Connecting with the Night Sky: Activities for Spring

Of the many ways Earth is polluted, light pollution may be the least talked about. Defined as excessive or obtrusive artificial light, light pollution has consequences. It can wash out starlight in the night sky, interfere with astronomical research, disrupt ecosystems, have adverse health effects, and waste energy.

Take a moment to watch this short film that shows how the view of the cosmos gets better in less light-polluted areas.

I would also argue that light pollution causes many students to develop misconceptions. These misconceptions arise because we often fail to provide children with the time and opportunity to simply observe the night sky. After all, if you live in a metropolitan area, it does take some planning and a little driving to get out of the city.

How many young children today realize that during the course of a year, our view of the night sky changes from month to month? Some constellations are always in the sky, while others appear and disappear over different regions. How many children – or adults for that matter – can explain the rotation and revolution of our nearest celestial neighbor, our moon?

If you would like to learn more about common misconceptions in science, read my my five-part series.

image of a book laying open to show the constellations visible in March

The Night Sky Each Month

Early in our homeschool journey I read the works of Charlotte Mason. Her words, particularly in regards to the natural world resonated with me,  “We are all meant to be naturalists, each in his own degree, and it is inexcusable to live in a world so full of the marvels of plant and animal life and to care for none of these things.” 

With her words in mind, I have always tried to provide my children with ample time in the outdoors and to develop their observational skills. I also love living books that guide them on their discoveries. One of my favorite for astronomy is The Night Sky Month by Month.  This book, written by Will Gater and Giles Sparrow, shows the sky as it is seen around the world in both the northern and southern hemispheres. It is the perfect guide for amateur astronomers – the illustrated pictures and monthly sky guides will help you recognize patterns and track changes in the each hemisphere.

Another great story that will delight younger readers is The Moon Over Star which puts the historic moon landing into historical perspective through the eyes of a child.

Astronomical Events for Spring 2019

Charlotte Mason and I would encourage you to get outside and observe the night sky year round. Encourage your child to begin documenting his or her observations by keeping a moon journal. Sketch the appearance of the moon each night and note the location it is visible in they sky. To get you started, here are a few key events this spring.

March Equinox ~ The March equinox occurs on March 20th whereupon the Sun will shine directly on the equator and there will be nearly equal amounts of day and night throughout the world. This is also the first day of spring (vernal equinox) in the Northern Hemisphere and the first day of fall (autumnal equinox) in the Southern Hemisphere.

Worm Moon ~ This full moon phase occurs on March 21st and was known by early Native American tribes as the Full Worm Moon because this was the time of year when the ground would begin to soften and the earthworms would reappear. This is also the last of three super moons for 2019. The Moon will be at its closest approach to the Earth and may look slightly larger and brighter than usual.

Mercury at Greatest Western Elongation ~ The planet Mercury reaches greatest western elongation of 27.7 degrees from the Sun on April 11th. This is the best time to view Mercury since it will be at its highest point above the horizon in the morning sky. Look for the planet low in the eastern sky just before sunrise.

Fish Moon ~ The Moon will be located on the opposite side of the Earth as the Sun and its face will be will be fully illuminated.  Early Native American tribes called this full moon the Full Pink Moon because it marked the appearance of wild ground phlox, which is one of the first spring flowers. Many coastal tribes called it the Full Fish Moon because this was the time that the shad swam upstream to spawn.

Lyrids Meteor Shower ~ The Lyrids is an average shower, usually producing about 20 meteors per hour at its peak. It is produced by dust particles left behind by comet C/1861 G1 Thatcher, which was discovered in 1861. The shower runs annually from April 16-25. These meteors can sometimes produce bright dust trails that last for several seconds. Meteors will radiate from the constellation Lyra, but can appear anywhere in the sky.

