Winter is a perfect time to teach lessons about heating and cooling. Even if your students are just learning basic scientific concepts, heating and cooling lessons are a fun way to make science engaging. Try this lesson activity to teach students about Arctic and Antarctic wildlife and and entropy.
- Teach studens basic concepts of heating and cooling by thinking about how energy is transferred from one object to another. Look at photos of animals in cold conditions, such as a polar bear in the Arctic, penguins in the Antarctic, and whales in frozen water. Ask students how these different animals stay warm. Polar bears have hollow fur that insulates them with air. Penguins create a warm layer with downy feathers and thick feathers. Whales (and most animals living in cold climates) have a thick layer of fat called blubber. All these strategies help them keep warmth around their bodies the way a jacket helps students keep a layer of warm air around their bodies.
- Have students look up the average temperatures for different areas where these three animals live and determine the coldest temperatures each animal might experience.
- Ask students which technique they think is the most effective—hollow fur, layers of feathers, or a layer of fat?
- Next, talk about what humans do to keep warm in cold temperatures and ask students for examples of what humans do. Some human techniques for staying warm are using clothing, using a heat source, or creating a wind-breaking structure.
- Tell students that they are going to travel to the Antarctic and need to prepare for the cold temperatures. Divide the class into teams and tell your students the object of the experiment is to keep one team member’s hand warm in a bucket of ice water. Set out supplies for teams to use, including bubble wrap (to represent hollow fur); feathers; shortening (for whale fat); fabrics like cotton, wool, and fleece; and plastic bags. Tell students that they need to keep the team member’s hand dry and at 50 degrees after two minutes of submersion in the ice water. They can use any and all the materials to create an insulating device for their team.
- Students will prepare their insulating contraptions and prepare the team member’s hand for the test. When all teams are ready, place a thermometer in the contraption with the team member’s hand.
- Place the team member’s hand in a bucket of ice water for two minutes and watch the thermometer. After two minutes, check the thermometer and write down the temperature on the board of each team. The team with the highest temperature wins.
- Have the winning team explain how they built their insulation and why they think it worked best.
Students will learn in this activity that different combinations of trapped air, fat, and fabrics work better than others and that insulation prevents the transfer of heat from the team member’s hand to the cold water. They’ll also get a good chance to practice problem solving and experimental design.
Healthy eyes are part of overall health, so eating right, exercising, and getting enough rest are important for healthy eyes. Recent research confirms, however, that certain foods and nutrients are especially good for the eyes; in fact, people who eat these foods throughout their lives have less age-related vision loss as they age. Help your students develop good eating habits that will protect their eyes from now on — and get some math and social studies practice at the same time.
The foods that make the difference:
- leafy green vegetables
- citrus fruits
- oily fish like sardines and salmon
- nuts (increasing numbers of students have allergies to nuts, but those who are not allergic can benefit)
Clearly, these are healthy foods in any case, but they may be new to many students. These foods contain Omega-3 acids and lutein, nutrients that researchers have found are important for eye health.
Introduce the eye with an interactive experience on your smartboard or computer center:
- The Children’s Museum of Manchester has a simple cartoon introduction to the parts and functioning of the eye.
- The National Eye Institute offers a more detailed interactive diagram.
- The Exploratorium has a virtual dissection of a cow’s eye.
Then collect some data and create visual representations of it — understanding visual representations of information is a key skill for the 21st century.
Practice gathering data while encouraging the consumption of these super healthy foods. Create a bulletin board display of the charts called “Eye See Data” or “Eye See Graphs.”
- Ask student each morning who ate the listed foods, count, and mark the number on the calendar. At the end of the unit, week, or month, use the numbers to create a line graph. Did the class consumption of these foods increase?
- Have a classroom tasting. Bring a variety of leafy greens such as spinach, chard, kale, mustard greens, collard greens, and cabbage. Have students taste the various greens and chart who likes or dislikes them. Give each variety a pie chart showing its popularity. Finish with a vote on the best one, and create a pie graph showing that preference.
- Give students incentive charts and stickers to take home. Have them create bar graphs showing how many friends and family members like each of the listed foods.
Where do people eat these eye-healthy foods? Everywhere! From the Dutch herring rollmops (pickled herring) to Vietnamese sardines in tomato sauce, from Southern style collard greens to Portugese kale soup, from Spanish orange cake to South African citrus salads, you can find traditional recipes for all these foods on every inhabited continent.
Have students research the foods on the list, searching for traditional recipes from many different places. As recipes are found, add stickers to the class map to show the locations. Once a country has a sticker, students may not add another but must keep looking till they find a new recipe from a country that does not yet have a sticker.
Use Google’s Map Maker to create a map of traditional foods. This can be as simple as adding a marker and typing the name of a dish, or as complex as creating a report for each dish with photos and music, so it’s good tech skills and writing practice for every grade.
