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Monday, May 22, 2017

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How do fish breathe...and hermit crabs too! (a gill experiment)

How do fish breathe? How do hermit crabs breathe? They certainly don't take a breath of air like you or I! Use this easy science activity to demonstrate how fish and hermit crabs (and other animals like octopuses, sharks, and some snails) breathe. Then, invite your kiddos to do their own science experiments based on the process!

Fish, hermit crabs, octopuses, sharks, and some snails all breathe through gills. Gills can vary a lot, but they kind of look like feathery coffee filters. If you have access to a real fish (or want to buy one for demonstration purposes!), it is really fun to look under a gill slit and see the actual gills...but, today's experiment does not use a real fish!

How do fish breathe? Simply: water moves through the gills. As it does so, the gills pull oxygen out of the water and send it through the fish's body. Hermit crabs also use gills! In fact, we did this experiment as part of the Virtual Book Club for Kid's Ocean Week, featuring the book A House for Hermit Crab! (Amazon affiliate link below:)

The hermit crab in this story (and the fish and snail) would have definitely used gills to breathe, so try out this easy science demonstration and experiment to get an idea of how it works:

How do fish breathe? (and hermit crabs too!) Science Experiment:

First, use an elastic to secure a coffee filter to a small beaker or cup:

Next take another beaker or cup and fill it with water. Then stir in a spoonful of dirt! The water represents water in the ocean and the dirt represents dissolved oxygen...and anything else in the water! You'll see little pieces of dirt suspended in the water and larger pieces either floating or sinking.

Here's the fun part! Carefully pour the dirty water into the coffee filter.

The coffee filter will "catch" the dirt while the water passes through it. 

Similarly, gills "catch" oxygen and pull it out of the water as the water passes through the gills. If the dirt were really oxygen and the coffee filter really a gill, the gill would collect the oxygen and pass it to the circulatory system to be delivered to the rest of the fish's (or hermit crab's or octopus's) body!

The water simply passes through the gills and comes out of the fish with a little less dissolved oxygen!

It's really fun to remove the coffee filter and see the clean water underneath!

Like any model, this one is not perfect, but it does show kids that water moves through the gills while oxygen moves into the fish. It also helps to visualize the fact that water has dissolved oxygen in it.  (For teachers, parents, and older kids: In reality, the gills are very, very thin membranes with deoxygenated blood on the other side. Oxygen, like any molecule moving across a semi-permeable membrane, diffuses from the water {where it is at a higher concentration} to binding sites in the blood {where it is at a lower concentration.})

Now let your kiddos experiment with variations! Does sand separate like dirt? Does the coffee filter "catch" it the same way? What if you included little pebbles? Sticks? What else do your kiddos want to try?

Other Extensions/Explorations/Discussions:

1- How does the coffee filter "catch" the dirt? How is this similar and different to gills?

2- Why can't fish and hermit crabs use lungs like you or I?

3- Sometimes hermit crabs climb out of the ocean...why don't they die? They can only do this in very humid environments, where the moist air moves across their gills.

4- How can you see oxygen in water? Try blowing bubbles into water with a straw...oxygen and other gasses from your breath will make the water bubble!

Are you working on an ocean theme? Be sure to check out all my preschool ocean activities...there are art, science, math, literacy, and more ocean themed projects and resources for preschoolers!

Also make sure you check out the other Virtual Book Club cohosts for this week's ocean activities!

Beach Mystery Texture Bag from My Storytime Corner
Seashell Acid-Base Experiment- Teach Beside Me
How do fish breathe...and hermit crabs too! (a gill experiment) at Preschool Powol Packets

** more coming soon! **

Happy Educating,

I may share at any of these parties!

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Friday, May 19, 2017

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I am soooo excited about how these space-themed BINGO games turned out!!

They are perfect for learning the names of planets and include all the awesome benefits of board games (like developing a functional one-to-one concept, practice taking turns, finding patterns, matching, and more)! Besides having loads of practical educational value, it's also a ton of FUN!

I made the space-themed BINGO boards in two sizes: one for preschoolers who have a shorter attention span (the 9-squares size) and one for preschoolers who can play a little longer (the 16-squares size). AND, as a sidenote, even my "older" elementary aged kiddos had fun playing with the preschoolers...it really is a family-friendly and mixed-age-friendly game!

