking made visible by our students (e.g. students were able to make connections to the clouds they saw outside but also how to treat others and respect differences in our classroom), but we also invited them to build upon their previous thoughts, ideas, and questions (e.g. what they saw, what they thought, etc) through conversation. Following our read-aloud and discussion, we took our class outside to explore clouds further by using our own sky as a canvas for our learning...

As we sat in the middle of the soccer field, we awakened curiousity by asking our students to lie down on the grass and stare up at the sky. We asked our students to use this minute of "think time" as a way to collect their ideas related to what they already know about clouds. Below are some of their responses:
"Clouds move very slow." - W.F.
"They rain." - A.M.

"They could be in shapes. All sorts of things. Look! It's the letter C!" - S.M.
"They move slow and when they're small they get bigger every time." - I.D.
"They rain whenever they want too." - J.S.

"They try to make different shapes so we can see them." - L.D.
"They go up and down in the sky."  - T.B.

"Sometimes they look so fluffy like cotton candy!" - I.D.
"Clouds have water in it and it drips the rain." - G.B.

"The clouds do whatever they want to do during a thunderstorm. They are angry." - R.K.
" I wonder how the clouds make rain and thunderstorms?" - Ms. Schmidt
"When I was on top of a mountain in Switzerland, I saw the clouds make a huge blanket over the mountains." - Ms. Theis

In order to keep the flow of such responses, we decided to build upon their possible theories with another open-ended question: "Where do the clouds go when they aren't in the sky?" This question was certainly an interesting one to ask, since students were able to remember more clouds in the sky during the morning in comparison to when they were lying down. This observation led to some interesting theories:

"The wind moves the clouds. They stay where they are when there isn't wind." - J.S.
"They are too high up so we can't touch them. They stay in one spot." - L.D.
"It has to be a very windy day for the clouds to move. The wind has to push them." - R.F.
"When they aren't in the sky they are sleeping on the ground." - T.B.

One student even noticed that one patch of clouds looked different than the others, so we asked our students why do they think that happens?

"Because they are just different types of clouds. Those flat ones don't have any rain in them" - I.D.
"Maybe the wind made the cloud flat and it turned it into fog?" - L.D.
"Maybe the clouds disappear because it isn't fluffy anymore...they are becoming invisible." - A.M. 

Once back in our classroom, we decided to write about the clouds we saw and afterwards, incorporate some musical elements by creating our very own rain storm as a class. From a rain stick, stomping feet, sliding hands, "shhh" voices, knee slaps and other sounds effects (e.g. "Boom!" "Crash!"), we were able to perform the old tradition of a human rain storm. What better way to celebrate their student voice and observations?!

We truly can't wait to see where this new found inquiry takes us! From integrating art with the Group of Seven to science with examining weather and the water cycle, we are only scratching the surface as we begin our planning for this wonderful learning journey! Looking forward to sharing it with you!   

Curiousity is Natural

Sunday, September 9, 2012

What a better way to awaken curiosity and spark a few questions then through a Nature Walk?

Throughout the first week of school, we wanted to provide our students with a range of opportunities that allowed them to use all of their senses, to learn through doing, as they explore the world of our classroom. Similarly, we felt it to be equally important to offer students the same opportunities using the outdoors! Yes, it was only the first week of school, but we felt it necessary to kick off the new school year with an exposure to what it meant to be an "explorer" and observe and make connections to our surroundings. Students need to experience the natural environment in order to fully appreciate its wonders, and as a team, my DECE and I discovered so much about our students as we documented our experience of our class' first Nature Walk!

"This is an 'ouch-ie' tree! I wonder why it has different leaves?" - T.B.

With our SK's taking the lead, our new JK's enjoyed the opportunity to experience the world outside of our classroom and many were able to share their prior knowledge, make connections, and learn from their new peers!  

"We found a spider web! It lives on the tree!" - C.M.

"It's a hole! I wonder if a snake lives down there?" - L.D.

"Pinecones like in our classroom! Why are they green?" - A.C.

"Look Ms. Schmidt and Ms. Theis! It's a naked tree!" - I.D.

"I think a woodpecker made this hole. He was trying to find food." - S.M.

"I can see our shadows in the water! Look!" - J.S.
"I see a water spider." - V.V.

Once back in the classroom, we decided to share our findings from our first Nature Walk through a Community Circle. I thought this would be a perfect opportunity to practice how to make our students thinking visible. In reference to my last post and the article "Making Thinking Visible" by Ron Ritchhart and David Perkins, my DECE and I decided to see how our students initially responded to the "See-Think-Wonder" approach. After my DECE and I modelled a response to the question "What did you see?", many students were able to articulate what they "saw" outside and, surprisingly, many were even able to expand their thinking by explaining using details, connections, and posing possible questions. We were amazed! We decided not to tackle the "I wonder" statement this time around, because we feel it is something students will naturally be exposed too upon more outdoor excursions and observations. We hope to continue making our students thinking visible through their self-reflection, writing, and drawing in the coming weeks and we can't wait to dig deeper into some of our findings! Stay tuned!    

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