Sunday, January 5, 2014

CK-12 for Science and Math

CK-12 is a website that provides free textbooks that can be fully edited and are copyrighted such that you can republish them.  For me, that means I can distribute them to my Homeschool Connections students.  The copyright laws for online classes are far more strict than they are for face-to-face classes, including specific language about educational institutions needing to be accredited. (Homeschool Connections offers a variety of courses to supplement homeschoolers rather than a comprehensive curriculum so we really have no urgent need for accreditation.)

I've referenced the site for many years since they mostly have math and science content, though they do have English, History, and SAT prep as well.  Years ago I planned to use their ebooks and edit them for my anatomy and physiology courses, but I soon found I was editing more than I was keeping and so I wrote my own material using mostly Wikimedia to find images that I could republish.

I forgot about the site until I recently put together a middle school life science course.  Trying to decide what topics I should cover and how complex I needed to be (or not), I visited CK-12 again.  The site has been completely transformed and made into something far more useful than what it was.  Before it offered only complete books for entire courses, and while those are still available they have now broken everything down into topics.  They have and extensive list of Life Science topics geared towards middle school (the Biology link has topics at the high school level.)

Using the site I could easily identify, assemble, download, and distribute ebooks for my class.  I could edit them as well, though I would not say that is an easy process.  Yes, everything can be edited, from the title to the images to the text itself but you have to do it all online at the site.  Often something will look properly formatted on the site but appears quite different in the pdf--this is especially true if you edit images.  Online they appear before a paragraph while in the pdf they are after and I have yet to figure out what I need to do to adjust it.  Another drawback is that editing is very slow during high-volume times, typically school day mornings.  The third problem is that you supposedly are able to output the final product in 3 formats--pdf, mobi (for Kindle) and ePub (for iPad and Android.)  I have no problem getting the pdf shortly after requesting it (you are emailed a link from which you download the finished product) but I never receive links for the other two versions, ever.

Still, overall it has made putting customized science material together very easy.  When it comes to creating Life Science materials for a Catholic homeschool audience, customization is critical in some areas, and that is what made CK-12 so helpful. Here is an example of the ebook I distributed for the first class.

Saturday, February 9, 2013

Crushing Cans

Ds#3 loves to watch videos from The Happy Scientist Robert Krampf and then goes about performing them.  This time around he got busy crushing cans using steam.  The videos below demonstrate how he did it.  Notice in the background of the second video, where Ds#2 is giving an explanation, that Ds#1 is having a little fun.





Friday, August 10, 2012

Burning Tears of St. Lawrence, or the Perseid Meteor Shower

Look towards the Perseus constellation in the northeast sky this weekend and from it will emanate the Perseid Meteor shower. If you have clear skies, this year promises to be excellent because the moon will be a mere crescent.

Today is the feast day of St. Lawrence of Rome, the archdeacon who tirelessly cared for the sick and poor and was grilled to death for his faith, coinciding with the annual meteor shower; thus the event is often referred to as the Burning Tears of St. Lawrence.

Get a blanket and make yourself comfortable.  You'll start seeing them every few minutes streaking across the sky after night fall, but if you like middle-of-the-night excursions the peak will be between 2 am and 3 am.  Saturday night will be better than Sunday, though around here Saturday is predicted to be cloudy.  We're planning a shooting star gazing event at a friend's yard atop a treeless hill on Sunday when the weather should be clear.

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Discount Code for Live Online Summer Math Camps

Homeschool Connections is offering two live online summer math camps for geometry and algebra.  You can read about them here.

For the geometry prep camp I have a discount code that you are free to share:

$20 off Geometry Prep Camp discount code nx32tg.  Enjoy!


Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Home in a Cave review

Check out my review of Janet Halfmann's new book Home in a Cave over at Love2Learn.

Science Olympiad Competition




I never did blog about the Science Olympiad competition, until now that is.  Our competition was back in March.  In the end we had a team of five and we competed in the following events:

  • Food Science
  • Road Scholar
  • Crime Busters
  • Storm the Castle

While it's hard to see in the picture, our team is the small group without matching shirts just about in the center of the picture.  This year Massachusetts had a record number of both regular and alternate teams, and we were the first homeschool team ever.

There's no substitute for that first experience to understand how the competition works.  For as strict as the rules portray everything, the middle school level at least was not quite so rigid.  And I had expected that I had to be with them for every competition when in fact only the competitors were allowed in to most events.

We competed against many top schools, many of which have been competing for years with not only a primary team but also one or even two alternates.  We all gathered in the gym for the final award of medals (for regular teams) and ribbons (for alternates.)  I just can't describe the shock and joy of hearing our team's name announced as the third place alternate winner for Crime Busters.  Our two competitors are in the bottom picture.

We had a great experience.  Yes, there's a lot of work.  Yes, there's a lot of stress.  Yes, it's a big time commitment. It's worth it.


Sunday, February 19, 2012

Crime Busters

Crime Busters is a skills-oriented chemistry event in Science Olympiad.  Students are given a scenario and evidence collected at the scene of the (non-violent) crime.  They analyze the clues in order to solve the crime.  You can see a good description of the event at  Crime Busters on SciOly, a student wiki for Science Olympiad for exchanging tips and resources.  Note that gypsum is plaster of Paris and calcium carbonate is chalk.

Half the points are earned in the analysis portion in which students need to identify an unknown powdered solid, a liquid, and a metal.


These are pictures from the powdered solid analysis.  What you see are 11 of the 13 possibilities that I actually had around my house, even acetic acid (being a bread baker.)  Sand (go figure) and sodium acetate were the only two I did not have.

Other things you need are Lugol's iodine (not alcohol-based like the stuff at the pharmacy) hydrochloric acid (HCl), and pH paper, all available along with acetic acid from Home Training Tools.  They include instructions to make a 3M HCl solution.  You may want to get a brown glass bottle to store it in as well, and a 10 ml graduated cylinder to measure it out (though not necessary.)

The coolest reaction: vitamin C (acetic acid) turns iodine from brown to completely clear.