Saturday, July 30, 2011

Featured Teacher-Author: Heather Kaiser

1.   How long have you been on Teachers Pay Teachers?  What made you decide to be a part of it?
I joined TPT as a basic seller somewhere around July 2009 and upgraded to premium seller in March 2010.  I first heard about TPT from someone on the forum and immediately decided it was worth joining.  I had been sharing my ideas freely for a long time.  While that has its’ rewards, TPT was exactly the kind of place I had been searching for.

2.   When did you know that you wanted to be in education?

I have known I wanted to be an educator since I was in the 3rd grade.  My teacher gave me opportunities to be a peer helper and I was hooked.

3.   How are you currently involved in education?
I am currently a science lab teacher for 3rd, 4th, and 5th grade students in a small urban community school. In this role, I was recently nominated for and named as a 2011 recipient of the Burroughs Wellcome Career Award for Math and Science Teachers

4.   What would be your advice to people who are considering joining Teachers Pay Teachers?

Take the time to make your product look professional before posting.  I jumped right in and posted my things as they were without realizing the value of adding copyright notices, cover pages, answer keys, and directions for use.  It takes a lot more time to go back and make the fixes than it does to upload it in a completed format from the very beginning.

5.   What has been a highlight, thus far, about being on Teachers Pay Teachers?
The collaboration with other high quality, creative, caring, competent educators!

6.   What is something fun about you that other teachers don’t know?
I grew up in Southwestern New York.  Every winter, my dad would connect PVC pipes together in an octagon shape and lay out some heavy duty plastic.  Then he’d run the hose out to it and fill it with several inches of water.  By the end of November it had frozen and I had my own private ice skating rink for the winter without the worries of falling through the ice into a pond.

7.   Do you participate in education outside of the classroom?  In what type of role?
Collaboration is the key to becoming a great educator.  With that in mind I tweet, blog, facebook, skype, and socialize on a number of discussion boards with other teachers.  I’m active in our district as a facilitator of professional development both face to face and online.  Additionally, I serve on advisory teams and curriculum teams within the district.

8.   What profession other than yours would you like to attempt?
I think I would like to record children’s audio books.  I’ve been told that my speaking voice would be good for that.

9.   What profession would you not like to do?
I would not want to do most of the jobs featured on Mike Rowe’s “Dirty Jobs”.

10.                Who is your favorite author?  Favorite educational author?  And why?
This is seriously hard for me to choose. I do enjoy Kate DiCamillo.  Students love a great animal character with human qualities.  Her books make for some great read alouds.  She has an amazing knack for linking some seemingly unconnected characters together into a tightly woven plot with an unexpected twist at the end.  It gets the kids every time.

by Heather Kaiser

Heather's Pick Products

This super science set is a combination of all the weather and climate products I have created to this point. What you get: I have Who has and Wordle Wise PowerPoint vocabulary games, Weather tracking data sheets and Excel spreadsheet for technology integration, Trifold unit study guide for reviewing key concepts, SmartBoard consensogram and HotSpots activities plus water cycle and cloud identification quizzes that works with or without the Smart Response system, and a tic tac toe differentiated menu of choice activities complete with mini-rubrics for easy grading.

A fully integrated math, science and cross-curricular writing plan including foldable and suggested uses. This one page (double-sided)foldable can be used to track this investigation from beginning to end. Real world skills of measurement, and using simple machines to make work easier tie in nicely as well as the obvious science concepts centered around the parts of a plant and the scientific method. Take it further by creating a class graph of the data to compare results and come to a conclusion regarding our ability to accurately predict the number of seeds in a pumpkin.

Monday, July 25, 2011

College Advisors and Counselors Explained!

By: Beth Hammett
Visit Beth's Teachers Pay Teachers Store

Your graduating seniors have visited Admissions and taken the college tour. Now, it’s time for them to see advisers or counselors. Both assist in the enrollment process, and understanding the differences between the two can increase students’ college success. The following can help high school teachers and parents guide new college students to the right person for the type of assistance needed.

An adviser is usually suggested as the first stop when enrolling in classes. This person will ask for students’ major but does not help with career options. For help with majors, students should visit their colleges’ Career Center, or a career counselor, where quick assessment tests measure abilities and strengths. Next, students will be asked to consider degree plans based upon their career choices. These plans are divided into semesters and show sequences of classes.

