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Science Inquiry and Science Notebooking

A look into a science notebook... 

Many districts provide hands-on science kits to help teach science through a hands-on, inquiry based approach. While all the kits are a great resource, I particularly enjoy our electricity unit. From creating a filament to testing out conductors and inductors, we record our thoughts and observations through science notebooking. If you are not familiar with these kits, I'd like to share a sample of videos, pictures, and writings from our current electricity kit. I have also included a slide show of a student's science notebook for you to view.

Hands-On Kit Basics:

If you are not familiar with the hands-on science kits, ours comes from Carolina Biological Supply Company.  There are six kits available, leaving time for one kit every six weeks. Before you receive a kit, you must go through a one time training session (for each kit) after school. This means you get to play with the kit and experience the lessons as a student.

Some kits I look forward to more than others. I don't jump for joy when the large bag of millipedes (uck) comes in, but I do admit the interest is high for students. So far we have learned about:

  • habitats and scientific observation with Fiddler crabs, frogs, and millipedes
  • experimented with simple machines such as pulleys, levers, and wheel and axles
  • learned about electricity by building circuits and filaments, testing inductors and conductors, and learning about series and parallel lighting
  • we will learn about erosion, sediment, and water through our next kit.

So, my student teacher and I created a mini two week electricity unit- cutting down the provided 16 lessons into 10. Here are some of the lessons shown through video, photos, and science notebooking.

Electricity Overview: KWL Chart. It Grew Throughout the Unit.

Electricity chart

Throughout the unit, the last few minutes were spent reflecting on what we still wanted to know and what we learned. As you can see, there were a lot of questions and learning going on.

Lesson: Building a Circuit

This is a simple, but needed, hands-on experiment. The nice thing about having a science kit is that all the resources are provided for you. No late night trips to the grocery store needed.

Lesson: What is Inside a Light-bulb? How Many D Batteries Does it Take to Light a Bulb?

Answer: 15-17, depending. I was told by another teacher that it can take up to 60 D batteries to fully light a 60 watt bulb. Wow.

Lighting a lightbulb with "D" batteries 

For this lesson, students first investigated inside of a light-bulb, labeled the parts, and predicted/ tested how many D batteries it would take to light a 60 watt bulb. The picture is dark because we had to turn off the lights.

Lesson: Conductors and Inductors

For this session, students were asked to build a basic circuit and use various items to test whether it is a conductor or inductor. Most students predicted metals would be conductors, but many were surprised that this is not always the case. The shocker was discovering how a lead pencil could be a conductor or insulator, depending on where you place the wires.

Lesson: Creating a Filament

Creating a filament in class 

Here a student works with creating a filament. We were unsure it was working until we felt the heat. Another student used a strand of hair to test it. Needless to say, the room smelled bad. Very bad. All in the name of science.

Lesson: Series and Parallel Lighting

Watch a clip on series lighting 

Series Circuit above. Click on the photo to view a clip on this.

Click on the photo to view a clip on parallel lighting 

Parallel lighting above. Click on the photo to view a clip on this.

An Extension: Which will last longer-The series or parallel lighting? We are still testing this out right now.

Which circuit will last longer?

A Closer Look at Science Notebooking 

Click on the photo to get a look inside a science notebook 

Click on the photo above to look at each page in a science notebook. This will allow you to view many pages inside a student's science notebook.

One of the great benefits of starting a science notebook is the modeling of nonfiction text structures. Students keep up with a written table of contents, glossary, drawn charts, headings, labeling, etc. It's a hidden reading and writing lesson all on its own. Of course, the other benefit would be valuing inquiry through observing and recording.

Here is the book that is encouraged by our science coordinator:


The book is available under Heinemann here.

To learn more about our class, visit us at www.bar.rcs.k12.tn.us/teachers/bunyia/bunyihome.html


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I really feel lucky to have this great resource in our county. It all started with one teacher...she pitched her idea and read up about it. Now she is our science coordinator for the county and does all the science kit training for new teachers. Maybe you can do some investigating as well. :)

www.carolina.com is the site where we purchase the science kits. I am actually ordering some medical supplies from them next week on my own. Pig hearts, pig lungs, sheep brains, cow eyes, and owl pellets...you've got to read my next Scholastic unit. It is going to be a blast!


Brooke W.

This is great, but how does your county afford the kits? I don't think our school could afford this, but I think it is a wonderful resource for learning. I am thinking this could be a good grant idea...

Brooke Walker

Comments are closed. Please see Classroom Solutions, our new blog for the 2009-2010 school year. And stay tuned for Teaching Matters with Angela Bunyi and Beth Newingham.

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Disclaimer: The opinions expressed in Inside Angela's 4th Grade Classroom are strictly those of the author and do not reflect the opinions or endorsement of Scholastic, Inc.