My Super Fantanbulous Terrific Science Notebook

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SWBAT set up an interactive science notebook to be used throughout the year.

Big Idea

When students complete this lesson, they will have an interactive notebook specifically designed to support their personal learning.

Learning Science Should Be...

10 minutes

I opened the lesson today by sharing with my students that I think that Peppermint Patty and Chariie Brown's teacher didn't quite understand how science should be!

I asked them to help me understand how they want learning to be in science. I wanted their ideas. I wrote the title: Learning Science Should Be... I asked them to finish the sentence for me as I listed their responses below the title.

I told them that note taking and a science notebook was an important tool in science.I explained that I didn't want anyone to go to sleep taking notes in science class and that NGSS was not about me teaching and them listening. It is about doing! It is about questioning! Wondering, enjoying, observing and thinking!

Setting Up the Right Side

15 minutes

Preparation for Class: 6 or more large grocery bags divided in half. This helps with traffic when they take objects out of them. Bag #1 filled with various or one interesting object with texture, color, odor, and/or visual appeal. You can design bag # 1 as you choose. I used kohlrabi! It's a vegetable that is abundant all summer through fall and most of my students don't know what it is. It makes this activity extra interesting because of its shape, texture and slight cabbagy odor! It gets them interested in trying a new vegetable! ( I slice one up for them to taste raw at the end of class.) Bag # 2 should contain popped popcorn, Cheetos or something that can be easily physically changed by breaking apart. I chose to use popcorn. Everyone should have a new spiral notebook in front of them and a pencil. They can used colored pencils.

Rationale: This year, I wanted to make my class's science notebook an interactive A Super Fantabulous Terrific Notebook. As I transition into teaching NGSS, I have realized that the more personalized and active I make activities and supportive materials, the more engaged students are.

Guiding the Whole Class: I opened up the core of this lesson on my Smart Board using Developing an Interactive Notebook Class SB File. We discussed each page of this file step by step.

As we discussed and brainstormed what we thought a science notebook should look like or have in it, I wrote their suggestions down and saved the file. We looked at Jane Goodall's sample page from one of her journals and talked about what we noticed. I asked them to guess who's notebook they thought it might be.

As we continued, we turned to the page to begin creating our notebook. For today, our right side of the notebook should list the notes about physical properties and changes. These notes and activity will transition nicely into a future experiment. We read these notes over together and discussed examples beyond what was provided in the SB file. For my students who have special needs, I have copied off these notes and have provided them glue sticks to glue them in. After the right side of the notebook was prepared, we were ready to begin the task.

Creating the Left Side

10 minutes

We Begin: I had placed bags labeled #1 on the back counter where they could easily take turns taking out the objects without much of a traffic jam. Bag #2 was placed on my reading table. I had students pair up with a buddy. I counted to 10 and everyone partnered up quickly. I left the SB file up that contained the right side notes and the task. They began to follow directions as I guided them in what they should do, answering any questions. Their faces were fun to watch as they grabbed the kohlrabi. I was right, they never had seen one. It's fun to use something weird!

They listed their descriptions as I roved around the classroom guiding them to use content specific words. In a prior lesson, we had learned about the importance of precise words when we observe and describe in science.

They continued with their work and used their notebooks to draw, describe and answer the questions in the task. Students questioned what they needed to do to create a physical change. I told them that they needed to think about our discussion about how a stone can be changed in size and texture from water, but it is still as stone. I coached them to brainstorm as partners to figure out what they needed to do to the popcorn to create a physical change.

A Teachable Moment: One student asked me if he could eat it. This led to discussion about chemical change and we talked about how saliva would break it down and change it chemically. So he decided that eating it wasn't the correct option.

They continued their notebook drawings using colored pencils and rich words to describe their ideas. I helped several with accurate word choice as I discouraged the use of "awesome", "cool" or "weird."