Before enrolling, students need to know freshmen level courses begin with one (Biology 1401), sophomore with two (Biology 2401), junior with three, and senior with four. Also, students should be careful to follow the sequence of courses regardless of enrollment hours. Students need to make sure they understand all prerequisites for the courses in the plan. Finally, advisers will send students to enroll in courses through the college’s website. Advisers are there to guide students through course selections, but are only one piece of the enrollment process.

Students should see a counselor if there are special needs or circumstances. These include a part-time or full-time job, caring for others, or a long commute. Perhaps students are returning to college, are older, or speak English as a second language. If a student has a disability or is a veteran, a visit to the counselor is a good idea. There are many factors which can affect academic success, and counselors can help students prioritize their responsibilities.

Students will be told that they should block off three hours of study time per week for each college class they are enrolled in. Counselors help figure out enrollment hours and assist in planning schedules. They can often enroll students in courses. Then, these experts explain tutoring or other college resources, such as clubs and special interest groups. Students may schedule future appointments as needed. Many times, counselors act as mentors, seeing students through the entire enrollment process and monitoring academic success.

Whether students will be visiting an adviser or a counselor, first-time enrollment should be completed with the assistance of a professional. Course selections are important, and seeing an adviser or counselor will set students’ college careers on the right path.

Related Products from Teachers Pay Teachers
How to Succeed in College Part 1, $6.00
College Prep Web Quest Portfolio Project, $7.00
Writing the College Application Essay Student Packet, $6.50
Choosing a Major (First Year College Skills), FREE
Letters of Recommendation Templates, $2.00

Saturday, July 23, 2011

Featured Seller: David Rickert

1.   How long have you been on Teachers Pay Teachers? What made you decide to be a part of it? 3 years. 
 I read an article about it in the NEA Magazine. I had some educational cartoons called Grammar Comics! that I had drawn and had no luck finding a publisher who wanted to turn them into a book (in hindsight, I don’t blame them – they’ve been through several revisions since.) On Teachers Pay Teachers I was able to find an audience for Grammar Comics! Although I didn’t sell that many at first, it was still gratifying to find out that people found value in them.

2.   When did you know that you wanted to be in education?  
When I was a counselor at summer camp. It never seemed like work being with kids. However, the skills required to be a good camp counselor aren’t really all that transferrable to being a good teacher.

3.   How are you currently involved in education? 
I teach English at Hilliard Darby High School in Hilliard, Ohio. I am also the English Department Chair there. I have also been involved in doing some consulting work for the Ohio State University, presenting to pre-service teachers and consulting on textbooks.

4.   What would be your advice to people who are considering joining Teachers Pay Teachers?
It’s a great opportunity, but do it because you will find it rewarding to share your ideas rather than to make money. It took a long time for me to actually sell a lot, and it still is more fun to know how many people are using what I have created than it is to know how much money I made doing it. If I had done Grammar Comics! solely for the money, I would have become frustrated very easily and given up.

5.   What has been a highlight, thus far, about being on Teachers Pay Teachers? 
Knowing that Grammar Comics! has found a niche in lots of teacher’s curriculum.

6.   What is something fun about you that other teachers don’t know?
I can play guitar pretty well.

7.   Do you participate in education outside of the classroom?  In what type of role? 
I’m pretty much just a classroom teacher and I work on Grammar Comics!

8.   What profession other than yours would you like to attempt?
I’d love to be a jazz guitarist or a full-time illustrator.

9.                What profession would you not like to do?
 Anything that has to do with money. I’m not that good at that stuff.

10.                Who is your favorite author?  Favorite educational author?  And why? 
My favorite book of all time is “The Dog of the South” by Charles Portis. My favorite book to teach is “Othello” or maybe “Pride and Prejudice.” I have to give a shout out to Kelly Gallagher and his books, which have been tremendously influential to me.

by David Rickert
Grammar Comics! Grammar and Usage 
 I am proud of this product because I feel like they really present grammar in an approachable way that students will remember. It was a fun collaboration with Mark Pennington; these illustrations also appear in his book Teaching Grammar and Mechanics. These were also the first cartoons I did in color, and I think they look terrific.

