Thursday, April 30, 2009

Spiral Science & Math Manipulative

Fibonacci numbers are practically unheard of outside of math circles, and yet the math, science, and even art concepts that tie into them are many. Spiral Science & Math Manipulative is an elegant and inexpensive way to extensively explore these relationships.

Ds#1 and I have been trying out the many acitivities available at the web site. Middle school or above students with a good understanding of fractions, decimals, and percentages will get the most out of this neat kit, though upper elementary kids can use it for simpler activities. Ds#1 does not have that much math under his belt, but enjoyed the activity on hand bone ratios nonetheless. He was able to figure out the pattern of the Fibonacci sequence after a bit of thought--and that made it all the more wonderful for him.

The 13x21 cm kit consists of 7 magnetic sheets that have numbers and a spiral-forming curve on one side and examples of spirals in nature on the other, a magnetic sheet to work on, and a thick vinyl pouch to keep it in. The Teacher's Guide is included, containing six lessons, and the web site has another 8 activities all aligned to national standards (if you keep track of them.) You can also buy class packs for your co-op, but these are significantly more expensive.

Some of the vocabulary and concepts you will explore with this kit include logarithmic (Archimedes) spiral, tessellations, ratio, proportion, golden mean, interval scale, X and Y axis, controls and variables, histogram, average, and more. With a cost of less than $15, this kit certainly offers a lot of science and math exploration for the dollar.

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Bugscope session: Wow!

Today we had our last day of co-op. I taught Hands-on Science to a group of ten 6 to 8 year olds that finished up with our live Bugscope session!

The details to reserve time on the scanning electron microscope are at the website. We collected bug and mailed them out last week. The folks at Bugscope (I believe they are grad students studying various small arthropods) mount them and are then available for live chat during the session. You can have up to 20 computers logged in; we had 4. Below are some of the images we were able to manipulate--center, zoom, focus--from our computers.

While only one computer at a time has control, you can type questions from any of them. The grad students were great! And this fidgety class of rambunctious kids were fascinated for the full hour that we had reserved. They seemed to love it more than the older kids that wandered in late in the session.

This is something our co-op will certainly do again next year!

Friday, April 24, 2009

Living Science--literature v. mulitimedia

I have commented before about how limited the living science literature field really is. If you want a nature story, or a biography you're in luck, but beyond that you will have trouble. That's why I like to feature good living science literature here.

Interestingly, while discussing this topic on Julie's Living Math Forum Yahoo group, she noted how hard it was to find any biographies of mathematicians. It seems math is full of concept readers, where science is lacking, and science is full of biographies, where math is lacking. Both, of course, have their share of text books.

While I am not giving up on science literature by any means, I have discovered that it is much easier to find wonderful science multimedia and web sites than literature. I have mentioned some of them here, and will continue to do so.

A related topic came up on the MEP board in the context of being unable to advance in science because of a lag in math. Living science multimedia is one good way to continue learning science without the math intensity of a science curriculum.

Sunday, April 19, 2009

Science Saturday Challenge goes live!

I have thoroughly enjoyed the live webinars at Homeschool Connections, and many more have been scheduled, including mine! Science At Home: Static Electricity live webinar airs on Wednesday, May 13th at 8:30pm Eastern time. You can register here. I will be discussing homeschooling science as well as static electricity, and then demonstrating several experiments relating to the topic.

If you miss the live webinar I will post a link as the next Science Saturday Challenge so you can view it at any time.

I hope this effort will make homeschool science easier for those who are just a touch intimidated by the subject, or for those who want to break away from the textbooks and boxed curricula.

You can see all the upcoming webinars here.


Saturday, April 11, 2009

Electronic well-wishes

One line of science kits that lasts a long time and can be used by a wide variety of ages is Snap Circuits. We bought our kit a couple of years ago and the kids still play with it all the time.

All the parts are mounted on plastic bases that simply snap together to form a circuit. The one pictured is the mid-priced 300 part set; they also make 100 and 500 part kits. Even when Ds#3 was only 4 years old he was snapping these together and making circuits.

And on birthdays Ds#2 likes to put this together:

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Hyperdo Kit from Zome

We are on school break for Holy Week and this is a good time to do special projects, kits, and other activities that we don't seem to get to during more scheduled weeks.

I've blogged about Zomes before; this "toy" is one that both the kids and I agree is great. Zome changed their product so they no longer sell long struts in their kits (they are special order.) Instead they now have super short struts plus hyper short red (pentagon) struts. You can see the parts here. While kids can't make models they can crawl through as easily, the models they make are easier to handle and build.

The Hyperdo kit is an economical way to get a large number of super short and hyper short parts if you already have the other sizes. That's what I did when they were first available. This month you can also buy the half pound or two pound bag of random parts for 50% off using code pbb-50.

If you don't have any Zomes yet, the "naked" kits are a good deal. I bought tackle boxes at Walmart for under $5 to keep them in. For this month you can get them at 30% off with the code nkd0409.

Yesterday we finally put together the hyperdo (short for hyper dodecahedron.) As you can see in the picture, if you look at it from one angle you see a flower in the center; look from a different angle and you see a tunnel. Interestingly, the thumbnail of the flower-center angle clearly shows a Star of David in the empty spaces of the model that is harder to appreciate in the larger shot. I'll have to see if I can see the star when trying to cast shadows with the model--it should look golden as the sun will come through those areas!