Monthly Archives: August 2012

The September 2012 Simple Science Newsletter – Focus on… Observation

Follow Me on Pinterest


The September 2012 Simple Science Newsletter – “Focus on… Observation”

Simple Science Strategies — the Newsletter

Think of it as a road map to the September blogs on the Simple Science Strategies website. Or perhaps a Table of Contents. Think of it as a planning tool for your classroom, nature studies or homeschool lessons. Or even an idea-generator.

The September Simple Science Newsletter provides the science educator with a collection of focused learning tasks, links to online resources, and background information to help you prepare to teach big ideas with the simple materials you already have in the classroom.

In the September 2012 Issue:

  • The Writing Connection: Elaborative Detail
    September Science Tasks & General Instructions
    September Coupon Specials and Links
  • For Your Science Journal: Observation Page
    September Science Centers: The Nature Corner
    The Book Nook: One Small Square
    September Skill: Observation

To download a copy of this 9-page newsletter, right-click on the link, below, and click “save target as” — save the newsletter wherever you wish on your home computer or electronic device. If you’d like to share it, please direct friends and colleagues to this page, not the actual .pdf file.

Download the September 2012 Newsletter here.

If you subscribe to the Simple Science Strategies blog, you will automatically receive email notice about the October newsletter. Simply enter your email in the “Subscribe to my feed” widget in the sidebar.

For tons of extra information on observation, order my e-Book, The Gentle Art of Observation, regularly priced $10.95, which is available for the September special price of $8.95 (price good through 9/30/2012).


Use discount code = discount5 to save $5 on your $10+ purchase at

Pin It

The Gentle Art of Observation – eBook Promotion

Follow Me on Pinterest

I spend a lot of time working with teachers all over the country, talking about high-impact adult practices to help kids think, think and think some more. Many times, folks have asked me, “Why don’t you put these ideas into a book?” What an idea!



This 142-page e-Book introduces the reader to the science process skill of observation, then describes two indoor and five outdoor learning tasks that can be used to help students hone these skills. Included in this volume are explicit instructions for several strategies that build students’ observational skills, links to writing, 20 reproducibles ready for classroom use, and detailed materials lists and electronic resource links.  Great for starting off the school year, at any age!

Get a glimpse inside…

Table of Contents:


  • Focus on… Observation

The Nature Corner: Observing Nature Indoors

  • Featured Center: The Nature Corner — An Invitation to Observe
  • Class Pets and Observation

Outdoor Observations and Nature Study

  • Featured Strategy: One Small Square
  • Study 1: Ants,Termites and Ant Lions
  • Study 2: Mushrooms and Other “Fun Guys”
  • Study 3: Animal Migration
  • Study 4: Adopt-a-Plant — A Season-Long Observation Project
  • Study 5: What’s Under There?
  • Using a Hike to Generate Even More Nature Study Topics

Observing Across Content Areas

  • Writing in Science: Observation & Elaboration


  • Featured Thinking Tool: The Bubble Map (2 pages)
  • One Small Square: Printable Resources (7 pages)
  • Adopt-a-Plant: Printable Resources (3 pages)
  • “No Place Like Home” – Additional Notebooking Options for Nature Study (4 pages)
  • “An Apple a Day” — September Botany Notebooking (2012) (7 pages)

Materials List

  • Observation: Stocking Your Classroom

Helpful Resources on Observation

  • For More Information on Observation…

Buy this eBook now for the special September Newsletter price of $8.95, and receive a reply to your email address with the link to your purchase, within 24 hrs. [NOTE: After 10/1/2012, the price will return to the regular price of $10.95, available through CurrClick].

Pin It

“No Place Like Home” – Additional Notebooking Options for Nature Study

Follow Me on Pinterest

For our rotting log twist on the “One Small Square” task, I developed two notebooking pages, called “No Place Like Home.” These can be used instead of, or in addition to, any of the other printables in this e-Book, as they all focus on nature study and observation.

This journal page is a simple frame and lines for any type of written observations.

For list-making (we love making lists of things in our house), I created a simple lined page to document the types of organisms observed.

Pin It

Adopt-a-Plant: Printable Resources

Follow Me on Pinterest

This fall, we will be using the “Adopt-a-Plant” strategy for observing plant life over an extended time frame. Here are printable resources that you can download and use with any of the the Adopt-a-Plant tasks this month.

This set of journal or notebooking pages can be used in multiple ways. The frame sizes and line spacing vary. Use a different one each day to encourage more sketching, or more writing, as appropriate.

If you want to encourage data collection, choose from either of the following pages:



Pin It

Observation: Stocking Your Classroom

Follow Me on Pinterest

Materials List

Here is a summary of the materials mentioned throughout the posts on observation. Click on individual items to link to sites for more information, or for direct ordering from the supplier.


