I’ve always loved teaching through themes. I love interweaving the themes through different subject areas (cross-curricular) whenever possible. Sometimes the connections are solid and sometimes it’s just cute clipart, but it’s simply fun and the kids always seems to enjoy it. We have kicked off the year with a Science Unit on Rocks and Minerals. So far it’s been a huge hit. The results so far are far better than I thought. Here are some of the best ideas for teaching this unit in your homeschool classroom:
- Set up a special area to feature this theme. Things to feature are special books from your own collection or local library, real rocks and minerals, and tools geologists use (magnifying glass, sifter, tongs, safety glasses, pan, bucket, hammer and chisel, gloves, stiff brush, field guides, notebook/pencil, bottle of vinegar). Here are a few the books we are displaying which the kids are really enjoying:
To name just a few.
2. Set up a bulletin board to feature your theme. I love to use colorful visuals that I will actually use during my lessons as well as vocabulary I will be introducing. I’ll also display some of their best work on the sides.
3. Encourage creative play. I always find this is a hit! Two days ago the girls asked me, “Is this our last class for the day?”(not sure what they were finishing up at the time) I said, “Yes, then a quick clean up.” They cheered, finished, cleaned up then took out all their geologist tools and gear and began “playing” which was really learning ALL over again. Here’s what I used to set the stage for learning fun:
Tools for a geologist: magnifying glass, telescoping magnet, angling mirror, tongs, shovel, brush, sifter, buckets/pans, field guides for Rocks and Minerals, field notes notebook, and pencil. Most of our tools are things we have right in our homes, kitchen materials (measuring cups, salt, sugar, food coloring), beach toys (sand sifter), dollar store finds (magnifying glasses), classroom materials (small notebook and pencil for field notes). A few things I add because I know how much it will add to their dramatic play and learning. I had one “lab coat” from their doctor dramatic play toys and ordered an extra for my older one. One of the goggles which my three year old is wearing below is from my own tool box and I purchased some inexpensive ones online for use this year for the girls. We’ll be doing LOTS of experiments this year. You can do much with little and that is ALWAYS exciting! I also add explorer vests with lots of hinges for clipping their tools and pockets for field notes, other tools, and even snacks when we are out.
Areas for experimentations, creations, and exploration. Even three year olds can join in on the fun and notetaking. ; )
4. Learning Field Trips: Check out your local city and state parks. While you may tend to visit the same ones closer to your home, there may be some real hidden gems just a bit further out. One of my goals this year is to look up all our city and state parks, look up reviews, and add a few to our current favorites. Today we visited one we had not been to in awhile, just to find areas we had never seen before like a children’s farm (with horses, wild boars, goats, hens and roosters, donkey, rabbits and a few others) and a kid’s nature connect trail with remarkable butterflies and pavilions surrounded by amazing local trees and flowers. It made for an amazing field trip as we collected rocks and other interesting things to check out under our handheld microscope.
5. Collect Data. One of the most best things for kids at this age is to learn how to collect data through the things they collect, read about, explore, and more. For this unit, they collected lots of rocks. Here are a few things to do with them:
- Measurement: Use a balance scale to compare weights with other rocks and other items as well.
- Sink or Float? Which ones sink or float?
- Sort: Sort them by categorizing them by their qualities. This is a great time to also discuss antonyms (shiny/dull, soft/hard, smooth/rough etc.) Start by having them come up with categories and slowly give them more information.
- Collect the information and make a pamphlet with your findings or even set up your information as a non-fiction book (include non-fiction features such as headings, diagrams, photographs, charts, bolded words, and even a glossary). The kids loved using their field notes (mini composition or spiral notebook will do). Have them include sketches of their findings as well.
6. Talk to Experts. This is a great homeschooling option as well. We Facetime with my high school Science teacher (he’s amazing!!!) who will teach the girls on a particular subject as an invited guest. He lives in another state but the Facetime makes it no obstacle at all. Who can you pull into your special classroom? Call upon those you know or ask your friends and family. You may be surprised who is in your circle that can add a special touch to your learning unit. This month he talked to the girls about Rocks and Minerals and brought some very interesting information. They loved it!
These are ideas that you can implement with almost any unit you decide to do. Here it’s just within the context of our Rocks and Minerals Unit. I’ll add some pictures soon from their interactive Science notebook to give you some visuals of what they’ve been up to.
Have you done a Rocks and Minerals Science Unit or planning one? If so, I would love to hear your ideas below or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org. Is there a unit you would like to see us try? Let me know and I’ll keep it in mind as we plan our upcoming adventures. I can’t wait to share more with you. Have a great blessed day!
With you in fun and learning,
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