How Big, How Long, How Heavy?

An integrated STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Math) curriculum often revolves around scientific inquiry.  This method encourages children to ask questions, conduct explorations, and form inferences in much the same manner as scientists.  Teachers support scientific inquiry by providing interesting curricular materials that challenge children to explore and learn while building on their previous knowledge and understanding.
The questions teachers pose and the conversations they have with children as they interact with materials can increase their thinking skills and provoke deeper investigations.  Let’s look at the seven components of scientific inquiry. 

Forming an idea or expectation based on previous experiences that guides scientific investigation

Carefully examining the characteristics of an object, either in its natural environment or in an experimental setting.

Creating a situation to investigate a prediction or manipulate an object to gain knowledge.

Forming relationships through observation or experimentation with objects

Formulating or using a method to compare or quantify particular attributes of objects, such as length, weight, distance, and speed.

Forming an assumption based on repeated observations or experimentation

Sharing knowledge gained through inquiry by talking, writing, drawing, or reenacting a situation

Children can engage in scientific inquiry through exploring materials in our library lending totes, such as the STEM tote, “How Big? How Long? How Heavy?”  Here are some of the materials included in the tote:

The book, The Best Bug Parade,” by Stuart J. Murphy, has children comparing big, bigger, biggest with small, smaller, smallest – and long longer, longest with short, shorter, shortest.  It is a fun book for introducing and using language that describes, measures and compares different sizes. 

Another activity in the tote is the book, Inch by Inch by Leo Lionni about a small green inchworm who is proud of his skill at measuring anything—a robin's tail, a flamingo's neck, a toucan's beak.  Children can then use the one inch chains that come in the kit to measure items in the book and in the classroom.  Here is a lesson plan for this book and materials.

The book, “Just a Little Bit” by Ann Tompert is about an elephant and a mouse that need help from their animal friends in order to balance the seesaw so they can play.  

The kit comes with a simple to use balance for children to use with the accompanying pucks, or even add animals or other objects from the classroom.  The predicting, observing, experimenting, measuring and evaluating all happen naturally as the children work to get the sides to balance.Here is a lesson plan for this activity. 

The tote also comes with the book measurement mysteries and physical activity cards to incorporate movement with learning about and comparing sizes.  

Here is a lesson plan that goes with this activity.

There are so many creative ways to introduce children to measuring and comparing concepts!  Check out this measuring activity from Going Back to Kinder that uses yarn and pictures of your students.

Munchkins and Moms made a measuring center in the block play area – what a great idea! 

And if you are wondering what to do with all those bows you collect after the holidays, check out this fun comparison game at Learning 4 Kids

What are your favorite activities you use to support scientific inquiry?