The Importance of Sunscreen

Every year that I’ve taught ALE (Alternate Learning Environment… sometimes called “Life Skills”), we focus on the importance of safety in the summer time right before the end of school. This week we’re talking about sun safety and water safety. Yesterday, we tried a science experiment to illustrate the importance of sunscreen. The kids were really surprised to see just how much the sunscreen really did work!

Here’s what we did! First, we read the book “Tell Me Why I Get Sunburned” on Epic Books. (If you’re a teacher who isn’t using Epic, you need to start – they are, well, Epic!!) This non-fiction book talks a lot about sunburns and how they happen, the science behind them, and how to prevent them… all at a level that young kids can understand, and in narrative, not boring facts.

Then, we talked about the wide variety of sunscreen products that can be purchased at our local HEB grocery store. For the purpose of our experiment, I purchased 100 spf lotion.

This is the lotion I chose based on price and high spf count. You could use any lotion available.

I explained to them that in order to SEE what sunscreen does, we would be painting our sunscreen onto dark paper in a basic design. (Here is where I messed up – I should have had them all paint the same design – a basic smiley face. I would have saved on lotion, time, AND they would have all turned out really well…)

For our project, we needed just the right paper – that would stand up to painting the sunscreen onto it and then being in the sun for several hours. Enter my partners from Clear Path Paper – again to the rescue! We used two different colors of their card stock from their Mixed Essentials pack- the basic Black and Deep Sea Blue. I wanted the kids to see that ALL things are affected by UV rays, not just one color of paper, OR one shade of skin! After passing out the paper, I had the kids write their name using a white crayon or colored pencil.

This is the perfect paper pack for you if you like having lots of fabulous color options!
They also have a 100 count pack of this that gives you more sheets of each color!

Then, I squeezed the lotion out onto a paper plate and students used a q-tip to make a design on their paper. As I mentioned before the design DOES matter. Several of my kiddos just made large blobs, and covered much of the paper. This lesson is most powerful when only a few bits of the paper are covered, in a clear, distinct design. We used LOTS of sunscreen. I didn’t want to have to wash paint brushes, but I think paint brushes would have been a lot easier to use and would have made more even distribution of the lotion as well. Might be worth the time and effort to stand and attempt to wash them all out.

This picture meant something to the student,
but sadly didn’t prove the experiment very effectively.

Note – if you have older kids and want to take this a step further, you could do one set with the lotion straight out of the tube, and one set with lotion you have watered down, to test it’s “waterproof”-ness! I think that would be really cool for older students to test… might even have to do that with my three at home and see what happens!

SO! I digressed. We took them outside and taped them down to the concrete, and then emailed the teachers/staff and made sure that they knew to watch their students at recess, that they didn’t get messed up. I also made sure to include a note saying I knew that I had misspelled experiment… apparently I had not yet had enough coffee. Lol. I have learned not to correct these things all the time with my students, however – it is important for my high-anxiety students to realize that I make mistakes, too, and that sometimes it’s ok to leave a mistake and just own it. I pointed out to them that I had messed up, and they all said my motto – “everybody makes mistakes!” One of my sweet girls asked, though, “are you going to LEAVE it that way?” And I said, “yes, *Sally* because it really doesn’t matter, and I don’t want to waste any more paper by making a new sign. It’s ok to make mistakes sometimes.” And she replied, “wow. I don’t know if I could handle making that big of a mistake.” Then she walked off, very contemplative. I hope that my little “woopsie” maybe made an impact on her. She often totally shuts down if she makes a tiny mistake, which is sadly somewhat common due to her specific combination of autism with an intellectual disability. Sweet *Sally* has become one of my favorite students to love on, and maybe, just maybe, my “expirament” mistake made an impact. Maybe even bigger than the actual point of the lesson. Here’s hoping! 🙂

Our art! And the “expirament” sign was also made on Clear Path Paper.. that’s Pesto Green, which has rapidly become my personal favorite shade of green! Any chance I can use this paper, I’m using it! 😉

While outside placing our papers, we were able to discuss some predictions. Here’s some of what they thought would happen:
-the sunscreen might dissolve/disappear
-the paper might either get darker or lighter – we were about 1/2 and 1/2 on this one since we had just learned that our melanin gets darker in the sun, but some of us knew of things like paper or curtains getting faded over time at home
-the paper might blow away if we didn’t use enough tape
-somebody might step on it
-it would somehow change (One of my sweet boys said the cutest thing: “Well, Mrs. Hinnant, I know it’s gonna do something, or you wouldn’t have us do it!”)

