Category Archives: Life Sciences

Apple Botany: “An Apple a Day” Notebooking Pages

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Apple Nature Study for September … and Beyond!

{First published 7/26/12… Revised 9/5/16}

September is for apple picking… Here in New England, the days are still summer-y, but the nights are cool and crisp. And doesn’t it seem like the skies are getting bluer? You might see that the leaves on most of the trees are still be green, but, in the foothills, the red maples are just starting to color up.

You likely are still trying to get some outdoor time with your kids. So I have a great set of notebooking pages to go along with your nature studies this month!

science strategies apple botany

In New England, autumn brings out fall colors… and apple picking! {Photo credit: (c) Kim M. Bennett, 2010}

What’s in “An Apple a Day?”

This collection of botany journaling pages focuses on the structure of the apple blossom and the formation of the fruit. The 20-page set includes both primary and regular-lined pages, so it is suitable for grades K-4. The detailed botanical drawings show both a simple fruit cross-section, as well as the parts of the apple flower and fruit.

In addition to the above diagrams, this e-book also has pages for vocabulary work, free writing and so much more! For example, you can use the blank illustration pages, as well as a variety of frames and lined pages, for a variety of science journaling, laboratory response and writing activities. Furthermore, you can customize your set by printing out only the pages that you want.

Click on the images below for views of some of the pages of this 20-page set.

You can download this e-book ~ just click on the “Buy Now” button below the banner. Then, we will send a link for the download, to the email you give on the order form, within 24 hours of receipt of your payment. Thank you!

http://simplesciencestrategies apple botany


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Power Thinking: Concept Mapping in Smart Notebook 2015

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Powerful Thinking… Powerful Learning

When we teach, we want students to learn. The more we can get them to think about the content we are presenting, the deeper and longer-lasting their learning becomes. In this post, we will explore Power Thinking, a concept mapping and outlining strategy that helps students organize information. concept mapping

Power Thinking: a great concept mapping and outlining strategy for all ages. {Image via Creative Commons}

What is Power Thinking?

Power Thinking is a strategy that students use to organize information, much like you would do in an outline. The most important piece of information, the title or topic, represents Level 1; main ideas are Level 2; other ideas or details become Level 3. Additional levels may be added, depending on the topic or the age of your students. For some students, the information can be color-coded by level, or the ideas can be numbered.

In the Power Thinking strategy, students stand in a circle in an open floor space and take turns placing pieces of information on the floor, building the map one piece at a time. When students run out of information to add, they may move one piece to another part of the map. In my classes, I usually conduct two rounds with information, then two rounds moving information, before ending the task.

The trick to Power Thinking is that the task is performed silently. This allows students who need more think time to process without classmates calling out answers or giving advice. It also requires students to think more deeply as they wait.

The Learning Benefits of Power Thinking

As with any concept mapping activity, Power Thinking helps students think about the many ways they can connect information, leading to a deeper understanding of the topic being studied. The hierarchical thinking that is used also helps students understand main ideas and supporting details. Older students can use this thinking to take better notes.

Power Thinking assists a wide range of learners, providing multiple entry points for the students in your class. The ability to stand and physically move items helps students who need a more active learning environment. Color cues, when used, aid in identifying levels of information, and help some students remember the levels later. Because there are many ways to connect pieces of information, students who are divergent thinkers are able to participate equitably, as well.

Concept Mapping Technology

Thanks to the plethora of educational technologies available in most classrooms today, students can practice concept mapping on many electronic devices. In this post, we will explore the use of the Smart Board and Smart Notebook 2015 software as concept mapping tools to use in Power Thinking.

Concept Mapping Using Smart Notebook 2015

The newest version of Smart Notebook includes built-in tools for concept mapping on your Smart Board.  Follow the steps below to make your Power Thinking Activity high-tech.

Before you teach:

  • Step 1. Open Smart Notebook 2015.
  • Step 2. Click the new concept mapping tool on the top tool bar. concept mapping

Smart Notebook 2015 includes a new concept mapping tool in the main tool bar.

  • Step 3. Prepare term cards for students. On notecards or pieces of sentence strip, write the terms and phrases that you want students to use in the concept mapping activity. {A practice set on bird eggs is included for your convenience.}

Power thinking:

  • Step 4. Pass out term cards to students. Each student should have at least two cards. Adjust the number of terms to match your class size.
  • Step 5. Students begin mapping. One at a time, students come to the board and create a map item by writing the term on their card, and circling it. Circling it causes the term to become a movable item on the Smart Board.
  • Step 6. Students connect items on the map. As students place their terms on the map, they can drag them to other terms and connect them by drawing a line between related items.
  • Step 7. Students move items. Once all the terms are on the board, continue with 1-2 additional rounds, allowing students to move one item to a new location, erasing and redrawing connections.

