Thursday, December 17, 2015

Snowflake Matter Activity (and Video)

Click on THIS LINK to view the student video




Yesterday I worked with two groups of third graders at the end of their matter unit. The teacher and I are working together to try and incorporate a tech project at the end of each of her science units. 

I would like to claim this snowflake idea...but I got it from a friend of mine who is a science lab teacher at another school. She was showing me how she had her third graders make dipped wax snowflakes as part of their study of matter. She awesomely lent me all her supplies so I could do it with the students I had. The tech component was they had to make an iMovie (new skill for them) explaining what they did (in the iMovie they had to have one definition, they had to use at least two unit vocabulary words, and have a safety tip...we kept it pretty basic because we had to finish it that day but the requirements could certainly be increased based on grade and available time). 

The teacher very nicely gave up a large chunk of time for this. She teaches math and science and we used both blocks. She was giving a math test and said it could wait until the next day (we are on our last few days before the holiday break).

In my demonstration to students we talked about the characteristics of a solid and a liquid and how matter is effected by temperature (in this case heat and cold). They knew this from their unit so this was a review and a hands on demonstration of these concepts. 

This is what you need:

Crayons - We went with blue. The science lab teacher had asked the art teacher for all the broken unwanted crayons since she didn't care what state they were in. The students had to find one blue crayon...size didn't matter.. from the container and strip any paper off of it.

Snowflake Templates - You can find free printable templates HERE. 

Hot Plate - Please warn your neighboring teachers and the front office that you will be melting crayons so if anyone reports a weird or burning smell that it is just your class. You will get wax on it so you might just designate it your "science hot plate" for future projects. 

Pie Pans - You need two and you can get them from the dollar store. They are acting as a double boiler on top of the hot plate (so water goes in one that is going to be on the direct heat and the other will be on top of that to melt the crayon). Get some started before class so you aren't waiting forever to have a base of melted crayons.

Coffee Stir Sticks - Just to mix the crayons and pop the wax around the snowflake openings. They will be thrown away when you are done.

Wax Paper - We used a large piece next to the hot plate for dripping when the kids blew on their snowflake to cool the wax down.Warning!!!! - You will get wax on your clothes so wear an apron or clothes you don't mind having wax on it (I didn't and had to google "how to get wax off clothes")

Plastic Tweezers - The science lab teacher got them out of one of her kits...so you might check your kits to see if you have them. That is what you are using to put the snowflake in and out of the wax. 

Fishing Line - Only if you are hanging them up or want the kids to hang them up at home.

Extra Hands - This would be a great activity to get parents involved or if you have floating friends around the building (I have been known to ask the assistant principal for help...guidance counselor...office staff...literacy interventionists...school social worker...etc.). In this activity there were three adults in the room..which was super helpful. There was the teacher, a push in interventionist, and myself (at one point we even had the math coach in the room). 

From a classroom management point of view we did everything step by step. (1) I gave a little review of the activity and the learning points. (2) We all cut out the snowflakes and did the folding and cutting together (3) We called table groups up to get their snowflake dipped. All this could have been done in her  35 min science block. Tables who were done could opt to do another snowflake (to keep them occupied...or you need to find something else for them to do).

We added the element of making an iMovie so students took pictures along the way and this is what made the activity longer. We directed them when to take pictures. I had the first group take too many pictures (basically of all the stages of cutting and folding the snowflake)...so I reduced it for the second group (one shot of the template and then one shot of the finished snowflake). I then had to walk them through how to make an iMovie since they had never used that app before. The first group I did a whole group walk through and let them go on their own but I had a lot of whining and needing help. The second group we did everything together step-by-step and it went a lot better. 

The teacher and the students seemed to enjoy the activity and it was the perfect time to do it with the class (the week before Christmas break where the students needed something engaging and the teacher needed something to keep them engaged :)  

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