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Showcasing Tracie Pohlmeyer and "Discovery Bottles"

"My students love our 'discovery bottles,'" Tracie Pohlmeyer told Education World. "Discovery bottles let my ESL students assume more responsibility for their learning. They give students a chance to use their senses; [students] can more easily describe their experiences with a discovery bottle."

Pohlmeyer first brought discovery bottles to her ESL kindergarten class at Tenie Holmes Elementary in Bay City, Texas, after encountering them at a teaching convention. Kindergarten teachers from a school in Texarkana, Texas, had presented the method as a concrete way for students to explore concepts independently, especially in science.

"Discovery Bottles are clear plastic soda or water bottles filled with materials that encourage the development of observation skills and such thinking skills as hypothesizing, analyzing, and predicting," explained Pohlmeyer. "The bottles provide hands-on experiences that make learning fun for all children. My discovery bottles are a major part of my science center, and all of are available for discovery every day."

By arousing interest and curiosity, discovery bottles lead students to ask questions to gain knowledge. They encourage oral language by providing an opportunity for children to express themselves and become better communicators.

Pohlmeyer prefers to make her discovery bottles with other teachers. Each teacher brings materials to share, which makes creating the bottles a simple, low-cost project for everyone. Some of Pohlmeyer's favorite bottles include the:

Students use the magnet bottle and "magic wands" to experiment with magnetism.

Magnetic Bottle
Half fill a bottle with sand. Add nails, pins, paper clips, tacks, and any other small objects that are attracted to a magnet. Have "magnetic wands" available so students can move them around in the bottle.

Static Electricity Bottle
Put squares of tissue paper and little bits of Styrofoam in a clean dry bottle. Students rub the bottle in their hair or on the carpet to see what happens.

Oil and water resemble waves in the ocean bottle.

Wave Bottle
Half fill a bottle with mineral oil, baby oil, or cooking oil (not corn oil); then add water to fill. Add 6 drops of blue food coloring. When the bottle is rocked from side to side, it simulates waves

The quiet bottle can be used reduce stress.

Pohlmeyer advises teachers who try discovery bottles to let students explore them freely during the first few months of school. "When all the students have explored the discovery bottles, you can turn it into a writing activity or even an oral presentation," she said. "The bottles also can be part of your classroom management system. Used during transition times, they'll keep students busy while others are finishing projects. Discovery bottles even can be used as stress relievers. The quiet bottle is an excellent choice for calming down a student."

Photos courtesy of Tracie Pohlmeyer.
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Article by Cara Bafile
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