Vernier Science Education - June  2024


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General Science and Teaching

Does Anyone Have a Good Science Icebreaker Ideas?

Author Post
Monica Holloway Monica Holloway 2990 Points

Hi, I was reading this article and thought of you. Good luck!!

Cris DeWolf Cris DeWolf 11965 Points

Have you tried the potato candle activity? It can generate a discussion really quickly.

Christine Herald chris herald 1825 Points

I love the potato candle -I used it for many years!

Kathy Sparrow Kathy Sparrow 47692 Points

Adah, I do this activity the first day of class with my pre-service elementary teachers. I’ve also used it with teachers in workshops and inservice. The activity presents a problem for students and encourages them to work together as a team. Students are given a set of materials that they may or may not use, but they cannot use anything other than they materials they are given. They are to construct a “vehicle” that will move across their table without their touching it or moving the table. Students work in groups of four. In my class (now), students sit at tables that have a width of about 1.5 m. Students work together exchange ideas, then construct and test their “vehicle.” I give them about 30 minutes to plan and construct their “vehicles,” then I go around the room table by table to test their designs to see if their vehicle meets the criteria. Since I’m From Akron, OH, I connect it with the annual national Soap Box Derby. Here is my slide from the powerpoint I use in class. Kathy


BUILD_A_CAR.pptx (0.12 Mb)

Monica Holloway Monica Holloway 2990 Points

Brillant idea!!! Will definitely use this idea at the beginning of the year!!

Monica Holloway Monica Holloway 2990 Points

Do any of you have any ideas for activities for what is science and what do scientists do? This could easily be an ice breaker but am wondering about how to implement?? Last year (my first year teaching) I had scholars draw pictures of a scientist. Unfortunately I only received labs with test tubes. Thoughts?

Ginger Shirley Ginger Shirley 535 Points

The trick to getting pictures other than scientist in labs is to ask students to draw what they think their idea of a scientist is. Give no more input than that. I have asked them to close their eyes, think of a person who 'does science' or is a scientist. I ask them to picture in their head what that person looks like, what the area around them looks like, how does it smell, look, feel, etc...THEN I Ask them to think of what 'they' would look like doing their job if you could tag a long and take a snap shot. Avoid using pronouns or any thing that will prejudice their ideas. I require mine to FILL an entire 8 1/2 X 11 piece of paper with a color picture. They must include at least 10 items that the scientist would use doing their job on a daily basis. They must work their name into the picture somehow. On the back of the drawing they must give me two things: 1. A written description of what 'job' it is their scientist does daily. They must describe what a day in their life would look like doing that job (all based on what the student thinks, can require them to research it later). I also ask them to tell me what education 'that' job may require. 2. I ask the students to name and describe how each of the 10 items in the picture might be used by their scientist. I have done this for years. It is a great first day or two activity. Let's students work and talk quietly for a day or two. Gives you a chance to see where there might be 'groups' that need to be split up, see who needs to be brought into a group instead of sitting alone, gives you something to quickly hang on walls for open house/meet the teacher night, plus it gives you a writing sample right off the bat. I typically include a very simple rubric: Is the paper filled so it looks like a 'picture'? Is it in color? Must show the entire body of the scientist, can't be hiding behind something. Is scientist dressed to do their job? Are there 10 'Tools of the Trade' included? Is there a written description? Are tools named and explained? Hope this helps! I have loved doing it through the years.

Betty Paulsell Betty Paulsell 48560 Points

Kathy, Thanks for sharing a simple yet elegant activity about building cars. I plan to use this in my engineering class. Betty

Cris DeWolf Cris DeWolf 11965 Points

Monica- I have done something similar on the first day of school, with my students drawing pictures of scientists in their journals. I follow that by passing down each row a composition book that I have cut out a hole in the middle of the pages in and mounted a mirror. Before I pass it out I tell them that inside is a picture of the most important scientist that they will likely ever meet - and they see that it is themselves. This launches a discussion of what science is and how everyone can apply the scientific process to problem solving.

Yolanda Smith-Evans Yolanda Smith-Evans 6425 Points

Thanks for the build a car. Great team building activity.