I use a variety of magnifiers in the classroom, including tiny, inexpensive magnifying glasses that you buy by the box load, large wooden-handled hand lenses for making things REALLY BIG (great for little hands), and viewing containers with built-in magnifiers, great for observing critters that kids find outside during nature walks. Here are some that are available for purchase.

Suggested Purchase:

  • class set of mini hand lenses (number them and place them in students’ individual toolboxes)
  • 5 large, hand-held lenses to place in a center
  • class set of viewing containers (store on shelf near science center)
  • 1-2 other larger viewers (e.g., bug zoos with built-in magnifiers), for novelty
  • 1 Stereoscope (optional, for elementary grades)


Jumbo Magnifier, $16.99, Barnes & Noble

National Geographic™ Outdoor Explorer Series High Sierra Eco Explorer, $19.98, Barnes & Noble


The Bug Book and Bug Bottle, $0.98, Barnes & Noble

3″ Superview Round Magnifier, $8.15, Barnes & Noble

Magnifying Glasses (wholesale), 100 ct, $100, Dollar Days

GeoSafari Talking Microscope. $39.98, HearthSong


NOTE: I have not personally used the Eco Explorer or Talking Microscopes. For the microscope, I opted for a low-end stereoscope from Carolina Biologicals, but it was an outgrown gift for one of my own children, and might be beyond what the typical classroom teacher would spend for a classroom item. Here is a link if you’re interested in a similar item.


The Bug Box was purchased for my eldest son at a church tag sale, and lasted through my two oldest kids, then 7 years of third graders. For the price listed here and the durability, you could get one for each student.

Art Response materials

I almost always purchased these at a local dollar store or at Wal-Mart. I purchased a colorful cart of bent tubing, with plastic-coated shelves, and placed baskets of art materials in the cart — our “art cart.” This art cart could be rolled around the room at will, but usually “rested” in the center of the room, for community access.

Alternatively, you could place specific items at the center, in a basket with a handle. I would purchase at least 5 of each item (to stock a center). Some items I had class sets of (paint sets). I numbered them and stored them, but each student had his own assigned set. Bear in mind that I accumulated these items over a long period of time, so you might have to purchase them a little each year.

NOTE: I have had a subscription to the Notebooking Treasury for years. You simply cannot find another source for so many pages to use for journaling and notebooking, in all subjects. A bonus for subscribers is a free tool to create your own notebooking pages, using templates and components provided by the Notebooking Treasury. See their nature study notebooking pages bundle, 292-pages for $10.95.

I also have purchased a subscription to Enchanted Learning, since I first became an elementary teacher. The subscription pays for itself quickly.


You probably have many of these items already, but, in case you’re just starting out stocking a new classroom, here is my list for this topic (links point to Dollar Days for quick purchase):

Drawing & Writing Tools

Paper Goods

  • sketch pad paper (useful for marker, charcoal and watercolor work – tear off pages and create your own student sketch journals)
  • newsprint paper (for pencil sketches) – tear off pages as needed
  • copy paper (for creating individual sketch journals – good for marker, colored pencil and sketch work)
  • Notebooking Treasury – a subscription service for downloading zillions of notebooking pages on any topic
  • Enchanted Learning – a subscription service for dowloading research, worksheets, organizers, notebooking and journaling pages on many topics



Other Tools

  • Child safety scissors (class set) [NOTE: I preferred Fiskars, which are much more expensive, but they don’t ever break]
  • Plastic knives (a box from the grocery store will do)
  • Tweezers (five, or enough for partners, or class set – the link here is a lot of 48, at $0.83/each)
  • Plastic trays or placemats (5 – I used to buy 4 sets, to go with each season, and rotate them)
  • Small cutting boards (5 – I bought them up at tag sales. An alternative: wash and save the styrofoam trays from produce and meat, and replace them as needed)
  • Erasers (class set)
  • Mini-baskets (one per group of 4 students, or one per table) – various sizes, for pencils, for small tools, and for paperwork)

Books for Your Library

Handbook of Nature Study (Anna Botsford Comstock)

Handbook of Nature Study, $17.45, Barnes & Noble

Although it is available online for free, you will want to purchase a copy of Handbook of Nature Study, by Anna Botsford Comstock (for Cornellians out there, you will recognize this author as the namesake of Comstock Hall, which was the entomology building when I was there).

There are illustrations, important scientific points, and lots and lots of questions that you can use when conducting nature studies with kids of all ages. Our copy lives on the coffee table in the living room.


Peterson’s Field Guides

There are many field guides available. We have a National Geographic Field Guide to the Birds of North America, which is organized taxonomically. This works for us, because we have been birders for many years, and can usually tell if we’re looking at a warbler, a sparrow or a finch.

