As I started planning for the first few days of school, my focus was on finding student-initiated activities. In chemistry we started with properties of solids, liquids and gases. I found an activity where the students had to make "glurch", which is a substance like silly-putty. After they had made a sample, as a group of 4 they had to chemically modify it to meet a specific criteria. For example, one group's sample had to bounce 3 inches while another group's sample could only bounce 1/2 inch. They were given the initial recipe and a few random substances if they wished to use them.
When I organized this activity I wasn't sure how it was going to go...I was prepared for a disaster. However, the each group was able to modify their glurch sample to meet their specific goal. We tested the samples and shared the results. The students really enjoyed this activity and were able to problem solve and communicate as a group.
I'm excited to integrate more student-initiated, inquiry based activities into my classes. I can already see a difference in 3 days of class that my chemistry students are getting used to working together and helping to teach the concepts to each other, rather than listening to me lecture!