For several years now, my teaching teammate and I have organized a class business around the holidays. My fourth grade students develop, produce, and sell a product to our school community, and we donate any profits to charity. In the past, we manufactured and sold one product (like these Mason Jar Cookie Mixes) that families pre-ordered, and we had a limited production. Since I had clearly blacked out the incredible amount of work it takes to source the supplies and organize this little venture, I spearheaded an expansion of the business into a full holiday market with six products to sell.
Students filled out job applications at the beginning of the school year, and we have been running workshops every week to make all of the products. They have been calculating our costs to date and determining product prices. On the day of the market, students will man a booth where they will provide sales help and handle cash.
This week, we are making birdseed ornaments. This is a good low cost holiday gift. The ornaments are easy to make in bulk, and after we bag and label them, they will be the perfect gift for a party host, a neighbor, a teacher, or a co-worker.
- 3/4 c. flour
- 1/2 c. water
- 1 envelope unflavored gelatin
- 3 T. light corn syrup
- 4 c. birdseed (finch bird feed packs better into the molds)
- molds (cookie cutters, muffin tins, chocolate or soap molds, etc.)
- nonstick cooking spray like Pam
- drinking straws cut into 2-inch pieces
- waxed paper
- cookie sheet, sheet pan, baking pan, tray
- ribbon or twine
- clear plastic bags
- Put a sheet of waxed paper on a cookie sheet, tray, or baking pan. Fill the tray with the cookie cutters or molds you will be using. If you are using cookie cutters, and there is a sharp edge and a protected edge, put the cookie cutter sharp edge up. Spray the insides of the molds with the cooking spray.
- Combine flour, water, gelatin, and corn syrup in a large mixing bowl until it is well-combined and turns into a paste.
- Add the birdseed to the paste mixture and stir until well-coated.
- Spoon birdseed mixture into each mold. Pack the mixture down well and make the top smooth. The back of a spoon or the bottom of a measuring cup work well for smoothing the top of the birdseed.
- Poke a hole near the top of each birdseed mold using a drinking straw piece. Even though the straw will be near the top of the ornament, make sure you do not have the straw too close to any edge, or it will break apart later when you add the ribbon. Make sure the straw goes all the way through to the bottom. Leave the straw in place.
- Leave the birdseed mixture in the mold for 2-3 hours. Then, remove the straws and gently remove the ornaments from the mold. Place the ornaments on a new piece of waxed paper and let dry an additional 2-3 hours or overnight.
- Thread a string or ribbon through the hole and tie, so the ornament can hang from a tree branch. I liked the natural look of twine rather than a colorful ribbon.
While I know this generation of students will simply pull out a phone to find a location, I still like to spend time teaching map skills. I want my students to have a mental map of the United States and the world in general. I want them to have a general sense of north and south, and I think the math aspect of calculating distances between two points and understanding the way maps work reinforces many thinking skills. My students were not really getting the coordinate grid system for longitude and latitude, so I compared it to the game of Battleship. Hands suddenly shot up. “I play that game!”
If you can play Battleship and pinpoint a location on a grid, you can understand longitude and latitude. I converted a U.S. map into Battleship size and attached it to Battleship game boards. My students agreed to bring more games from home, and we had a few game days in class. It was a hit (pun intended)!
- Battleship game boards
- 6″ x 6″ maps with longitude and latitude lines (2 per game board). CLICK HERE for the map gameboard.
- a ballpoint pen to help poke holes
Setting Up the Game
- Print and cut U.S. maps and place them on the Battleship game boards. You need 2 copies of the map per board for a total of 4 maps per pair of players. To fix the maps to the game boards, we used 2-3 white pegs at the corners of the maps (the outermost hole on the Battleship grid board).
- Getting the pegs to poke through the paper is tricky. I poked holes in one game board and photocopied that game board with a dark piece of paper behind it. The copies showed faint hole marks that lined up with the grid underneath. Students could then take a ballpoint pen and gently poke through the paper, so they knew where the pegs should go. Because the Battleship grid is fixed, the holes do not line up exactly on the center of each state, so the students marked locations that were as close as possible to the center of a state.
Playing the Game
- Students placed 3 red pegs on their game board (the one that rests on the tabletop).
- One student begins by calling out a pair of coordinates that represents the location of a state. The opposing student names the state that they think the coordinates represent to confirm the location and announces “hit” or “miss”.
- The guess is logged with a white (miss) or red (hit) peg on the upright part of the game board for the person making the guess. The location is logged on the bottom game board for the student receiving the guess. White indicates a miss. If it is a hit, the red peg is already there, and the player can push an additional red peg on top of the first peg as a reminder that the location has been guessed.
- The students do not have the benefit of being able to hone in on a location they way you can when you play with the battleships that contain multiple pegs, so it is blind guessing, but they have to match coordinates with state names.
- They have to estimate numbers between given coordinates since the longitude and latitude lines count by 10s and 5s. Students need practice with figuring out the halfway mark between new numbers when you do NOT start at 0.
- The map I used had the postal state abbreviations, so the students were practicing state abbreviations too, which is something I consider to be a lifeskill.
For more practice with U.S. Map Skills, visit my teacher store to purchase practice activity pages by CLICKING HERE.