Poetry Comics! 
 This is probably my favorite out of all the ideas I’ve ever had – doing caricatures of poets explaining their favorite poems. I had what I feel are some of my best jokes in here. They’re not my best sellers, but Poetry Comics! will always be something I look at with pride. Like the Grammar Comics! I feel that Poetry Comics! helps students approach poetry with more enthusiasm.

Monday, July 18, 2011

10 Tips for First Year Teachers

By Denise Boehm
Visit Denise's blog, Sunny Days in Second Grade
Visit Denise's Teachers Pay Teachers Store

Congratulations! You are finally a teacher! It’s a dream come true. I remember those days very well. I almost didn’t believe it was real until I walked into my first classroom and saw those naked walls and piled up furniture staring back at me. You will certainly get lots of advice from lots of people. Remember that in the end, this is your classroom--the classroom you’ve wanted for so long. Consider carefully about all the advice you are about to be given, especially the ten tips from me that follow.

  1. Stay informed, but don’t obsess over current political actions, education reform, biased news reporting and especially publicly posted comments related to education. There is great value in knowing what is happening in the world of education outside of your classroom, and I strongly recommend staying informed, but find a reputable, unbiased source of educational news. Support education advocates that align with your views, but as a new educator, leave the actual advocating to them for a while. You’re going to have your hands full.
  2. Don’t feel pressured to do it all. As a new teacher, you might find it a bit difficult to maintain a class website, write a teacher blog, head up a committee, advise for an extracurricular activity, create interactive whiteboard lessons for every subject, and tutor students for free after hours, all while you’re finding your way in our profession. In time, you may find yourself drawn to one or more of these very valuable, rewarding endeavors, but give yourself a while to find out who you are as a teacher, and then build on the strengths that naturally emerge. Don’t be afraid to say “no” during the first year.
  3. Save your money for really important things. You will be tempted to buy treats and gifts for your students. You will want pillows and chairs and rugs for your reading area. You will want each student to have a book box, and your class library to be overflowing with books in every genre. You will want educational software, homey room decorations, and almost everything you see in teacher catalogs. You will want things you see in other teachers’ classrooms. It’s important to remember that those things were accumulated over time. Some were probably donated, some scavenged at garage sales and clearance aisles, and others from friends who were moving. None of the classrooms you see was outfitted all at once during the first year. Our profession does require some out of pocket spending though. Every teacher will tell you that. So, spend wisely. Think of what’s really important. Work on building up that classroom library before you worry about having the perfect beach chairs to go with your “Oceans of Learning” theme. (That one can be a hard one, I know.) Don’t forget to check out those garage sales and dollar stores for bargains too.
  4. Respect professional boundaries between you and your administration, you and your students’ parents, you and your students, you and Facebook...well, you get the idea. You are a professional, and to be treated as one, you must act like one. Your reputation is forming in this first year. Let those around you see your excitement, your enthusiasm, your dedication, and your kindness, but when you need to vent, be sure that you confide in one person that you trust implicitly. Avoid mentioning anything negative online about your work. Don’t talk about the student who said something inappropriate (even without giving a name), or how desperate you are for winter break to start. You are under scrutiny as a teacher, and that includes Facebook and Twitter.
  5. Be consistent in everything you do. Enforce your behavior management system consistently. Establish routines and follow them consistently. If you start sending homework folders to parents every Monday, then follow through and do it EVERY Monday. As soon as the students start to feel a slack in routine, they will pick up on it faster than any academic concept you will try to teach them. Sometimes this may mean continuing something that you know you don’t want to do again next year, but for this year, follow through. Unless the practice is causing some kind of harm, do your best to keep up with what you start. There will be times that you must change something. For example, you may find that your center schedule is not working at all. Then by all means, change it. Don’t feel the need to over-explain why there is a change to your students, but inform them of the change and then move forward. It’s usually best for everyone when routine and structure are maintained as much as possible, but certainly make notes about what you want to change next year and act on it.
  6. “Style over substance” is a trap you can fall into without even realizing it! You have probably been dreaming about how you want your room to look, what you will put on each bulletin board, and how to arrange the desks. Maybe you’ve even picked up some things that will be perfect decorations. You’ve stocked up on things from the Dollar Store that were on other teachers’ “must have” blog posts. Now what? Always remember the heart of your mission: teaching content. You need to know your stuff, literally. Your students will learn reading strategies better from a confident, prepared teacher in a sparsely decorated room than they will from an ill-prepared teacher in a room straight out of “Classroom Beautiful” magazine. Now, the ultimate goal is to combine both of those elements, and in time you most likely will, but for now, make sure you spend as much time planning lessons and studying content as you do preparing your physical space.
  7. Organize everything. You don’t necessarily need a separate system for everything you do, but come up with a way to keep things from piling up. The absolute BEST thing I ever did was to number my students. As long as they put their numbers in the corner of their paper, you can alphabetize assignments in a snap. You can see in an instant whose work is missing. You can randomly call students by numbers to complete tasks or be helpers. They can line up in number order to avoid rushing the door. The best part is that you can number things in the classroom (job charts, supplies) with numbers, and then they are reusable next year!
  8. Respect your elders. Ok, I’m being a bit facetious here, but honestly, the veteran teachers at your school have a lot to offer. If a veteran teacher has advice about the token economy system you are going to use, listen. That teacher was once a new teacher just like you, and she is trying to save you the headaches that she’s endured. Of course, consider the advice, and then make your own decisions. You have a lot of pressure on you as a new teacher, and seeking out the advice of a seasoned teacher can be such a benefit to you. Watch and listen in your first days to find out which colleagues are positive and encouraging, and which are negative and complaining. Choose your friends and mentors wisely, because they will influence your own attitude. Before you know it, you’ll be the veteran teacher people are coming to for advice!
  9. Forgive yourself. You will make mistakes. You will say something you instantly wish you could rewind and take back. You will have at least one observation that you know didn’t show you at your best. Guess what? You will survive it all. No one little thing you do in your first year will define you for the rest of your career. You are not expected to be perfect. You will make mistakes, and you will learn from them. You will have a bad day, but they will be far outnumbered by great days. When you’re feeling like you let yourself down, forgive yourself and move on.
  10. Find a balance between work and school. As a new teacher, my classroom door opened to the outside, but I had no windows. Sometimes I would be working and working, and when I finally left for the day I’d be shocked to open the door and find it was already nighttime! It got to the point that my friends would show up at my door with dinner because when they couldn’t reach me, they knew where I was. I actually enjoyed that time in my career. I liked being in my room, making things, checking papers, changing bulletin boards, but even though I enjoyed myself, I found myself struggling toward the end of the year and began to force myself to leave at a reasonable hour. Finding joy and relaxation in my personal life actually made me a better teacher in the classroom. Make time for your friends and relationships outside of school. Avoid working all day on Saturday. Schedule time to continue with hobbies and interests you had before you became a teacher.
Best of luck to you as you enter this most wonderful, rewarding, and challenging profession that I’m proud to call my own: Teaching.

