Friday, February 26, 2010

National Science Teachers Association

If you're teaching science, consider membership in the National Science Teachers Association. Along with membership comes a subscription to a great journal. Membership is a bit pricey if you're paying out of pocket... Even if membership isn't in the works for you, check out the website for some interesting articles and check out the store - lots of great book titles there. You can always check and see if your local library can get you any of the titles you're interested in.

Thursday, February 25, 2010

Periodic Table: Word Game

(Tungsten*Hydrogen*Astatine - Calcium*Nitgroen - Iodine - Flourine*Iodine*Neodymium)

Have your students use the symbols found on the periodic table to spell as many words as they can. It's a fun and simple game, but it does help familiarize your students with the periodic table, what's on it, and where they can find certain elements.

Set the parameters as you wish: work alone, as partners, or teams? how long do words need to be to qualify? do plurals count? should they write out the names of the elements as well?

In the past, I've managed to work it so that the last day of school before vacation, students take a quiz on the periodic table and the spend the remainder of the period playing the game - it works out GREAT! You can offer a prize to the student(s) with the most words or the longest word, but it's not necessary - they're so engrossed in getting as many as they can and besting their friends that they keep going on their own.

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Photosynthesis: Photosynthesis Races

Teams of students (or individuals) race against each other to assemble the equation for photosynthesis. As students master the equation, they move from words to chemical symbols.

Carbon dioxide + Water + Light--> Oxygen + Sugar
6 CO2 + 6H2O + Light --> 6O2 + C6H12O6

Use index cards to create the equation components. You will need a set for each team you plan to have compete at one time.

Set one:
Carbon dioxide
Light (Sun)
+ (x3)

Set two:
Light (Sun)
+ (x3)

Depending upon the level of your students or how much of a challenge you wish to present, you can also provide the coefficients for students to put in the correct places.

I like to have each team begin with the words. The teams each work together to properly assemble their equation (remember, it doesn’t matter which order the reactants and products are in, just that they are on the proper side of the arrow).

As soon as a team claims to have completed the equation, I check it for accuracy. While I am checking, the other team can continue to assemble their equation in case the first team is incorrect. If they are incorrect, both teams continue to assemble the equation.

Once a team has correctly assembled the equation, the winning team moves on to chemical equations while the losing team continues to use the words.

This game can be played very quickly and is a good way for student to learn the equation for photosynthesis. By providing one additional card – ATP – and removing one card – Light – you can have students create the equation for cellular respiration. You could set up a whole tournament for your class to crown a photosynthesis champion!

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Mining/Minerals: Mining in a Nutshell

As promised, here is one activity from the Women in Mining website that I have used in my classroom: Mining in a Nutshell.

In this activity, students form mining companies and are given a $1 million budget (use play money, the students love it and "buy" into the experience all the more). The activity leads them through the process of mining: map making, exploration, drilling, mining and the costs associated with each process. There is also an optional processing phase. The Women in Mining have done a fantastic job laying out all the steps for you, so they're easy to follow. In addition, there's a great student worksheet, which makes it easy for the students to track their expenses at each step. Really helps students grasp that mining isn't just digging randomly into the ground - a lot of preparation goes into the process to increase the chances of it being a profitable venture.

A few changes I have made...
Instead of using peanuts (due to allergies and durability), I used poker chips (which automatically eliminated the processing phase). Instead of putting dots of paint on the chips, I used colored star stickers. The color of the poker chips is irrelevent. In a perfect world (with unlimited budgets), I would have the chips be all the same color, instead I went with what was available. The colored stickers are spread evenly amongst the different color poker chips.

When writing this post, I noticed that they have created a lower grade version of this activity. Looks like the process has been simplified for elementary students.

Monday, February 22, 2010

States of Matter: Food Dye in Water

States of matter are determined by the amount of kinetic energy the atoms possess. Solids possess very little kinetic energy, liquids have more, and gases possess the most kinetic energy.

For this demonstration we’ll just be using a liquid, water, but at two different temperatures. We’ll use boiling water, whose kinetic energy is just shy of that of a gas and ice cold water, whose kinetic energy is closer to that of a solid.

Place two identical containers on the demonstration table, one filled with near-boiling water and the other with ice water (don’t put any ice in with the water). Hold a dropper of food dye in each hand and simultaneously place a drop of dye in each container. Observe.

The dye spreads out because the water molecules are moving around throughout the container and moving the dye with them. You will see the dye in the hot water spread out much more rapidly than in the cold water because the water molecules are moving so much faster.

Friday, February 19, 2010

Favorite Website: Women in Mining

The Women in Mining Education Foundation has a wonderful list of activities related to minerals and mining that you can use in your classroom.

In forthcoming posts, I will highlight some of the activities I have successfully used in my classroom. In the meantime, check it out for yourself!

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Potential & Kinetic Energy: Jumping Frogs

Have students fold origami jumping frogs using green index cards (the color really doesn’t matter, just makes it more fun). Allow students to play with the frogs and have them explain at which point the frog possesses 100% potential energy and at which point it possesses 100% kinetic energy.

