Friday, March 22, 2013

Science Experiments

It's no secret that I LOVE Science experiments! I think the main reason I love them is because the kids love them, get so excited for them, and remember the learning from them so well. That being said, I was super excited when "Scientific Method Week" came around in my classroom. A week full of science experiments with the sole purpose of teaching kids how to do a science experiment. This meant the options were endless... well, sort of. I live in Malaysia, so don't have Walmart next door to get anything and everything I could possibly need for 1st grade science, so my options were a little limited. But we made it work.

Monday we made "baking soda bombs". Looking back, I realize I maybe should have called it something different. Haha. It got the kids more amped about it, though, so I guess it works. Basically all you do is put water, vinegar, and baking soda in a Zip-loc bag, seal it and wait until it explodes. To make it a true experiment and not a demonstration, we had to choose a variable to change. I figured the easiest was water temperature, so we did that.
Note to self: try experiments first alone before attempting them with students.

As soon as we poured everything into the bag, my students started running away and hiding behind boxes to avoid the explosion (See pictures below: I'm not exaggerating! Haha). One student put a pencil near the bag to 'see the force of the explosion'. But, let's just say the "bombs" were more like the watched pot that never boiled. :)When it did eventually "explode" it was a muffled 'pop' that only half my students heard. Since I didn't have enough baking soda to do a second trial with increased proportions, we scrapped the original experiment and decided to see if the amount of baking soda made a difference in the speed of the pop. It was actually quite useful in teaching students about a fair trial (only one variable, everything else constant) and a botched experiment.

Tuesday, I came prepared with lots more baking soda and vinegar and the snack size Zip-loc bags for attempt #2. It was much more successful, although, the pops were still sort of anti-climactic. :) In case you're wondering, the hot water caused a much faster explosion than the cold.

On Wednesday we did the homemade helicopter experiment. Does the length of the propeller make the helicopter fall faster or slower? We got differing results, so we must've not done something right... Maybe because we made them out of paper instead of cardstock? Maybe our drop height wasn't high enough? Maybe our timing was semi-inaccurate since some of them didn't actually drop their helicopters till like 3 seconds after I said "Drop"? :)

Finally, on Friday we did my all time favorite Science experiment: The Soda Fountains! Let's just say... Malaysia 1, Ms. Wacek 0. First of all, I didn't have Danielle with me as my 'professional Mentos dropper-inner". Secondly, I didn't have the handy Mentos dropper-inner tool Nate got for us last year. Thirdly, Malaysian soda is apparently not the same as American soda. While they still got the picture and enjoyed it, the experiment was wayyy less exciting than the 12 foot fountains we've made in years past!
I definitely need practice at getting all the Mentos in more quickly.. Both for the experiments sake and so I don't end up covered in soda!
All that to say, I still love Science experiments. Granted, they're way more exciting when they work right, but I guess that's all part of it being an inquiry-driven subject!

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Batu Caves

I love to get out and explore new places. Thankfully, I just moved to a new country, so there is ample opportunity for such things. A few weeks ago, two of my co-workers and I took a Saturday to visit the Batu Caves.

Going into the trip, just about all I knew was that these were formerly giant limestone deposits and had since been turned into a world-renowned Hindu temple... and that there were vicious monkeys. :) The caves are only about an hour away by train, so we left about 9 and got there before the weather got too hot. This was good news because in order to enter the cave, there are 272 stairs to climb. I'm pretty out of shape. It was not fun. But, we just pushed through it without stopping because we knew that would only make it worse. Needless to say, my calves were on fire when we reached the top. That is, until I looked around and saw women three times my age making the climb, and guys wearing huge headdresses practically sprinting up the steps, and people with serious health issues crawling up the stairs. Then I realized I had no right complaining. :)

The caves themselves were actually sort of anti-climactic. I guess? I don't really know what I was expecting, but apparently it wasn't that. :) They were just really tall caves? We did see some monkeys. Lots of monkeys, actually. They did not try to steal anything from us, but we also made sure to keep our distance! As we were getting ready to leave the caves, we heard some really loud chanting and saw a processional of men performing some sort of ritual or initiation that ended at the area to offer sacrifices. We kept saying we wished we had done more research or had a tour guide so we could have some idea what was going on, but we didn't, so we just had to make up our own versions. :)

They weren't even "spelunking with a headlamp" type caves! Haha.
Part of the ritual we observed. Imagine lots of loud chanting and crazy amounts of emotion.
We were definitely ready to run.
There were so many baby monkeys around. But, don't let their adorableness deceive you. We still kept our distance.
We took the long way around to get back to the train. To do so, we walked through a street market at the base of the caves/temple. Loud music, dirty, smelly, trash all around, people trying to sell cheap goods for a way inflated price... all I could think about was Mark 11:15-18. The story of Jesus clearing the Temple. Granted, the Batu Caves are not a house of The Lord by any means. Actually, quite the contrary, there was a very dark and evil feel to the whole place. The looks on people's faces were just empty and painful. We mentioned multiple times to each other that we just wanted to go up to all the people who were inflicting self-harm on themselves or doing other painful sacrifices and shout to them, "Jesus already died for you!" or other such remarks. We didn't. But we did pray... a lot.
Anyway, I digress. Through this experience, it was so clear to see why Jesus reacted the way he did at the temple. Turning something so holy into something so gross and wordly and a "den of thieves." It's hard to even explain the feeling, but it was definitely eye-opening. I said that before any pastor tried to tackle a sermon about that passage, they should definitely visit the caves!