Denise Boehm has been a teacher in Florida since 1994. She is Nationally Board Certified, holds ESOL and gifted endorsements, and has taught grades 2-5, served as a drop-out prevention specialist, writing specialist, and is active on the leadership team, often serving as an acting administrator. Visit Denise at the Sunny Days in 2nd Grade Blog and check out her Teachers Pay Teachers store.

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Printable Class Lists, FREE

Teacher Tips: 300+ Ideas for Classroom Management and More, $3.50 Teachers Pay Teachers Top 100 Product!

Classroom Restroom Chart, FREE

Grammar Fail! Bulletin Board or Literacy Center, $5.00

Beginning of the School Year Checklist for Teachers, $1.25

Fry Words High Frequency List, FREE

Essential Teacher Forms Pack, $2.00

Field Trip Helpers to the Rescue, $3.50

Monday, July 11, 2011

Learning with the Arts

Why and how to teach art in a general education classroom

            As teachers we know the importance of the arts (visual arts, music, drama) to a child’s development. It’s vital to create well-rounded human beings. Where would we be without Van Gogh, Mozart, Shakespeare and Da Vinci? Yet, with cutbacks to every school budget in the nation, teachers must be imaginative to ensure students get exposure to these disciplines.
In a report Studio Thinking: How Visual Arts Teaching Can Promote Disciplined Habits of Mind (opens as PDF) Ellen Winner and her Harvard team discovered “in most cases there was no demonstrated causal relationship between studying one or more art forms and non-arts cognition”. Therefore we must discover what art does offer.

