Kaleidoscopes for Kids

Explore colors, shapes, and patterns with this hands-on kaleidoscope activity. Students will use recycled materials, their imaginations, and an eye for color to construct these keepsakes.

Empty paper-towel tube (cut 8 inches long), clear plastic sheet, ruler, marker, scissors, 4-inch squares (one each) of black paper, squares of plastic wrap, wax paper, rubber bands, tape, colored transparent beads, confetti, shiny sequins, small paper shapes, colored paper to decorate exterior of tube

How to Make It
Step 1: Trace and cut an 8-by-4-inch rectangle on the plastic sheet. Draw three even lines across the rectangle (1 1/4 inches apart, with a 1/4 inch strip leftover).

Step 2: Fold the plastic along the lines to make a long triangle, taping the extra strip along the outside edge to seal it. Slide the triangle inside the tube.

Step 3: Place the piece of black paper on one end of the tube and trace and cut a circle. Poke a hole through the center and tape the circle to the end of the tube.

Step 4: Place the plastic wrap square on the other end of the tube. Press down to create a thin pocket between the end of the plastic triangle and the end of the tube. Put some beads, sequins, and confetti in the pouch.

Step 5:  Place the wax paper square over the pouch and secure it with a rubber band.

Step 6: Trim any remaining paper and cover the outside of the tube with colored paper and other decorations to finish.

Carnation Color Theory

Teach students about color theory and capillary action with this beautiful carnation activity. Students will learn about primary and secondary colors, and will practice what they've learned by dying white carnations. The finished product will be a lovely bouquet for your classroom.

White carnations (enough so if you put students in groups, each group can have three), scissors, glass jars (six for each group), red, blue, and yellow food coloring

How to Make It
Step 1: Fill each glass jar with water. Cut the stems of the carnations at a diagonal, high enough so the blossoms sit a few inches above the jar rim.

Step 2: Place a few drops of red food coloring in the first jar, blue in the second, and yellow in the third. Explain to students that these are primary colors, and that by mixing them, they can make secondary colors.

Step 3:  Next, have students mix primary colors in three more jars of water. Have them mix red and yellow to make orange, blue and yellow to make green, and blue and red to make purple.

Step 4: Have students place carnations in the glass jars and let sit for several hours. Watch as the flowers transform!

3 Eco-Ideas for Earth Day

Teacher Elizabeth Kennedy shares her favorite hands-on projects for honoring planet Earth.

Picture-Perfect Planters
As part of our monthlong unit Helping Mother Earth, we collect over 100 recyclable bottles to use as planters. We fill the planters with soil and seeds, then we use old cardboard squares from cereal boxes to make small, handmade pictures to affix to the planters. The pictures identify what will eventually grow inside each one. To finish the unit, we open up an "Earth Store" during Earth Day week to sell the planters. It is a wonderful activity because it ties nicely into our Money unit as well. The money we earn will be used to buy a tree!

Build a Living Wall
On Earth Day last year, my class took on a big challenge: to build a Living Wall. Our Living Wall consisted of a series of plots sectioned off on a long table. Each student got a chance to plant a flower or bulb and add it to a plot. Once it was completed, we waited a week for the roots to grow, then we suspended the Living Wall in the classroom for the remainder of the year. We were so grateful to have the help of the parents as landscapers! The kids said it was the highlight of the unit.

My Planet Earth
On the last day of our Earth unit, the students have a chance to get really creative in designing their "ideal planet Earth." I encourage them to use their imaginations and go beyond the water and land image they're familiar with. Each child is given a cardboard ornament ball to decorate. I put model magic, sequins, paint, glitter, cotton balls, pompom balls, and glue out on the table for their use. Then, we discuss the students' visions for their Earths — what unique characteristics did they come up with? How are theirs different/the same? It was amazing to see all the different creations the kids came up with!

Take a Trip to...The Water

Teacher Laura Ketcham from Aventura, Florida, planned an ocean excursion with students from her seventh-grade emerging technology class. Laura wanted to show her students how tech can be applied outside of the computer lab, even in the most remote places in nature. At the beach, students kayaked, explored, studied the landscape, and collected items such as shells, shell casings, nuts, seaweed, and coral. Back in the classroom, they conducted a classification lab with the marine organisms they found. Students used Web 2.0 tools like ArtPad to paint underwater beach features, they built websites about south Florida oceans and beaches, and they compared minerals in sand samples. They also uploaded photos from the trip to VoiceThread and added in voice comments. Not only were the students happy to spend the day outside, they brought technology to an unexpected place!

Other activities you can try at a beach:
1. Research wildlife: Have students observe land and water animals they see. Back in the classroom, have them research native species, migration patterns, and habitats.

2. Test the water: Collect samples of the water to take back to the classroom and compare with tap water, water from a local pond, and rain-water.

3. Sketch the scenery: Bring along sketch pads and charcoal or drawing pencils and invite students to depict the landscape. Hang in the classroom later for lovely wall art.

4. Get up close and personal: Use a document camera to zoom in on collected objects, like shells, rocks, or coral. Then teach a mini lesson on types of marine organisms.