Sunday, July 29, 2012

Lesson on Saturn Followed by a Fun Craft For Kids

An educational lesson followed by a craft activity that ties in really helps the lesson to sink in.  On the topic of planets, here is a fun group activity I presented this summer to a class of ages 2.5 through 6.  For this activity, I flipped through library books to show the children imagery of the real Saturn. I explained how things aren't always what they seem to be in a far-away picture and by taking a closer look, we can see that Saturn's rings aren't solid and that they are made up of ice chunks, rocks, dust, and so forth.

This activity focuses on a close-up of Saturn's rings.  The children enjoyed cutting up "ice chunks, rocks and dust particles" out of strips of craft paper.  

You may have to prepare a few things before the children can begin:

Cut out circles from construction paper, about the size of an outer rim of a soup bowl.  Then cut out an elipse shape that is about the entire length of a piece of construction paper.  Fold the elipse in half, and cut a slit from the center fold, 2 or 3 inches down.  Open it up and make sure one of the circles can fit through it (see image below) Cut out a couple of long strips of scrap paper with a width a little less than an inch.  We used some funky animal print paper to make things colorful and abstract.  I rarely measure things out and just cut things out freehand, so hopefully the images help!  Below, I added glue ahead of time, but you can always have the kids do that as well.  

Offer scissors to each child to cut the strips into "ice chunks, rocks and dust," or simply tell them to tear the paper up if they are not quite ready for scissors yet.  Have them place their chunks on the glued surface of the ellipse, offer colored pencils and/or chalk for Saturn, then slide it half way through the ellipse, add some glue or tape to keep it in place and there you have it.

The kids had lots of fun trying to make their planet look original by using different colored scraps and construction paper.  If you want to teach some more basics about Saturn and any other planets, here is a great kids site that I recently came across: 

Pattern Dice Game for Ages 4 and Up. Easy to make!

I came up with this game for kids in the classroom who have shown interest in playing with dice and counting numbers.  It is a fun two player game where each child takes turns rolling dice of two different colors that color coordinate with small tiles to ultimately make a pattern of colors on a grid.  This is a great game that is not competitive as each child works together to create a colorful and original design or pattern on the grid.

What You Need:
-2 to 3 different colored sets of tiles or chips, 10 to 20 of each color
-2 or 3 dice, each matching in color of a set of tiles or chips.
-A ruler
-A pencil and pen
-A piece of paper
-A durable board of your choice (you could use cork board, cardboard, masonite, etc.)
-A container to hold the tiles in
-A small tray to roll the dice in
-Optional: 2 popsicle sticks
-Optional- Clear tape or laminate paper
-Optional: A piece of fabric such as felt to put on the tray so that the dice will settle nicely when rolled

How To Prepare:
Randomly Lay out all of the tiles a piece of paper to make a square or rectangular shaped grid.  I made a rectangular grid by placing 5 rows of 8 tiles, like the sample below.  You may use all of the pieces, or leave some out.  It won't make a big difference in the game.

Make marks and measurements with the pencil and ruler, remove the tiles and draw up your grid.  You can use a pen or sharpie to draw over the pencil marks when you are done.  If you don't want to trace over your pencil marks, you can always put clear tape or laminate paper over top of it, so it doesn't get smudged.  Cut your grid out, glue and center it on your durable board.

How To Play:
The first child rolls the two (or three) colored dice and drops them on the tray.  Without flipping the dice over, the child may carefully place each dice next to each other in the top corner of the tray or on the surface area beside the tray (Optional: you can offer a separate tray for the dice).  He or she may then count out the amount of tiles that matches the color and number each dice.  They may place these tiles anywhere they wish on the grid.  A popsicle stick may be used to help straighten out their tiles on the board.  It is now the next child's turn.  Repeat the above steps until the entire grid is filled up.

My students like me to take pictures of their pattern art when they have finished a session, and enjoy seeing their original images later.  To keep things fresh, you can add more dice or change the colors of the tiles/shape of the grid.  You may also add players to this game to change things up.  If you try this out, please let me know if you have any questions or if you found something that worked better for you!