Art must be taught for its intrinsic values, not because it raises test scores. How do the arts add to a child’s development? Winner and her team answered this question with a list of “Eight Studio Habits of the Mind”. Art education promotes experimentation and mistake making, or “Engage and Persist” as Winner coins it, a vital element to tomorrow’s entrepreneurs. Robert Lynch, CEO of American for the Arts argues in Creating a Brighter Workforce with the Arts that art is key to producing a brighter, competitive workforce.  Making art provides chances to practice outside the box problem-solving tasks and opportunities to be creative. Additionally art offers the opportunity to “observe”, taking a step back to pause and look. Another studio “habit” Winner’s team observed was reflection, a routine as teachers we already value. According to Lynch “The true impact of the arts far exceeds our ability to put a dollar amount on it”. 

Find ways to incorporate the arts into every lesson.  The Getty Museum has lesson plans that use art, searchable by subject. The National Gallery of Art, has resources searchable by artist, topic or subject. There are several art lesson plan resources on the web such as Incredible Art Department, KinderArt and of course TPT, but the challenge is recognizing when to incorporate art into the general education classroom. Rely on you’re the art specialists at your school or in your district for suggestions for specific lessons.

Discover ways to incorporate art at the secondary level. It is easier to incorporate art at the elementary school level but high school students need the arts to nurture their brains too. If you teach geometry, why not incorporate show The Science and Art of Perspective , one of the many interactive exhibits from  Web Exhibits. In language arts why not use Wordle to create a graphic word “cloud” that represents a poem. Teaching tessellations in math are a great opportunity to discuss Islamic art or kid favorite M.C. Escher.

Look for ways to integrate art into larger units. Some schools offer projects that combine subjects. Students can create an integrated book or portfolio. Teachers meet weekly to discuss progress. While this cross-curricular teaching can be a logistical nightmare with schedules, standards and school initiatives, it can be a fulfilling, memorable project for teachers, parents and students. And, when researching pictures to use for any project, discuss the importance of using quality images from trusted sources like the Metropolitan Museum of Art.

Use art to change the your classroom environment. Don’t simply read plays in language arts. Have students dress up and perform. Give a long-term art project that will offer students a chance to practice time-management and planning skills. Have students create collage “self-portraits” to get to know each other and strengthen your class community. Use visuals in chemistry to explain a formula. You will be helping the visual and kinesthetic learners as well as ELL students or students with learning disabilities, by giving them a chance to succeed and improve their self-esteem.

Model what you hope for your students.  Encourage students to go to galleries to experience art in person, not on a computer screen. Read the “Arts” sections of your city and state papers. For the latest resources and art happenings in your state check your local Department of Education website. In Oregon you can subscribe to the monthly Arts Teacher Update newsletter. And, if you create on your own time, share with your students.

by Emily Weltman

Saturday, July 9, 2011

Featured Seller: Scipi

1. How long have you been on Teachers Pay Teachers? What made you decide to be a part of it?
I joined in March of 2009. My best friend, (we do workshops together), suggested I sell items there. Since our products are always a “hit” at the workshops we do, I figured maybe others would like them as well.

2. When did you know that you wanted to be in education?
I wanted to be a teacher ever since I was a little girl. I played teacher and all the neighborhood kids plus my unwilling brother were my reluctant students.

3. How are you currently involved in education?
I retired from Wichita Public Schools as a math resource teacher, and I currently teach remedial math at Butler Community College where most of my students are “mathphobics.”

4. What would be your advice to people who are considering joining Teachers Pay Teachers?
Teachers Pay Teachers is a great site to connect with other teachers as well as a place to sell items you have created for your classroom. The items are quality teacher created products that can be used immediately in the classroom, and most are reasonably priced!

5. What has been a highlight, thus far, about being on Teachers Pay Teachers?
Okay, it should be the selling or making extra money, right? But believe it or not, it was finding out how young and good looking our boss, Paul Edelman, is. Now I won’t be fooled if he appears on the T.V. program, Undercover Boss!

6. What is something fun about you that other teachers don’t know?
I guess what is unusual or fun about me is that my husband asked me to marry him on our first date. I said, “No,” but finally the “no” became a “yes.” He is a teacher also, and together this is our 70th year of teaching, our 40th year of marriage!