Make sure you try your hand at making the frogs before presenting this lesson to your students. It's not hard to do, but you'll be much more effective at helping students if you've done it yourself first!

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Classification: Pasta Dichotomous Key

Collect a large variety of different pasta shapes. Place one of each shape in a bag. Provide each student/pair/group with a bag of pasta shapes. Students then create a dichotomous key to identify each pasta shape. After completing the dichotomous key, groups can exchange keys to test them.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Oceans: Earth Ball Catch

Beg, borrow, steal or buy an inflatable globe or other spherical representation of the Earth that can be tossed around the classroom.

Have students throw the globe to one another around the room. When a student catches the globe, he/she should look to see if his/her left thumb is on water or land. The student will call out "land" or "water" and the teacher (or another student) keeps a tally of land and water catches on the board.

At the end of the game, analyze the data and you should find that about 70% of the time, the student's thumb was on water. A great introduction to a study of oceans and water - emphasizing the large percentage of the Earth that is covered with water.

Monday, February 15, 2010

Density: Coke Cans

A classic…
Fill a small aquarium (or other clear container that can hold enough water) with water. Place a can of Coke and a can of Diet Coke in the water. The Diet Coke will float while the regular Coke sinks. Very little artificial sweetner is needed to sweeten the Diet Coke, as compared to the sugar used in regular Coke.

Some extensions…

Test your students understanding of density by using different sized cans of soda, if you can find them.

Measure out the amount of sugar and artificial sweetner used in each can to show students. Once you have it measured, store them in small plastic bags, so you have them for next time.

Friday, February 12, 2010

American Museum of Natural History: Seminars on Science

If you're looking for professional development credits, consider the American Museum of Natural History's Seminars on Science. There are currently 11 online courses offered, spanning the range of science disciplines. Graduate credit is available through a number of institutions.

The courses are co-run by an educator and a scientist from the museum. They run 6 weeks (with a 7th week to finish assignments) and you are provided with a CD of course materials (which are also available online).

I have personally completed the Space, Time, and Motion course and the Genetics, Genomics, Genethics course. I thoroughly enjoyed both courses and found the discussions, despite taking place through the computer, to the thought-provoking and engaging. I found the costs to be very reasonable and I couldn't recommend the program more.

**I am not being compenstated in any way for my endorsement of the American Museum of Natural History's Seminars in Science - I just really enjoyed my experience and want everyone to know about the program.

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Action/Reaction: Hero's Engine

First, a little story...
Back when I first graduated and was looking for a teaching job, I needed to prepare a demo lesson on the 3rd Law of Motion. Being the dilligent (and hopeful) interviewee, I scoured the internet for ideas to bring to the lesson. One of the things I found was to make a Hero's Engine using a soda can. I had never heard of such a thing before, but gave it a shot. Turns out it worked pretty well. Fast forward a few months, when I had a teaching job at a well-supported school with a science lab filled with goodies and gadgets of all sorts... one of those nifty gadgets was a fancy, purchased-from-a-catalog Hero's Engine. Unfortunately, you needed to heat it (with a flame) for it to work and even then it really didn't work!

So, today, I provide you with some guidance for making your own Hero's engine - it's generally safe, it costs next-to-nothing, and it WORKS!

Get an empty, clean soda can out of the recycling. You'll be using a nail to punch holes around the bottom of the can. Before doing any hole-punching, you'll want to plan approximately where you'd like the holes to appear, as you'd like them as evenly spaced as possible.

To make the holes: use a hammer to pound the nail into the can. Once the nail is poking through the can, push it (the nail) to one side, so you create an angled hole (see picture below). Remove the nail and make additional holes. Make sure you angle all of the holes in the same direction.

Lift the tab on the top of the can, so it's sticking straight up. Tie a length of string to the tab.

To use: You'll want to work over a large sink/bin or outside and you'll want to work quickly. Fill the can with water and hold onto the string. The water will come out of the holes in one direction and push/spin the can in the opposite direction. Can be used as a demonstration or as one station in a series of activities related to the 3rd Law of Motion.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Microscopes: e Lab


Cut out a lower-case letter e from a newspaper. Create a wet mount slide by placing the e on a slide, placing a drop of water on the e, and dropping on a cover slip. Place the slide on the microscope, so that the e is facing you, as you would read it. Draw what you see through the microscope. Move the slide to the right as you watch through the eyepiece, to the left, up and down.

This is a great introductory microscope lab for students. You can easily determine if students are accurately drawing what they see through the microscope or just drawing what they think they are supposed to see.

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Earthquakes: When was the last Earthquake?

Ask your students to guess when the last earthquake occurred. You can have them write their answers on paper or have a discussion. Log on to the US Geologic Society to find out the answer. Many students will be surprised to learn that the most recent earthquake likely occurred in the last few hours – numerous low-magnitude earthquakes occur every day - in this country and worldwide.

