Saturday, December 24, 2011

Sorry for the abrupt departure earlier this week...

I had plans for a few more Picture Book Science posts, but when the stomach flu took out the whole family earlier this week, all but the most important chores were side-lined. 

I am planning to take the next week off to enjoy the holidays and family.  I'll be back in early January with the rest of the Picture Book Science posts as well as other new ideas to share with you. 

In the meantime, if you're looking for some new ideas to take back to your class in the new year or some projects to tackle with your own children during their vacation time, check out the archives!

Merry Christmas to those of you celebrating and best wishes for the New Year!

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Bartholomew and the Oobleck: Concocting Oobleck

The title slime in Bartholomew and the Oobleck is a mysterious potion that at times acts like a solid and at other times acts like a liquid. Can your students decide which state of matter Oobleck should be classified as?

Have each student make his/her own Oobleck:
--Mix 3 spoonfuls of cornstarch with 2 spoonfuls of water. 

Next comes play time...
Students stick their hands in the Oobleck to see what it feels like and how it behaves.  They should try each of these tests as well, recording their results after each one:
--Poke it quickly
--Poke it slowly
--Stir it fast
--Stir it slowly
--Pour it
--Roll it into a ball
--Set objects on it

Any other tests the students come up with should be encourages as well, as long as they don't put students or property at risk (or create too large a mess). 

Now students need to decide if the Oobleck is a solid or a liquid.  Make them defend their decision in a written statement.  Perhaps you'll even get a debate going between students. 

You've actually created a suspension that acts as both a solid and a liquid.

**Do NOT try to get rid of your Oobleck by putting it down the drain - just put it in the trash.  Or better yet, allow the water the evaporate and put the dried cornstarch in a plastic bag for your next batch of Oobleck.

Monday, December 19, 2011

Diary of a...: Writing Prompt

Doreen Cronin's Diary of a Worm, Spider and Fly are silly tales about each of the respective animals. 

While the stories are far-fetched enough to garner lots of giggle, they are based on real attributes of each of the animals. 

If you're looking to have your students do something a bit more creative than the traditional report after researching an animal, consider having them follow Cronin's model and write a "Diary of a _____". 

Friday, December 16, 2011

Purple, Green and Yellow: Marker Solubility

Purple, Green and Yellow (Classic Munsch)
Purple, Green and Yellow by Robert Munsch

Brigid is a little girl in want of colouring markers, her mom isn't so sure.  Eventually Brigid convinces her mom to buy her some washable markers.  After a successful run with those, Brigid convinces her mom to buy her some scented markers.  And eventually, Brigid convinces her mom to buy her some super-indellible-never-come-off-till-you're-dead-and-maybe-even-later colouring markers. 

Brigid quickly learns about water soluble and water insoluble and your students can too.  In fact, your students can do Brigid one better and learn what makes those super-indellible-never-come-off-till-you're-dead-and-maybe-even-later colouring markers come off.

Place a paper towel over a short length of PVC pipe (or a small plastic container). 

Hold it in place with a rubber band. 

Students begin by using a water-soluble marker to make a circle on a paper towel. 

They then use a dropper to place drops of water in the center of the circle and observe.

Repeat this process using a permanent marker and water.

Finally, complete the process one more time using permanent marker and drops of rubbing alcohol. 

If time and budgets allow, students can create the Pinwheel t-shirts using the same process on shirts instead of paper towels. 

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Turtle, Turtle, Watch Out!: Turtle Hurdles

Turtle, Turtle, Watch Out! follows one sea turtle from egg to egg-laying mother, through challenge after challenge, some man-made, some the natural order of things. 

This story and activity could be used in any number of units: the ocean, animals, predator/prey relationships, human impact on nature, etc.

Begin the lesson by reading the story aloud to the students.  While they're listening, have them write down challenges the turtles face as well as the good things that happen that aid the turtle's survival.  Or maybe you'll want to read the story twice - the first time just for listening, the second time for taking notes.  As a class, you can brainstorm additional items to add to each list, if you desire.

Next, each student will make a cootie catcher.  If you or your students are familiar with making these, I've included directions at the bottom of the lesson.

Label the inside of your cootie catcher as shown:

Now, pick 8 items from your lists - 4 from the list of challenges, 4 from the list of "good things". 