You might also be interested in my earlier post, Autumn Astronomy Activities for Middle School

Eta Aquarids Meteor Shower ~ The Eta Aquarids is capable of producing up to 60 meteors per hour at its peak in the Southern Hemisphere and about 30 meteors per hour in the Northern Hemisphere. It is produced by dust particles left behind by comet Halley, which has been known and observed since ancient times. The shower runs annually from April 19 to May 28. Meteors will radiate from the constellation Aquarius, but can appear anywhere in the sky.

Blue Moon ~ This full moon will appear on May 18th and was known by early Native American tribes as the Full Flower Moon because this was the time of year when spring flowers appeared in abundance. There are normally only three full moons in each season; a fourth full moon occurs only happens once every 2.7 years, giving rise to the term, “once in a blue moon.”

Nature Book Club

Welcome to the Nature Book Club Monthly Link Up. Devoted to connecting children to nature, the monthly link up will begin on the 20th day of each month. We welcome your nature book and activity related links. Read on for more details.

The Nature Book Club is brought to you by these nature loving bloggers which are your co-hosts. Are you following them? If you don’t want to miss anything, be sure to follow each one.

Here are the co-hosts, their choices of books, and activities for February 2019:

Stargazing with Children by Thaleia at Something 2 Offer

The Rocket That Flew To Mars Online Book Club by Dachelle at Hide The Chocolate

Along Came Galileo Telescope Craft by Emily at TableLifeBlog

If You Decide to Go to the Moon Phases Activity by Karyn at Teach Beside Me

The Night Sky Events for Spring 2019 by Eva Varga at EvaVarga

Follow the Drinking Gourd Free Unit Study Resources by Jenny at Faith & Good Works

Party Rules

Choose an engaging nature book, do a craft or activity, and add your post to our monthly link up.
The link up party goes live at 9:00 a.m. EST on the 20th of each month and stays open until 11:59 p.m. EST on the last day of the month. Hurry to add your links!
You can link up to 3 posts. Please do not link up advertising posts, advertise other link up parties, your store, or non-related blog posts. These posts are removed.
By linking up with us, you agree for us to share your images and give you credit of course if we feature your posts. That’s it.


Seashells on the Sea Shore: The Geological Contributions of Mary Anning

Imagine for a moment, it is the year 1844 and you’re walking down Broad Street in the small coastal town of Lyme Regis on the southern shore of England. Your eyes are drawn to a window of a cottage. Treasures lay on the other side of the glass: coiled ammonite shells long since turned to stone, sea shells carefully arranged in a pattern, and in the center sits the petrified skull of a long-snouted sea reptile with pointed teeth and huge eyes. A sign above the door reads Anning’s Fossil Depot.

This small shop of curiosities was owned by a remarkable woman of her time, Mary Anning. She spent her life collecting the Jurassic-era fossils displayed throughout the small shop, simultaneously providing for her family and unlocking the secrets of Lyme Regis’s ancient past. Today, her shop is a museum.

image of Mary Anning's Plesiosaurus fossil discovery

Born into poverty in a society famed for its class consciousness, the savvy businesswoman defied the odds to become one of the world’s most important scientific figures.

Paleontologist Mary Anning was an impressive fossil hunter who discovered the first articulated plesiosaur and was among the first to identify fossilized poop or coprolite. However, like many females scientists, her male contemporaries had a frustrating way of swiping credit from her.

Short Biography of Mary Anning

Born on the 21st of May 1799, Mary Anning was an English fossil collector and paleontologist. She became known around the world for important finds she made in the fossil beds along the seaside cliffs of the English Channel at Lyme Regis in Southwest England. Her findings contributed to important changes in scientific thinking about prehistoric life and the history of the Earth.

By the late 18th century, Lyme Regis had become a popular seaside resort and many locals supplemented their income by selling what were called “curios” to visitors. These were fossils with colorful local names such as “snake-stones” (ammonites), “devil’s fingers” (belemnites), and “verteberries” (vertebrae). Fossil collecting was a hobby shared by many and it gradually transformed into a science as the importance of fossils to geology and biology was understood.