After teaching:

After the learning task is finished, you may save and print your concept map. Power Thinking can be repeated after instruction of key parts of the topic, and can also be used as a summative assessment after instruction is completed.

For an exciting collaborative twist on concept mapping, see the video, below, where students collaborate to build a concept map of words and photos using their individual mobile devices and the classroom Smart Board.

Get Mapping!

I hope you enjoy this concept mapping tutorial for use with your Smart Board. Happy mapping!

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The Science of Fruit Ripening

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Plant Senescence (Aging and Ripening)

Kitchen Counter science


Are you looking for an easy-to-do experiment on plant growth regulators?

Check out this experiment on the role of the plant hormone, ethylene, in fruit ripening, that you can conduct right on the kitchen table or lab counter. Very few materials, and the learning can be applied to many other contexts.


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NEW Amphibian Nature Study — and a Spring Give-away!

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Spring showers have meant the arrival of amphibians in Connecticut. See our sister site, A Child’s Garden, for a blog post on the study of amphibians, emphasizing survey as an ecological study technique, and the use of approximate measures when recording observations of animals in the field.

See “Studying Amphibians in the Field: Using Approximate Measures” for more information, and a spring give-away of two great e-Books with science journaling resources and nature study ideas.

Or enter using the Rafflecopter form, below:

a Rafflecopter giveaway


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Animal and Plant Surveys: 10 Reasons to Get Outside and Survey

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What’s a Survey?

Simply stated, a survey is an overview of the living things in an area. The purpose of a survey is to get a general idea of the types of living things in that area, a step in scientific inquiry that will then (likely) lead to more focused questions about the living things there.

A simple table can be used to survey living things in your location. (c) Simple Science Strategies, 2013.

Why Conduct a Survey?

An animals survey can be a powerful, yet simple, outdoor-based learning task. With only a few minutes a day, several big scientific and educational ideas can be addressed:

  1. For students (and teachers) new to nature study, a survey provides an easy focus for outdoor excursions.
  2. Completing the survey allows students to practice collecting, organizing and interpreting data — an important science and numeracy skill.
  3. Using an organized list to answer a question is an important problem-solving strategy.
  4. Students working together with one clipboard and survey fosters discourse on scientific thinking.
  5. Conducting a series of observations on the same focus guides students to look for patterns over time.
  6. Looking for a particular type of living thing helps students hone their observation skills.
  7. Exposure to nature on a regular basis can engage learners, especially those who don’t have the opportunity to get outside often.
  8. Increasing students’ activity level by the inclusion of outdoor studies can fight childhood obesity.
  9. Working with a table of data gives students practice in using non-fiction text features – an important literacy skill.
  10. Gathering initial observations and data is an important step in both the inquiry and engineering design processes. nature study

Surveys naturally lead to the use of field guides — a staple in a science library.

Sample Animal Surveys

The above survey sheet can be used for amphibian surveys. or a generic animal survey can be used.

For examples of nature studies involving animal surveys, please click on the links, below:




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Zoology Lesson Plans and Links!

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Exploring Creation with Zoology 

I just posted a NEW schedule for Exploring Creation with Zoology 1: Flying Creatures of the Fifth Day (Apologia Science). In our house, we worked out a daily schedule that allows us to do more nature study (Outdoor Hour Challenges), expand the experiments and hands-on portions, and do more independent work outside.

Check it out on A Child’s Garden… Better yet, follow my nature study blog for updates directly to your inbox.

Coming Soon…

Next up: Lesson 1 (“What is Zoology?”) Resources

  • Unwrapped Common Core State Standards for English Language Arts and Mathematics, to match the lesson content;
  • Connections to the Next Generation Science Standards (2nd Draft)
  • Extra notebooking pages we created that we’d like to share
  • Links to online resources and videos, and more!


Stay tuned!



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New England Stone Walls: A Photo Scavenger Hunt

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What is Comprehension?

Recently, I was in a first grade classroom, where the teacher was introducing a non-fiction text about the desert. He began by asking the students to share what they already knew about the desert. The students’ responses were sparse, and not very encouraging to the teacher.

So we took back the readers, passed out big pieces of drawing paper and art supplies, and asked the kids to draw everything they knew about the desert, THEN tell us, instead. The results (in pictures and words) were phenomenal: camels, oases, chameleons, dust devils, heat waves from the sun, and many other details that the students could not articulate before drawing. We were astounded at what these 6-year-olds knew about deserts.

What does this tell us?

This tells us that, in order to understand something, we have to first envision it in our minds, and (sometimes) in front of us. It also tells us that many students can envision something well before they can talk about it.

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