Jackie Eiffert Jackie Eiffert 1915 Points

Some time during the first week I like to give students a pipe cleaner bracelet with several UV-sensitive beads on it. The beads look white, but when the students go out into the sun, or are exposed to ultraviolet light, they change colors. You can buy them at the science supply sites, and occasionally in a "regular" store if you're lucky. They draw the bracelet, observe, etc., in their science notebook. Then they go outside and observe what happens. This generates a lot of excitement, discussion, and questions. They love it, and some of them save the bracelets in their desk all year, taking them outside at recess. The beads can change colors hundreds of times. I live in a hot place, so we also make mini s'mores in the sun, treating it as science. We discuss solar energy, light, heat, etc., and write in our journals. You can make pizza box ovens, or just set them in a Pyrex dish with plastic wrap over them.

Wendy Goldfein Wendy Goldfein 2335 Points

We have five free quick “Engineering Energizers” on our website that are perfect for Back to School Week. They allow you to not only get a quick handle on a student’s problem solving skills, but also give you insight on their collaborative skills as you observe the teams working. The activities are terrific ice breakers and great fun for the students, but the teacher will gain lots of information about their students. Although we have longer engineering lessons available that use the design process in more detail, the “Energizers” are quick and use just a few materials. Wendy And Cheryl Get Caught Engineering (Follow our blog or bookmark us for STEM ideas. Newsletter will be developed later this year!) (Like us to get daily STEM ideas)

Monica Holloway Monica Holloway 2990 Points

Hi Adah,

In an article titled The Scientific Method, Is it Still Useful?
the following scenario is presented....

You are flying on a small plane across the state to visit your grandparents in the mountains for summer vacation. Only you and the pilot are onboard. Somewhere over
the mountains the pilot has a heart attack. The pilot crash-lands the plane into
a lush forest at the base of the mountain. You survive the crash. You are alone and have
no way for calling for help. What must you do to survive until the rescuers arrive?

I'm thinking for adults you could also have them come up with a plan to find their
way to their destination. Hope this is helpful and leads you to more ideas.

Karen Weir-Brown Karen Weir-Brown 25355 Points

My team building activity to start the year is to have my Earth Science students (working in groups of 4) build the tallest, sturdiest straw structure they can in 20 minutes. I'll test them on our shaker table at the end (also introduces a peek at our content for the year). My Physical Science students will given the task to build a paper roller coaster containing a turn, a full loop, and a 7-inch hill in 20 minutes. I'll test those with a marble. Again, this introduces our physical science content. I'm thinking that at some point during the activity, I will prohibit talking for 4 minutes. At the end of the activity that should add some nice discussion about forms of communication.

Carmen Cruz Carmen Cruz 2125 Points

Have you ever tried this challenge?

Carolyn Mohr Carolyn Mohr 92316 Points

Carmen, my university students really enjoy doing the Marshmallow challenge, too. We do the 'puff mobiles' too, Kathy. I call them that in the lower grades, but don't give them the built-in hint at the college level. The Learning Center has a book chapter called, 'The First Day', and it contains some quick and easy to execute icebreakers.

