Friday, June 29, 2012

New Family Blog & a DIY project

Summer is beginning to settle in nicely for the Lyon Family.  With that being said, I finally had time to begin the other blog I have been planning on doing since my daughter was born......a year ago.  I know that as teachers, we never really do stop planning for school but I thought perhaps some of you might be looking for some type of DIY project for your own home.

Head on over to my new blog, The Lyon Lair, where you will find a great DIY project on creating an umbrella base out of a flower pot.  While your there, I hope you'll take the time to follow my new adventure.  You'll see more DIY projects and read about issues on being a wife and mom and teacher AND blogger.  I know many of you will be able to relate.  :-)

Hope to see you at The Lyon Lair!

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Post Father's Day Gift

Okay - I am well aware the Father's Day is over and done with. However, I never shared my project that I did with my students. So despite the holiday being almost a full year away, I present you my project.

 Let me start by saying in my head when I first planned this project, it was SUPER cool! Seriously. Super. Cool. Then we actually started the project and I thought maybe not so super cool after all. However, my students loved it and in the end, I was back to thinking super cool. So all is well. Okay, now I really will present the project.

My original idea was to have students imprint their feet into the stepping stone. Which is why I bought the 12x12 stepping stone molds. In the end, I went with just hands. The molds worked perfectly. I was a bit scared that the cement would dry and the mold wouldn't come off but my husband (who was a big contributor to this project) just had my students grease the molds with olive oil. No problem. The molds came off. Since I had only 16 students, I bought 8 molds and completed this project over two days. Half the class one day and the other half the next day.


My husband came and mixed together quick cement in a bucket and filled the greased molds to the brim. He smoothed it off and we had them set for about 25 minutes. After they set for a little, the students stuck their hand prints into the cement. They had to press down fairly hard. This is also when they would have used the letter stamps but I decided not to do that. I had the molds stay outside for 2 hours before having the students carefully carry them up the stairs to dry on the back table. The next day, the stones were completely dry.

My amazing husband, who facilitated this project.

 Now that the stones were dry, I let the students use acrylic paints to color their hand print. This was a last minute idea.....originally we weren't going to paint them at all, but I felt they needed something.

The painting was a big hit - the kids loved it and even added messages, initials and dates to their stones. Once that acrylic paint dried, I used a clear coat and covered the stone a few times to give it a shiny appearance. I'm really glad I stuck with the project. I heard positive reviews from not only the kids (which I expected - they love to get dirty) but also from the parents. I even had one student who went out and purchased a mold and is going to make more for his family's garden. So this is not only a great Father's Day project but also an anytime project!

What type of Father's Day projects did you do?

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

The Art of Service Learning

Service Learning is a HUGE part of the culture at my school.  As a matter of fact, each grade level in our school (PreK-8th) all raise money and support a particular organization.   Here is the breakdown of all our services:

Prekindergarten: Theme: Animal Care
Organization: West LA Animal Shelter
Description: Students learn about animals and their basic needs and wants.  They raise money by hosting an annual Chips for Chihuahuas in which they sell nachos to the students at school.  They also host a drive for animal supplies.  

Kindergarten: Theme: Hospital Care
Organization: Pennies for Patients
Description: Students participate in the Pennies for Patients program, which raises funds for the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society.

First Grade:
Theme: Ocean Conservation
Organization: Heal the Bay
Description: Students research ocean ecosystems throughout the world. Students learn about the human impact on ocean environments. Students raise money for Heal the Bay by selling otter pops.

Second Grade:
Theme: Shelter
Organization: Habitat for Humanity
Description: Students write letters to elected officials to end poverty housing. Students raise money for the building of affordable homes through Habitat for Humanity.

Third Grade: Theme: Family Support
Organization: Ronald McDonald Pasadena House Charities-Pull-Tab Collection Program
Description: Students research cancer as an illness and the affects on the family unit. Students develop a school-wide program to collect pull-tabs for patients at the Ronald McDonald House.

Fourth Grade:
Theme: Endangered Animals
Organization: World Wildlife Fund
Description: Students research endangered species around the world and how humans impact their endangerment. Students will devise plans to protect their habitats and raise money through recycling for the World Wildlife Fund.

Fifth Grade: Theme: Hunger
Organization: Heifer International
Description: Students research the effects of hunger throughout the world. Students work with Heifer Project International to end hunger and care for the earth. Students raise money by collecting Boxtops and selling wooden animal figurines.

Sixth Grade: Theme: Plant Conservation
Organization: Tree People
Description: Students research plant life and their positive effects on the environment. Students raise money to plant trees in various communities through Tree People.

Seventh Grade: Theme: Medical Assistance
Organization: Smile Train
Description: Students research the needs for children’s surgeries around the world. Students raise money to provide surgeries for children in other parts of the world by contributing to Smile Train.

Eighth Grade:
Theme: Human Rights
Organization: Facing History, Facing Ourselves
Description: Students examine racism, hatred, and anti-Semitism throughout history. Students develop a campaign to break down the walls of hatred through art and language. Students work with the Museum of Tolerance.