Challenge students to try the recipes at home, or create a recipe book for students to give parents for a holiday gift. Get some tech practice by making this a computer-generated project. There are lots of ways to do this:
- Use a free Microsoft Office cookbook template to build a cookbook if you have the software on your classroom computers already.
- Use the Family Cookbook Project‘s free software to create a PDF cookbook you can download.
- Create a Pinterest board. Pin the recipes from the sites where they’re found, or you can upload student drawings and type in the entire recipe to make a self-contained recipe board. Share the link on your classroom website so parents can try out the recipes with their kids.
Both the Chart It and the Map It options lend themselves to the creation of infographics. If you’re working with upper grades, click through and use our Infographics Lesson Plan as a culmination of the unit.
Thanksgiving just isn’t Thanksgiving without a turkey on the table for most families. This gives us a great opportunity to teach our students about turkeys, both domestic and wild, and to have some fun while we’re at it. This activity is great for younger children.
Thanksgiving Hand Turkey Art Lesson Objectives
- Develop fine motor skills
- Investigate animal facts
- Build color recognition skills
- Explore shape, texture, and pattern
- Distinguish between reality and fiction
- Read a Thanksgiving themed turkey story with your students. We have plenty of recommendations below.
- Show your students pictures of wild turkeys and domesticated turkeys. Discuss with students the difference between the two types of turkeys and the turkeys in the story you read. Students should look at colors, feather texture, size, and patterns on turkeys.
- Ask students to compare the real world turkeys in the pictures to the turkeys in the stories. Discuss with students how the turkeys in the stories behave and how they think real turkeys behave. Compare holiday themes to real-life animals by asking students to talk about turkeys they see for Thanksgiving and turkeys in the books and photos.
- Using paper and coloring supplies, ask students to trace one hand on three sheets of white paper. Then ask them to decorate one hand like a turkey in a story that represents Thanksgiving, one hand like a wild turkey, and one hand like a domestic turkey.
Still excited about turkeys? Check out our Turkey Lesson Plans for more ideas.
When the Pilgrims landed in Massachusetts and settled Pilmoth, they entered the territory of the indigenous peoples who had lived there for centuries, the Wampanoag. Although their relationship with the Pilgrims wasn’t always amicable, the Wampanoag people taught the Pilgrims how to cultivate three important New World plants: corn, beans, and squash. Learning about the relationship among these different plants can help students understand agriculture and nutrition.
Many Native American tribes used companion planting techniques to raise these three crops together. Although each crop could grow on its own, growing them together provides better results.
Corn needs a lot of nitrogen to grow tall, strong stalks and produce large ears of corn. Often there isn’t enough nitrogen in the soil to provide the necessary nutrients for the plants. Corn also loves the sun and provides shade.
Legumes put a lot of nitrogen into the soil while they’re growing but they need something to grow up on. Often, farmers use bean poles to train beans on to grow.
Squash plants have very deep roots and can access water further down than other plants. With their wide leaves, they shade the ground and prevent sun-loving weeds from growing. Their stalks also have hairy spines that insects avoid. They are designed to protect the plant.
- Show pictures of the different features of the three plants to students and explain the special characteristics of each type of plant.
- Explain what a symbiotic relationship is to students.
- Ask students how they think the plants can benefit one another. Guide students towards ideas of a companionship planting of the three plants.
- Tell students the myth of the three sisters. Explain to students that this is a myth and ask questions about reality and imaginary.
- PBS lesson plan using videos on symbiotic relationships
- Types of symbiosis lesson plan
- Investigative Reporter lesson plan
- Symbiosis in the Ocean
- Symbiosis matching game
- Three Sisters: Comparing Native Americans to Colonists Activity
- The “How” of the Three Sisters: The Origins of Agriculture in MesoAmerica and the Human Niche
A favorite classroom activity around Thanksgiving is to make butter and enjoy it on warm bread. It’s the perfect activity to do when dressed up like Pilgrims and while learning about the voyage of the Mayflower or the history of Thanksgiving. This activity is best for young age groups from Kindergarten to Second Grade. It’s also best done with a class of around 20-25 students to spread out the work .
Making butter is also a great way to start a discussion about fats and oils in nutrition.
- Jar with lid
- 1 cup heavy whipping cream
- 2 Bowls
- Pour heavy whipping cream into the jar and secure tightly with lid. We recommend Mason jars with a handle to prevent dropping the jar for small hands. You can also give each child a small amount of cream in a baby food jar, so each child will end up with a teaspoon of butter.
- Have each student shake the jar vigorously as long as her or she can. After the students get tired, have them pass the jar to the next student in your class.
- Shake vigorously for around twenty minutes or until large solid chunks form.
- Pour off the remaining liquid into one bowl.
- Serve the butter, mixed with a little bit of salt if desired, in the other bowl.