We took them outside about 8:40, and made sure they were in a spot that wouldn’t get covered by shade as the sun moved (this makes for good conversation, too!). We went back out to collect them around 2:00. They were amazed to find their sunscreen still white! It hadn’t dissolved as they predicted. Some were very upset to be wrong. Again, this was a learning experience and I emphasized that scientists often make predictions that don’t end up being correct. That’s why they have to keep experimenting! Some of us were correct – a few papers flipped over because they didn’t have enough tape on the back. It appeared that our friends who were worried about stepping were wrong – teachers did a fabulous job of keeping their kids away from our work. No footprints, rips, snags, or tears!

We took our papers back inside and used paper towels to wipe all the excess sunscreen off. We were able to see a distinct line where the sunscreen had been, and they even noticed a little of the paper coloring came off WITH the sunscreen onto the paper towel. But the biggest excitement came from flipping the paper over. Those who had done a distinct design were able to clearly see where the sunscreen held the color to the paper, and the powerful UV rays faded the rest of the paper to a lighter shade of gray or blue. Again, some were frustrated by their design flaws. But I reminded them that scientists try things over and over and over before it all turns out exactly like they want. Some of them wanted to try again tomorrow, then! Lol. I told them we wouldn’t be using any more paper or sunscreen – we need to conserve our resources – but they are welcome to talk to their parents and try it at home if it’s ok with them.

This one barely used any sunscreen, which was a good lesson on making sure we have good coverage- it can’t work as well to protect us if we don’t have it covering us well like a blanket!

Overall, I’d call this “expirament” a success! A few lessons learned along the way about how I’d do it next time, but overall, quite a success! Let me know if you try it, and if you ever need quality card stock for projects such as these, be sure to give the folks over at Clear Path Paper a look!!

Melting Crayons for Earth Day… part two… making the crayons!

Well, my intent was to post this yesterday, but life happened! Again! It has a way of doing that… 🤪

So we collected all those hundreds of crayons. And the first step is to sort them out. Over the years I have learned that Crayola brand crayons are next to impossible to peel. Something about the glue they use. So since we had a LOT of crayons to pick from, I opted to set those aside to give to our school’s art teacher. Because art teachers can ALWAYS use more crayons!!

Our crayon collecting campaign was a huge success thanks to our posters made with materials from my partners at Clear Path Paper!

Our art teacher will also be getting all the paper peelings from this project- because they are PERFECT for using to make new paper. They water down and mash into pulp really well because they are super thin and already torn into small pieces. So if you’re interested in recycling the wrappers as well, definitely look into how you can make your own paper! Last year we made some really awesome seed paper in her art class that would be amazing to make with your crayon peelings! This website has great directions on how to make your own seed paper!

Check out all these beautiful wrappers!

After you’ve peeled all your crayons, you’ll get out your pans. I HIGHLY recommend silicone molds over metal, unless you want to spend a good bit of time banging the pan to get the finished crayons to unmold. Any silicone molds you get will work- whether they’re fancy ones intended for chocolates that you get from the craft store, or they might be cheap ice cube molds from your local dollar store. Silicone just makes it easier to unmold them. The more basic the design, the better, as small points and details may break off when you remove the crayon from the mold.

Peeled unwanted crayons… just waiting to be made into something new and amazing!!

Pre-heat your oven to 250F and begin breaking your crayons into small pieces. Kids love lots of colors melted together, so feel free to melt brights like yellow and darks like black together. The colors will NOT melt into each other and all become one. They will maintain their own color integrity, making some really cool color swirls. I like to use warm colors together and cool colors together. Last year, I even used green, blue, and white together to make crayons that looked like Planet Earth. As you can see further down, this year I put yellows and oranges together with greens to make pineapples, which the kids thought were super fun. I also made some wacky pineapples mixing some weird neon crayons we were given alongside blacks and grays. The boys especially LOVED them!

I love doing mixed colors! Warms together and cools together is always a safe bet if you’re nervous about mixing them on your first go-round.

Once you feel like your colors are together like you want, and the bottom of each mold is covered, then stick them in the oven. Silicone molds need to go on top of a metal cookie sheet so that when you get them out, you’ll be steady and won’t accidentally spill the hot wax and burn yourself.