I also included six different game boards (in both sizes) for classrooms, groups, and co-ops! This makes it the perfect small group activity! If you have a larger class, you could divide the kids into groups of 5-7 and let them play BINGO with each other. OR, you could give each child one of the blank boards (also included!) and have them cut out all the space pictures and paste them onto the board in an order of their choice...then you could play as a whole group!

You could also print out two sets of the space calling cards (the first two pages) and play all sorts of matching games with them!

The pictures in the 16-space BINGO game include the 8 planets in our solar system, a spiral galaxy (like the Milky Way), two asteroid belts, a rocket, sun, and more!

And if you're working on a space theme, be sure to check out our CANDY SOLAR SYSTEM and GALAXY ART AND SCIENCE!!

Happy Educating,

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Monday, May 15, 2017

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Frog Lunch {FREE} Number Recognition & Counting Activities

Use these frog themed number and counting activities to go with frog, pond, spring, and food web themes! 

We are doing frog themed activities this week to go with the Virtual Book Club for Kids Pond theme this week! More details on that below!

One of our favorite ways to reinforce number recognition is with card games, so I made these frog lunch cards with adorable frogs from MyCuteGraphics.com.

Frogs are carnivores, and it is fun to talk about different animals that frogs eat with preschoolers (mostly insects and other macroinvertebrates, but big frogs can eat snakes and mice)!

Then have lots of fun with counting and number recognition activities with these cards!

How can you use these frog themed cards? There are LOADS of ways!!

  Here are 10 activities to strengthen number skills like number recognition, counting, addition, and more:

(sidenote: sorry for the lack of pictures...I've been having technical problems with my camera this week, but I will add some as soon as possible!!)

1- Turn them all face up and match the appropriate cards together.

2- Turn them all face down and play memory as you make matches.

3- Glue the frogs in a file folder and match the flies to the right frog as a file folder game, center station, or quiet time activity. Store the fly cards in an envelope taped to the folder.

4- Place a frog card on the table. Let your child find TWO fly cards that add up to the correct frog number!

5- For three or more players, shuffle the cards, deal an equal number of cards to each player, and take turns making matches: On your turn, ask another player for a card that would match one of yours. If they have the card, they give it to you. If they don't have the card, it's the next player's turn!

6- Play Frog War (two or more players): My kids really love this one! Shuffle the cards and deal them all out. On each round, all players flip their top card over. The highest number wins and gets to collect all the cards out. Repeat until someone runs out of cards. If two players flip the same number, put those cards in a "pool" and play again. Whoever wins the next round gets all the cards from both rounds!

7- Variation of #6 for older children: Instead of flipping one card, flip two cards and add (or multiply, if old enough) them together!

8- Make a frog number line by putting the numbers in order!

9- Make a food web on a sheet of construction paper by gluing a frog in the middle and drawing the same number of food items as the frog has. For example, if you have the #4 frog, draw four lines from the frog to animals the frog eats...you can use the fly cards or draw other things like other insects (mosquitoes, dragonflies), small snakes, grasshoppers, worms, moths, or small mice!

10- "Fly Swat:" Scatter the fly cards face up and give your kiddo a fly swatter (clean!!). Let them swat the number of flies you call out!

Do you LOVE frogs? Check out our Frog Handbell Hop!!

As I mentioned earlier, this week the Virtual Book Club for Kids is focusing on a Pond Theme with the book In the Small Pond (Amazon affiliate link below):


All the cohosts for the VBC are sharing pond themed activities! Be sure to check them out below:

Frog Lunch {FREE} Number Recognition & Counting Activities - Preschool Powol Packets
Edible Frog Life Cycle- Teach Besie Me
Frog Coloring Pages and Learning Activities by JDaniel4's Mom
Ducks Matching Game
Over Under Drawing and Story Telling Prompt from My Storytime Corner
Pond Themed Movement Game - The Educators' Spin On It
Frog Hop Phonics - Beginning Blending - Rainy Day Mum

Happy Educating,

I may share at any of these parties!

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Thursday, May 11, 2017

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Fidget Spinner STEM Challenge Cards {FREE}

Fidget spinners are a hot topic right now--I have seen a lot of heated arguments about how they may or may not be the best fidget toys for the classroom, and I have to side with the fidget spinner-lovers. (More on that below...)  I'm also going to go a step further today, and suggesting that they should be used as an educational tool. AND, I'm going to share a set of Fidget Spinner STEM Challenge Cards for {FREE}!!

