Special education students often learn well from instruction that is multi-sensory and hands on. Science activities that involve experiments they can perform and then write about are a wonderful way to integrate meaningful instruction and reinforce reading and writing skills.
Children love science, especially science they can eat. One simple, easy experiment children can do is make butter. Have the students bring in a small jar with a lid--an old peanut butter, jam or jelly jar is good--and put in some heavy cream. Seal the jar and have the students shake it. As they shake the jar, the protein and fat molecules in the cream will stick together and make butter. There will also be a liquid that the students can pour off called buttermilk. The science takeaway from this is that friction can cause a change in state of the cream.
Ice Cream for Science
Butter is nice, but ice cream is even better. This experiment flows best if you call children up one at a time, or in pairs to do each step. Let the students work together in small groups to write up their experiment results.
Prepare Your Experiment
Use a no-cook ice cream recipe and assemble your ingredients. As you put the ice and salt in the bag, ask them why you might need to do this. What is the ice going to do to your mixture? Why add salt? What does salt do to the ice? Once both bags are sealed, let the children put on mittens or gloves and take turns kneading the bags.
As the mixture begins to freeze, talk to the students about what is happening to the ice cream. The ice and salt have lowered the temperature, and ice crystals are beginning to form. Why are we kneading the mixture? When the ice cream is ready, let the students eat their creation, and then write up the results.
Cross Curriculum Instruction and Children with Learning Disabilities
This teaching technique is multi-sensory, which is favored for children with learning disabilities. It is also an example of integrated curriculum. However, it should be stressed that even though this is integrated instruction, the instructor should be concerned with teaching the science and making certain the students grasp the underlying principles of how the experiments work. Spelling and grammar are not to be weighed equally to these principles, because it will distract the students' focus. Children who have learning disabilities often have to concentrate on sound-symbol correlation and spelling, to the detraction of content. Use this activity to reinforce language arts, but do not introduce new concepts in that subject. Let the students enjoy the science.
- Webb Zahn: Flickr.com