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.

Winner, winner

The winner in our Top Ten Household Objects comment contest is...

Mrs. M at Orchard View!!!

Thanks to everyone who participated and make sure you check out those comments to find some more great ideas!

More new stuff later this week!

Friday, May 2, 2014

Top Ten Household Items #1

#1 on the Top Ten List of Household Items to Use in Your Science Classroom is:

Food Coloring

Definitely a worthy winner!  I use it all the time and I'm sure there are lots more ideas to add to the list!

Tie-Dye Name-tags
Capillary Action in Action
Frustration Bottles
Mixing Colors
States of Matter
Diffusion Demonstration
Finding Equilibrium (Water)
Salt Water Painting
Solubility Fireworks
Magic Marble
Milk Fireworks
Sugar Density Column
Contact Lens Safety
A Hole in the Water
Celery in Colored Water
Egg-speriment

Comment on this post to be entered to win a prize box containing most of the Top Ten Items.  And remember, if your comment contains an additional use (not mentioned above) for food coloring in the science classroom, you'll receive a bonus entry!

Thursday, May 1, 2014

Top Ten Household Items #2

#2 on the Top Ten List of Household Items to Use in Your Science Classroom is:

Pennies

Pennies have so many great uses in the classroom!  What can you add to the list?

Penny boats
Penny Passengers
Genetics Penny Flip
Inertia Penny Finger
Penny Knock Out
Penny in a Cup
Drops on a Penny
Half-Life Model
Spot the Penny (refraction)
Projectile Motion
Penny in a Balloon
Salt, Vinegar and Pennies (chemical changes)
Balance a Lever

Comment on this post to be entered to win a prize box containing most of the Top Ten Items.  And remember, if your comment contains an additional use (not mentioned above) for pennies in the science classroom, you'll receive a bonus entry!

Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Top Ten Household Items #3

#3 on the Top Ten List of Household Items to Use in Your Science Classroom is:

Balloons

I didn't even realize how often I used balloons in the classroom... And I don't think this is a complete list! Share your ideas in the comments!

The Expanding Universe
Blow up a Balloon in a Bottle
The Importance of Cell Walls
Penny in a Balloon
Ideal Gas Law with a Balloon
The Shape of Molecules
Model Lung
Steel Wool and Vinegar
Bending Water
Cellular Respiration in Yeast
Build a Coral Reef
From Solid and Liquid to Gas
Bernoulli Balloons

Comment on this post to be entered to win a prize box containing most of the Top Ten Items.  And remember, if your comment contains an additional use (not mentioned above) for balloons in the science classroom, you'll receive a bonus entry!

Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Top Ten Household Items #4

#4 on the Top Ten List of Household Items to Use in Your Science Classroom is:

Vinegar

Vinegar is a great item to have on hand - it's a key component in many simple and safe chemical reactions

Seashells and Acidification
Egg-speriment
Steel Wool and Vinegar
Salt, Vinegar and Pennies
The Importance of Brushing Your Teeth
Baby Birds and Acid Rain
Why You Need Calcium
From Solid and Liquid to Gas
Erupt a Volcano
The Cabbage Caper
Mystery Solutions Lab
pH of Household Substances

Comment on this post to be entered to win a prize box containing most of the Top Ten Items.  And remember, if your comment contains an additional use (not mentioned above) for vinegar in the science classroom, you'll receive a bonus entry!

By the way, vinegar won't be included in the prize box - can't figure out how to ship that easily.  Guess I'll have to find a special surprise item to take its place!

Monday, April 28, 2014

Top Ten Household Items #5

#5 on the Top Ten List of Household Items to Use in Your Science Classroom is:

Salt

Before I started compiling this list, I was certain that salt would end up in the top spot or two.  It seems like I'm constantly pulling it out of the cupboard for one reason or another!

I bumped it down a little on this list, because I just didn't have as many activity links to share as I did for some of the contenders.

I'm sure you'll share lots more ways to use salt in science lessons!  And take some time to try some of these ideas:

Salt Water Painting
Salt, Vinegar and Pennies (chemical change)
The Mistake
Should I Salt My French Fries Before or After
Float an Egg
Semipermeable Membranes
Growing Crystals

It's also really great to look at under a stereoscopic microscope, if you happen to have access to one!

Comment on this post to be entered to win a prize box containing most of the Top Ten Items.  And remember, if your comment contains an additional use (not mentioned above) for salt in the science classroom, you'll receive a bonus entry!

Friday, April 25, 2014

Top Ten Household Items #6

#6 on the Top Ten List of Household Items to Use in Your Science Classroom is:

Index Cards

To be honest, I didn't even consider index cards in my initial list of possible items.  But there are so many ways to use them, beyond just flashcards!

Flatten an Index Card
Index Card Slides
Step Through an Index Card
An Index Card and a Cup of Water
Mystery Jars
Penny in a Cup
Layered Water
Mitosis Line-Up
Boat Races
Photosynthesis Races
Flip an Arrow
Water Drop Microscope
Jumping Frog

Comment on this post to be entered to win a prize box containing most of the Top Ten Items.  And remember, if your comment contains an additional use (not mentioned above) for index cards in the science classroom, you'll receive a bonus entry!

Thursday, April 24, 2014

Top Ten Household Items #7

#7 on the Top Ten List of Household Items to Use in Your Science Classroom is:

Sugar

Granulated sugar can find its way into plenty of science activities, but I find that sugar cubes lend themselves to even more possibilities.  And, you can always crush the cubes to get granulated sugar!

Sugar Cube Rock Cycle
Sugar Cube Solubility
Sugar Density Column
How Much Sugar in a Can of Soda?
The Floating Letter
The Big Green Mixing Bowl

Comment on this post to be entered to win a prize box containing most of the Top Ten Items.  And remember, if your comment contains an additional use (not mentioned above) for sugar in the science classroom, you'll receive a bonus entry!

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Top Ten Household Items #8

#8 on the Top Ten List of Household Items to Use in Your Science Classroom is:

Play Doh

Play Doh gets bonus points because you can easily make your own in the colors and quantities you desire, with minimal materials and effort!

After you've got it made, try out some of these ideas:

Color Mixing
Earth vs. Moon Volume Comparison
Make a Topographic Map
A Look Inside Folds and Faults
What's Inside?

Comment on this post to be entered to win a prize box containing most of the Top Ten Items.  And remember, if your comment contains an additional use (not mentioned above) for Play Doh in the science classroom, you'll receive a bonus entry!

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Top Ten Household Items #9

#9 on the Top Ten List of Household Items to Use in Your Science Classroom is:

Dried Beans

I love having a stash of a few different kinds of dried beans/peas/lentils on hand.  Try out these activities:

Seed Germination
Semipermeable Membrane Demonstration
Dissect a Seed
The Geologists' Dilemma
Renewable vs. Non-Renewable Resources

Comment on this post to be entered to win a prize box containing most of the Top Ten Items.  And remember, if your comment contains an additional use (not mentioned above) for dried beans in the science classroom, you'll receive a bonus entry!

Monday, April 21, 2014

Top Ten Household Items #10

#10 on the Top Ten List of Household Items to Use in Your Science Classroom is:

Aluminum Foil

Here are a few ways to use aluminum foil in your classroom:

Penny Boats
Sugar Cube Rock Cycle

I really thought I'd find more uses for it included in the Science Matters archives, as it seems like I use it more often just a few times per year.  Regardless, I think it still makes the Top Ten.  In addition, to the activities included, it's great to have on hand when you're talking about the elements on the periodic table and it's fun to throw a ball of it in with items to test with a magnet.

Comment on this post to be entered to win a prize box containing most of the Top Ten Items.  And remember, if your comment contains an additional use (not mentioned above) for aluminum foil in the science classroom, you'll receive a bonus entry!  I can't wait to hear your ideas!

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Coming Next Week: Top 10 Household Products to Use in Your Classroom

I'm jumping back into the blogging world with a special-two-week event and a contest!

I've always proclaimed myself to be a hands-on science teacher who relies heavily on readily available household items to carry out experiments.

These are items that are always kept close at hand, because as soon as they get put away, they're needed again.  Sometimes it's for a planned lesson, other times you pull them out to help answer a question as it comes up.

At various times throughout my time authoring this blog, I've debated which of those items I'd place at the very top of my list.

So, this week I'm going to do a Top 5 list.  Each day I'll reveal a favorite product and I'll share links to a plethora of activities/experiments you can carry out using said product.

If you leave a comment, you'll be entered to win a prize pack containing most of the Top 10 items (one or two of them may not be appropriate to ship...).  You'll get a bonus entry if your comment includes another way to use the item in a science classroom!

I'll see you on Monday for #10!

Tuesday, January 7, 2014

Nursery Rhyme Science: Hot Cross Buns

Hot cross buns!
Hot cross buns!
One a penny, two a penny,
Hot cross buns!
One a penny, two a penny,
Hot cross buns!

Activity 1: Rising Up
Hot cross buns are a type of yeast bread.  Yeast is a living organism (a fungus to be exact), that is used to make bread dough rise.  If you didn't use yeast, your bread would be small, flat and hard as a rock.

When you open a package of yeast and pour some out, it doesn't look like much.  It certainly doesn't seem to do anything.  The yeast is in a dormant state - it's still alive but it's not actually doing anything; kind of like being asleep.

To get the yeast going you'll need to do two things:
1 - warm up the yeast so that it "wakes" up
2 - give the yeast something to eat

Put the yeast in a flask or small-neck bottle.  Add some warm water (to wake up the yeast) and some sugar (to feed the yeast).

Stretch a balloon over the top of the flask/bottle and allow it to sit somewhere where everyone can keep an eye on it for the next hour or two.

As time passes, you'll notice the balloon filling up.  It's catching the carbon dioxide the yeast is releasing.  When you make bread, the yeast does the same thing, creating small pockets of air within the bread!

Activity 2: Does "Hot" Always Feel the Same?
Temperature can be a funny thing.... A 60 degree day in March feels fabulously warm and wonderful.  That same temperature, in the middle of July, feels frigid.  The temperature is the same, but the way in which it feels can vary depending upon our perspective.

Here's a way you can actually feel that principle at work in a matter of minutes.

You'll need three bowls:
--Fill one bowl with water and allow it to sit for about 5 minutes (or more) to reach room temperature.
--Fill the next bowl with water and add several ice cubes.  Stir.
--Fill the final bowl with warm tap water.  Aim for something that just feels warm on your wrist - you don't water so hot that it'll hurt you.

Arrange the bowls on the table so that the room temperature water is in the middle and the hot and cold water are on either side of it.

Place one hand in the warm water and the other hand in the cold water.  Leave them there for about 20 seconds.

Remove your hands from the bowls and place them both in the middle (room temperature) bowl.  How do they feel?

Even though they are now in the same water, the hand that was in the cold water feels warm and the hand that had been in the warm water feels cold.

The explanation....
You placed your hand in warm water.  The energy (heat) moved from the water, which was hotter than your hand, to your hand, making it feel warm.  Then you placed it in water that was colder than your (now warmed) hand.  The energy (heat) left your hand and flowed into the water, leaving your hand feeling cold.

You placed your other hand in cold water.  The energy (heat) moved from your hand into the cold water.  When you placed that hand, with a reduced amount of heat energy, in the room temperature water, energy (heat) flowed from that water to you hand because there was more energy in the water than your hand.