7. Do you participate in education outside of the classroom? In what type of role?
I have taught Sunday School, but now I enjoy teaching my grandchildren. I think when you are a teacher, every day you see ways to teach others.

8. What profession other than yours would you like to attempt?
I like writing tests. Yes, it’s true. I use to write benchmark tests for Wichita Public Schools. I like adding humor, clip art, etc. to those dreaded things. For instance: many of my tests feature characters named Cal Q. Late and Tommy Go Figure.

9. What profession would you not like to do?
I would never, ever teach preschool or kindergarten. For five years, I supervised student teachers at Wichita State University, and I always dreaded going into the preschool or kindergarten rooms. Those teachers are so talented and patient and most deserve a gold medal in teaching!

10. Who is your favorite author? Favorite educational author? And why?
Lynn Austin is my favorite fictional writer because her books are historically true and so I learn history (a subject I have never liked) as I am enjoying her stories.
My favorite educational author is Cindy Neuschwader. Her math adventures (such as Sir Cumference and the Dragon of Pi) are hysterical, and even my college students enjoy her whimsical math escapades.

Scipi's Products
When I was a math resource teacher, my students’ “favoritest” game was Bug Ya. It’s a game to practice multiplication facts, adding and subtracting plus an additional game which focuses on money.
Basic Facts Computation Game

My math dictionary took me the longest time to create. My students could not understand many definitions in their math glossary since it was written in “mathtease” and many definitions were missing. So, I created a math dictionary that is user friendly. It even has pictures.
Math Dictionary

Monday, July 4, 2011

Make Mother Nature Part of Your Summer Learning Plan

By: Amy Brown
Visit Amy's Blog
Visit Amy's Store on Teachers Pay Teachers

I love teaching all topics in biology, but one of my favorite topics to teach is my unit on classification and taxonomy.  This topic is one of my favorites because the diversity of life on Earth is simply amazing. The organisms that are alive on Earth today are the ones that “made it”.  They changed and adapted to meet the pressures that our ever-changing environment placed on them.   The organisms alive today succeeded, and the evidence of their adaptation to our current environment astounds me. 

Take some time this summer to get to know and love nature.  If you are a person who already “knows” nature, then you will be nodding your head as you read this article.  If you never take the time to notice nature, then you are really missing out on a fantastic journey.

My childhood was spent in hot and humid Mississippi, with several weeks each summer in the crisp and cool northern peninsula of Michigan on Lake Huron.  My mother was a biology teacher, and she introduced me to the beauty of the natural world at a very early age.  Whether it was catching fireflies and putting them in a jar, or wading through a bog looking for bladderworts and pitcher plants, we were outside, observing and learning about nature, without even realizing that “schooling” was taking place.   When my own two daughters came along and started to grow, I passed along the same nature lessons that my mother had taught me; however, as an adult, I now realize that the lessons go much deeper than just learning about science and nature.  The time I have spent outside with my daughters has forged a bond between us that cannot be broken.  As we tromped through woods, dug in the mud, and snorkeled at the beach, we made incredible memories that will forever make us smile.  They are teenagers now and still love to spend time outside with their "mommy." 

Summer is just beginning.  Make the most of it.  Get outside and experience the beauty that surrounds you.  I have put together a list of possibilities that might help you make Mother Nature part of your summer learning plan.  Try some of these with your children, with students, or by yourself.  I guarantee that the lessons learned will be carried with you all your life!

