Friday, May 22, 2015

CSI Science: Case of the Kidnapped Cookies Day 2

This post is the third in a series of posts about a CSI program I ran at our library.  You can read the background information here and here.

On day 2, we got to dive into the laboratory procedures with a white powder lab. Once again, all of the materials were provided (even water!), which was wonderful!  It was really great to arrive just before the students and get right to work - no long hours of prep work!

Being a small group, we all worked together, so each kid got to see exactly how each powder reacted to each test, which was nice.  Also, we used magnifying glasses instead of a microscope.  A microscope probably would have been more fun, but we used what we had and it worked just fine.

The second activity of the day was to try to decipher the ransom note.  I assume that students with even a small background with Spanish would have quickly recognized at least part of the letter as being in Spanish.  But, this group was really unfamiliar with the foreign language, so there were all sorts of thoughts on what it might be.  One of their thoughts was that it might be Spanish, and they eventually got to the point where they realized that if it was Spanish, they could use a computer to help them translate it.  They worked on their translations until it was time for them to leave, and we returned to it the next week.

The Case of the Kidnapped Cookies Kit was provided to me at no cost, for use with a group of students at my library.  I was not compensated by Educational Innovations in any other way, and all opinions expressed are my own.

Thursday, May 21, 2015

CSI Science: Case of the Kidnapped Cookies Day 1

This post is the second in a series of posts about a CSI program I ran at our library.  You can read the background information here.

As mentioned earlier, our program was advertised for 3rd through 8th graders.  At our first meeting we had the following patrons attend:

  • a 6th grade boy 
  • two 5th grade girls
  • a 4th grade girl
  • a 3rd grade boy
  • a 3rd grade girl
  • a 2nd grade girl

The 6th grade boy didn't attend after the first meeting (he was hoping to be part of an older group), but the rest of the group remained consistent throughout the 6 week program.  They were a blend of 2 homeschool students and 4 pulic school students.  And they all came from unique families - no siblings.

Because it was a small group and a young group, we did a lot of the work together.  It was a much more casual effort than it would be if I were using this in a classroom setting - we tended to keep one data sheet and just talk through the questions.

Since the "story" surrounding the crime takes place in a school and we were clearly not in that setting, I used the suggested "excuse" that I had read about the crime in the paper and thought it would be interesting to try to recreate the crime scene and solve it ourselves.  In the end, it didn't really matter what I said.  This group of kids just wanted to solve the crime, it didn't matter to them where it had come from.

 Before started the outlined procedures, I wanted to provide the group with some crime scene/forensic science terminology.  I used the Crime Scene Basics PowerPoint and student worksheets from The Science Spot, tweaked slightly.  [Side Note: If you're planning a forensic science unit (or any other unit, for that matter), I highly recommend you check out The Science Spot - Tracy has so many materials for you on her site.  It's a wonderful collection that I can't say enough about!]   Most of the students were familiar, at least on some level, with the terms, so we were able to go though it pretty quickly; and it ensured that everyone was using the same 'language'.

Day 1 of the investigation calls for an analysis of the crime scene and collection of the evidence.  The crime takes place in a kitchen - the community room attached to our library has a kitchen area, so that made things simple.  The book that comes with the kit tells you exactly what you need to do.  All of the materials are included in the kit and the set-up only took a few minutes. Perfect!

The kids really enjoyed checking the crime scene out and speculating what each of the items might be - especially those strange red marks on the envelope!

The kids did draw simple maps of the crime scene.  Because it was a pretty young group, we didn't worry about drawing it to scale.  The kids also spent some time reading through the suspect bios, but we didn't worry about taking copious notes.  With such a small group, they could all access the bios any time they needed to without any problems.

The Case of the Kidnapped Cookies Kit was provided to me at no cost, for use with a group of students at my library.  I was not compensated by Educational Innovations in any other way, and all opinions expressed are my own.

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

CSI Science: The Case of the Kidnapped Cookies

This post (and the ones that follow) has been in the works for a long time.

Quite a while back, I got in touch with the folks at Educational Innovations (I've written about them before, here) and we began talking about a possible collaboration.  Last spring, I was finishing up a series of science club programs at our local library (where I work part time), and the folks at Educational Innovations decided they'd like to provide something for me to use with a future science club.

The conversation was tabled for a bit, as I had already established my plans for last summer, and I wasn't planning any science programming for the fall.  When we began talking again, it was decided that Educational Innovations would provide me with a Case of the Kidnapped Cookies Kit to use with a group of kids at the library, to be used this spring.

Somewhere in the middle of our planning, communication got cut off for a time.  Since, for a time, I wasn't sure if I was going to receive the product or not, I started looking at alternatives, since I still had some programming hours that needed to be filled.  There are lots of forensic science lesson plans out there, and I knew I could come up with a story and pull several different CSI techniques/elements into it,  but I really was hoping to find something that had everything pulled together for me.

