Thursday, December 29, 2011

Refresh! Midwinter Virtual Conference

Homeschool Connections is brightening up those February doldrums with a free virtual conference!  Each talk is on a different night, lasts about an hour, and starts at 8 pm EST.  You can see the schedule here.  While they are free, you do have to register.

You might be interested in Science by Inquiry on February 1st taught by, well, guess who?

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Free Recorded Course Access

From now until January 4th get FREE access to my fall Cardiovascular and Respiratory System course at Homeschool Connections.

My next live course on Blood and the Immune System begins January 11th!

Friday, December 16, 2011

Seven Wonders of the Microbe World

This 25 minute video is a compilation of 7 others highlighting science and microbes produced by The Open University.  You can watch each individual video on YouTube or click below to watch them all.


The topics are:
  • The History of Beer
  • Black Death
  • Food Preservation
  • Nitrogen Fixation
  • Antibiotics
  • Genetic Engineering (plants)
  • Life on Mars

Saturday, October 15, 2011

Inquiry Cubes and the Scientific Method

As a start to our exploration in chemistry this year, I introduced a fun exercise about how science works.  This comes from a 1998 publication of The National Academies Press, which are free to download, called Teaching About Evolution and the Nature of Science.

I started off asking what they thought scientists did, and by describing how some use the scientific method.  Next I brought out the cubes to experience some of what this is like.

Cube 1 is numbered just like a 6-sided die; cube 2 (optional) doubles the numbers on a six-sided die, and cube 3 has a more complex pattern.  Have the kids sit in a circle and place cube 1 in the middle with the "5" face down.  Students cannot move it or themselves; they can only observe the cube from their seat.  Have them write down their observations and then let them take turns asking each other questions they would like to know about the parts of the cube they cannot see.  They then come up with a hypothesis as to what is on the bottom.

Cube 1 is the simplest, but I question them about their certainty if they jump to conclusions based not on their evidence but on what they know about dice.  They are then allowed to use some "technology" in the form of a mirror and, lifting the cube only a couple of centimeters, they can peek underneath. Next they do the same for cube 2 with "12" on the bottom.  They may notice that the shaded portions are double the shaded portions in the original cube, and using the technology can verify that.  Finally they try the third cube with Francene on the bottom, which my kids found much more interesting.

After they made all their hypotheses about what was on the bottom and used their technology to verify some of what they thought, I removed the cube without ever showing them what actually was on the bottom.  In science we cannot look up at God and ask, "Am I right?"  Besides, I did this for two groups and I didn't want the first groupto spoil it for the second.  This drove them a little bit crazy, vowing to find the cube and look when they got the chance.  I asked them to reflect (in writing) how this was and was not like what scientists do and that got their mind off of it--for a little bit, anyway.

Monday, October 10, 2011

Homeschool Connections Discount

I am offering a 12-week Anatomy and Physiology course on Blood and the Immune System through Homeschool Connections.  Early enrollment discount ends November 1st!  Click here to see all the middle and high school offerings for Spring 2012.

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Chemical Proportions and Electrolysis

In preparing for Middle School Chemistry with our co-op our family we are going through Matter and Energy: Principles of Matter and Thermodynamics . This volume has two chapters about chemical reactions and the periodic table so it makes a good transition.

The first chapter is about the Law of Conservation of Matter, and while we just read the chapter I've been inspired by something I found here.  I modified it for homeschoolers, taking out much of the school jargon and requirements, and posted it here.  I hope to try it and blog about it soon.

Meanwhile, the second chapter is "How the Elements Combine."  Proust first figured out that chemicals combine by mass in definite proportions.  Dalton realized that some chemicals combine in several but definite proportions, a fact that fit in well with his proposition of matter being made up of atoms.  Next Gay-Lussac showed that gases combined in the same proportions by volume, leading to his law stating that equal volumes of gases have equal numbers of atoms (Avogadro figured out how many.)