Pamela Auburn Pamela Auburn 68625 Points

Try some of these [url=]IceBreakers 1[/url] Ice Breakers and Bonding Activities Recipe Card Mix-Up Provide each student with a recipe or index card. Ahead of time choose about five questions that you might ask of students. Be as creative as you want with the questions. Possible questions might include the following: • What is the title of a favorite book? • What do you like doing in your free time when you're not at school? • What is your favorite board game? • What is your favorite candy bar? • If you could request your favorite meal for your birthday, what would that meal be? When students -- and the teacher -- have written their answers to the questions, collect the recipe cards. Shuffle the cards. Then pass out a card to each student; be sure students do not receive their own cards. When everyone has a card, then the job of each student is to find the student in the room who belongs to the card the student holds. When everybody has found the person who wrote the answers on the card they hold, they must make sure they know how to pronounce that student's full name and that they understand everything that is written on the card. Then it is time for introductions. The teacher can begin the activity by asking the student on the card s/he holds to come to the front of the room. As that student stands by, the teacher introduces the student to the rest of the class by saying, "Class, I'd like you to meet ___. Her favorite book is ___. Her favorite board game is… Please welcome ___ to our fourth grade class!" (Classmates then give the student 4 claps [for 4th grade]). The student that the teacher introduced continues the activity by calling up the student whose card he or she holds. Continue until all students have introduced someone to the class. When everyone has been introduced, take all the cards, shuffle them, and call out responses on one card at a time to see if students can remember who belongs to each card. Arlene Stoebner, Yankton School District, Yankton South Dakota • Getting-to-Know-You Venn Diagram Gather groups of three students. Supply a prepared three-circle Venn diagram (see an editable sample) for each group. Students talk in their groups about themselves and the things they like to do. After a brief discussion, students must… • decide on at least three ways in which they are all alike; they write those things in the area of the diagram that intersects all three circles. • find ways in which they are like one other student in the group and record those ways in the appropriate areas of the diagram. • determine a few facts that make each of them unique and write those facts in the appropriate sections of the diagram. This activity helps students recognize and appreciate likenesses and differences in people. It also introduces them to Venn diagrams on the first day of school. This type of graphic organizer might be used many times throughout the year. Rene Masden, Sixth District Elementary School, Covington, Kentucky • Dictionary Write five questions on the board. Questions might include the following: • What is your name? • Where were you born? • How many brothers or sisters do you have? • What are their names? • Do you have any pets? Tell students to write those questions on a piece of paper and to add to that paper five more questions they could ask someone they don't know. Pair students, and have each student interview his or her partner and record the responses. Then have each student use the interview responses to write a "dictionary definition" of his or her partner to include in a Student Dictionary. You might model this activity by creating a sample dictionary definition about yourself. For example: Reynolds, Kim. proper noun. 1. Born in Riverside, California. 2. No brothers or sisters. 3.… Have students bring in small pictures of themselves to paste next to their entries in the Student Dictionary. Bind the definitions into a book, and display it at your back-to-school open house for parents. Kim Reynolds, Warwick Elementary School, Fremont, California Getting-to-Know-You Chart Create a large chart titled Getting to Know You. Include on the chart sections for students' names and interesting facts, such as how many people are in their families, how many pets they have, their favorite colors, favorite school subjects, favorite sports, and so on… Laminate the chart and hang it on the wall. On the first day of school, have each student "sign in." Leave the chart up for several weeks. The kids love to wander over to it when they have free time. They keep learning new things about one another. The chart can be a good source of "data" for a lesson in graph-making too. Charilyn Damigo, Liberty Baptist School, San Jose, California

Jennifer Pierre Jennifer Pierre 770 Points

Icebreakers are an important way to getting a student warmed up. I love the "Build a Car" activity, among the others I have found here. These are all great ideas for the students to make friends, and form a mutual trust that creates a trusting classroom environment. I have found 10 great classroom icebreakers I have attached below.


10_icebreakers.jpg (1.37 Mb)

Mindy Gonzalez Mindy Gonzalez 490 Points

A professor that taught educational science to me did a first day activity that I not only enjoyed myself, but plan to use in my classroom. We were given a piece of blank paper and crayons/colored pencils as we entered the classroom on the first day. We were given 10-15 minutes and told to draw a picture of a scientists. This was humorous at times since most of us are NOT artists, and many of us had drawn stick figures as our scientist's body! There were, however many traits that most of our scientists possessed such as a white lab coat, beakers, glasses, crazy hair, male, etc.... We listed many of these traits on the board along with a discussion of what we thought of when given the task to describe a scientists. My professor then presented a slideshow of many scientists. We quickly learned that ANYONE can be a scientist no matter gender, style, or any other stereotype. This was a big eye opener, for many students believe that only certain people can be successful in learning the many fascinating things science has to offer. You can tweak it around, but the big picture of the activity was to show each student in the classroom is capable of being a "scientist" and flourishing in the classroom. Science can be for everyone if you find the right approach.

Tracy Williams Tracy Kostenbader 130 Points

I love this opener, I do have a slide show of scientists, but haven't tried the "draw a scientist" aspect, I will this year!

Sawsan Ismaiel Sawsan Ismaiel 125 Points

Hi I came across this website, I think it includes wonderful ideas! hope this helps :)

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