I eventually found, and was able to get my hands on, Mystery Festival: Teacher's Guide (Gems) , which was exactly what I was looking for - it was a whole CSI unit, with the story already written, materials lists, and a comprehensive list of what prep work needed to be done for each day of the unit.  Perfect, except it was still a lot of work and I wasn't really feeling up to putting that much effort into this series of programs.

But, I was in luck - communication with Educational Innovations resumed and my kit arrived quickly after that.  After spending the time looking into what it would take to pull together my own unit, it was so fabulous to open the box and have everything ready and waiting for me!

Picture from  Educational Innovations.  The contents in mine were packaged slighly differently, but the same materials were included.  
This kit is intended to be used over the course of 5 days (more if you wish to stage a trial at the end); and is intended to be a cross-curricular undertaking.  Each day includes multiple lessons - one to be completed in science class, the other one or two to be completed in other classes - math, English, Spanish, social studies.

I scheduled 5 meetings of our group to work our way through the different lessons and come to a conclusion.  We advertised the program as being open for 3rd - 8th graders.  It probably would have been ideal to keep the group to the older end of that range, but, as a rule, we struggle to get that age group to participate in library programs.

I'm going to break down what we did each day and how it went in some additional posts, so this doesn't get too long.

The Case of the Kidnapped Cookies Kit was provided to me at no cost, for use with a group of students at my library.  I was not compensated by Educational Innovations in any other way, and all opinions expressed are my own.

Tuesday, May 13, 2014

Mapping the Solar System

I recently encountered this activity for the first time, on the McDonald Observatory website.  I've since found the same activity on numerous other sites.  I don't know where it came from first, but I'll give credit to the place where I first saw it.

Anyway... it's a super simple way for students to map the solar system and get a feel for how much distance is between the planets.  In short, it's brilliant!

Each student will need a sentence strip or a length of adding machine/calculator paper.

Hold the paper vertically and label (in small letters) one end of the strip "Sun" and the other end "Pluto".

At this point, you can have students fill in the planets with their best guesses as to their placement.  Or you can just make the accurate map.  It's up to you and your situation.

To make the map:
Fold Pluto to the Sun.  Label Uranus on the crease.
Fold Pluto to Uranus.  Label Neptune on the crease.

 Fold the Sun to Uranus.  Label Saturn on the crease.
Fold the Sun to Saturn.  Label Jupiter on the crease.
Fold the Sun to Jupiter.  You can label the crease Asteroid Belt or leave this space blank.

Fold the Sun to the Asteroid Belt.  Label Mars on the crease.
Fold the Sun to Mars. Label Venus on the crease.

Label the space between the Sun and Venus, Mercury.  (You could fold the Sun to Venus and label the crease, but the space gets a little tight to make more folds at this point).

Label the space between Venus and Mars, Earth.

That's it!  You've completed your map!  And it's incredibly accurate for such a simple model.

I'm thinking it might be fun to convert distances to some other notable bodies in the cosmos to this scale and lay out the sentence strips to show kids the vast amount of space in space.  I'll let you know what I come up with!

Thursday, May 8, 2014

Shaving Cream + Corn Starch

I'm not sure how to categorize this one, but it's a fun concoction to make and play with.  It'll definitely be part of our slime day at the library, even if it's not actually a slime!

Pour some corn starch into a bowl.  Squirt in some shaving cream, about the same amount as you have corn starch.  You're just eyeballing it. Quantities aren't terribly important and you can always adjust amounts as you go along.

Dive in with your hands and start squishing it all together - a very tactile experience!

It will become a soft clay that you can mold into all kinds of shapes.  As time goes on, the clay will get stiffer.

So much fun!!

Tuesday, May 6, 2014

Polymers: Glue + Liquid Starch

I've been playing with around with recipes to make assorted slimes and such in preparation for a library program this summer.

A simple slime to concoct uses glue and liquid starch (you can find it in the laundry aisle)

You can find people using all different proportions, but I use about equal amounts of each (I eyeball it) poured into a cup.  You can add food coloring to the mixture as you desire.  Stir until things gel up (if it's too sticky, add more starch).  Then you can knead it with your hands.  (You can rinse off any extra starch).  As you play with it, it will become more smooth and gel/putty like.

You might also want to try using clear glue , with or without food coloring for a different effect.

Monday, May 5, 2014

Science in the Library

For the past couple of years, I've been working part-time in our local library.  In addition to typical library duties (checking out books, shelving books etc.), I've taken on responsibility for much of the children's programming that goes on at our location.

I've started a blog to share some of those programming ideas with others.  I get so many ideas from the Internet, I want to give back what I can.

I thought I'd share the news here, as I know many of the Science Matters readers work with groups of children in a variety of settings. I have to keep things flexible, as I never know how many people will show up for the program or exactly what the age make-up will be.  I'll let you know my contingency plans for each activity!

Given my background, it's probably not much of a  surprise to hear that much of the programming has a science spin to it.  In fact, we've started three science clubs at the library this spring.  I'll likely cross-post the science ideas to the Science Matters blog, so the people interested in just science content can find it all in one place.