Cultivate Wonder

Exploring Science with Children

Pattern Mania

Today in Wonderworks Storytime, we learned about patterns: action patterns, visual patterns, and musical patterns. After our opening Energy song, we started off by going through a pattern obstacle course that I had created around the perimeter of the activity center using painter’s tape.

pattern obstacle course

Each shape denoted a different action that the children were to follow and the shapes repeated as they circled around the room, creating a pattern. The pattern went as follows: hopping, spinning, spinning, hopping, squatting, squatting, hopping, spinning, spinning, hopping, squatting, squatting, hopping, etc.  After the children each went through the pattern obstacle course twice, they took a seat on the floor in front of the storytime chair, and we talked about the action pattern we had just created.

Then, we read the book Pattern Fish, by Trudy Harris and illustrated by Anne Canevari Green. This is a great book that describes fish related patterns of varying difficulty (starting out easy and growing more difficult as the book goes on). The pattern is begun and then the children have to finish it on the following page. For example, yellow, black, yellow, black, yellow, black, yellow, (turn page), black. That is an example of the first, and easiest, pattern. The patterns grow longer and more interesting as the book nears its finale.

pattern fish

When we finished Pattern Fish, we talked about how not only are there visual patterns and action patterns, but also musical patterns. We talked about rhythm and beats and practiced making patterns with knee slapping and clapping.  Then, we did Jim Gill’s song, “Toe Leg Knee,” from his album, Jim Gill Sings Do Re Mi on His Toe Leg Knee.  After that we talked more about patterns in music and how music has refrains which creates patterns, and we did Laurie Berkner’s song, “The Goldfish,” from her album Victor Vito.  

We then read the story Hop Jump, by Ellen Stoll Walsh.  This book is about a frog who notices that all the other frogs do nothing but follow the same pattern of “hop, jump, hop, jump” every day.  This frog, named hop jumpBetsy, decides she wants to dance, as well as hop and jump. In the end, the frogs decide that there is room to make up your patterns. 


After our final story, the children got to go through the pattern obstacle course two more times. Then, the children had a chance to make their own patterns. With long strips of poster board and clip art patterns, they got to decide whether or not they would stomp, clap, squat, and/or jump, how often, and in what order. After they created their patterns, the children then took turns showing them off.

 child made patterns

We had a wonderful time learning about some of the many different kinds of patterns today.  If you have any questions, or would like the power point for the pattern activity, feel free to contact me or Robin.  Happy storytimes!


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My Anatomy

For our final week of summer session Wonderworks, we learned all about the parts of our bodies and how they work together to make us who we are.

After our opening song, Energy, by Nancy Stewart, we all took a moment to stop and feel how quickly our hearts were beating (it is a long song with a lot of movement). We talked about our day’s theme and allowed our heartbeats to return to normal, and then, we tried to feel them again.  We noticed that our hearts had settled down and were no longer beating as rapidly.

We read our two books back to back, beginning with Tedd Arnold’s very humorous picture book, Parts. Next, we moved on to the very engaging and informative beginning reader Fascinating! Human Bodies, by Katherine Kenah. This was an excellent book for our theme, as it not only discussed some of the different parts of the body – internal and external, but also introduced fun facts that the children really enjoyed. We learned that like fingerprints, the iris of each human eye is unique. We also learned that the longest case of hiccups lasted 69 years!  If you are interested in teaching preschool age children about the inner workings of the human body, I highly recommend this pairing.

book Collage


After we finished our books, we did two songs with bean bags. First, we did the popular Beanie Bag Dance from Greg and Steve’s Kids In Action album. In this song, the children dance along to the music while cues in the song tell them on which body part to put their bean bag. The second song that we did was a much quieter song and one that we’ve never tried before, called Up Goes the Castle.  It is sung by Ernie from Sesame Street. In this song Ernie instructs you to lie on the floor and put your hands on your stomach (I asked them to lie on the floor and place their bean bags on their stomachs), and then as he sings the song (which is about a castle moving up and down on a mountain), the children watched their beanbags as they rose and fell on their stomachs. Before beginning this song, we talked about how our lungs got bigger and smaller when we breathed in and out.  We practiced breathing in and out and noticing how our chests got bigger and smaller. *I must be honest, I was worried that the children would have a difficult time staying still and would move around or get up before the song had ended; however, they did not. Over twenty children all remained on their backs with their bean bags on their bellies for a song that was 3:30 seconds long. I will definitely use this song again.*

For our activity, I made packets of organs and skeletons (from the website: Confessions of a Homeschooler: Life Size Human Anatomy Activity) for the children and their adults to cut out together and to arrange and glue on to large sheets of butcher paper. I had examples hanging up so that they would know where everything should go (basically). The adults were able to first trace an outline of the children in crayons, and then, they cut out the organs, colored and labeled them and glued them into place. This was actually a much more time consuming activity than I had anticipated, and so the overall storytime, which is ordinarily 45 minutes (including activity) went over by an additional 45 mintues (I had nothing going on in the room after, so this was not a problem, but if you are on a stricter schedule, you might want to schedule more time or to make this as a take home activity).

organ collage

As far as our Wonderworks program goes, I would say that this was probably one of my favorite themes.  It was not only fun but also very educational.  The books were enjoyable and engaging, the the songs were fun and relevant, and both the children and their adults had a great time working together on the activity.