  1. Plant seeds and watch them grow.  I always make the planting and growing of seeds part of my biology curriculum because it is amazing how many of my students have never done this.   Have a child make a small flower garden or vegetable garden, but start from seeds.  It teaches curiosity and more importantly, patience.
  2. Go outside at night and catch fireflies. 
  3. Watch a caterpillar grow into a butterfly.  Find a caterpillar and place it in a large jar containing leaves from the plant where you found the caterpillar, replenishing with fresh leaves as needed.  Be sure to punch holes in the lid of the jar!  Keep the inside of the jar moist by sprinkling a few drops of water in as needed.  It is wonderful to watch the spinning of the cocoon or formation of the chrysalis, and the emerging of the adult butterfly or moth.
  4. Take a daily nature walk.  When my children were small, I gave them a brown paper lunch sack.  It was their “nature bag.”  Anything they found along the way that was interesting to them went into the nature bag.  We live in an urban area and still found plenty of leaves, insects, seeds, and flowers. When you get home, look through the bag and talk about the treasures they have found. You may even consider having them use the materials in a craft project or scrapbook.
  5. Get a field guide and learn to identify the organisms in it.  There are many possibilities here:  learn to identify wildflowers, birds, butterflies, or frogs.  My daughters and I love wildflowers.  We take our wildflower field guide with us wherever we go.  As we find a flower, we write the date and location in the field guide.  Many years later, we still see our notations and laugh about the adventures we recorded in this book.  On one particular page, my daughter recorded, “Mom fell in the pond!”
  6. Visit a national park.  There is a reason why these particular tracts of land were set aside.  They are amazing!
  7. Give your children a magnifying glass.  Have them make a list of the living organisms they see, and have them describe how they are adapted to the environment. 
  8. Set up several bird feeders.  Fill them with different types of food and see what comes to the feeder.  We have feeders filled with hummingbird nectar, thistle seeds, sunflower seeds, and plain birdseed.  All can be purchased from Wal-Mart.  Have your child keep a log of which birds come to the feeder and what they eat.  Also, have them record the time of year they spotted the bird.  It is fun to discover which are migratory when you see them at the feeder in early spring and again in late fall.
  9. Watch the bees around a flower garden.  Teach your children that bees are our friends and explain to them that the bee is doing more than just feeding on the nectar.
  10. Watch a spider spin a web.  It is incredible!
  11. Ant farms, ladybug houses, sea monkeys!!  As my children grew up, some type of creature was usually present at our kitchen table.  An ant farm is very interesting to watch during mealtime!
  12. Sit on the side of a lake or pond, and count how many turtles stick their heads above water for air.  We just did this last night, and my daughters are 18 and 15!  My oldest is off to college next year, and the time I spent watching turtles with her is simply priceless.
  13. Save a turtle.  Our car stops for turtles.  Help them across the road, please.
  14. Children love insects.  Have your child look for insects and then identify the adaptations they possess that make them well suited for their particular environment.
  15. Go on a picnic.  Drop a piece of food on the ground and see how long it takes the ants to find it.  Watch how the ants communicate with one another to send the message back to the anthill that food is nearby.
As you can see, nature plays a huge role in our lives, both in my career as a biology teacher and in my role as a mother.  Nature is packed full of examples that we can share with our children and students.  I certainly hope that my students and daughters develop the same "awe" as I have when considering how natural selection has brought us to this point in Earth's history.  Every organism in our sight is adapted to this particular environment.  All we have to do is to look carefully at our surroundings and we will see a multitude of examples of adaptation.

Our children and our students will be responsible for making decisions about our planet in just a short number of years. We have to get them excited about nature.  We have to make sure they understand how their actions impact our planet. Our students are the future caretakers of this beautiful planet, and there is not an "app" for that.  I hope that when they are adults we will have taught them enough about science and nature that they can make informed decisions about how to take care of it.

I hope that you will visit my blog, Science Stuff, and become a follower. My blog has links to quite a few FREE products that can be fun activities for both middle and high school science students.  I hope to see you there!

Amy Brown is the author of the Science Stuff blog.  Amy has 27 years of teaching experience in high school biology, chemistry, and AP biology.  Her blog is about ways to make your class more engaging and exciting for students. Her store on Teachers Pay Teachers contains 428 listings!

All photos provided by and copyright 2011 Amy Brown.

Related Products from Teachers Pay Teachers:

Printable Beginning Readers: Sets 1, 2, and 3, $12.00

A Day at the Beach Water Cycle File Folder Game, $3.00

Caterpillar Word Game, $3.00

Ready for Summer Math and Literacy Centers, $8.00

Deluxe Summer Writing Booklet Primary Printable, $1.00

Summer Fun Activity Pack (Math and Literacy Games), $4.00

Summer Synonyms Challenge, $1.50

Nature Journal, FREE

15 Scavenger Hunts for Library, Internet, Nature, and More, $3.75

Patterns in Nature PowerPoint for Primary Grades, $3.00

Summer Adjective Activity Packet, $3.00

Biology Midterm, $15.00

Intro to Biology and Scientific Method PowerPoint, $3.00
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