Mary Anning painting

Painting credited to ‘Mr. Grey’ in Crispin Tickell’s book ‘Mary Anning of Lyme Regis’ (1996) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

Her father was a cabinetmaker who supplemented his income by mining the coastal cliff-side fossil beds near the town, and selling his finds to tourists. He married Mary “Molly” Moore in 1793 and together had ten children, though only Mary and one brother, Joseph, survived to adulthood. Their father, Richard, often took Mary and Joseph on fossil-hunting expeditions. Mary continued to support herself through fossil hunting as she grew older. 

While scouring the beach in early December 1823, she came upon a fossilized skull that was like nothing she’d seen before. The majority of the skulls she had previously found belonged to Icthyosaurs; they were long and narrow, a bit like the heads of dolphins or crocodiles.

This skull, on the other hand, was small, beady-eyed, and had a mouthful of strange, needle-shaped teeth. Calling upon nearby villagers for assistance, Anning carefully unearthed the rest of the mystery creature’s body. Attached to a stout torso and broad pelvis were four flippers and a diminutive tail. The long neck was the most peculiar feature, however, accounting for nearly half of the 9-foot creature’s length.

She wrote to a colleague describing her discovery (see a page from her letter below) and her place in the scientific community was sealed, though many of her peers were initially skeptical. In fact, at a Geological Society of London meeting the following year, Reverend William Conybeare (a fellow paleontologist) stole the show with a well-received presentation on the nearly complete Plesiosaurus from Lyme Regis. He also published a paper featuring detailed original illustrations of the specimen. However, neither his presentation nor his paper mentioned Anning and he initially stole credit for the discovery.

Over time, Anning’s discoveries became key pieces of evidence for extinction. Her work also became well known in literary circles as well; Charles Dickens wrote of his admiration of her 18 years after her passing. Legend has it the children’s rhyme, “She Sells Seashells”, is also a tribute to her work:

She sells seashells on the sea shore.
The shells she sells are seashells, I’m sure.
And if she sells seashells on the sea shore,
Then I’m sure she sells seashore shells.

Anning died from breast cancer at the age of 47 on the 9th of March 1847. Admirably, when the Geologic Society learned of her diagnosis, its members began raising money to cover her medical expenses. Later, her funeral was paid for by the society which also financed a stained-glass window dedicated to her memory that now sits at St. Michael’s Parish Church in Lyme Regis.

Bring it Home – Lessons from Mary Anning

Nature journals are as valuable a learning tool today as they were in earlier centuries. The image below comes from a letter written in 1823 by Mary Anning describing her discovery of what would be identified as a Plesiosaurus. Mary Anning Plesiosaurus

Visit a local natural history museum and create a nature journal entry on one of the specimens on display. Inquire with the staff about the process and care involved in curating skeletal specimens.

Participate in a fossil walk.

Begin your own collection of fossils.

If possible, visit the Natural History Museum in London or the museum in Lyme Regis.  We recently had this opportunity when we traveled to England in 2017. Here you can learn more about the pioneering work of Mary Anning and see some of the most complete fossils of prehistoric sea animals, including ichthyosaurs and plesiosaurs. Plus, look out for the skeleton cast of the giant ground sloth, a land mammal often mistaken for a dinosaur.

Novelist Tracy Chevalier (author of The Girl with the Pearl Earring) has made a career of bringing history to life. Chevalier’s newest novel is called Remarkable Creatures centers around the life of Mary Anning. The novel introduces readers to Mary’s unlikely champion, Elizabeth Philpot, a middle-class woman who shares her passion for scouring the beaches. Their relationship strikes a delicate balance between fierce loyalty, mutual appreciation, and barely suppressed envy, but ultimately turns out to be their greatest asset. Based on real characters, I found the story interesting. I was moved to realize just how difficult it must have been to persevere with the social obstacles she encountered in her time.

Visit my Science Milestones page to learn more about scientists whose discoveries and advancements have made a significant difference in our lives or who have advanced our understanding of the world around us.