This was all well and good, but I was not sure how much they got from this chapter.  I did not have the materials the book listed to carry out electrolysis.  I did an Internet search and found that some people used pencils with both ends sharpened, making holders from Styrofoam trays or cardboard, all powered with a 9V battery.  (See here and here.)  I wanted to capture the gas as was done in the book so we could test them, so this is what I did:

I filled a measuring cup with water and added a teaspoon of salt.  I attached a piece of aluminum foil to one end of two wires with alligator clips. I filled the test tubes with water and placed them over the foil pieces, using the top of the test tube rack to hold them upright.  Finally I connected the other end of the wires to each terminal of a 9V battery.  As you can see at the top of the test tubes gas began to collect.

My boys knew water was H2O, and that meant 2 molecules of hydrogen and one of oxygen.  I explained that electrolysis was "splitting" water with electricity.  I posed the question, "How do you know which gas is collecting in which tube?"  We went through the chapter again.  Proust and Dalton both worked with mass while our experiment was based on volume.  We discussed more about Gay-Lussac's law and asked how definite proportions relate to the creation of water with H and O.  The wheels started turning and they then knew for certain that the tube with more gas had to be the hydrogen.

I do suggest a lantern battery for this, though, because the 9V ran out when only a fourth of the hydrogen tube was filled.  But I am actually a bit glad.  I pulled it out of the water, let the water fall into the measuring cup, lit a match and put it into the mouth of the tube.  The loud whistle and pop was impressive enough to prove that indeed it was hydrogen.

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Mini Science Posters

I first saw this in Biology Inquiries by Martin Shields and I had to laugh.  "Lapbooking for schools," was all I could think, but after having spent a bit of money and time helping my kids make large poster presentations, I thought this was a great idea.

The idea is to put two file folders together just like you would a lapbook, completely overlapping one side of each folder; that makes the tri-fold poster board that will stand on a display table.  Instead of mini books, kids place their information just as they would on a large poster. So instead of creating it as you go through a subject as you would a lapbook, this is meant to be a culmination of learning presented at the end.

This link goes to a blog entry written by a science teacher that shows a mini poster and how to construct it.  This link is to a pdf that gives an example of how to place information on the three panels.

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Middle School Chemistry

Our focus this year is Chemistry.  A long while back I found a great, free resource called Middle School Chemistry by the American Chemical Society.  This 600+ page pdf takes an inquiry approach to chemistry, meaning that students first make observations through hands-on activities and then learn about the concepts behind them. The book has 6 chapters and 38 lessons.

It starts off simply but builds quickly.  The needed specialty supplies, like graduated cylinders and copper sulfate, are few are not needed until later in the book; everything else is around the house or at the pharmacy.

To go with this we are reading The Wonder Book of Chemistry by Jean-Henri Fabre.  It is available at Google Books or The Baldwin Project online, or through Yesterday's Classics in print form.  It covers a lot of what Middle School Chemistry does plus a whole lot more, including a little plant biochemistry.

This is a wonderful living science book.  It's the story of Uncle Paul educating his two nephews, Emile and Jules, through demonstration and conversation.  I hope my boys are as inspired as the nephews are in the book (and that they don't expect that we can carry out the same demonstrations!)

Finally, after working through these, I hope to work through TOPS Analysis (10).  It contains 16 Task Card Activities.  I am supposed to give them one and have them work through the task at hand.  The book gives detailed explanations for teachers so they can get students started if they don't quite understand what is being asked.  But after going through the above materials I am hoping they will have fun exploring the materials in this one.

I will find supporting material on ExploreLearning Gizmos, Adaptive Curriculum, and Discovery Streaming as well, and blog when I can about our progress.

Sunday, July 24, 2011

The Catholic Laboratory

The Catholic Laboratory is one of my favorite science resources!  The site is the creation of Ian Maxfield, and his podcast is packed with great information.  He has explored Science from a Catholic perspective in regards to the Origins of Life, the Age of Discovery, and the Theology of the Body, among others.  While subscribing to the podcast will get  them to your readers, visiting the page for each topic will get you links to the information presented.  Visit the downloads section for flyers and presentations about Catholicism and Science.  I highly recommend this great resource.

Sunday, July 17, 2011

Charles, Boyle, Divers, and Balloons

If you scuba dive, you know these gentlemen; even paramedics are taught their laws when learning about diving-related emergencies.

