Using the ZigZag Density Tumbler In (and Out) of the Classroom


by Linda Dunnavant

The ZigZag Density Tumbler is an elegant desk “toy” and much more.  Turn the tumbler over and watch two different colors of droplets float down in a relaxing zigzag pattern.  I like to keep mine on my desk so that I can pick it up and watch it while I clear my head.  In addition to being a soothing, relaxing activity for busy adults, it provides myriad possibilities for calming, inspiring, and teaching students. Read the rest of this entry »


Center of Mass Challenge


By Jeremy Johnson

In my 13 years of classroom teaching experience, I’ve learned a few tricks to keep my students from becoming overwhelmed—or bored—by their science textbooks.  One of my favorite tricks is to get my kids up on their feet, doing science instead of reading about it.

When I teach about gravity and center of mass, for example, I like to shake things up by turning our classroom into an impromptu biokinetics lab.  I challenge my students to perform a series of seemingly simple physical tests, described below.  Lift a chair?  Raise your leg?  Pick up a quarter?  No problem!  (Or so they think…)

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First Graders and the Drinking Bird: A Love Story


First Graders & the Drinking Bird: A Love Story - Educational Innovations Blogby John Frassinelli

Having first seen a “drinking bird” in elementary school myself, I had never forgotten it.  Our teacher, I think, had placed one on the windowsill.  We had no air conditioning in those days, and the windows actually opened!  Air circulated through the room, and that probably influenced the bird.  I think it’s too bad that many classrooms are hermetically sealed these days, but we do what we can.

Recently I decided to introduce my first graders to my old friend, the Drinking Bird.   I bought a few birds and fooled around with them, making sure each one would “drink” as it was supposed to.  I learned that some birds need a bit of adjustment—their centers of mass might be too high or too low.  But this is easily remedied by gently twisting the bird’s body and raising (or lowering) it on its metal clasp.

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Forces and Motion Lesson


Lesson - Educational Innovations Blog

Through the years, we’ve seen teaching trends come and go… but one thing hasn’t changed: students LOVE anything related to balloons and rockets.  (So do we.)  And when you’re talking about rockets, you’re talking about forces and motion!

Take a look at this free lesson on forces and motion.  We’re using balloons as our rocket “engines” to power these simple cars.  The activity is basic enough to work with younger students, and can easily be augmented for a more advanced group.  This lesson invites all kinds of variations.  You might say the sky’s the limit!

Click on the image below for a full-size, full-color PDF of this easy-to-implement forces and motion lesson.  Enjoy!

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Forces and Motion Discussion Starters


Discussion Starters - Educational Innovations NewsletterForces and motion are all around us.  You might even say they make the world go ’round.  In 1687 Isaac Newton attempted to explain the movements of everything in the universe—from a pea rolling on a plate to the position of the planets.  It’s staggering to think about how much of our daily life involves some aspect of Newton’s Laws of Motion.

This is one science topic that can be easily approached by using examples from our collective life experiences.  Starting a discussion about forces and motion with your students is easy.  All you have to do is drop a feather…  nudge a toy car forward… pull open a door.

We’ve put together a collection of interesting topics and interactive games that you can use to get a conversation going with your students.  Let us know what you think in the comments below!

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