One of the advantages of going to conferences like the ones put on by NSTA, is that you find (or find again) some great ideas for lessons and activities. Years ago, when I was doing a lot of my student teaching, I was familiar with AIMS activities, which I thought were pretty awesome. At the last conference Mrs. Eagle and I went to, the AIMS folks had a booth and I feel in love with their activities and lessons all over again. I particularly like their downloadable E-activities which are awesome.
In any case, Mrs. Eagle, Mrs. Angora and I decided that we really need to do a lot more activities (and we're being encouraged to do so anyway because of STEM which is heading our way next year), so when I found a great activity on their website called Finding Faults With Food, I immediately downloaded it. We'd been looking for a good activity that would help our kids understand tectonic plates and this one looked perfect.
You can't go wrong with cookies, frosting and graham crackers. Truly.
It took a bit of time to buy all the materials, bag everything up and get it ready, but it was worth every minute of it. The kids LOVED it. Absolutely freaking loved it. They were drawing, labeling, working with the cookies (tectonic plates) and the frosting (asthenosphere)...and of course, I wouldn't let them actually eat anything until I'd approved their work and they were completely done - all pictures labeled, with arrows, and their reflections. (Amazing how the reward of chocolate frosting will encourage kids to work.)
It's not often that kids will actually come up to you on the way out of the classroom and tell you what an awesome lab it was, how much they love your science class, and what a cool teacher you are. (Apparently the secret to being a cool teacher is chocolate frosting and cookies.)
Of course, they haven't had one of my tests...yet.
But still, today was awesome. Even for the Seventh Grade Class From the Very Depths of Hell, which wasn't going to do the lab today because of their DREADFUL behavior yesterday (and truth be told, all month long). I tortured them a bit by doing the lab myself up on the document reader and making them drawing the pictures based on what I did. Nothing like a big blog of chocolate frosting up on the huge screen to get the point across that they weren't having any fun. The fact that every kid in the team told them what fun it was helped a lot. They were silent. They were also mad at their classmates, and at least 3 asked if they could change schedules to go into a different class. I gradually gave out supplies to the lab groups, starting with the quietest ones until eventually they all had the chance to do the lab. And they were quiet. And they worked. And they did a fantastic job.
Which goes to show that THEY CAN DO IT...if they chose to.