Fats and Oils Nutrition Lesson with Butter
- Butter (see above for butter making activity)
- Plastic spoons
- Apples, sliced
- Brown paper bags
- Nutrition labels
- Students will learn about fats and oils, how to identify them, and how they play a role in healthy nutrition
- Explain to students what fats and oils are and ask students for examples of fats and oils we eat (butter, cooking oils, etc). Explain how many grams of fats and oils we should have daily and how to look for the information on a nutrition label.
- Distribute a piece of brown paper bag to each student, as well as an apple slice and a very small amount of butter on the back of a spoon.
- Ask students to rub the apple slice and the butter on the paper bag. Make sure that students wipe off any large globs of butter from the paper bag.
- Ask students to think about what might happen once the paper bags dry.
- While bags are drying, distribute nutrition labels to groups of students and ask them to put them in order of fat content. Ask them to identify items that have a high amount of fat that should be a sometime treat and healthy options.
- Once bags have dried, ask students to compare the apple spot and the butter spot. The apple spot is gone because there are no fats in the apple. The butter spot, however, is a grease stain that is more translucent. Ask students to hold it up to the light to see the difference.
- Discuss with students their observations about their expected outcomes, the different nutrition labels, and how to eat a healthy diet.
- The history, culture, and composition of butter
- Testing for different nutrition compounds activity
- Comparing Fats and Sugars in Foods
- Interactive explanation of lipids
- Interactive quiz “Face The Fats” from the American Heart Association
- Sugars and Fats by Mari Schuh
Science Experiments You Can Eat by Vicki Cobb
Our students admire athletes, from their teammates in school sports to professional sports figures. Athlete heroes are a varied group, so that every student can find someone he or she can admire. Use our lesson plans to work on research skills and to learn about health.
Create an ad.
Instead of an ad for soft drinks or shoes, let your athlete heroes support a character trait they embody. We put Wilma Rudolph on a cereal box to advertise persistence. Rudolph grew up in poverty, suffering from severe illnesses including polio, which left her without the use of her left leg. She wore a leg brace till age 9, learned to walk normally again by age 12, and won her first Olympic medal in track at age 16. Learn more about this heroic athlete:
- Wilma Rudolph biography
- Online quiz on Rudolph’s life
- The official Olympics page for Rudolph includes video and background information about the events in which she competed.
Have students choose an athlete they admire and research that athlete’s life and work. They should then choose a character trait which their athlete could represent. Use any art techniques to make a cereal box ad for this character trait.
Write an essay.
Get to know the classic 5 paragraph essay form with an essay about an athlete hero. Hve students research their hero and write three sentences explaining this person’s admirable traits. For example, here’s our list for climber Jordan Romero:
- At 13, Romero became the youngest person ever to climb Mt. Everest, showing dedication to a difficult goal.
- Romero inspired his family to join him in his goal of climbing the world’s highest mountains.
- Romero gives credit to his family and his team, not just his own efforts.
Students should expand each of their sentences into a paragraph. Have students write each sentence at the top of a notecard and list events that show evidence for the sentence. For example, Romero’s interview at Athletic Capital has many quotes in which Romero gives credit to his family and his team. Once students have a good list of evidence for their claims, they can write each one up into a paragraph.
Have students put their three paragraphs together to form the body of the essay, and add an introduction and a conclusion.
Sports heroes inspire students with their dedication, persistence, and hard work. They should also be health role models. Help students learn how to create SMART goals by choosing a health goal inspired by their athletic hero.
Olympic snowboarder Hannah Teter has plenty of good health habits, but one she’s famous for is eating a healthy breakfast every day. Students who start their day with a Coke and a candy bar can learn from Hannah. Use this example for a SMART goal.
SMART stands for
- Specific: A goal can’t be something vague like, “I want to eat better.” “I’ll eat a balanced breakfast every day” is a specific goal.
- Measurable: Without a quantifiable goal, you can’t tell whether you succeeded or not. A healthy breakfast, according to WebMD, should contain 5 grams of protein and 5 grams of fber. That cuts out the Coke and candy bar, but still leaves plenty of options from fruit and yogurt to eggs and veggies in a whole wheat tortilla.
- Achievable: A good goal is something the student can actually accomplish. Not all students have the capacity to win Olympic medals, but all students can make healthy breakfast choices.
- Realistic: A SMART goal is not only within a student’s power, but can also be achieved with the resources available. Examine the breakfast choices available in your school cafeteria or in local groceries to identify realistic healthy breakfast options.
- Timely: A goal is a dream with a timeline. Add a timeframe to the goal.
A student who chooses to follow in Hannah’s footsteps when it comes to breakfast might end up with, “I’m going to improve my health by having a balanced breakfast with 5 grams each of protein and fiber, such as the oatmeal and fruit in the cafeteria, each day beginning January 7th.”
Gather students’ goals and post them on the bulletin board.