They are introduced in chapter 3 of Liquids and Gases: Principles of Fluid Mechanics.  Solids and liquids, in general, are non-compressible; gases, however, are and that changes pressure and density.  Robert Boyle invented the air pump, something with which any child that plays with a ball or rides a bike is familiar.  His law states that the volume of a gas is inversely proportional to its volume, if held at a constant temperature.

Taking what we learned from Archimedes, Pascal, and Boyle, we created something named after Rene Descartes--a Cartesian Diver. The book shows the same principle using an eye dropper, but this example in Gizmos and Gadgets is much more fun, if it is a bit more work.

1 small foil container
1 bendable straw
1 small paperclip
A small amount of modeling clay
2L bottle with a cap filled with water

I used a small foil container to cut out my 3 inch "diver." Next I cut off the bendable portion of the straw, leaving about an inch on either side.

I used the paperclip to attach the straw to the diver by first clipping one side of the straw and then clipping that onto the diver.  I then gave the diver some clay boots to weigh it down a little but not have it sink altogether.  You can see in the picture that when I put it into the water it bobbed at the top; I just pushed it in a little and put the cap on.

Archimedes taught us that objects float by displacing the fluid they are in, so that the object is less dense than the fluid.  Pascal taught us that water exerts pressure in all directions and is basically non-compressible. Boyle taught us that gases are compressed, and that compressing them increase the pressure and the density.  Our diver has a straw tank of air and is surrounded by water.  What happens when you squeeze the bottle?

The chapter wraps up discussing the effect of temperature on gases. Jacques-Alexandre-Cesar Charles, while ballooning, noticed that hot air expands, but the law named after him was first stated by two other great scientists, John Dalton and Joseph-Louis Gay-Lussac. Charles law states that for a constant volume of gas, the pressure of the gas is directly proportional to the temperature. While I did this with the group, I also did it awhile back with my boys and the videos came out better:

ExploreLearning has  two Gizmos to reinforce these concepts: Temperature and Particle Motion and Boyle's Law and Charles' Law

Friday, July 15, 2011

Pascal and Liquid Pressure

Chapter 2 of Liquids and Gasses has lots of fun water experiments.  Because the weather was not conducive to being in it, we used the bathtub.  We punched holes in a milk jug and watched the water shoot out father from the bottom hole than the top hole.  We also poked a hole in the bottom of one cup and the side of another to demonstrate that pressure is in all directions.  I thought this would be rather simplistic, but I underestimated boys' fascination with water.

The rest of the chapter we discussed.  The illustrations in the text are great, but I wanted to find or rig a container similar to what is pictured in the book with the connected water columns and the piston.  They got a basic understanding of the concept but I extended it to remind them that what they gain in strength they have to make up in distance, just like other simple machines.  A simulation or demonstration would have gone a long way here.

They really liked the tie in to hydraulics, amazed that this simple concept is used to create the brakes of a car.

They so enjoyed fluid mechanics that the following week one of the boys brought in a hydraulics kit that they spent the class exploring.  Something about boys and water...

Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Density and Archimedes Principle

Eureka!  The Archimedes Principle is about density and buoyancy, but this is one section of the book where the demonstrations did not look promising.  Based on the illustrations, it looked like the water would flow over the top and just run down the sides of the glass rather than collecting in the pie plate.  Maybe if I used a cup with a rim wider than the base it would work.

I thought about getting a set of density blocks for a demonstration but in the end I decided to use computer simulations instead. Both ExploreLearning and Adaptive Curriculum have several great simulations covering density and buoyancy.  PhET has one for buoyancy and another for density that are free, as is the Floating Lab.

You could also read Archimedes and the Door of Science by Jeanne Bendick along with the first chapter of this book.  The details of what happened when Archimedes figured out the principle named after him are in it as well as Fleisher's book.

Saturday, May 21, 2011

More Janet Halfmann Books

I have posted reviews for each of Janet Halfmann's 2010 book releases on Love2Learn.

The first is a sweet bedtime story, Good Night, Little Sea Otter.

The second is a fun and engaging book introducing animal classification, Fur and Feathers

Enjoy these wonderful young science titles!