More than a decade ago, some of the best advice I got as I prepared to teach science was to make each lesson personally relate to the kids. Tying the lesson into money or food was almost always a guaranteed way to connect with students, but there are other ways too. One is to take advantage of things they are interested in. And guess what every kid is interested in lately? Yep...fidget spinners.

Fidget spinners and other fidget toys may be designed or marketed for kids with ADHD or autism, but there is something appealing about them for all kids. In fact, most adults find them mesmerizing too! Have you tried spinning one? We could spend all day on why I think they so enthralling, but that's not the point. The point is that they're an easy thing to tie into almost any lesson! And once you've made that connection you have an instant buy-in with your students!

I spend some time talking about how kids learn here. If you haven't read it, you should pop over and look at it. ;) One point I make is that kids learn better when they're interested. Kids are already interested in fidget spinners, so let's take advantage of it! I just ordered several more so that we can use them with all my kiddos' lessons! {Amazon affiliate link: Hand Spinner Fidget Toys}

You can use them to teach topics that you already have scheduled, or -- if you have the flexibility -- use them as the focus of your lessons!

I'm going to share some science, math, and literacy lessons and activities using fidget spinners during the next few days. These are fun ideas and free printables to get you thinking of ways you can use fidget spinners to your advantage.

Today I'm starting with Fidget Spinner STEM Challenge Cards!

These STEM challenge cards combine principles of science, technology, engineering, and math with fidget spinner tricks. As your kiddos try the different challenges, they are experimenting with both their own skills and the ball-bearing balanced nature of the fidget spinners. They predict and hypothesize how to accomplish the challenge, test their predictions, and either succeed or adjust the experiment. Many of the challenges will lead them to try variations of their own...and challenge their friends as well.

The beautiful thing about these silly little fidget spinners is that their very design takes advantage of principles of physics and encourages our children to experiment. And don't we want that?! Don't we want them to try new things and investigate their world? Every time someone has told me they don't like the fidget spinners because they "make noise and the kids keep playing with them," I can't help wondering, "What would you rather your kiddos be doing? Sitting silently? Mindlessly absorbing everything you say?" That's just not how kids learn. If you need kids to put the toys away, fine. But if you can use them in the lesson...even better!

I'm keeping our fidget spinners in a bin where they can be pulled out any time.

Anyway, on to the fun part! In this little packet you will find three sets of Fidget Spinner STEM Challenge Cards. The first page is for preschoolers, kindergarteners, or others who would benefit from picture challenges. They include a photo illustrating the challenge. The second set is for elementary aged kids who can read the cards themselves. The third set is blank so you or your kiddos can write down your own challenges--I'm sure you can think of more ways to experiment than I've included, so be sure to print off the "blank" sheet too!

These would make an awesome science station or center, a fun reward activity, or a great family night activity! You could even pull them out while you fix dinner!

Then be sure to pop back during the next few days for fidget spinner science, math, and literacy activities!

Happy Educating,

I may share at any of these parties!

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Monday, May 8, 2017

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{FREE} Preschool STEM Camp!

I am so excited about our summer Preschool STEM Camp!!

It won't start until next month, but I just cannot wait any longer to share the details with you!!  Plus, I like to make sure we have our supplies in advance, so I thought sharing a supply and book list with a few weeks early wouldn't hurt either.

Preschoolers are some of the most capable, creative, and clever people around--it's no wonder that they love STEM activities! I decided to give our preschoolers a chance to explore, investigate, and create this summer with a preschool STEM camp. Like anything we do with preschoolers, literacy is a central part of each lesson plan--the activities all tie in to some fantastic picture books!

I will be sharing each day of the "camp" as a weekly blog post here at Preschool Powol Packets. Then I will link each blog post to THIS PAGE!! Be sure to bookmark or pin this page so you will have all five lessons in a convenient spot!

Here is the schedule:

(This is also where I will link each lesson!)

DAY 1: June 9th: Theme: Engineering & Building

DAY 2: June 16th: Theme: Reactions, Shadows, & Painting

DAY 3: June 23rd: Theme: Creating

DAY 4: June 30th: Theme: Art, Science, & States of Matter

Day 5: July 7th: Theme: Electricity & Robots

Are you getting excited?!!

I get more excited every time I look at our themes!!

What supplies will you need? 