A metal sheet pan is your friend! And don’t try candy molds with spots for sticks. That just makes a mess. 🤦🏻‍♀️

The time really varies on how long to bake them, depending on how deep you’ve layered your wax. Just check on them every ten minutes or so. The little round ones I made in my metal pan (never again on the metal, I swear!) are nice and smooth and thin for doing leaf rubbings, and they only took about 12 minutes to be all liquid. In contrast, the pineapples were deeper molds that I filled a lot more, and they took almost thirty minutes to be all liquid. This process will make your house or school smell like a crayon factory! Ha!

The colors maintain their integrity even as a liquid, they won’t mix together. Here, you can see green below yellow, which is beside orange.

I miss being able to use the oven at school to make these, where the kids could actually watch their crayons melt. If you have the opportunity to do that, it’s so so awesome for your students to experience. Either way, this is a fabulous video to share so they can see the similarities and differences of how crayons are originally made, vs how they are recycled in your own oven!

These were semi-cooled. See how some parts were still dark? They’ll be completely solid on top when they are cooled. Note- I really DO NOT recommend using a metal pan. Removal is h-e-double-hockey-sticks!

Once the wax is completely liquid, pull them out of the oven and let them cool COMPLETELY. (This could be another 30-45 mins.) Once cooled, you can remove them from their molds and start coloring! These are super fun for kids to experiment with and see how many different colored marks they can make from their one crayon! Mine loved how the tops of the pineapples can make multiple lines on the paper at once, and if you have a smooth bottom on the crayon, leaf or embossing sleeve rubbings are super simple and fun!

I am just in love with how these pineapples turned out!

This activity is great for kids of all ages, and even my 6th grader still gets excited every year about recycling crayons. It’s just a super fun project that any child can participate in. (And the peeling of the papers step is fabulous for working on fine motor skills as well as building stamina for a project that takes time and has multiple steps!)

Let me know if you try this with your own kids/students! Happy recycling! -Christy

Melting Crayons for Earth Day… part one- the posters

Y’all! It’s been forever and a day. Or a year. Or more! How long since I last posted? Well that’s too long! Ha! Teaching truly has been all-consuming. It’s been real and it’s been fun and it’s been real fun… but I’m ready for summer!! How bout y’all?

Here we are on Earth day, and I’m doing a project I have come to LOVE! Every year, my students and I collect up crayons that are broken and/or unwanted, and we jazz them up and melt them into something new and amazing for Earth day… as a true, physical picture of how you can really reuse and renew something that seems old and broken and ready to throw away!

This year our project reached new heights thanks to my partnership with the folks at Clear Path Paper! They hooked us up with some BEYOND BEAUTIFUL paper to make posters to spread around the school! We hung them up, our counselor helped with announcements, and the crayons rolled in. Seriously, y’all… I’m gonna be making LOTS of new crayons. More than I can make in just one day!!

But back to the beginning- the thing that made us so successful was our posters. For our posters, my partners over at Clear Path Paper hooked us up with some GORGEOUS Earth and water toned paper. Check out what we got:

I was able to print heart shapes right onto the mirror blue with no problem on our copy machine (just be sure to use the bypass tray and select thick paper b/c the machine handles it differently than regular cardstock). I printed some on the mirror side just to see if it showed up, but I cut those myself b/c it was a little dark on the blue to see. The kids were easily able to cut the ones with the lines on the back (white) side of the mirror paper. One even commented that it was easier (compared to regular copy paper) to cut that paper because it’s easier to hang onto the thicker paper while cutting. They also LOVED how pretty the mirror paper is, and totally thought it looked like ocean water. ❤

Then they tried to cut the recycling signs (printed on Kiwi Green) to look like islands, which they glued onto the water. Each poster got two oceans with islands, and then each student colored a “Recycle Your Crayons” print-out (again, on Kiwi Green) to color with as many colors of their crayons as they could. They loved that even white crayon would show up since the paper was green!

We hung our signs proudly all over the school, and they were a great success! The kids were even heard telling GenEd kids at a bathroom break- “did you see our crayon signs? We need broken crayons if you have any!”

Come back Monday for part two of this post- the “how to/recipe” for melting your own crayons! 🙂 -Christy

Click here to check out all the amazing papers available from Clear Path Paper!

Ready for part two? Click here!

Learning With Duplo

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Learning with Duplo

I have several parents of students I’ve been sharing with recently about various ways for kiddos to use Duplo for learning… so I thought I would share a few ideas here that could benefit everyone!

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Write letters on Duplo!

Did you know – you can write on Duplo with sharpie marker, and it can be erased with a Mr. Clean Magic Eraser or finger nail polish remover?  So you can put whatever letters you’d like on blocks and kids can use them to practice reading sight words, or building even more difficult spelling words!  This idea can last all the way up through elementary or middle school as a more interactive way to practice words!

