Last spring Premier Homeschool Consultants' elementary-aged students conducted an extensive project to learn about plants. Through hands-on activities, observations, and journaling, these youngsters were able to learn while having lots of fun!
This project began with students learning about seeds and their parts. Instead of just doing worksheets, though, we had the children explore the magic of how nature works! The students began with measuring and noting the sizes of seeds and then wrapping the seeds in wet paper towels. Every day the boys took the seeds out of the paper towels and made observations and measurements...just like the scientists that all kids are!
After the seeds were big enough the students planted them and learned about the nutrients plants get from the soil. The great thing about doing this project with homeschoolers is that they learn as much as they want to and aren't limited by textbooks or supposed grade level material. These boys can now use words like "cotyledon" and know what they're talking about. They noted the same information every day so they could see the need for consistent observations and the pace of growth in their plants.
At the end of the project the boys made graphs of the data they collected, allowing them to learn more about computer programs in addition to their science lessons. They also gave speeches to explain the process, highlights of their observations, and to show their completed journals. The boys were excited to be able to show what they had learned!
Kids love learning about the rainforest. There are so many plants and animals that live only in the rainforest biome and kids love to learn about nature that is different from what they've seen. When I taught my students about the rainforest I found so many unique activities to help the kids learn and I'm excited to share them with you!
Before I had my students do fun projects I wanted to make sure they had the basic knowledge about what is so unique about the rainforest. We read a couple of books and I helped them write notes about the climate, plants, and animals of the areas. Once they knew about what lives there and had an understanding of the layers of the rainforest the students were ready for the fun! First they applied their new knowledge by drawing the layers and populating them with animals that live there. This is a great way to check for understanding as well as have children draw things they aren't used to.
After all the book work we had fun with creating our own little rainforests in jars. The students enjoyed creating their own layers and learning how the terrariums would keep their plants alive. They also got to express themselves with the decorations. Apparently there are cats and dogs in our rainforests! I got all the pieces except for the plants at the dollar store so it was a fun, inexpensive project to wrap up the unit.
When kids learn about the rainforest they always like to see all the unique insects that live there. We've been doing a lot more work on insects since then and the students are constantly surprised by how much we really need those little guys! I found a fun rainforest themed recipe here.
Any time I see a way to add a little food project into class I grab it. Kitchen skills are so important for everyone so they might as well start early! And this snack is healthy as an added bonus.
First we chopped the bananas and coated them in peanut butter. This part was incredibly messy and the kids thought it was easier if I globbed the peanut butter on their hands and they spread it on the bananas with their fingers! Don't worry, the one on the left isn't really crying. He just hates having messy hands.
Once the bananas were coated in peanut butter the boys rolled them in granola. I got coconut granola to keep with the tropical theme, but any granola your kids will eat works. This was messy too so the kids got an extra lesson on kitchen cleanliness. Just after one year of this class though the kids all know not to touch anything while cooking so they don't spread germs. They always sing "Happy Birthday" twice through while scrubbing.
Finally, we put pretzels in the bananas to be the spiders' legs. This was a little tricky because the kids all wanted to make sure there were 8 legs and if they pushed too hard the bananas split. So if you try these at home make sure the kiddos don't push too hard on their pretzels. Some of the boys chose to add raisins for eyes too. Then we got to eat! Yummy!
Teaching homeschool is so much fun! When Jen and I started teaching homeschool one of the things we both felt strongly about was that creative teaching methods and out-of-the-box assignments are the best ways to help kids understand what they're learning and give them critical thinking skills. We keep this in mind every day when we're thinking of new lessons for our students, and we want to help you apply these ideas to your homeschool too!
One way to do this is with your health class. This year we combined health with a living skills class and taught the kiddos how to make some basic foods so they can get down the skills they need for a healthy lifestyle nice and early. The kids' favorite snack to make by far is fruit bugs. I got the instructions from Nature's Path and if you click on the link it will take you to the directions we loosely followed. This was such a fun project for the kids and for us!
Jen and I have been team teaching and letting our classes build off each other so the students can see how everything is connected. One of the services PHC offers is in-home teaching for families in the Twin Cities Metro Area. This year Jen taught health class, where she taught the food groups and the different nutrients we need from different kinds of foods. Then I taught them some recipes. This gives the students a chance to actually do things instead of just reading or listening, and they now have skills to go with their knowledge. And it was so much fun!
While we made these fruit bugs I made sure the kids kept many kitchen skills in mind including: