Wednesday, July 24, 2013

AMS Graduate Credits

It's been almost 2 years since I first told you about the DataStreme courses. 

I was so excited to find these courses that were largely completed online and had the possibility of earning 3 graduate credits for no cost.  But, at that point I could only tell you what I'd read about and heard from the one woman I'd talked with.  I fully intended to write a follow-up post, but never quite got to it... Better later than never, right....?

First, a quick synopsis -

The American Meteorological Society offers three DataStreme courses:

This is a nation-wide program for K-12 teachers.  The courses are sponsored by AMS, NOAA, NASA and NWS.  When accepted as a participant, your books and graduate credits are completely funded.  The credits are granted by the College at Brockport SUNY. 
The courses are largely conducted on-line using real-time data.  You will need to travel to a class-site 3 or 4 times per course, to meet with the instructors and other students. 

Now, my experience...
I enrolled in the Earth's Climate System Course in the spring of 2012.  Filling out the application doesn't ensure a spot in the course, but I don't think there was a whole lot of competition for the spots, at least in my area.  I've been told that preference is given to people taking their first DataStreme course (though there were people in my class taking their second or third one). 

I had to drive to Albany for 3 in-person meetings.  It's a little more than an hour drive for me, which is certainly reasonable since I have to drive nearly that far to get to almost anything!  There were people in the class who came from much further - 2 or 3 hours away.  It's a long way to go, but if you figure the cost of 3 graduate credits and the time/cost of driving to a conventional, local class 12 times during a semester, I think you come out ahead. You come out even further ahead if you can convince a colleague or someone who lives near you to take the course at the same time as you so you can carpool! 

No textbook in this picture because when I went to quickly snap this pic, the textbook wasn't where it was supposed to be.  Of course. 
The first meeting was held before the class really started.  We were given our materials - a textbook, a workbook and a large binder filled with course information as well as the weekly homework questions (all in a canvas tote bag).
There's the textbook.  From the AMS website.

Each week's work consisted of textbook reading and answering associated questions, 2 "labs" in the workbook (a lot of these involved looking at and interpreting data), and some current reading (found on the website) with a few questions.

My class's instructor encouraged us to brainstorm ways in which we'd use the information used presented in the lesson in our classrooms, and include that with our homework each week.  This additional step made it simple to pull together our final projects as the semester wound down. 

Our class submitted our weekly homework to instructors via email.  Fax options may be available in some situations. 

Final projects consisted of writing an action plan outlining the ways we would use the course information in our classrooms and ways in which we would share what we've learned with other teachers around us.  We each gave a brief presentation highlighting the information in our papers. 

During the final meeting of the semester, we gathered to share our final projects, complete course evaluations and fill out the final paperwork in order for SUNY Brockport to award our credits. 

Our class had a third in-person meeting in the middle of the semester.  Unfortunately the weather didn't cooperate and the meeting had to be rescheduled, causing several members of the group to miss out.  And they did miss out... our group met at the National Weather Service forecasting office.  We were given a tour of the office and learned what the forecasters do on a daily basis, and we were able to watch them launch one of their two-per-day weather balloons.  There was lots of freedom to ask questions and take in as much as possible.  Equally valuable was learning about the opportunities available for our students - possible guest speakers, field trips, etc.  I obviously can't speak for everywhere, but the people in this office were very interested in outreach and working with students.  It was a fantastic experience. 

I really enjoyed the class and learned a lot.  I had the flexibility to do the work on my own time, when it was convenient, but also had the benefit of instructors who were readily available via email and phone to answer questions and help explain information that was challenging.  The course wasn't overly difficult but there were some challenging concepts to try to wrap one's brain around.

I'm looking forward to taking the other two courses at some point in the future.  It will be a bit more of a commitment, as the other two are not held at locations as near to me, but when the time comes, I will make it work! 

If you have any further questions about the courses or would like help registering, let me know and I'll be glad to lend any assistance that I can. 

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Let Us Weigh Lettuce

An easy lesson in measuring mass, collecting data, graphing (if you wish), percentages and plants. And a great experiment to start at the beginning of the school year.

You'll need a leaf of lettuce and a balance.  The precision of an electronic balance is nice for this particular activity, if you have one available.

If you have a balance that can remain dedicated to this activity, you can place the lettuce leaf right on it.  Record the mass.  Each day when the students come to class, they should record the mass of the lettuce.  Continue recording the mass every day for a month.

[If you cannot dedicate a balance to the activity, you'll need to first find the mass of a weighing paper.  Record that, then place the lettuce on the weighing paper and record that mass.  Lift the paper with the lettuce on top and keep in a safe place while the balance is being used elsewhere.  Return the paper and lettuce to the balance each day to find the mass.  You'll have to subtract the mass of the weighing paper from each measurement to get the mass of the lettuce.]

Once you've collected all the data, you can graph it if you wish.  Is the water lost at the same rate throughout the month or does it change?

You can also determine how much of lettuce (by mass) is water.

Mass of lettuce at start - Mass of lettuce at end = Mass of water

(Mass of water / Mass of lettuce at start) * 100 = % of lettuce mass that was water

If you've caught your students' attention with this one, you can proceed to follow the same procedure to find the water content in other items.  Maybe your students will want to compare the water content in different types of lettuces or different types of leaves or different types of fruits or vegetables.  Lots of possibilities - you could have something going every month of the school year!

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Erosion & Run-Off: What affect does vegetation have?

 This is a really simple demonstration, but it does require some planning ahead (not always my strong suit... )

You'll need two shallow pans or boxes.  Fill each pan with dirt.  Sprinkle grass seed on one of the pans of dirt.  Keep the soil moist as the grass seed germinates and grows.  (You don't need to do anything with the other pan of dirt right now).

Once you have a nice crop of grass in the one pan, take both pans outside.  Prop up one end of each pan using bricks (or something else that will raise it a few inches).

Begin to spray both pans with a hose or spray bottles of water.  You can spray in any manner you'd like, just try to get both pans equally.

While you're spraying, observe what happens to both the soil and the water in each situation. 

When you've finished, discuss the impact of vegetation on soil erosion and/or water run-off. 

Wednesday, July 3, 2013

Transporting Water and Finding Equilibrium

You may have seen images of this activity before... I know versions of it have been prevalent on Pinterest.  We'll go through the basics and then we'll talk a bit about stepping it up and stretching your kids' brains!

In its basic form, you begin with 3 cups, some water, food coloring and a paper towel.

Fill two of the cups with water and color the water in each cup a different color.

Arrange the cups in a line, with the empty cup between the cups with colored water.

Take a piece of paper towel (I used half a paper towel) and twist the middle a little.  Then bend the towel so that it creates a bridge from one cup to another.  Repeat with another paper towel to connect the other two cups.


The water will move from each of the cups, through the paper towels into the empty cup.  You'll know water has moved because there is now water where before there was none and you'll know that it has come from both cups because the center cup will contain green water (the combination of yellow water and blue water).

The movement happens fairly quickly - the process will be complete within a couple of hours.  

It may not be terribly obvious, because we tend to start with about equal amounts of water in the two cups with which we start, but the water will keep moving until all three cups have equal amounts of water in them.  

At that point, water stops moving and system will basically just sit there.  The cups have reached equilibrium. You can let the cups sit there for days and you won't notice much changing. 
I took this photo before the system had reached equilibrium and forget to take another one after the process was complete.  But I can assure you that all three cups finished with an equal amount of water.
Now is when you can really challenge your students to figure out what's going on within the system.  What will happen if more water is added to the system?

You can add water by pouring more water into any one of the cups in the system.  Or you can add a fourth cup to the system and connect it with a paper towel.

I chose to add another cup of water (uncolored this time) and connect it to the middle (green) cup with a paper towel.

Make sure the cup you add to the system has a different water level than what's in the other cups or you won't get any movement.  I was trying to move water into the green cup, so I made sure my new cup was pretty full of water.  You could also connect an empty cup to the system via paper towel and watch the water flow in the other direction.

The system that had been sitting dormant for several days sprang into action. 

Colorless water flowed into the green cup (as evidenced by the lightening of the green color).  Green water then flowed into the blue and yellow cups (as evidenced by the color change in those cups). 

A really simple experiment with a lot of permeations - you can keep playing with it day after day, adding water or empty cups at different spots in the system.  Really great for inquiry learning and exploring!