Tuesday, October 30, 2012

STEM fun on Planet Oobleck

Have you ever heard of the planet Oobleck?  This is one of my favorite lessons from Seeds of Science Planets and Moon unit.

Here is the basic premise - a new planet has been discovered with similar temperature, atmosphere and gravity to the Earth but with a different surface feature.  A satellite has gathered a sample to return to Earth for us to study.  We need to determine what would be the best type of material to use as a lander - cork, plastic cups, spoons, paper clips, Popsicle sticks or straws.

Some materials sank and some were able to stay on top without tipping over. After testing each material, we wrote our data down to remember which ones worked the best.  
After a day of exploring materials we designed a lander that would be able to land on the planet oobleck in our science journals.
The next day, I showed up with a ton of materials - plastic cups, tape, straws, paper clips, etc...and we built our own 3-D landers.

And no good design experiment would be complete without testing it in the Oobleck as well...
It was lots of fun...and engaging for all students as we explored a "real world" 21st century problem!

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Chocoalate...Sink and Float

What's better than chocolate?  not much!

Here's another experiment brought to you by Candy Experiments. 

Most candy sinks in water, because sugar is denser than water. 
But some candy floats. Why?

This experiment is so easy...all you need is some leftover chocolate candy and water.  Drop the candy in the clear glass and observe what happens. 

Here's what Loralee at Candy experiments says is happening:

"Some kinds of candy, such as Kit Kats, 3 Musketeers, and marshmallows have air trapped inside. This makes them float.  "

I have created another recording sheet to go along with this experiment!  Hope you can use it!


Saturday, October 20, 2012

M&M and Skittles...experiment

Candy Experiments

Last fall I stumbled across a great website devoted to Candy Experiments.  This website has the motherload of great experiments using candy.  Many of them have links to a YouTube video that shows how to do it, too.  I have emailed the webmaster and asked permission to use their experiments and create some follow up sheets for the classroom.  I can't wait to use them in my classroom!

What happens when you put Skittles or M&M's in water? Do they float or sink??  This one is a very easy and inexpensive one.  Have students bring in left over Halloween Candy or buy it on sale. 

All you need to do is drop the candy in the water and watch what happens....

The white letters on M&Ms and Skittles are printed with edible ink that doesn't dissolve in water. When the rest of the candy shell dissolves, the letters peel off and float. Some of the letters break into pieces, but a few should survive intact.

It's pretty cool to see the floating letters in the water.  I recommend this for older kids  because they need to be patient to see the actual letters...and close observation too.

To grab your FREE follow up worksheet click here!


Sunday, October 14, 2012

Acid Candy Test...repost and updated!

With Halloween right around the corner, I thought NOW would be a great time to blog about some Candy Science activities.  Here is the famous ACID CANDY TEST...

I orginially found this activity on the web and modified it to meet the needs of a classroom of 4th graders.

To do this test, you need clear cups, wonka candy, water and baking soda. You will put the candy in the water and then add a tsp of baking soda. If there is citric acid in the candy, it will bubble. Fun huh?

I bought a huge pack of Wonka candy.... with Nerds, BottleCaps, Sweet Tarts and Laffy Taffy in it. We were able to see a reaction with all of the candy types except for the banana flavored Laffy Taffy. I wonder if it wasn't sour enough?

The reason for the reaction? Sour candy is made with citric acid from fruits like lime/lemons. When you mix the candy diluted in water with baking soda, it emits a gas. It only emits the gas if it encounters an acid.

We made a lot of observations - we noticed that a lot of the food coloring from the candy was diluted in the water. We noticed that the baking soda sunk and made clumps on the candy. We noticed many bubbles. Nerds made the most bubbles.

Here is how I set up the materials. I put the baking soda in the bowl with three spoons. I had a measuring cup with water in it and clear glasses. I also put the collection of candy on the tray. For listening purposes, we stated the directions one at a time:
1. Get a clear cup
2. Pick your candy
3. Pour the water in (you may want an adult to do this)
4. Put in a spoonful of baking soda.
5. Watch and Observe

After it was completed, we graphed our results according to the candies chosen. In this rotation, all the candies had a reaction.

For the Updated Blog I have added a printable that you can use in your classroom...

Click here to get your FREE printable...

Hope you will enjoy it too!

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Language of scientific arguing....

Do you let your students "argue"????  Real scientists argue quite often...but not a drop down fight, more like a sharing of ideas.

One of my favorite books for introducing this concept is Why do Scientist Disagree? This book ties in nicely to my space unit because it is a tale of two stories.  On the left side is a story about Galileo and his argumentation with scientists about light from the moon and the other side is a modern story of scientists diagreeing.   

I try to set up these discussions based on misconceptions I hear in the classroom.  For example, I have heard "the moon causes day and night" quite often in my fourth grade class.  Rather than saying, no - that is not correct, I set up the situation with the kids and say...."What do you think? and Why do you think that?"

I set it up by introducing these question frames to guide the discussions:

  • What do you think?
  • What is your claim?
  • Why do you think that?
  • What is your evidence?
  • Do you agree? Why?
  • Do you disagree? Why?
  • How sure are we?
  • How could we be more sure?
Then it is important to also provide the sentence starter frames.

I think....
I claim....
My evidence is....
I agree with ....because
I disagree with ....because
I am sure....because
I think we could be more sure if we....

Of course, I needed to make them a little cuter too! 

To get your copy of these sentence frames on a sheet, click here.


Saturday, October 6, 2012

STEM education...and flipping

 I have just returned from a STEM education conference and have become rejuvenated with my thinking about how we approach learning in the classroom.   I have always been an advocate of integrating math and science since my early teaching days....but the implications of technology have always made me a little weary. 

I mean....let's be honest....sometimes I feel like all kids do these days are sit in front of video games.  Why should we continue this at school???

After this conference, my ideas have....FLIPPED.....It's not about mindless video games and instruction...not skill and drill computer games....but instead using technology to enhance our understanding of problem based learning.

I have a million ideas running through my head...but the first BIG idea I walked away with is the idea of "Flipping" our classroom.  Have you heard of this concept? It is not new...but it is not really being used....YET.

This idea is all about introducing content AT HOME through the use of podcasts, screen casts, and/or youtube videos.  Students can sign into a teacher selected site and find the pre-selected video, etc.. for them to watch for homework.  Why?  Well......let's face it....our kids are distracted at school.  At any given time, we truly only have about 60% of attention on our content presentation...I was watching my students just this week as we explored a brainpop video (pretty engaging, right???).  There were a few kids glued to the screen.  But the majority of the class were looking elsewhere their shoes, at the fly in the air, out the window, at their friend, at a get the picture.

So instead, why not have them watch the same presentation at home where they are NOT distracted by friends, flies, etc..???  Then come in prepared for a discussion and then...more time for application!  That's right...without the 20 minutes of introduction into the content we would be able to get right into experiments, projects, products and hands-on learning.

Educators are always whining about TIME.  This, perhaps, just might give us more....time.

Want to learn more???  So do I!  As I find more information I will continue to blog about resources, ideas and application.