I hope you all are enjoying your summer! We’ll be back again soon when Wonderworks fall session begins at the end of August. Feel free to contact Robin Gibson or myself, Jen Thomas, anytime. We’re always happy to share ideas and get to know other individuals interested in STEAM programming.


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Exploring Rocks

I opened storytime with Peggy Christiansen’s poetic If You Find a Rock,  in which she describes all kinds of rocks a child might find: skipping rocks, climbing rocks, worry stones, splashing rocks, memory rocks and more.

if you find a rock


Next we played the stepping stones game. I had cut out rounded shapes from construction paper and taped them to the floor in groups of three before the program began. I had the children line up behind a set of stones (I had four sets, and four to five children in each group, so no one had to wait to long.) Then they stepped across the pretend river using the stepping stones. I introduced this rhyme, and we did it over and over and over again, until they all could say it with me and had crossed multiple times.

Stepping Stones

Stepping over stepping stones,
One, two, three.
Stepping over stepping stones,
Come with me.
The river’s very fast,
And the river’s very wide,
We’ll step across on stepping stones,
And reach the other side.

Next I shared If Rocks Could Sing: a discovered alphabet by Leslie McGuirk. They loved hearing about how she found the rocks (lots of waiting!) and sometimes agreed (and sometimes disagreed!) with what shape she saw in the rocks — it was great for generating conversation.



We talked about looking for shapes or letters in rocks. I also showed them some of artist Andy Goldsworthy’s creations with rocks before we set out to make our own creations.

There are many more great rock books for this age, like Roma Gans If You Go Rock Collecting from the Let’s Read and Find Out Science series, and for a little older audience, Rocks in His Head by Carol Otis Hurst and A Rock is Lively by Dianna Hutts Aston.

Next we went outside to continue our rock explorations. We had talked about how rocks were hard . . . and soft (like chalk). One station was sidewalk chalk, another was painting rocks (what letter or shape do you see in this rock?), and a third was stacking or building with rocks. It was a beautiful day for the kids to explore!





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The Three Little Pigs Variations

For our Books & Blocks program, we explored building with variations of the Three Little Pigs. I began by retelling the story of the Three Little Pigs with a magnet board, asking children to help me remember the story.  Along the way I asked them what kind of house did they live in — a straw house? no! a wood house? (a few yeses) a brick house? etc. Next I read The Three Little Pigs: an architectural tale by Steven Guarnaccia.

threepigsThen we acted out the story with Laurie Berkner’s “Lots of Little Pigs” song. I had used masking tape to make three squares on the floor to represent the pigs’ houses before storytime. Now I asked for volunteers to be pigs and pick a house, or to be a wolf and join me.

Then there was plenty of time for building their own houses . . . or whatever they wanted to create, with legos, wood blocks, or cardboard bricks.



One child built an apartment building.



There was also a cardboard house for them to re-enact the story, which many children did, taking turns looking out the window or knocking on the door pretending to be the wolf.


I’ve used other variations of the Three Little Pigs as well. For our Family Tales, I shared Claudia Rueda’s delightfully spare Huff & Puff


and Mark Teague’s potato chip and sody-pop version, The Three Little Pigs and the Somewhat Bad Wolf.


My all time favorite variation is Euguene Trivizas’ The Three Little Wolves and the Big Bad Pig with irresistible illustrations by Helen Oxenbury.


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Exploring Electricity with Squishy Circuits


In March both the Wonderworks preschool children and school age kids of Explorers Club explored electricity with squishy circuits, inspired by this post on Electric Dough from PBS Kids:

More directions for squishy circuits are available at:

With both age groups, I began by sharing the Schoolhouse Rock video “Electricity.” Many parents remembered this one!

Then we read Oscar and the Bird by Geoff Waring.


Next we listened to the song “Electricity Game” on Nancy Stewart’s Sing a Song of Science.  It plays a sound and then children guess what makes that sound, which was was the perfect followup to a recent sound storytime.

I also read parts of What is Electricity? By Lisa Trumbauer and we talked about static electricity, using a balloon rubbed on a person’s head as an example.

