Monday, July 28, 2014

Brain Playdough Recipe and MindUp

I just finished my first summer camp as an English Language Learner (ELL) teacher and mentor teacher: three weeks in second grade. It was amazing! The theme this summer was “how things grow.” There were so many directions and so many ways we could take this theme. Ultimately, two other elementary teachers and I decided to teach “how students grow,” or “how students learn.” The decided theme was a perfect fit for our primary learners as they approached another school year. If we can be mindful of what we need to learn and how we learn, we can become better learners. This was also a perfect theme that matched my desire to teach social and emotional intelligence and mindfulness to help cultivate well-rounded students.

We used the MindUp™ curriculum {The MindUP Curriculum: Grades PreK-2} as a basis for our lessons; this was my first experience with the Hawn Foundation, and it was a positive experience to say the least. Each of my lessons was adapted to meet the needs of English Language Learners. We taught about the different parts of the brain, their function and how they influenced their learning. We also talked about calming techniques. Yes, I had second graders, ELL students who had limited English language, saying words like “hippocampus,” “amygdala,” and “prefrontal cortex!”

On the first day, we took the brain play dough and labeled the different parts of the brain and talked about their functions with partners. To purchase the MindUp curriculum, please click the image below. I will also be creating a lesson pack to accompany the MindUp curriculum, which I will teach in my first 6 weeks of kindergarten this fall! To keep an eye out for a sneak peak and when it comes available, FOLLOW ME on my blog, check me out at and at TPT!

Below is the recipe I accidentally created while attempting to replace flour with cornstarch. For those of you chemists, you can probably tell me why, but it sounded logical enough to me. The disaster worked out in my favor. It formed into a perfect brain! My students all knew immediately what it looked like and I didn’t have to mold it much to look like one, either!

4 cups cornstarch
1 ½ cups salt
¾ cup oil

1 cup water
Red food coloring

This yields enough dough for small 1 ½ inch balls of play dough for twenty students. It’s the size of a child-sized basketball and much heavier!

Add the dry ingredients to large mixing bowl and stir.  Form a well in the middle of the dry ingredients. Add 15 to 20 drops of red food coloring to one cup of cold water in a separate container. Add the oil to the water and food color. Pour the liquid mixture into the well of the dry ingredients. It will be extremely chunky and very thick, which is what you want. Once you have all the ingredients incorporated, add the mixture to a nonstick pot on the stove. Stir on medium to medium-high heat for 10-15 minutes. Continue to stir with a wooden spoon. It should be chunky, and will turn into a fat-colored solid and semi-transparent. Smoosh it down with your spoon, and stir it back on top. You shouldn’t be able to stir the mixture like a liquid. It will look like kneading hot, lumpy, bread with a spoon.

When you are finished cooking for 10-15 minutes, place the mixture on a cutting board to cool. Once it is mostly cool, put the mixture in a plastic bag, squeezing out all excess air and store in the refrigerator.

Before use, let it store at room temperature inside the plastic bag. Mine lasted the full three weeks of language camp, and I’m sure it would last much longer as long as it is stored appropriately inside a plastic container between uses.