Only one small alley of the rather extensive market directly at the bottom of the caves.

During our Bible lesson at school the other day, we talked about this story. I think it's so important for us to remember and children to learn that getting angry is not the sin. It even says over and over again in the Bible, that we should "be slow to anger" and "the Lord is slow to anger". It doesn't say "don't ever get angry." It goes on to say, though, "In your anger, do not sin," (Eph 4:26) which is what I tried to stress to my students. We need our motives to be right, our anger to be justified, and our responses to be appropriate. Perk of being a teacher, learning from your own lessons. :)

Monday, March 18, 2013

100th Day!

I've only taught 4th grade before this year. While I loved planning special events for my kids, I always had a little jealousy for the cutesy things the Kindergarten/1st Grade teachers got to do with their classes.... Until this year. It was then, that I realized all of those teachers are saints and they deserve a party every day in their honor!

One of the most special days for a Kindergarten student is the 100th day. Don't ask me why. Don't ask me who decided on this. It's just a thing that you do in Kindergarten nowadays. :) Having never planned a 100th Day party before,  I was ever so thankful for the internet and crazy, over-achiever teacher blogs who supplied me with way more than enough ideas.

Being that I teach in Malaysia, things never seem to go quite as they should. 100th day was no exception. It fell on a Thursday, which is our 'off-campus' day. (The church where our school meet has a Women's Bible Study on Thursday morning that uses up all of the classroom space, so per our agreement, we're required to meet elsewhere!) Usually we go to another church, but once a month we take a school-wide field trip. This particular Thursday (the 100th day of school) was field trip week, so we spent it at the Science Museum. (That's a post for another day!) I explained the situation to my kids a few days in advance so there wouldn't be any panic attacks and they took it well.

So, Friday, March 2nd, the 101st day of school rolled around and brought with it a party! We started with our regular morning meeting and read 100 Hungry Ants. This helped them see some different combinations to make 100, and since our focus for the day was 10 sets of 10, it was a good way to kick it off! From there, we made our 100th day of school crowns. Students decorated them and then added 10 strips with 10 'objects' on each (fingerprints, dots, stickers, etc)  to make it a true 100. As they finished their crowns, they began writing 100 words. Looking back, this was probably an activity that should've been done over the course of the week. Live and learn. Haha. They had to write 10 words in 10 different categories (girl's names, boy's names, colors, summer words, numbers, school words, winter words, animals, foods, and calendar words). Most of them got through about 50 words before their hands wanted to fall off, so we took our snack break.

For snack, they each got to eat the number 100. Never miss an opportunity to talk about place value, right?

I have the cutest class ever. And they were sweet enough to appease me by wearing their hats for most of the day! Except of course, Mr. Too-Cool-For-School hiding in the background.
After snack, we moved to Writing. This was my favorite activity of the day. We brainstormed and made a bubble map about what life would be like if you were 100 years old. At first, most of them had no concept or ideas, but eventually the ideas started flowing. My favorite was, "You'll shrink and have a crooked back"! They then had to write a story that started, "When I am 100 years old..." To accompany the writing and give them some inspiration, I had used the Old Fart Booth App on my iPad to age each of them and printed out the pictures. They were HILARIOUS. The stories turned out to be less stories and more descriptions, but still funny. See for yourself. :)

"When I am 100 years old, I like my grandchildren. I have gray or white hair. What will you want to look like when you are 100 years old?" - Naomi, age 6
"When I am 100 years old, I will eat grapes. I will go outside and I like my grandchildren." - Carolina, age 6
"When I am 100 years old, I will rest. Watch TV. I will get help. I will die." - Josiah, age 7

"When I am 100 years old, I will wear glasses. I will have grey hair and wrinkles." - John, age 5
"When I am 100 years old, I will play with my grandchildren. My back will be crooked. I will bake cookies. I will shrink. I will stay inside." -Elissa, age 6
"When I am 100 years old, I will have grey hair and have kids. I will have wrinkly skin and a cane. I will shrink and be a lot older and a lot wiser." - Andar, age 7   

For Math, they each got a checklist of 10 items that they had to put on a poster (their name 10 times, 10 friend's names, 10 stickers, 10 words, 10 q-tips, 10 shapes, 10 numbers, 10 stamps, 10 paperclips, and 10 thumbprints).
One of the 100 posters!
 After lunch, they had PE and then we made our second set of 100 snacks. For this, they again, had to count out 10 sets of 10. They had a nice little assembly line going, so they got it done quite efficiently!