Friday, May 13, 2011

Planets at Dawn

If you get up early and can get a good view of the Eastern horizon then consider taking a look at this 4-planet show.

Saturday, April 30, 2011

Journey North--Our Results

Yesterday was the dealine to submit results for the Journey North Mystery Classes.  Here is what I came up with for the 10 locations.  I include links to pages I made as to how these cities fit the final clues given.
How do your answers match up?

Unfortunately, we will not show up when the answers are announced as 3 of my students came up with answers based on coordinates and did not check to make sure their locations matched all the clues.  Instead of Mahikeng we had Kimberley, instead of Sarnia we had London, and instead of Pointe-Noire we had Kinshasa.  We did not meet during Holy Week, and yesterday we had several of our group absent, and the weather was just too beautiful to sit inside for class, so I just submitted what they gave me.

Friday, April 22, 2011

What Is Wrong With PandaMania

I mentioned problems with OSV's PandaMania on the At Home Science Yahoo group and several people have asked for more details.  I wrote a lengthy blog post on my Science of Relations blog about the things I find problematic with the program.

Sunday, April 3, 2011

Quizboards at MIT

The Edgerton Center at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology offers free project-based classes to school groups.  This year our entire co-op and another homeschool family took part in the Quizboards program.  Kids used a template to create quiz questions at home.  The Edgerton staff then gave them the cardboard frame, wires, and paper fasteners so that, with a bit of soldering (the highlight of the class) they created their Quizboards.

The finished board has two alligator clips.  One you hold next to the question, the other you touch to your selected answer.  If it is correct then the small bulb on the clip lights up.

The Center offers classes for a variety of age groups; the Quizboards are for 9 and up. While the older kids were there, the younger kids walked around the MIT campus with some of the parents. Afterward we traveled two miles up the road to the Boston Museum of Science. On Fridays the museum has a light visitor volume and is open until 9 pm. The kids especially like wandering around the museum with their friends. We had a full and wonderful day of science!

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Angular Momentum with Zomes

The final section of Objects in Motion is about angular momentum.  We read this section and discussed how points farther from the center move faster than those closer.  We also had a spinning chair in the room that they made use of to show how they spin faster with their limbs closer to their bodies.

There's a lot you can do with spinners to supplement this section.  We used Zomes to build spinners, seeing who could build the one that spun the longest.

Next, Liquids and Gases...

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

You may have noticed, or maybe stopped noticing, the tabs at the top of the blog under the banner that have led to blank pages, or at least previously blank pages.  I have finally gotten around to actually creating those pages.

The structure of each is similar.  The top part of the page is topic-related picture and two links, the top icon is linked to my Diigo list of website for that subject and the bottom icon is linked to my LibraryThing book list for it. Below all that is the Our Favorites section with resources I have found especially helpful.

Hopefully those pages will help you find more homeschool science resources to enjoy with your family and co-op. Click on them and let me know what you think!


Thursday, February 3, 2011

Journey North Time!

While we are still continuing with Secrets of the Universe (having embarked on Liquids and Gases) it is time again for Journey North.  Most of the offerings starting in February, but by far our favorite is the Mystery Class.
This is our third year doing this project--an excellent example of projhect-based learning.  Using sunlight and cultural clues, you try to locate 10 mystery locations around the globe.  It combines science, math, and geography into one fabulous project.  This Friday is the first data set so it is not too late to start.  Just click the Journey North tag in the right sidebar to see my blog posts from last year.

A few weeks ago we went to the Boston Museum of Science since they have free Omni Theater Fridays in January.  We happened to see Whales, which was not the best Omni production I've ever seen since I am convinced they tried to instill sea sickness in the audience by turiong off the camera stabilization.  However, a good part of the movie talked about the Gray Whale migration, the longest of any mammal, and that got me thinking about another Journey North project.

I happened to look today, just in time to see the Journay North Gray Whales project runs on Wednesdays starting in February.  After looking through the site, and seeing they had the lowest numbers ever in 2010, I am excited to see so far they are reporting record calves in Mexico so far.  And so I have downloaded the data sheets and out together our journal to follow along with this project as well.  I hope to let you know how we are progressing.