Monday, February 8, 2010

Inference Cups

Create inference cups by placing an object in a styrofoam cup. Cut 4 slits partway down the sides of the cup. Fold two opposing sides down, and then the other two sides down on top of those. Seal with packaging tape. Label all the cups with one object in them "A", all cups with the second object in them "B", etc.

The students' goal is to infer the shape of the object in the cup based on the observations they make by moving/shaking/rotating the cup. They can then hypothesize what the object is.

Objects used in making the cups:
*Penny (disk)
*Marble (sphere)
*Die (cube)
*Nut (hexagon)

Friday, February 5, 2010

Favorite Website:

If I could pick only one website in the whole worldwide web to use as a science resource, this is it!!! Tracy Trimpe as created and assembled the most fantastic collection of science activities I've encountered. If you're anything like me, after perusing the site, you'll find yourself reinvigorated and excited to head back into your classroom armed with a brand new repertoire of science activities. And all the paperwork is ready for you to print out and go.

You'll find me highlighting several of the Sciencespot activities in their own individual posts, and sharing my experiences with them. But, don't let that stop you from heading over there RIGHT NOW! (And make sure your printer is fully stocked with paper and ink - once you start, you'll be printing out activities left and right!)

Thursday, February 4, 2010

Projectile Motion/Gravity: Ruler and Pennies

To demonstrate that gravity pulls objects to the ground at the same speed, regardless of the path they take…

Place a ruler flat on the demonstration table, with about 2 inches hanging over the edge of the table. Place a penny on the table next to the ruler (between the edge of the table and the ruler).

Instruct students to listen for the pennies hitting the ground. Quickly flick the ruler, so that you are pushing the penny off the table at the same time you are “pulling” the ruler out from under the penny sitting on it. The penny that was on the ruler will fall straight to the ground (due to inertia, 1st law of motion), while the penny that was on the table will travel along a path of projectile motion.

If executed properly, the pennies will hit the ground at the same time. You will no doubt have to repeat this demonstration several times; first, because students take that long to determine that they are in fact landing at the same time and second, because it’s a bit mind-boggling to students (and teachers).

Do as I say, not as I photograph...
1 - Don't perform this demonstration with little people sitting on the floor where pennies may land!
2 - Don't perform this demonstration in a carpeted area of the room, you won't hear the pennies land!

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Photosynthesis: The Big Green Mixing Bowl

A demonstration to magnify the process of photosynthesis.

You’ll need:
A large green mixing bowl
A flashlight
2 zip-top bags
1 labeled “O2”
1 labeled “CO2”
Water (in a cup)
Large spoon

Before class begins, inflate each of the bags (blow them up and quickly seal them). Place the bag of O2 and the sugar inside the green mixing bowl. Don’t let the students see the inside of the bowl.

For the demonstration:
Photosynthesis takes place in the chloroplasts, represented by the large green bowl. Ask for volunteers to name the “ingredients” needed for photosynthesis: CO2 and water. As the reactants are named, add each to the mixing bowl (I pour the water in and empty the contents of the CO2 bag into the bowl). Photosynthesis also requires the presence of light, so shine the flashlight into the bowl while you give it a stir. Ask for volunteers to name the products made during photosynthesis: O2 and sugar. As each of the products are named, pull them out of the mixing bowl.

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Solar System: Pictoral Comparison

I LOVE these pictures. I first learned of them a few years ago and promptly printed and laminated a set for my classroom. I was reminded of them recently when I received them as an email attachment.

I think the art is beautiful and I can just stare at them-my mind spinning, trying to comprehend the size of the universe, all the while.

I don't know the source for these pictures. If someone out there does, please let me know and I will gladly add it.

Monday, February 1, 2010

How Many Pieces of Pasta in the Jar

Provide each group of students with two jars - one filled with tiny pasta and a second that's empty, as well as a variety of measuring tools: balances, rulers, graduated cylinders, etc. The group is to use the allotted time to determine the number of pieces of pasta in the jar.

I have used this at the beginning of the year and when forming new lab groups - a chance for the team to work together to find a solution. A good opportunity to observe students and their ways of thinking.

Away We Go!!!

Off on another adventure!

In the coming days, weeks, months and (hopefully) years, you'll find an assortment of activities to bring to your science classroom. Most of these activities are suitable for middle school students, as that's where my experience lies. However, the bulk of these activities can be used with elementary students, often with little to no adjustment on your behalf. Some are appropriate for high school students as well. In fact, a lot of my best materials have come from other people, at other grade levels and have been modified to fit the needs of my students.

My plan is to provide you with about 4 days of science lessons/activities/demonstrations per week and 1 day of other "stuff". Amongst the other stuff, you'll learn of some of my favorite websites, professional development opportunities, classroom management techniques, ideas for decorating your classroom, dressing the part, and anything else I think you might have even a passing interest in! We'll also explore some features you may wish to bring to your classroom: What is it? How does it work?

My plan is to have science lessons Monday through Thursday and other stuff on Fridays. Based on feedback and how things are going on this end the schedule may change over time, but it's good to have a starting point, right?

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