I like to start the year with a short lab. I do not want the first impression of my science class to be one of boredom and rigidity. So I never spend the day going over rules and policies and procedures.
Ugh! Tedious for all of us.
Instead I teach the start of class procedure, pass out the lab binder, show the Science Handbook, and move straight into a lab.
Of course, I use the lab to teach how to get and clean up supplies and materials.
The lab I do is called Scientific Observations, and it is always a big hit with my 6th graders.
It's a classic lab - students put four drops of food coloring in whole milk, I tell the students that they are to make observations about what they see during the lab.
As they observe what happens, I get a lot of "cool!" "awesome!" and similar comments.
They start saying things Why did this happen? What caused this? How come the food coloring moved? Questions of that nature. So that leads me into a quick conversation about the kinds of questions scientists ask and how they help build the knowledge base for humanity.
I finish by explaining that whole milk has fat in it, and describing the connection between fats and oils. I ask if they have seen commercials for Dawn that show the detergent being used on animals that are victims of oil spills. Most have. At that point I see some of the proverbial light bulbs going on. They've made the connection!
I give a a more thorough explanation of why the food coloring moves the way it does. explain the clean up procedure, have the students clean up, and teach the dismissal procedure.
It's a great first day.