Then we talked about moving electricity, which is described in Oscar and the Bird, and how electricity moves through wires. “Circuit” was the main vocabulary word for the Wonderworks group. The word sounds like “circle” and electricity must have a circle to move. We used an energy stick to demonstrate this idea. Gather kids in a circle to show that electricity flows in a circle – if one of them drops their hands, it won’t work anymore. (they can take turns being the switch!) The switch makes the connection or drops the connection (turns things on/off).

Next we played and danced to the Hap Palmer song,  “Switch on the Music.”

We had two main activity stations: Static Jars and Squishy Circuits.

Static Jars

Kids explored static electricity with static jars and balloons. We had prepared the static jars ahead of time, but you could also have children make their own.

The idea for the static jars was found in “Static Electricity: The Shocking Truth” by Peggy Ashbrook in Science and Children magazine, from the National Science Teacher’s Association, March 2013, pp. 30-31 and a related blog post here:

To make static jars  you need: plastic jars (soda bottles), tissue paper, foam scraps, scissors, various types of cloth to rub on jars, also plastic wrap to rub. Tear little pieces of tissue paper, cut foam scraps, and put in jars. Rub the outside of the jar with various materials to see what happens – which make static electricity? Also try rubbing the balloon on the outside of the jar. Get the balloon charged up (by rubbing it on hair or cloth first) and then try to see if it makes a difference.

Squishy Circuits

All instructions for squishy circuits, for conducting dough and insulating dough, are clearly explained on the Squishy Circuits website: We had 5 battery packs and children worked in groups of 2, after we demonstrated the project for the group.


The green playdough is non-conducting and regular playdough with salt is the conducting playdough.




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Fabulous Frogs

Last week in Wonderworks, we learned about all things frog, including the froggy diet, the froggy life cycle, and the major differences between frogs and toads.

After stretching our bodies with our Energy song, by Nancy Stewart, we introduced our topic with some fact cards (from a power point that we created). What Are Frogs

Next, we all practiced our counting and singing skills, using our Five Speckled Frogs flannel board.


For our nonfiction book selection, we read The Trouble with Tadpoles : a First Look at the Life Cycle of a Frog, by Sam Godwin.  This book using cartoon-like illustrations to introduce the life cycle of a frog.


Our picture book selection was Curious George, Tadpole Trouble, adaptation by Mark London Williams, which also helped the children to understand the unique transformations that frogs undergo throughout their early lives.

After our non-fiction book, we did The Bossy Frog Song, a fun song with motions which we found on YouTube.



After our books, we did a fun facts activity about the differences between frogs and toads. Before this activity, we explained the primary differences between frogs and toads.  For example, frogs have long hind leg and toads have short hind legs;  frogs are smooth and toads are bumpy; etc. For this activity, each child got her own set of craft sticks with a frog and toad.  We then stated things about either the frog or the toad, and when we were describing a frog, the children raised their frog sticks; when we were describing toads, children raised their toad sticks.


Another fun activity that we’ve included in the past as an extension of our “frogs vs toads” lesson is to practice hopping like a toad versus leaping like a frog.  We did not have time for this activity last week, but it is definitely a fun way to help children to remember one of the key differences between frogs and toads.


For our activities last week, we created lily pads with numbers 1-10 and letters a-z that the children could hop on around the room.  The children also got to use their artistic abilities to create their own frog face.





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Opposites Attract: Magnets

Picture Book: Marta’s Magnets by Wendy Pfeffer (Silver Press, 1995) – Though this picture books is a little old, I really like the many ideas for playing with magnets incorporated into the text.


Informational Books: Push and Pull: Learn about Magnets
by Julia Vogel (Child’s World, 2011)Image

Or Magnets Push, Magnets Pull by Mark Weakland (Capstone, 2011)


After sharing the books, we experimented together. Each child took a turn fishing from a bin full of small objects to discover what was magnetic. They made predictions: would it pick up the spoon? the toy car? the coin? the marble? the nail? The fishing poles and objects were left out as a station that children could explore on their own.


We also used a magnet make a paper clip jump and tried to see how long a string of paper clips we could make with a wand-like magnet.

All children were able to make refrigerator magnets to take home.


Several sets of bar magnets were another station where kids could explore polarity. The ends were red and blue, and it was fun to have them try to match ends of the same color together and discover they really wouldn’t stick. In fact, they could push the other magnet around without touching it!


Another station was a train set, as magnets are how the cars stick together. The cars only attach one way to the engine. This station reinforced the idea of polarity — that opposites attract!

Magnets are part of so many toys! We provided building toys with magnets.


And then there are magnetic letters, which are pretty familiar to preschoolers.


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Senses and Sensibility

Most of us have five senses.  Some of us have six (if you happen to be one of those rare individuals, you already know what this blog is going to be about and need not read on).