Anticipating the 2017 Solar Eclipse: Activities & Lessons for Middle School

On August 21, 2017, Oregon will be the first to see the total eclipse of the Sun. This much anticipated solar eclipse will be visible across much of the United States. I first learned of this rare occurrence a year ago and quickly made plans to be sure we would be in the path.

Solar Eclipse 2017We purchased tickets to attend OMSI’s Eclipse Party at the Salem Fairgrounds and attempted to make hotel reservations in the area to no avail. We have thereby fallen back on a backup plan – staying with family in Eugene and driving up. I fear, however, that the road will be so congested we won’t reach our destination.

Anticipating the 2017 solar eclipse, I am delighted to share with you a number of lessons and activities with which you can engage your middle school students.

About the Solar Eclipse

A total solar eclipse is when the moon moves right in front of the sun, covering it completely for a very short time. It darkens the whole sky, lets you look right at the sun, and shows you the beautiful corona that surrounds the sun. Stars come out, the horizon glows with a 360-degree sunset, the temperature drops, and day turns into night.

Only look at the sun when it is 100% covered. You must use special solar viewing glasses whenever the sun isn’t completely eclipsed or it may cause irreparable eye damage.

The umbra (fully shaded inner region of a shadow) will hit the shores of Oregon at 10:15:53 am PDT near the small town of Otter Rock. From the time the shadow first touches land, it will take only two minutes for the shadow to race eastward. As the eclipse passes over the state, cities will experience various lengths of totality based on their varying distances from the centerline. At the Oregon State Fairgrounds, we will be treated to one minute and 53 seconds of shadow at just after 10:17am.

The eclipse will continue across the United States where Illinois will experience the longest eclipse duration at two minutes and 41 seconds. South Carolina will be the last state to witness the eclipse and the final shadow will be over the Atlantic Ocean near the west coast of Africa. See a map of the full eclipse path.

Solar Eclipse

Three Types of Eclipses

Solar eclipses occur during the new moon phase when the Moon moves between the Earth and the Sun and the three celestial bodies form a straight line, Earth-Moon-Sun. There are three kinds of solar eclipses, Annular, Partial, and Total. On even more rare occasions, a hybrid eclipse occurs when there is a combination of two.

Annular Eclipse

An annular eclipse occurs when the Moon covers the Sun’s center, yet the moon’s shadow doesn’t quite reach the Earth. The Sun’s visible outer edges thus form a “ring of fire” or annulus around the Moon. The ring of fire marks the maximum stage of an annular solar eclipse.

We have been fortunate to observe an eclipse in the past. In 2012, we enjoyed an annular eclipse near Red Bluff, California.

Partial Eclipse

A partial eclipse, which are visible to a greater number of people due to its wider path, occurs when the Moon comes between the Sun and the Earth, but they don’t align in a perfectly straight line and thus the Moon only partially covers the Sun’s disc. A Partial Eclipse can be seen on either side of the path of totality where the moon doesn’t completely cover the sun.

Total Eclipse

A total solar eclipse occurs when the Moon comes between the Sun and Earth and completely covers the face of the sun, letting the sun’s magnificent corona burst into view, and casts the darkest part of the shadow (the Umbra) on Earth. In this shadow, the Earth is almost as dark as night.

Check out the 2017 Solar Eclipse explainer video we created with mysimpleshow.

Hybrid Eclipse

A hybrid solar eclipse occurs when the eclipse changes from an annular eclipse to a total eclipse along the path of the moon as it rotates about the Earth.

Solar Eclipse 2017Bring it Home – Solar Eclipse Resources

◉ NASA’s Eclipse 2017 guide and information by NOAA Portland 2017 Solar Eclipse

Solar Eclipse for Beginners: General information on the science of a solar eclipse

◉ NASA’s Scientific Visualization Studio Eclipse Gallery: Scientifically accurate visualizations of solar eclipses including position of the Earth, Moon, and Sun, and path of the Moon’s shadow from different perspectives.

Shadow and Substance: A simulation for Oregon showing where totality and partial phases can be viewed.