Exit Ticket

10 minutes

As their assessment and a way to make them accountable for showing me what they learned, I created this Exit Ticket.   When all was completed in their notebooks, they came to me in partners to get their exit tickets. Before I gave them their ticket, I asked them if they enjoyed their lesson today. I asked them about one thing that amazed them and if they liked their notebook. After our short "check- in chat," they completed them independently at their desks and turned them in.

I could have chosen to simply assess how well they had created their notebook as well as how well they understood physical changes and physical properties, but I wanted to add extra student accountability. I also used this exit ticket for language arts practice of writing a complete sentence. Then they also have the benefit of transferring what they learned, sketched, noted and observed to creating a sentence about it. That practice is always needed!

A Lesson Extension

25 minutes

For some students, developing observational skills, struggling with precise vocabulary and getting used to the notebook can be a struggle at first. If you are looking for another simple lesson that provides great discussion, simplistic language and the concepts of transferring of energy, this is a great extension and connection!


Elizabeth Bullock is a former student and a senior at Badger High School this year, working on earning her Senior Girl Scout Gold Award. She plans on attending college the following year and is contemplating an education career in math or science, or a career in engineering. I advised and guided her to teach a summer school session for two weeks to students in 6-8 grade. This lesson is one of the lessons she provided and I think it fits well with observational skills. Any age from 4th grade up would be able to do this experiment very easily. 

Materials & Prep: 

2 One quart mason jars, red and blue food coloring, a circle cut from a plastic container lid that is cut a  larger than the circumference of the jar top (so you are able to grab and pull it out from the two connecting jars.),hot water and ice cold water.

For student investigation: Two pint jars, circles cut from plastic lids, food dye and hot and cold water. The pint jars are easier for them to manipulate. 

Objective: Students experience and witness that heat energy is transferrable.

Investigate: Elizabeth opened up her lesson by doing a direct demonstration, capturing the student's attention immediately with dropping food dye directly into the filled jars. She told them that one jar was hot and one was cold. From the colors, she asked if they could surmise which was which. Students immediately connected the red color with hot and blue with cold.

She placed the cut out plastic container lid on top of the COLD jar and inverted it carefully as she aligned the jar on top of the hot jar. Amazed eyes were wide because they thought it would all spill over. Elizabeth carefully removed the lid and students were awed.

Now what?

Well, students silently watched as the jar mixed and it made a murky purple color.

She began to question:

Why are we seeing what we are seeing?

What can you say about the hot water? What is it apparently doing?

(In transferring this lesson to the notebook, I would ask at this point and write precise descriptive vocabulary on the board to practice this skill.)

Students questioned and guessed as to what was happening. They thought it was the motion of water being inverted or they thought it had to do with pressure of the water on top, not realizing that it would be equal.

We continued the lesson by asking:

What would happen if the cold water were on the bottom?

Elizabeth repeated the process, except inverted the hot water on top of the cold water.

The colors remained separate. Students were not as surprised because Elizabeth had guided their thinking. ( As a teacher: I would suggest that questioning be more developed to create inquiry and more in depth thinking.)

Students asked great questions. One student wanted to know if the dye made the difference? So, in response to his inquiry, we did it one final time,dying the hot water blue and the cold water red to prove that it had nothing to do with the dye.


Elizabeth led the discussion using more questioning.

What keeps the colors separate?

What made the color combine?


Eventually, students surmised that the hot water rises to the top and connected it to other life examples, such as how the upstairs of a house is hotter in the summer because the heat rises and the air conditioner is taxed to get the cold air to the second floor. 

They wanted to know what would happen if they left them all night. So we did. The next day, students found that the colors had not mixed much. We discussed why they thought it happened?

Amazingly, they understood the concept of the effect of the room temperature on how the jars cooled or warmed up through the night.

*If the temperature isn’t too far off from room temperature, the colors won’t mix much.

Conducting the experiment. After the demonstrative lesson was complete, students were able to conduct the investigation in pairs. ( This is a good place to practice using the notebook, hands on, striving for great precise science language and descriptive sentences.)