VERY simple ones!! Here is the complete list (books first, then other supplies):

Books (All images are Amazon Affiliate Links):

Iggy Peck, Architect, The Noisy Paintbox, The Most Magnificent Thing, I'm the Biggest Thing in the Ocean, and That's not My Robot

Other Supplies (per child):

Week 1: building blocks, sugar cubes, glue or frosting

Week 2: black construction paper, white chalk, a lamp, tape, small flashlight, watercolor paints, a thin canvas (or watercolor paper placed on top of cardboard), fresh lemon, scissors

Week 3: Velcro, slinky, play doh, Random art supplies. Suggestions: cardboard boxes, paper cups, egg cartons, paper plates, feathers, wiggly eyes, pompoms, paint, pipecleaners. Note: velcro, slinky, and play doh are optional, but will make the discussion more fun!

Week 4:  balloons, water, canvas (or watercolor paper placed on top of cardboard), crayons, hand cheese grater, oven, paint, yarn, ruler or yardstick

Week 5: Squishy Circuits set (or wires, batteries, and lights), cardstock, fastener brads, scissors, wiggly eyes, dowel stick, scissors, art supplies (stickers, feathers, pompoms, markers, etc.)

Well, that is all for now! You will get the rest week by week in June!! I cannot wait!!

Please share this with your friends and family...I would LOVE to have lots of people joining in!!

PS. If you already love STEM and cannot wait to get started on some fun projects, here are some other STEM activities we've already done...and loved!!

Happy Educating,

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Edible Mars Soil Space Experiment

Exploring the surface of another planet sounds like something out of a science fiction book, but it's totally real! This space experiment gives kids a framework for understanding how scientists study the soil on Mars...and it uses the sense of taste, a sense that often gets deliberately left out of science experiments!

This turned out to be so much fun that all our kids joined in...from preschool to upper elementary! Even the toddlers loved it (though they certainly didn't appreciate the Mars aspect)!

You could do it with a space theme, Earth science theme, or just for fun! I love the investigation aspect of it and how I got to encourage my kids to experiment with as many of their senses as they wanted. They loved this too!

We started with a brief discussion about how scientists can study soil on Mars without actually touching it...and why they would want to. We talked about how Mars rovers can use sensors to detect and send information back to Earth. Then I pulled out a plate of "Martian soil!"

The kids used their senses to gather information about the soil (or Martian crust!). They came up with four different tests we could do on the "soil" to figure out what it was made from: looking at it (sense of sight), smelling it (sense of smell), crushing it (sense of touch), and tasting it (sense of taste)!!

These little scientists actually guessed all three of the ingredients in my edible Mars soil: crackers, chocolate, and tortilla chips! Specifically, I used Ritz crackers, (sugar-free) chocolate covered graham crackers, and yellow corn tortilla chips.

You can use any kind of edible crackers, chips, or cookies to give your kiddos a chance to study soil like NASA scientists! I also enjoyed pointing out that we have had rovers land on and study the crusts of Mars, We (humans!) have sent robots to land on and study Mercury, Venus, Mars, our moon, an asteroid, a comet, and moons of Jupiter and Saturn. You can see more details about those missions here.

Studying soil can tell us the minerals and rocks that are in the soil and if there is water in the soil. We are always interested in water because it is so important for life on Earth! 

Just like our "sensors" can tell if there is chocolate in the soil, our computers are programmed with information to tell if there is water in the soil, or minerals like pyroxine, feldspars, and olivine (which we see in a lot of Martian soils). Since pyroxine, feldspars, and olivine are often found in volcanic ash, we know that Mars has a history of volcano eruptions!

Make your own science fiction project by letting your kiddos design their own edible Martian soils and testing each other's soils. Can they figure out their friends' ingredients?!!
Are you working on a space theme? Don't miss some of our favorite space-themed posts:


We did this space themed science experiment as part of Space Week with the Virtual Book Club for Kids! The suggested book this week is How to Catch a Star by Oliver Jeffers:

Amazon Affiliate Link:

All of our co-hosts this week are sharing space themed activities! Be sure to check them out!

Building Space Words - My Storytime Corner
Star Blends Puzzles - Sea of Knowledge
Shooting Star Spinner Toy- Teach Beside Me
Edible Mars Soil Space Experiment - Preschool Powol Packets
DIY Cardboard Space Shuttle - Mama Smiles
Printable Constellation Mats by JDaniel4's Mom
Solar System Sensory Bottle - Inspiration Laboratories

** More coming soon! **

Happy Educating,

I may share at any of these parties!

Never miss another post again!  Sign up for our weekly updates newsletter and get links to all our posts once a week in your inbox!  Sign up here!!

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