NASA Eclipse Simulation: Students discover relative relationships between the Sun, Earth, and Moon, and how the Moon can eclipse the Sun.

NASA Wavelength: A full spectrum of NASA resources for Earth and space science education.

Explore the Earth’s geometrical relation to the sun by calculating where the sun will be in the sky for any date or time given a particular location on Earth.

Eclipse in a Different Light: A Sun-Earth Day page for educators presented by NASA.

◉ In 1715, Edmond Halley published a map predicting the time and path of a coming solar eclipse.

◉ If you are a Scout, you won’t want to miss the opportunity to earn the BSA 2017 Solar Eclipse patch.

  • Cub Scouts: Discuss what a solar eclipse is with your leaders.
  • Boy Scouts and Varsity Scouts: Draw a diagram of the positions of the moon, earth, and sun to show how the solar eclipse occurs.
  • Venturers: Research Sir Arthur Stanley Eddington’s 1919 experiment and discuss how it confirmed Einstein’s theory of general relativity.

Science with Harry Potter: Alchemy, Astronomy, & Divination (Geology)

Science with Harry Potter: Alchemy @EvaVarga.net Alchemy 

Alchemy is an elective taught at Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry concerning the study of the four basic elements, as well as the study of the transmutation of substances. It is intimately connected with potion-making and chemistry but for purposes of clarity, this post will focus on transformation of rocks and minerals.

I’m particularly interested in Transfiguration, you know, turning something into something else, of course, it’s supposed to be very difficult.” —Hermione Granger regarding transformation

There are many myths and legends about the formation of the rocks of the Earth or about the rocks themselves. Every culture has its own beliefs about specific stones and those beliefs are often tied to that culture’s history, geography, and spiritual practices.

For this class students are required to become familiar with the many magical properties of common stones. Begin by writing the definitions for igneous, metamorphic, and sedimentary rock in a notebook. Include a detailed sketch of the rock cycle.

Additionally, create a two-page spread for each stone studied. Include the following information for each:

  1. photo or sketch
  2. list any historical or literary references to the gemstone
  3. describe the process by which it is formed
  4. list its magical properties

Some stones to consider are:

  • Agate
  • Quartz
  • Ruby
  • Opal
  • Flint
  • Moonstone
  • Jade
  • Obsidian

Put together a collection of rocks and minerals. Identify and label each as igneous, metamorphic, or sedimentary.

Take it Further

Learn to play Marbles, generally a Muggle game. Wizards play a variant known as Gobstones, where the enchanted marbles spit a putrid fluid into the face of the loser.

Science with Harry Potter: Potions @EvaVarga.net Astronomy & Divination

At Hogwart’s, Divination is an elective course that teaches methods of divining the future, or gathering insights into future events, through various rituals and tools. For the purposes of this course, we will focus on the ancient tools used by early navigators particularly in regards to the study of astronomy.

Generally out-of-bounds except for classes, the Astronomy Tower is the tallest tower at Hogwarts Castle. It is where students study the stars and planets through their telescopes with Professor Aurora Sinistra.

A Star chart is a written document used to represent the positions and movements of the stars, much like a map. Astronomers usually use these for research or study. An O.W.L. level wizard should be able of fill in a blank star chart based on some hours of sky gazing.

Similarly, a Moon chart is used to represent the position, movement and phases of the Moon. However, it is difficult to interpret and thus a Lunascope is often preferred.

Begin by researching the constellations common in your hemisphere and/or those referenced in the books.

Illustrate each cluster of stars in your notebook and make note of when the constellation was first discovered and how it was named. Include the names of the distinct stars (if possible).  Constellations to consider include:

  • Orion
  • Bartholomeus
  • Lupus
  • Leo
  • Ophiuchus
  • Canis Major
  • Scorpius

Create personal chart (also referred to as a birth chart) showing the relative positions of the planets at the time of an individual’s birth.

If possible, obtain a telescope with which you can observe the planets and distant stars.

