Hubble Space Telescope: We made our own versions of space nebulae. We used BioColor paint to balloon stamp on coffee filters. The NASA website had a fun activity that gave examples of different space formations that have been seen using Hubble. The kids chose from those to decide what shape to cut their nebulae into. (NOTE: We attempted the project as described on the website but our markers wouldn't "bleed" on our coffee filters. I had planned to let the kids choose colors and make random marks then spray water using a switch adapted water pik. We had a big mess and a lot of wet fun but no projects.) The entire website has some fun projects which will be perfect when we do our more in-depth space unit this spring to tie in with state assessments. Balloon stamping has to be my favorite way to paint. I learned about the technique on the BioColor video which came with my first order of paint. Basicially you place 3-4 small puddles (about dime size) of paint touching each other in a triangle/square then stick an inflated balloon in the paint and stamp onto your project. It's something everyone in my room can do, a "no fail" outcome, and just looks really cool. The paint washes off of and out of nearly everything. Mix it with some liquid soap or detergent and you have awesome fingerpaint. There are recipes for puffy paint and other projects as well.
Iron Chef America: I was so excited when this came up as a News-2-You topic because I love this show. We had a blast this week. I was able to find some on-line video of the show to share clips of. Then we had our own Iron Chef Showdown. The secret ingredient was pudding mix. The kids chose between various ways to make their pudding and different ingredients to mix in. Everyone then taste tested everyone else's and voted whether or not they liked it and which they liked better. This was mainly based on yes/no responses and/or how enthusiastic they were about eating/tasting the sample and requesting more. The surprise favorite was vanilla pudding mix combined with whipped topping, bananas, blueberry pie filling, and crushed chocolate chip cookies. I took the kids' recipes and votes and made a recipe card using Boardmaker.
Political Conventions: This was a fun week that allowed us to talk about current events. We learned about the two candidates (and yes, I stayed nonbiased in my presentation, for those who know my political views) and talked about the two-party system. We then did an art project where the kids chose between making a donkey or an elephant. They had color choices of red, white, or blue for each piece of their chosen project, could choose whether to use stickers. etc. We all laughed when every single kid chose a donkey, including the one who would later wear a McCain-Palin shirt at least once a week. The art projects come from DLTK-kids.com. I LOVE this resource and use it all the time. It is rare for them not to have something that supports a lesson topic.
Olympics: This was one of the first topics of our school year this fall. We had just finished summer school by holding our own version of the Olympics and inviting friends from some other classes to participate with us. We spent lots of time watching the Olympics, viewing the very exciting Opening Ceremonies, learning a bit about China, and playing various games. For this project we used small paper plates to make our Olympic rings. Although the kids did not get color choices because I wanted to stick with the "real" colors, they did get to choose to use finger painting or a paint brush. They also chose 1-5 favorite Olympic sports using PCS symbols, which we cut out and glued onto the circles cut from the middle of the rings. I think the projects turned out pretty cool and they are still hanging in our room.
Last year I sent the News-2-You worksheets and related projects home every week. This year I decided to collect them to make portfolios. We can look back at what we've done before, I can compare performance on the worksheets to look for growth, and I might just be able to use some of this for state assessments. How cool is that?