In last week’s Wonderworks Storytime, we tested each of our five senses: seeing, hearing, touching, tasting and smelling.

We read the nonfiction book Our Senses, by Janine Scott, which discussed each of the five senses. In order to keep the children engaged as we read, we asked them questions regarding each sense, such as, in the case of smell: “What are some things that smell bad?”  and “What are some things that smell good?” and so on.  The children all enjoyed sharing their favorite and least favorite smells, flavors, sights, sounds, and textures.


We passed out shakers and used Jim Gill’s song Alabama, Mississippi between books, explaining that we would be using our senses of hearing to note the parts where we sang loudly verses the parts where we sang quietly.

Our picture book was Ed Young’s Seven Blind Mice, the story of seven unseeing mice who have to use their sense of touch and their combined impressions to discover the identity of an unknown entity in their midst.


For our activities, we created many different stations to test each of the senses.  For smelling, we made smelling jars, using cotton balls, scented with a variety of essential oils – some not as pleasant as others (according to the children).

For sight, we printed off thaumatropes that the children could cut out and glue together on coffee stirs.

For sight, sound and touch we took pictures of a bunch of different items such as marbles, wooden beads, popcorn kernels, bells, coffee beans and oatmeal, and then we printed out these pictures on card stock.  Then, we placed these items in plastic eggs and balloons.  The children then had to try to match the image with what they believed to be the balloon (by sense of touch) and the egg (by sense of sound).

For taste, we popped served popcorn and lemonade.


We get many of our ideas from Pinterest, so feel free to visit our Pinterest page for additional ideas and instructions.

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Sink or Float

Will it sink or will it float?  This was the question that we asked during our Wonderworks program this week.

We opened our program with the picture book Who Sank the Boat?, by Pamela Allen.  In this story, which continually asks the listener, “Do you know who sank the boat?,” a group of animal friends all take turns boarding a row boat until it is finally so heavy that it sinks.  Which of the friends finally sank the boat?  Our storytime participants all had a fun time guessing until the very end.

who sank the boat

After our picture book, we all pretended to board our own row boats and sang Row, Row, Row Your Boat, adding a variety of different verses.

SongRow, Row, Row Your Boat

Row, row, row your boat

Gently down the stream

Merrily, merrily, merrily, merrily

Life is but a dream.

Bump, bump, bump your boat….

Sway, sway, sway your boat…

Row, Row, Row your boat underneath the steam

Haha I fooled you

I’m a submarine!

For our non-fiction book, we used the book Will It Float or Sink?, by Melissa Stewart.  The text of this  book discusses many different objects that will sink or float in water and why this is so.  As we read, we demonstrated to our storytime participants how each object mentioned in the book either floated or sank in water, using a clear plastic tub.



After our demonstration, it was time for the children to discover for themselves which objects would sink and which would float. We let them test out numerous items in our plastic tubs of water.

In addition to testing out which objects would sink or float in water, the children were given sheets of aluminum foil which they could use to fashion into small boats to float on the water.  They could then experiment to see how many pennies it would take to sink their boats.  Some of the children tried floating other items in their boats in addition to the pennies.

Our strongest boat held over 50 pennies!

sink or float

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Spiders are *not* Insects!

Spiders have eight legs. Insects have six.  Spiders are *not* insects. This is one of a variety of things we learned during our spider-themed Wonderworks.

We opened this storytime with a funny, yet educational, YouTube video from Sesame Street, which features actor Jim Parsons and a large spider-shaped muppet, both trying to explain the definition of “arachnid.”

Our nonfiction book selection was Spiders Are Not Insects, by Allan Fowler.  This Rookie Read-About Science book uses color photos and simple text to teach facts about spiders and to illustrate the differences between spiders and insects.  It also shows several popular varieties of spiders – large and small, poisonous and non-poisonous.  Although physically small, this book series rarely fails to keep the children interested and engaged.

spiders are not

After our book, we acted out the rhyme, Little  Miss Muffet a few times, hooking our thumbs together and wiggling our eight fingers around to make our spiders. We also discussed how spiders were not insects but rather arachnids.  To help us remember the word “arachnid,” we clapped out the each of the three syllables as pronounced it.

RhymeLittle Miss Muffet

Little Miss Muffet

Sat on a tuffet

Eating her curds and whey

Along came a spider

Who sat down beside her

And frightened Miss Muffet away!

After our rhyme, we read the picture book Aaaarrgghh! Spider!, by Lydia Monks, a fun story about a spider who wants to be a family pet.

aaarrg spider

Next, we sang Sharon, Lois, and Bram’s song, The Eensy Weensy Spider from their Great Big Hits cd.

For our activities, we made paper plate spider webs and Styrofoam egg carton spiders with eight little pipe cleaner legs.


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