Take it Further

Create a model of our solar system. Include the moons of Jupiter, Saturn, and other major planets.

Make an illustrated wall timeline of geologic time.

Draw maps of the earth at various times in history, showing movements of the tectonic plates. Include time periods that show Pangaea, Laurasia and Gondwanaland, and the modern arrangement of continents.

Illustrate the layers of the atmosphere in a poster. Label and describe each layer.

This post is part of a five-day hopscotch. Join me each day this week as we dive into each course.

Herbology (Botany)

Care of Magical Creatures (Zoology)

Potions (Chemistry)

Alchemy & Divination (Geology) – this post

Magical Motion (Physics)

Science Milestones: A New Astronomy with Johannes Kepler

Each month, I like to share a post celebrating the accomplishments of a scientist whose discoveries and advancements have made a significant difference in our lives. To honor the work of these amazing people, I provide a little peak into their life and share an unschool-style learning guides or unit study to guide you and your children on a path of discovery.

This month, I chose to honor the Johannes Kepler, who lived in an era when there was no clear distinction between astronomy and astrology. There was, however, a strong division between astronomy (a branch of mathematics within the liberal arts) and physics (a branch of natural philosophy).

Science Milestones: A New Astronomy with Johannes Kepler @EvaVarga.netJohannes Kepler

In 1596, the German astronomer published his first important work on astronomy, Mysterium Cosmographicum (The Cosmographic Mystery). As well as defending the heliocentric model of the universe previously proposed by Copernicus in 1543.

Kepler explained the orbits of the known planets around the Sun in geometric terms in an attempt to unravel “God’s mysterious plan of the universe.” To do this, he dow upon the classical notion of the “harmony of the spheres” which he linked to the five Platonic solids – octahedron, icosahedron, dodecahedron, tetrahedron, and cube.

Science Milestones: A New Astronomy with Johannes Kepler @EvaVarga.net

The Platonic solids, when inscribed in spheres and nested inside one another in order, correspond to the orbits of the planets Mercury, Venus, Earth, Mars, Jupiter, and Saturn.

In 1619, he published Harmonices Mundi (The Harmony of the World) wherein he stated his third law of planetary motion. He described the relationship between a planet’s distance from the Sun and the time taken to orbit around it as well as the speed of the planet at any time in that orbit.

Biography

Science Milestones: Johannes KeplerKepler was born in the small town of Weil der Stadt in the Swabia region of Germany and moved to nearby Leonberg with his parents in 1576. His father was a mercenary soldier and his mother, the daughter of an innkeeper. Johannes was their first child.

When Johannes was just five, his father left home for the last time and is believed to have died in the war in the Netherlands. As a child, Kepler lived with his mother in his grandfather’s inn. He tells us that he used to help by serving in the inn.

Kepler’s early education was in a local school and then at a nearby seminary. Intending to be ordained he went on to enroll at the University of Tübingen, a bastion of Lutheran orthodoxy.

Throughout his life, Kepler was a profoundly religious man. All his writings contain numerous references to God, and he saw his work as a fulfilment of his Christian duty to understand the works of God.

At Tübingen Kepler was taught astronomy by one of the leading astronomers of the day, Michael Mästlin. The curriculum was of course, geocentric astronomy, in which all seven planets – Moon, Mercury, Venus, Sun, Mars, Jupiter and Saturn – moved around the Earth, their positions against the fixed stars being calculated by combining circular motions.

This system was more or less in accord with current Aristotelian notions of physics, though there were certain difficulties. However, it seems that on the whole astronomers were content to carry on calculating positions of planets and leave it to natural philosophers to worry about whether the mathematical models corresponded to physical mechanisms. Kepler did not take this attitude. His earliest published work, Mysterium Cosmographicum, proposed to consider the actual paths of the planets, not the circles used to construct them.