Open the flaps of your cootie catcher and write one item under each letter.  The order in which you write them can be completely random.

You'll also need to make a simple mat (one for the class) - use the following picture as a guide - and get a die.

Now you're ready to play. 
To being with, everyone needs to stand up - everyone is a thriving baby turtle.
The teacher, or other designated party, rolls the die onto the mat.  Each student manipulates his/her cootie catcher the number of times indicated by the die.  Then the students read the message under the letter that corresponds to the letter the die landed on.

Students whose message is a challenge or threat to the turtle sit down - they haven't survived.  Students who receive a message of a "good thing" remain standing.
The students who remain standing play another round in the same manner.  Try to play 5 rounds, or see how many rounds it takes for all students to be sitting.
Baby sea turtles face a lot of challenges in making it to adulthood, as do many other animals.  Hopefully this fun game helps your students understand just how few babies survive to adulthood and encourages them to think about the impact of their actions on other species. 
To Make a Cootie Catcher
Begin with a square piece of paper. (I cut 8.5x11" paper into a square).
Fold the square in half along the diagonal.
Unfold.  Fold in half along the other diagonal.
Unfold.  You'll have a square piece of paper, with the fold lines making an X across it.
Pick one corner of the square, and fold it, so the point is at the center of the X.
Fold in each of the additional corners of the square.

Turn your newly formed square over.

Repeat the previous step, folding each point into the center of the square
Label the sections, as directed above.
Fold the cootie catcher in half, to make a rectangle. 

Place both your thumbs and index fingers under each flap to work the cootie catcher.

This activity is adapted from "Turtle Hurdles," published in Picture-Perfect Science Lessons by the National Science Teachers Association.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Snowflake Bentley: Sparkly Snowflakes

While both the book and activity have been featured on the Science Matters blog previously (here and here, respectively), it's been awhile and it's such a great pairing that it bears being part of this month's Picture Book Science.

Snowflake Bentley is a beautiful non-fiction picture book outlining the life of Wilson Bentley, the first man to photograph individual snowflakes. 

The highlights of Bentley's life are written as a child-friendly story.  Greater detail is provided in the margins of each page. 

This is a fun, artsy-craftsy project in which students can learn about solubility, super-saturated solutions and crystal shapes.  

Make a super-saturated solution of Borax and water:
--Fill a jar with hot water (boiling is best).
--Add Borax, a little at a time, until no more will dissolve (you'll know you're there because instead of dissolving the Borax will settle to the bottom)

Use pipe cleaners and thread to make a snowflake.

Attach a piece of thread to the snowflake.

Place the snowflake in the Borax solution and leave for several hours or overnight. 

In the morning, you'll have a beautiful, sparkling snowflake, covered with large crystals. 

If you'd rather not make snowflake shapes, you can shape the pipe cleaner into stars or other shapes.  You could also just place a straight pipe cleaner into the solution.

The pipe cleaner works well because all the fuzz on it gives the crystals nice places to attach, and thus works much better than just a string.  (Which may explain why all my attempts at making rock candy as a kid were met with utter failure (and a sticky mess)).

Safety Note: The Borax and the finished snowflake should come nowhere near the mouth.  

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

It's Pumpkin Time!/The Apple Pie Tree: Seed Germination

It's Pumpkin Time! follows the growth of a pumpkin - from seed to large, orange orb.

The Apple Pie Tree follows the growth of an apple tree through a season - from a bare-branched tree to one loaded with heavy fruit.

Either one, or both, make a nice accompaniment to the seed germination activity we've done before. 

This time, use seeds straight from an apple or pumpkin.  That can provide an added lesson for students - we regularly refer to that part of apples (and other fruit) as the seed, but there are students (young and old) out there who don't truly understand that those seeds will sprout and grow into a new plant. 

Following the same procedure as before...

Fold a paper towel in quarters.

Wet the towel and wring out as much water as possible.

Slide the towel into a zip-top bag.

Place the seeds in a row, about an inch from the bottom of the bag. 

Push the air out of the bag and seal the top. 

Put the bag in a safe location (you can even hang it) and observe.

After completing this activity, you and your students might want to see what other seeds, taken directly from food you eat, you can get to germinate.  Be forewarned - seeds that have been cooked in some way won't germinate, and some seeds need to go through extra steps before they'll germinate, like tomatoes, but you should find quite a few that you can get to grow.