Mystery Science Lab is a set of 11 mini-labs that require students to use their four senses (no tasting!) to explore the natural world around them. It's perfect for that first week back to school and will allow you to get to know your students in a lab setting. Each card requires the students to answer one or two questions using observations and prior knowledge. There are a lot of materials needed (a lot of them you probably have around your house), but once collected you'll be able to use them from year-to-year.
I like to use this at the beginning of the year (or it could be used as a filler activity if you have a few days before a long break - I wouldn't leave it for a substitute teacher) to get to know my students and see how they interact in a lab setting. It's great for getting an idea of who works well with who and whether your students can follow directions. It also allows me to see if my "new to the school" students are fitting in since I do this at the end of the first week.
Download the preview for a list of materials & three of the stations.
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