Plus, check out THIS idea for using Duplo to build sight words in a whole different way!

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Practice word families/rhyming!

You can have your child create word family/rhyming words with Duplo, too!

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Build sentences and even stories!

By writing whole words on blocks, and adding punctuation, your child can start building complete sentences and even making short stories with their Duplo blocks!  Have your older child help you think of words to write on the blocks – practice which words are nouns, adjectives, adverbs, verbs, pronouns, etc… and after you write the words, your student can sort them by word types!  This is also a great way to practice labeling sentence parts, etc!  So many things you can do with this to meet many needs.

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Add, subtract, and even multiply & divide!

Looking to use Duplo with math?  Here’s an easy idea for using the dots to add, but you can also easily use Duplo to teach multiplication concepts, as well!  And of course, you can always take away Duplo for math as well!!  And just think – you could use it for non-standard measurement, sorting by colors or size, patterning, counting by twos, graphing,  and fractions, too!

The possibilities are truly endless.

And don’t forget to let your kiddos play with Duplo to build their creativity!  🙂

ENJOY, and please – share with me any ideas you and your kiddos come up with!

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Boy child

Where do I begin? Yall, I LOVE teaching. I always have. It was my dream from 8th grade on. I’ve worked hard for first a bachelor’s and then a master’s, and now three certifications. And I have soaked up knowledge from countless professional development sessions. I have read countless books (despite hating non-fiction) to help me perfect my craft. I seriously love teaching. I love watching light bulbs flicker and then stay on as a child learns to read or count or add or tell time. I love watching kids observe nature with excitement. I simply love what I do.

But this? This school at home thing is about to break me to my very core. In a way different than I have ever been broken. Because Grayson was not made for homeschooling. He doesn’t WANT me to be his teacher. He wants me to be his snuggly mama bear who reads TO him and snuggles him and only makes him do chores, which he can put up with because there are snuggles on either side. He does NOT want to read to me. He does NOT want to do any school work. He has informed me that I am NOT his teacher and I can’t begin to count how many times he has asked if he HAS to do … xyz thing.

I’m over it.

He is normally sweet and helpful and kind and a super loving big brother to Elle. Now he is disrespectful and laughs about it and looks to see what I’m gonna do. Picks physical fights with her and then gets MAD because she fights back! (Good for her!!) He whines and complains about every. Single. Dang. Thing. He is asked to do!

He has given up on riding his bike because it’s not easy. So he plays on a scooter that is Elle’s size and half the time fights me on wearing his helmet. My kid who used to be the one grabbing everybody’s helmets and making SURE they were all on. I can still hear him saying, “safety first!” My kid who was riding a bike so well last summer we could have taken the training wheels off then!

What has happened to my child?!?

Stress. Change. Sorrow.

Despite the fact that we have a schedule that we’re sticking to at home that is very predictable and gives him the structure he needs, it’s not HIS schedule. He desperately misses his teacher and friends. Despite being a shy kid who takes a bit to open up (nothing like the social butterflies his sisters are!), it’s April! His classmates are his world. And they were suddenly snatched away from him. He loves his teacher fiercely. And she’s gone. Might as well be on another planet.

And he’s sad. He cries every day multiple times a day. Ask him why, and he doesn’t know. But he’s just tired all the time, and he doesn’t know why. I know his tired. It’s depression. It’s anxiety weighing down his shoulders. I carry that tired on me. But I’m an adult. It saddens me to see him carrying that weight. No, it doesn’t just sadden me. It breaks my heart.

The girls are thriving. And their bond is even stronger than ever before. And then there’s him. He’s stuck somewhere in the middle- in limbo. An outcast. And his own behaviors keep it that way. I try to make him see what he’s doing, but it’s impossible.

Lord, you know all of these things. You see his tiny confused heart and you know it well. You loved him first- before I even knew he was in my womb, you knit him together. You knew these days would drive him crazy and drive me to the end of my rope. Lord, give him peace. Give him comfort. Help him to feel your love. Give me to words to say and the calm of spirit to handle his outbursts. You know my tired. Carry my burdens. You know I have so much experience, but none with this. Teach me your ways. Give me your wisdom for how to handle his heart gently, but his behavior firmly. I need help. Nothing has prepared me for this. I want, no I NEED my sweet boy to come home. I miss him desperately. I see him when he sleeps. Can he come back to stay? Please?