Thursday, December 6, 2012

Gifts for Santa's Scientists

What would YOU give an ornithologist for Christmas? How about an ichthyologist or a paleontologist? Santa has a bag of gifts for a dozen scientists, and he needs YOUR students to help him figure out which gift goes to which scientist. But first, they’ll need to do a little research and work with their team to learn about a dozen different types of scientists. Curious? Let me share a little bit about this activity with you.

Gifts for Santa’s Scientists is an engaging research lesson that I developed for my students a few years ago, and it worked like a charm for keeping them on task during the busy week right before the holidays. Before you read on to learn more, you might want to click this preview link and scroll through the document to see what's included in the lesson. I've created a complete packet of printables, directions, and an answer key to make it really easy to implement.

To begin the activity, tell your students that Santa has gifts for a dozen scientists in his sack, but the gifts aren't labeled with names. Santa needs their help to figure out which gift to give to each scientist. This activity does not involve an actual gift exchange; students will simply be discussing the gifts named in Santa's bag, like a telescope, a magnet, or a flower pot.

Working in teams of four, each student will research 3 scientists and complete an activity page like the one shown on the right. They write a sentence or two to describe each scientists’ area of study and draw a simple illustration of something those scientists might study. After students finish with their research, they return to their teams to share and record what they've learned.

After they complete this step, the fun begins! They work together as a team to match each gift in Santa’s bag with the scientist names on the packages. To make the activity even more challenging, you can ask students to put away all of their study materials and try to match the gifts and scientists based on what they remember.

If you follow my blog, you know that I seldom blog about my products. But Gifts for Santa’s Scientists is a little unique and it needed a bit of explanation.  My students really enjoyed this activity, and I loved that fact that they had to conduct research, work with a team, and do some critical thinking in order to figure out which scientists received which gifts.

You can find this activity on my Teaching Resources website and in my TeachersPayTeachers store. One thing I love about TpT is being able to read comments and feedback from teachers who've used my materials.  This comment from Selina Smith of the Classroom Magic blog about Gifts for Santa's Scientists made my day!
"I can't say enough wonderful things about this product. It is SO well thought out. It is perfect for students who need help with research. It is perfect for incorporating technology. The directions are so clear you could easily pick it up 3 minutes before class and be ready to teach the lesson. I love how she has written Day 1 number 1, 2, 3, etc. Thank you for making such a great product! I want MORE :)"
The week before Christmas vacation is often a crazy time, and the excitement of the upcoming holidays makes it tough to keep students on task. Textbook lessons won’t hold their attention, so cooperative learning lessons like Gifts for Santa’s Scientists offer a welcome change from regular daily instruction. If you prefer an lesson that involves a variety of winter holidays, you will find a similar cooperative research activity in my December Mini Pack called "Holidays Around the World."

By the way, the ornithologist received a bird feeder, the ichthyologist received scuba gear, and the paleontologist received fossils. I’m not sure about you, but I think Santa could have saved himself the trouble and just given them all iPads! What do you want for Christmas?



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