Saturday, August 2, 2014

Discovery Bags: A Way to Extend Learning

Hello All!
I will be heading to New York City for a  week so I am trying my hardest to tie up some loose ends and finish up some projects before I leave.
 Someone once shared these words of wisdom: "finish one thing before you start another". 
Such good advice for me! I often have multiple projects going on and so some never end up getting finished.

 Well, here is one project that I did finish. I have had it in my mind to make some Discovery Bags for my third grade class.  I used to do these for my little preschoolers and kindergarteners. I would pick a topic that I thought they would be interested in  and then I would fill a bag with materials related to that subject: books, stuffed animal, puzzles, games, etc.  Kids loved checking out these bags and learned so much from just browsing through them. 

I decided I wanted to do discovery bags for my third graders because I often feel so rushed as I teach my content area curriculum.  There is so much more I wish I could teach them about animals, geography, plants, ancient civilizations, the moon, etc. etc. etc.  The problem is always with time and the lack of it. I feel I only can skim the surface of some of these interesting topics when I know I have kids who thirst for more. 

So, I'm going to use Discovery Bags to help fill in the gaps so that students who have a real interest in a particular topic can check out the bag and spend their "wise choice" or extension time learning more about that subject. 

Here is the one I made for the topic of Soil.  

I included a "Contents" list so that all materials go back in when finished. 

First, I put some books inside the bag.  I'm going to include fiction and nonfiction titles. Then I added some laminated diagrams and write on/wipe off sheets so kids could draw their own diagrams.  I also put in a journal with the thought that kids could write or draw what they know about soil on a page.  I know kids would like to read what each other wrote.

I'm also going to include an examination bag inside of each discovery bag.  This will include objects related to the topic that students can examine. 

I'm including these little containers of different kinds of soil and magnifying glasses. 

I am reusing small almond containers for these tins.  They are a great size and close tightly. 

Finally, I want to keep reinforcing the key words related to this topic so I am including a memory match game.  Kids can try to match words and meanings. I will include an answer card so they can check their thinking. 

I'm using the jumbo ziplock bags to make these with and attaching them to hangers so I can hang them on the ledge of my dry erase board. 
Here are the steps I used to make them: 

I'm always thinking about easy ways to store stuff in my class.  I think this will work well. 

It's a great time of year to pick up items for a soil or planting discovery bag.  Garden centers have seeds, shovels, and planting containers on clearance. You can get great stuff for very little. 

I've added the printables for the Soil Discovery Bag to my TPT store and have other bags ready to go. 
Interested in starting these up in your classroom? 
Check here: 

Thoughts? Would love to hear!


  1. What are the topics for your other Discovery Bags?

  2. Hi Rosemary, I have one on maps and globes, government, cycles, moon, ancient civilizations, plants and will continue making them up for the other units we cover in third grade. Is there a topic you are interested in? Let me know and I will add it to my list! (:

  3. This is such a fabulous idea! Reading, writing, math take priority and you're so right in saying that the other stiff get put to the side. This is the perfect way to help balance that out. Love!

    Teaching with Hope

  4. Great idea from a great thinker! These bags are amazing - the kids will LOVE these activities because they are hands-on and engaging!

  5. This is such a fabulous idea!!! I love the endless possibilities! Thanks so much for sharing!!