Setting Up an Interactive Science Notebook

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The students will set up an interactive science notebook that will be used for collecting notes, gathering information, and showing other data.

Big Idea

Science notebooks rock! We can use them to make connections across all of the units we study throughout the year. But how do you set one up? Read to find out more.

Teacher Notes

Activity Description

A book will be read in which a girl uses a scientific notebook when she investigates a habitat.  Students will follow her lead by setting up their own science notebook.  

Science Practices Connection

This is not a regular science lesson, but rather an activity to help the children set up a science notebook that we will be using throughout the year.   As part of the science practice 4 and 8, the student will record information about observations, thoughts and ideas. 


You will need to prepare the notebooks for the children in advance.  Please watch this short instruction video to see how to do it!  Here is a photo of some finished science notebooks.  Don't they look great?

  • spiral notebooks or composition books--1 per child
  • colorful duct tape (see my reflection)
  • science notebook covers boy--1 label per boy in your classroom
  • science notebook covers girl--1 label per girl in your classroom
  • thick clear tape--for covering the labels so they stay on the whole year
  • ribbon to use as a bookmark (optional)--12-15 inches per child; I used old ribbon that was donated to me several years ago.  You could use leftover pieces from previous projects or ask your parents to donate to the cause, if desired.
  • either Salamander Rain or Saguaro Moon both by Kristin Joy Pratt Serafini; If your library doesn't have these books, you can order them USED, like I did,  off of Amazon for pennies.
  • crayons or colored pencils

Literature Connection

20 minutes

Since my  students struggle to apply what they've learned in prior units, I keep referring back to our previous lessons.  But when doing so, I didn't have any of their artifacts left to show them to refresh their memory.  So I thought it would be a great idea for the children to be able to refresh their memory of the past content by having their own actual artifacts.  So that is why I decided to have them create science notebooks.  It will be a wonderful place for them to collect information that we have learned this year.  They can use it to record information, drawings, diagrams and writing of observations and then share it with the class.  It would help them make connections across all of the content that we have studied.

To begin our seminar on making science notebooks, I start off by showing the children an example of a science notebook.  This is a book written by Kristin Joy Pratt Serafini to replicate a scientific journal/notebook.  I chose this type of book since it is in the style we want to replicate and also since it discusses a chosen habitat, deserts.  This is one way for it to have dual meaning--a model for our journal and also information we will need for our habitat study.  This is just the lead that we need to kick-start our biodiversity unit. What the children will be creating will be somewhat similar to what she has done, but of course with our own twist!

I read the book Saguaro Moon since we will be studying about deserts in this unit (see my reflection).  Since there is an over-abundance of material to cover in this book, I chose to shorten and paraphrase some of her journal entries.  I want the children to get a flavor of her work and can accomplish this without reading every word.

After we are done reading, I try to relate what the author has done to what they are about to do.

The book we just read is a great example of a scientific notebook.  I noticed that the author used lots of types of items in her book to show different types of information.  What are some things that you notice that the author chose to include in her pages?

The children start coming up with lots of examples and I write their ideas on the board.  I want them to see what we might possibly include in our notebooks.  Here are the ideas they came up with:  maps, definitions, journal notes, information from the internet, newspaper articles, pictures of animals, information about the size of different animals, and notes about the seasons. 

Why do you think the author, Serafini, chose to include these things in her journal?  Do you think those things are helpful in understanding what it is like in the desert?

I want the children to come up with the idea that the collection of all of these artifacts can be used as an informational source.  Gathering information and collecting it together in one source makes it easy to access the information all in one spot.  In this way, if you want to go back and learn about something of interest, all you have to do is look back.  Which brings me back to the point of us doing the same thing, to use this as a resource for our future studies.


20 minutes

After reading the book Saguaro Moon, we discuss some of the main ideas that relate to our purpose.  Then the students will have a turn at creating a masterpiece on the front page of their notebooks.

Did you know the author of this book is also the illustrator?  Kristin Joy Pratt Serafini wrote this book and has also drawn the pictures.  As scientists, today you are going to have the chance to make a notebook into a creative masterpiece, just like Kristin Joy Pratt Serafini has done.  On the first page of your notebook, I would like you to draw a picture of you as a scientist.  Remember when we learned all about the many things that scientists do?  What are some of those jobs?  

I quickly show them the Fields of Science cards from the lesson What Kinds of Jobs Does a Scientist Do?  Alternatively, you could also show them slides from this power point presentation.  This helps unify ideas from previous lessons to help them make connections across science content.  I strive to make my units interconnected in some way so their brains can make the connective bridges to help them assimilate the knowledge.

I am giving you each a scientific notebook.  I want you to open it to the very first page. On this page, I want you may draw yourself doing one of these scientific things that we just talked about, or feel free to draw yourself as a scientist in another situation.  You might want to consider making a sketch first and then using crayons or colored pencils to add dimension or color to your drawing.  

As you are creating, I am going to play some music that many creative people listen to to help bring out their creative spirit.  The type of music we are going to listen to is called opera.  It might sound different to you at first since you probably aren't used to it, but it really will help you get into the creative spirit.  Sometimes I listen to opera when I create.  In one of our next units, we will be studying about a man who built great towers while listening to this very music.

I allow the students to work on their masterpiece for about 20 minutes or so.  As they work, we listen to the opera music.  I know this might sound funny, but it really helps bring out the creative spirit in children.  I downloaded 5 opera songs from iTunes.  Then I repeated the songs several times to make a CD to play as the children worked.  This is all done with specific intent, since as we study about towers and bridges in a later unit, we will be studying about a man who built great towers while listening to the music of Enrico Caruso (an Italian opera singer).  I did scower through all the songs and found ones that I thought would be the most enjoyable for the children.  Here is a list of my 5 songs:

  • Funiculi Funicula--by Andrea Bocelli (album: Incanto)
  • O Sole Mio--Enrico Caruso (album: Canzoni Italiane)
  • Santa Lucia--Enrico Caruso (album: Canzoni Italiane)
  • Tarantell Sicera--Enrico Caruso (album: Canzoni Italiane)
  • Rigoletto- La Donna E Mobile (album: Luciano Pavarotti--The Best)

Of course, you can listen to any opera or other types of music that you think will bring out your children's creative side!

Here is a sample of one of their creative cover pages.