Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Summer Science Camp: Water Fest

On a particularly hot day, move science camp outside for a day-long Water Fest.  Make sure to let students know they should dress appropriately for a water-filled day.

You might want to begin with some learning...
...about properties of water
But It's Full
Baby Powder Snowstorm
A Hole in the Water
Boat Races
Bending Water
Capillary Action in Action
Balancing Act
Mystery Jars
Drops on a Penny
Penny Boats

...about the water we have on Earth
Who Dirtied the Water
Earth's Water Necklace
Earth Ball Catch

And, since it is summer, make sure you include some fun water games - sponge tosses, relay races, water balloon catch, drip-drip-splash (a.k.a. duck-duck-goose, with a wet twist!).  I found a great list of water games (including various versions of the games I just mentioned), with the rules, for camp here.  I'm thinking I want to try the T-shirt Freeze.  I would be especially great if you've made the Sharpie t-shirts (or some other shirt) during camp and still have those in your possession - what a fun way to distribute the shirts to the students!

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Summer Science Camp: Air Pressure Demonstrations

If your budget or location doesn't provide you with the opportunity to do a Chemistry Magic Show, consider a series of air pressure demonstrations.  They can be just as much fun, and the science behind them is easier for younger students to understand than the chemistry. 

Start things with a bang - literally - and use air pressure to crush a can

It follows nicely to collapse a milk jug

Set up the Balloon in a Flask and have students keep an eye on that while you're proceeding through other demonstrations. 

Sucking an egg into a flask is always a favorite.  A simple Internet search will provide you with instructions thousands of times over. 

Challenge a student to Blow up a Balloon in a Bottle

Give your students a shower with the Straw Fountain

Find two strong students to try to pull apart Two Plungers. 

Bernoulli demonstrations are a bit counter-intuitive and fun.  Try the cardboard tubes or balloons
And, if at all possible, finish with some bell jar demonstrations.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Summer Science Camp: Rocketry

One of the big selling points of our science camp was building and launching a model rocket. 

Launching model rockets may sound intimidating, but if you start with a basic model, it's really not bad at all.  I didn't have any experience with model rockets before taking it on as a science camp project, and it all worked out very well.  Of course, it is the kind of project you'll want to make sure the school (or other hosting facility/group) is okay with.

I bought my rocket kits from AC Supply, as they seemed to have the best prices.  They offer a lot of different styles and levels of rockets and provide bulk packs of rockets and engines.

With our elementary students, we used the Alpha III (pictured above), which is a level 0 rocket.  With younger students, you'll definitely want to look for a one-piece fin unit - it makes it much easier to assemble and will fly with better results.   

As simple as the Alpha III is to assemble, there is still plenty for little hands to do.  Make sure you assemble one before you have your students do it, as you may find there are things you want to do for them, ahead of time.  I pre-glued the parts that needed gluing, both to save time and to increase the likelihood that things were straight. 

If I were to do camp again, I think I'd try the Gnome.  I'm not sure if it was available the last time I ordered or not, but having done the science camp experience a couple of times now, I realize that the mini-engines would provide more than enough height for the space we were working in and the lower price tag is always a plus.  Like the Alpha III, the Gnome is also available in bulk packs.

You'll need to order engines for your rockets, as they are not included in the kits.  There are several engines you can choose from for each model.  The model's page will list the engines appropriate for that model. 

If this is your first time launching rockets, you'll also need to order a launching pad

When scheduling your rocketry sessions....
Plan one session for assembling the rockets and another session (or two) on another day (in case assembly runs long) for launching.  I wouldn't recommend scheduling your launch for the final day of camp, because it's a weather-sensitive activity and you want to leave yourself room to reschedule if necessary. 

You'll want a day that's free of rain and ideally a day with little wind - depending on where you live, you may just have to do the best you can.

You want a large open field on which to hold the launch.  Set up the pad in the middle, as far from trees and power lines as possible.  Depending upon the direction of the wind and air currents, you may need to move the pad to adjust for those conditions, but start in the middle.

Set up a designated area for the students to sit and watch.  Anyone who's not launching a rocket needs to stay in that area.

Have one student at a time come to the launch area with his/her rocket.  The student will wear goggles while in the launch area and will place their rocket on the pad.  Allow all students to participate in the countdown and then the rocket-owner presses the button to launch.  When the rocket returns to the ground, the student then goes to retrieve it. 

When not launching, make sure all safety protocol (as instructed within the launching kit) are being followed. 

I always gave students this warning:
If you launch your rocket, there's a chance you won't get it back - it could get stuck in a tree, the wind could blow it somewhere we can't retrieve it, etc.  If you want to be guaranteed that you'll have your rocket to take home, you don't have to launch it. 
A few students won't be sure and will at least consider not launching their rocket, but usually the excitement of getting to launch it and seeing where it goes will convince them it's worth taking the chance on not getting it back. 

There are always a couple of rockets that don't make it back down (the reality when you don't have as big a field as you should when you launch), but I've never had anyone upset about it. 

One final bit of advice... take some extra batteries for the launch controller out to the field with you.  It will save you time and give you peace of mind when the launcher seemingly stops working while you're in the middle of launches!

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Summer Science Camp: Potato Chip Challenge

I haven't done this one myself, yet, but it's on the list.

The Potato Chip Challenge is an actual (free) national challenge in which your students can compete, but I think it could also work beautifully as part of a week-long (or longer) science camp.  

For the challenge, students need to engineer the smallest, lightest package to protect 1 Pringles potato chip in the US mail.  The weight and volume are recorded and then the potato chip is sent to someone else participating in the challenge.  When the chip arrives at its destination, it is evaluated according to standard criteria.

To use this in a camp setting:
I would have students design and construct their packaging on the first day of camp.  I would have them address their packages to themselves, in care of the school (or other location) where camp is being held.  When camp was over for the day, I would drive to a neighboring community and put the packages in the mail there.  (If you live in a community where all of the mail leaves to be sorted elsewhere, you can just take them to the local post office).  Then you wait for the chips to come back to you and see how everyone fared.

I think I might just have to give this a try myself... anyone want to trade chips?