However, if you are really stumped about a sighting, and need to flip through until you see a photo of the plant or animal you are observing, that’s a lot of flipping. The Peterson’s Guides come in handy for this (especially for wildflowers), because they are organized by color. Although not at all a botanically correct way to group plants, for the untrained eye, it helps you at least narrow down the choices.


Peterson’s Field Guides: Mushrooms, $21, Barnes & Noble.

One Small Square Series (Don Silver)

For this study, I focused on “Backyard,” as anyone can use that volume, anywhere. See the section on “Teaching Using the One Small Square Series” for additional titles. I had several of them in my classroom library – they were class favorites. For this unit, purchase 5 or more copies of Backyard, if using as part of a center or small reading group, or purchase a class set if used as a shared reading.  Here are some other volumes in the series (as of this writing):

  • Backyard
  • Cactus Desert
  • Cave
  • Night Sky
  • Pond
  • Swamp
  • Woods
  • African Savanna
  • Arctic Tundra
  • Coral Reef
  • Seashore

One Small Square: Backyard (Donald M. Silver), $5.46, Barnes & Noble

Pin It

For More Information on Observation…

Follow Me on Pinterest

Bennett, Kim. 2011. Follow Those Tracks! Take an Animal Tracks Quiz. Squidoo, August 1, 2011.

Bennett, Kim. 2012. Bird migration: a study of robins and other thrushes. Squidoo, July 3, 2012.

Bennett, Kim. 2012. Describing using a bubble map. Simple Science Strategies, July 29, 2012.

Bennett, Kim. 2012. Focus on … observation. Simple Science Strategies, August 7, 2012.

Bennett, Kim. 2012. How to teach everything through nature: Connecticut’s Beardsley Zoo. Squidoo, July 28, 2012.

Bennett, Kim. 2012. Science skills: Making observations and asking questions like a scientist. Squidoo, July 28, 2012.

Bennett, Kim. 2012. The Nature Corner — an invitation to observe. Simple Science Strategies, July 31, 2012.

Bennett, Kim. 2012. One Small Square on Pinterest. Pinterest, 2012. [Links to 50+ websites and resources using One Small Square: Backyard]

Bennett, Kim. 2012. The power of observation: life in a tiny ecosystem. Squidoo, July

Bennett, Kim. 2012. Science Projects on Pinterest. Pinterest, 2012.

Bennett, Kim. 2012. Simple Science Strategies on Pinterest. Pinterest, 2012.

Braun, Dieter. 2012. 15 foods you can regrow from scraps. Indian in the Machine, July 21, 2012.

Comstock, Anna Botsford. 1911. Handbook of Nature Study. Comstock Publishing Co., Ithaca (NY). 887 pages. (link to free e-Book)

Conley, Gregory. 2011. Dry brush watercolor tutorial. Watercolor

Cornerstones of Science. 2012. [reviews of books for use in science instruction, for elementary, high school and adult students]

Department of Elementary and Secondary Special Populations (Arlington Independent School District). 2012. Welcome to Thinking Maps (c). AISD Dept. of Special Populations (accessed August 18, 2012).

Dowton, G. 1930. The charm of nature study. The Parents’ Review.

Fulbright, Jeannie. 2012. Exploring Creation With Botany, notebooking pages. (accessed August 23, 2012).

Homeschool Notebooking, 2011. Free pages. Homeschool Notebooking.

MacBeth, Derham. 2012. Nature study. MacBeth’s Opinion (accessed August 18, 2012)

McCoy, Barbara. 2008. Outdoor Hour Challenge #9: One Small Square. Handbook of Nature Study, April 10, 2008.

McCoy, Barbara. 2009. How to make a plant press. Handbook of Nature Study, March 19, 2009.

McCoy, Barbara. 2011. Spring nature study ideas. Squidoo (accessed August 23, 2012).

McCoy, Barbara. 2012. Colors and surprises in the late July garden.   Handbook of Nature Study, July 31, 2012.

McCoy, Barbara. 2012. Gardening projects for kids — growing your own little gardener. Handbook of Nature Study, August 7, 2012.

McCoy, Barbara. 2012. OHC more nature study, book #4 — Monarch butterflies. Handbook of Nature Study, July 27, 2012.

Melissa, 2012. Nature at home: four ways to bring nature indoors. Simple Homemade, July 23, 2012.

National Research Council, 2012. A Framework for K-12 Science Education: Practices, Cross-Cutting Concepts and Core Ideas. The National Academies Press (Washington, DC): 400 pages. (link to summary here, link to ordering information for full document here)

Padilla, Michael J. 1990. The science process skills. Research Matters — to the Science Teacher (No. 9004). National Association for Research in Science Teaching, March 1, 1990.

Play at Home Mom, LLC. 2012. The “Invitation.”  Play at Home Mom LLC. January 11, 2012.

Pin It

One Small Square: Printable Resources

Follow Me on Pinterest

Here are some handy resources you can print out for use with this strategy:


Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...Pin It