Bread Science (and Math!)

Standards Met: CCSS.Math.Content.5.MD.A.1; NGSS 5-PS1-3

What You Need: Small loaf pans, flour, salt, sugar, yeast, water, measuring cups, paper plates, utensils, paper, pencils

What To Do: Erika Bezio, a first-grade teacher at Bloomingdale Elementary in Saranac Lake, New York, says baking bread is her most popular buddy activity: “The magic of making bread is so cool, and it lends itself to so many learning standards. We can write about our experience and discuss the science/magic of yeast!” Bezio and fourth-grade colleague Deborah Kicinski begin by having the older kids figure out how many loaves they will need to make; they make enough to sample at school and for each student to take a loaf home. “Students have to practice multiplying fractions by two to double the flour and water,” says Kicinski. “The resulting fractions then have to be converted back to a mixed number.” They also complete three different data tables.

Then the fun starts. While the teacher or an older student demonstrates each step, the first graders repeat the instructions to their fourth-grade partners and then perform the step. The loaves are then taken to the school cafeteria for baking.

Kicinski says the class has experimented with some groups using more sugar and others less: “We had students make observations about the difference in the dough, the color of the crust, and the flavor of the bread.”

Sink the Ship

Standard Met: NGSS 3-5-ETS1-3

What You Need: Aluminum foil (cut into 6" x 6" squares); small plastic tubs; water; coins or other small weighted objects (e.g., bingo chips); playing cards; dice; paper and pencils

What To Do: Lindsey Petlak, a fourth-grade teacher in Highland Park, Illinois, does this activity with her kindergarten buddy teacher after reading aloud Peter Pan or another story with pirates. “We love this activity,” says Petlak, “because it combines basic engineering with a fun math-game twist.”

First, students make simple boats out of aluminum foil squares, designing their vessels with the goal of holding the most coins, or weight. The teachers then hand out plastic tubs filled with water, and students adjust their designs to ensure the boats float before any weight is added.

Next, two pairs of students put their boats in a tub of water and each pair draws a playing card. Petlak assigns different suits to represent different coins (e.g., queens are dimes) and then has students roll a die to determine the quantity of that coin. (If queens are dimes and you roll a 6, then you add six dimes.) You can have students draw, roll, and add coins to their own ship or to their opponents’ ship.

Students keep track of the quantity of each coin as it is successfully added to their ship. Once one of the ships sinks, that team calculates the total quantity and value of the coins their boat held. The team with the remaining ship keeps adding coins until it sinks, then totals the quantity and value of the coins.

Perfect Interview Subject

Standards Met: CCSS.ELA-Literacy.CCRA.W.2; SL.1

What You Need: Paper, pencils, photos (or drawings) of students

What To Do: One of Gail Worthy’s students’ favorite activities to do with their “kinder buddies” is an interview project. Worthy, who teaches at Bristol Elementary in Webster Groves, Missouri, provides her students with a few sample interview questions—favorite school activity, movie, book—and encourages them to develop questions of their own.

“I explain they will need good details to write an interesting and informative paragraph about their kinder buddy. I also model by interviewing one of the students and probing for deeper responses,” says Worthy, who emphasizes the completed assignment must contain a topic sentence, strong details, and a concluding sentence. When the interviews are complete and the paragraphs are written, Worthy hangs them on a board in the hallway with a photo of both buddies. The interview also helps older students choose books to read to their buddies at future meetings.

A Seussian Reading Campout

Standards Met: CCSS.ELA-Literacy.CCRA.R.2; W.2

What You Need: Dr. Seuss books, Post-its, pencils, booklet organizer (or notebook), stamps or stickers, projector and Dr. Seuss DVD (optional)

What To Do: To celebrate Dr. Seuss and Read Across America Day, Damien Font, who teaches fifth grade at Middletown Village Elementary School in New Jersey, moves the desks out of his room and hosts a Reading Campout, complete with pajama-clad students toting pillows and blankets.

Student buddies choose a Dr. Seuss book and, as they read, use Post-its to document theme, character traits, predictions, questions, and scenes they were able to envision vividly. (The fifth graders’ goal is to complete an end-of-book writing project.) Students then organize their Post-its into a teacher-created booklet and extend their thinking by citing text evidence. They receive a Dr. Seuss sticker for each booklet page and strategy they apply correctly. They then curl up in their blankets and explore another Dr. Seuss book.

The day ends with “Seuss in the Stars.” “I project a Dr. Seuss cartoon onto the ceiling for the students to enjoy,” says Font. “It’s as close to laying under the stars in our sleeping bags as we can get in New Jersey in the winter.”


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