 “I am satisfied…to guard the gates of the temple in which Copernicus makes sacrifices at the high altar.” ~ Johannes Kepler

Kepler was one of the few pupils to whom Mästlin chose to teach more advanced astronomy by introducing them to the new, heliocentric cosmological system of Copernicus. Kepler seems to have accepted almost instantly that the Copernican system was physically true.

Soon after moving to Regensburg in 1630, he became seriously ill with fever and on November 15 he died.

Bring it Home

What are Kepler’s three laws of planetary motion? How were his ideas viewed by his contemporaries?

Learn more about star polyhedra, discovered by Kepler in 1619 and prominently featured in the architecture of European churches.

Build models of the five Platonic solids; consider The Finnish Craft of Himmeli or Paper Models of Polyhedra.

Research the epitaph inscribed on his gravestone (sadly swept away in the Thirty Years War):

I used to measure the heavens,
now I shall measure the shadows of the earth.
Although my soul was from heaven,
the shadow of my body lies here.

 

Science Milestones

Visit my Science Milestones page to learn more about scientists whose discoveries and advancements have made a significant difference in our lives or who have advanced our understanding of the world around us.

Interested in learning about others who were born in the month of January? Hop over to Birthday Lessons in December to read posts by other iHomeschool Network bloggers.

Science Task Cards: Engage, Excite, & Enrich Student Learning

As teachers and parents, aren’t we always looking for methods to get students to be critical thinkers and inquirers? As home educators, many of us also strive to develop traits of independent learners. Students who are capable of seeking out knowledge on their own. Students eager to learn the skills they need to be successful in their chosen career path.

Science Task Cards

Science Task Cards

Tasks cards are a wonderful stepping stone for middle school students to develop their independent learning skills – providing them with a framework to focus their search and just enough guidance to ensure success. Task cards are also a fantastic way to reinforce lessons, review difficult concepts, or provide extra practice for the struggling student.

Task cards are a great tool that any teacher can implement into their home or classroom. They are a full-proof method for getting every student involved in learning regardless of their ability level.

Task cards are generally open-ended and inquiry based questions that make for a great learning tool and help to create an engaging learning environment. The student reads each card, performs the task, and records his/her answer on an answer sheet, on notebook paper, or in their lab notebook. Students may be asked to create a Venn Diagram to compare and contrast, draw an illustration and label important parts, write a letter to a famous person, research a current event, or even take a stance on a controversial topic.

How & When Should I Use Task Cards?

1.  Stations or Centers – Use task cards as station or center activities through with students rotate. I have found it works best to allow students to move at their own pace and visit as many or as few stations as possible. They can even move through the centers with a partner if assistance is needed. This is a great way to engage students because they can move around, work at their own pace, and feel successful!

What is Science Notebooking @EvaVarga.net2. Homework Assignments –  Whether you offer each student the same task card or mix it up and provide them with different task cards of their choosing, task cards work well for  homework. It’s a great way to build excitement for a new unit. Whether you ask students to complete the assignment in their interactive science notebook or on a separate piece of paper to turn in the following day, task cards are fun. Here’s an example of a life science task card:

Life Science: Animals
Scientific Classification

  • Research & Define: vertebrates and invertebrates
  • List three vertebrates and three invertebrates
  • Make a poster of the following: mammal, reptile, amphibian, birds, fish
  • Include a caption for each and summarize each class

3. Assessments – Task cards can be used as a quick assessment of student understanding in the midst of a lesson. Many task card questions can be also used as a more in-depth research paper or project. Alternatively, task cards can be used as a way to review for a test – either individually, in small groups, or as a whole class review game.

4. Engaging Warm-up Activities – I love to use task cards in our STEM Club as an activity to get focused and settled as we wait for the other students to arrive. They may find the assignment on the white board or taped down to the table. They work alone or in pairs to answer the question and we discuss their answers when I’m ready to begin.

typesrocks5. Enrichment Activities – Task cards can be kept handy (perhaps in a basket) for early finishers. After students have completed a project, test, or independent assignment, they can enrich their understanding of the material by selecting a task card of their own choice.

Where Can I Buy Task Cards?