I don't know how anyone would plan one of these parties for a full-sized class!!
We then took our trail mix up to the library and finished out the day watching 101 Dalmatians. None of them had seen the movie before, so their responses and questions were so adorable. They were so confused why it was called 101 Dalmatians when there were only 15 puppies... then when there were only 99 puppies. They were on the edge of their seats when the puppies were escaping Horace and Jasper. They were ordering the puppies not to get splashed by snow when they were covered with soot. Haha. There's actually a lot of inferring and predicting that can be done with the old Disney classics, who knew? It was an exhausting, but very fun and successful day! Now to start planning for next year's party since I'll likely have a majority of the same students and can't use the same ole tricks... hmmm. :)

Thursday, March 7, 2013

Sights of Malaysia

 I've learned to have a camera on me at all times. Sometimes it's something beautiful. Sometimes it's something that makes me laugh (usually out loud, by myself. But, it's ok. Everyone's already staring anyways, might as well give them a show, right?). Sometimes it's something that makes me think, "Only in Malaysia." Here are some of those moments:

A "beautiful" moment. If we leave at the right time, we get to see a gorgeous sunrise view of  the city every morning from our 19th floor of condo!
A "beautiful" moment. They're so magnificent all lit up and shiny.
A "beautiful" moment. This was a display outside the Petronas Towers. Don't know the occasion, but it was beautiful! They were doing all sorts of neat water tricks and various fountain patterns!

A "laugh out loud" moment". Is this the sequel, prequel, or actual Stomp the Yard? Why are they stomping ON the yard? Molly Wacek almost received this for her birthday present! :)
An "only in Malaysia" moment. I came home from school one day and saw all this caution tape. Didn't take me long to figure out why! Apparently the lady driving (surprise?) ;) thought she was in reverse and laid on the accelerator. Why you would push it that hard in a parking garage in the first place, I'm not sure.

A "laugh out loud, only in Malaysia moment". A full-sized suit of armor. On sale for 20% off. At ACE HARDWARE! Why is Ace Hardware selling this?! Why? Peter Kuhr almost got this for his birthday present!

A "laugh out loud" moment. The "Western Food" and "Personal Care" aisle at the grocery store was 75% alcoholic beverages and 25% fatty junk food. Good job, America. You've really made a name for yourself. :)
An "only in Malaysia" moment. I can't think of any restaurant I'd like to eat at more than "60s Teow Chew Fishball".

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Dragon Fruit

I've already told you about my grocery shopping escapades. They're intense. One reason being there are so many new and unusual items for sale. Case in point: Dragon Fruit. I've heard of these, seen them at the store, and I think my favorite smoothie at the local food court is Dragon Fruit/Mango. I've been eating a lot more fruits and vegetables lately and I think it's been making me more adventurous. So, after living here 6 months, I decided it was time to take the plunge and see what this Dragon Fruit was all about.

I cut one open tonight (why I even bought two in the first place is beyond me!) and here's what I found:

First thought: "Wow. Not all Dragon Fruit is pink." Below is a picture of the smoothie I mentioned. Based on the color of the skin of the fruit and the color of the smoothie, I'm sure you can see why I might have assumed that it was.
But, no. Apparently, there's white Dragon Fruit, Red Dragon Fruit, and Yellow Dragon Fruit.

Second thought: "It tastes kind of like nothing." It took me more than 6 bites to decide if I liked it or not. I'm still not really sure. I don't not like it and it's supposedly pretty good for you, so I'll probably end up eating it again.

Third thought: "So THAT'S what they've been trying to serve me at restaurants all this time!" I always thought the slimy fruit with all the black spots was lychees, but apparently I was way wrong. Lychees are just slimy and white. No black spots.

Fourth thought: "I don't want to throw this fruit away since I kind of like it. Let me make it into a smoothie instead because then I won't be able to taste it too much, but can still get the health benefits (anti-oxidants, high fiber, low calorie) and not waste it." Making smoothies is my new thing. They're so refreshing. So easy to make. And so hard to mess up. Case in point: The one I made tonight was mango, dragon fruit, banana, flaxseed powder, and coconut milk... and scrumptious. Who knew you could randomly thrown 10 things into a food processor and come out with a yummy dinner?

It may not look quite as beautiful as the one above, but I definitely wouldn't turn it down!

Tomorrow's 'new food' adventure: kale, banana, and pineapple smoothie. I'm not kidding. Haha. Here's to hoping!