The wooden figurines we sold for $5 each making a 50% profit on each one.
My entire class made shirts to wear on Service Learning Day
This year was a big year for the 5th grade, which is the Service Learning I have been apart of for the past five years.  We have slowly been collecting BoxTops to raise money to purchase a heifer through Heifer International in the amount of $500.  However, this year we added on an additional component in which over a two week period we sold wooden Anamalz which I can receive for a discounted price. I was able (and if you need them, I can get them for you too - just contact me) to get the animals for $2.50 each.  The wooden figurines that we selected were all farm related which tied in with Heifer International.  They retail for about $10 online and sometimes more.  However, since we were raising money for a charity we sold them for only $5.  In two weeks we sold over 200 of the wooden animal figurines and made a profit of $560!


With the animal figurines profit, we also accumulated another $500 in Box Tops and this year made a purchase in the name of the school.  We bought not only the heifer we had been working on for so long but ALSO two goats, one water buffalo, a flock of goslings, a flock of chicks and a flock of ducklings bringing our total donation amount to $1060.   This was an amazing feeling for not only myself but for the entire school as we could see that something as simple as clipping boxtops or purchasing a wooden toy could make such a huge difference in the world.

I truly enjoy working with Heifer International and raising money for their cause. They also are very teacher friendly.  They offer a lot of resources on their webpage for educational use.  I received (for free) an entire kit with DVD, book and lesson plans to help introduce and teach their message to my class.  They definitely help make it easy to connect their work with the classroom.

What type of Service Learning Projects do you do?

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

RGS Blog Contest Finalist


I was so excited to receive an email the other day announcing that my blog was a finalist in the Really Good Education Blog contest!  I mean really, me? My little blog?  It was humbling to say the least.  So, a big thank you to anyone who nominated me.  

With that being said, I would LOVE to win in my category of "Middle School" blogs.  Please head on over and vote for my blog which is listed on the Middle School tab as Teaching: The Art of Possibility.  And while your at it, check out some of the other amazing blogs which were nominated as well. 

Thank you!!

Monday, June 18, 2012

Fifty State Studies

Western States
After diligently working all year in our Social Studies book, I like to end the school year with our State Study Unit.  During this time, students learn the location of all 50 states, their abbreviation and capital (including proper spelling).  This is also when I find many of my past students (we are a PreK-8 school) walking extremely slowly by my classroom.  Not because they are trying to get out of whatever is going on in their own classroom but because they hear a familiar tune.  Many will even stop outside my door to sing the song with my class......what song?  The Animaniacs Capital Song!!!!  I kick the unit off every year by giving my students a copy of the lyrics to this extremely catchy song to help aid my kids in memorizing the capitals.  If you have not heard this one yet, you need to listen to it!!!!  My kids absolutely LOVE this song and many times during their tests on the capitals I can hear them humming the tune.  It works!

I break the total unit into five weeks, with the aid of maps from  This website has divided the country into four regions: Northeastern, Midwest, Southern and Western.  I print out a copy of each map for my students and together we properly label the map for them to use as a study guide.  Each week we work on a new region.  Here is my breakdown:
Week 1:  Northeastern States
Week 2: Quiz on NE States and begin Southern States
Week 3: Quiz on the Southern States and begin the Midwest States
Week 4: Quiz on the Midwest States and begin the Western States
Week 5: Quiz on the Western States and final tests on the capitals, abbreviations and location of all 50 states
Final state location test
I created weekly quizzes for the students to complete for each region.  One quiz is for the abbreviations, another for capitals and yet another for location.  While it seems like a lot, my students have actually said they like it because they usually are successful on one or another (if not all three!)  During this time, I also print out some review sheets from Edhelper to create a packet that the students need to have completed by the end of the unit. also has great packets and sheets.  
NE Quiz
I also assign the State Project which is broken into two parts.  One part is a report that the students complete using Google Presentation, where they research an assigned state.  In addition to the report, students create a state float (think of a parade) which represents symbols and other things that state is known for.  These are SO MUCH fun to see and listen to the students present.  They get really creative.  
See an example report here:  Georgia

This is one unit the students really enjoy!  We play State Capital Bingo, a flashcard game and so much more.  Even my students who typically struggle in Social Studies, typically find success with this unit and enjoy all the hands on activities and games we play.

In addition, I have my students use my QR Code Task Cards to practice identifying the states based on outlines and the state capitals.  See them here in my TpT store.

What do you do for your State Study Unit?

Sunday, June 3, 2012

Summer Book Study

I don't know about the rest of you but I still have three weeks left before school gets out. However, as the end of the school year comes to the end, I'm busy gearing up for the beginning of summer and with that, the beginning of an awesome book study.  A group of us who teach third through fifth grade plan on collaborating and reading and blogging about The Daily Five and CAFE. We are so dedicated to this whole idea that a blog has even been formed for us to keep all our notes and discussions in one place.

WHERE you ask?  Over at a fabulous blog created by Lorraine from Fabulous Fourth Grade Froggies called We Read, We Blog, We Teach.

We Read, We Blog, We Teach

We begin this fabulous adventure with The Daily Five on July 1st and will complete one chapter every three days.  Once completed with that book, we will move onto CAFE which is scheduled to begin on July 22.

Be sure to pick up your copies of these books today so that you can join us in our discussions!


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