Saturday, November 29, 2008

Teaching Moon Phases

Teaching Moon Phases can be lots of fun!

At one time, I didn't think so. Our state (Missouri) required that not only could a ninth grader identify each phase AND tell you why it was called by its name, they ALSO had to know the position of the Earth, the Sun, and the Moon for EACH phase.


Then we hit on a couple of good techniques that could get the point across. Smooth sailing, ever since!

Here is a list of activities, sort of in the correct order, that you could pick and choose from, depending on what your state objectives are:

  1. Moon Phases Booklets. Introduce the phases and the definitions of waxing and waning, crescent, gibbous, etc. Usually, I would use a transparency of some sort, and the Moon Phases Booklet pages. I would have the students prepare all the pages, leaving blank the explanations. Then they would fill them in as I explained them all in order referring to the transparency. Because they have pages to fill out, they really listen. Make the explanations short and sweet. Use page two of the Flashcards and have the opposing page contain an explanation of each phases, including how they know it's crescent, etc. and how they know it's waxing or waning.
  2. Moon Phases PowerPoint. Use the Moon Phases PowerPoint immediately after the booklets are made. They go through their Booklets and double-check. I love giving kids many chances to get it totally correct! Boosts confidence before turning them in for points.
  3. Cut and Paste Moon Phases Activity. This is an active lesson where they are having to THINK about each phase and the position it possesses in the Earth/Sun/Moon system. Good thinking questions, too! Click here.
  4. Moon Phases Model Activity. Because our state requires them to know the positions during each phase, we added a great Models activity. These are the Models we purchased from Science Kit. They were expensive, but we had the money one year and purchased two kits, which gave us plenty to work with for small groups.
  5. Moon Phases Animation. Project at least one Internet animation. Click here for one from Harcourt.
  6. SmartBoard Activities. I haven't previewed this one because my SmartBoard App has expired on my home computer. Looks like it would be a decent one on Moon Phases. Email me if you like it or not!
  7. Moon Phases Worksheet. Use several over a week's time. Click here for one of mine. Click here for one from Enchanted Learning. Click here for another version.
  8. Moon Phases Flashcard Games. Can be a good pairs game by using their leftover unlabeled flashcards. (Only the labeled ones are used in the Booklet.) Have pairs mix up both their sets on the table top, pictures up. Call a phase out. They get to "grab" with pointing fingers only. Hold your card up after they "grab" and let them collect each one they get correct. Count cards at the end and shake hands with the winner! Great fun!
  9. Moon Charting Activity. Parents are especially impressed with this one. It's sometimes hard to get full participation for this one. But worth trying at least once. Click here.
  10. The US Naval Observatory is a gold mine of great moon data. Click here for the current moon.
  11. The Moon Connection also has some nice things about the Moon, including good calendars for each month. Click here.
  12. EarthSky website. Be sure to wander around this great website. They're the ones who do the wonderful one minute capsule on different radio stations. You can hear their podcasts in your classroom!
  13. YouTube Moon Phases Videos. Of course, you're gonna want to show a good YouTube video, especially when they are making their Moon Phases Booklet. This one is kewl!

NOTE: Main concept to be sure to teach: Moon Phases are NOT caused by the Earth's shadow moving across the face of the Moon! (Common misconception!) They are caused by the changing position of the Moon around the Earth.

THE TRICK: To teach relative positions: The Quarters are at 90 degrees. The crescents are each an acute angle near the new moon. The Gibbouses are each an obtuse angle near the full moon. The new and full moons are lined up on the 180 degree line. Simple for most kids, especially if you do a Models Activity!

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Teaching about the Ozone Hole









What's a good way to teach the Ozone Hole?

Part of a good of Science Teacher's Bag of Tricks is leading your students to the joy of making their own discoveries.

A lecture about the Ozone Hole is not near as engaging as an activity that lets you discover by yourself.

Here is the order of the Ozone Hole Lesson as I have taught it:

(1) Show a PowerPoint about the Ozone Hole along with a FollowSheet.

(2) Have your students color the Ozone Hole as it has changed over time with the Ozone Hole Activity.

(3) Here's a larger picture of the changes for you to project on your SmartBoard. Makes it easier to see while they are coloring.

(4) The most important part is to have them predict future changes in the Ozone Hole. Be sure to have them share their drawings and their reasoning behind their predictions. NOTE: They may make it smaller, making the assumption that we are making headway on reducing pollutants.

CONSIDER THIS: Add an Ozone Hole Activity to your bag of tricks!

FUN LINKS: Click here for a good tutorial on the Ozone Hole. Don't forget to explore YouTube! It's full of great educational clips, many from NASA and other sound educational institutions!

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Teaching about Ocean Salinity

One of the first lessons for an Oceanography Unit should probably be the Salinity of the Ocean.

I loved to introduce this with the classic Egg Demonstration. It catches their interest! And gets the point across.

This can be done in many ways. Depends on how dramatic you are by nature. Do what makes you happy.

I would brag about how I could make an egg float and get all dramatic about it. Lots of razzle-dazzle while putting the egg in the (plain) water.

It would sink. I would look disappointed.

Then I would try another glass or beaker of water. More razzle-dazzle.

The egg would float!

Why? This starts a good guessing game - play Twenty Questions! - they will usually figure out there's something different about the second glass of water that makes it denser.

Once the idea of Salinity has been introduced, talk briefly about salty oceans and then do the Salinity Lab. This lab makes layers of color in test tubes. I would make a big deal about how if they did this lab CAREFULLY, they would get clear layers of color. If they had sloppy technique, they would get MUDDY colors. The room would be full of careful kids, which is always a abeautiful sight to see!

CONSIDER THIS: Introduce the concept of Salinity with the Egg Float Demo. Then move on to the Ranibow Salinity Lab.

Click here for the Egg Float Lab.
Click here for the Egg Float FollowSheet for your students.
Click here for the Rainbow Salinity Lab.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Live Volcano WebCams

(Not a Live Cam shot, obviously!)

Bring live shots of Volcanoes into your classroom!

I've shown you some Flash Movies of Volcanoes from YouTube.

Now, check out LiveCams of Volcanoes! You might get lucky!

Click here for John Seach's list of Live WebCams. (John is a 20 year veteran volcanologist.)

CONSIDER THIS: Visit Live Volcano WebCams while teaching volcanoes. Even if you don't get lucky and see an eruption, it's still a thrill to see Mt. St. Helens LIVE!

Monday, November 24, 2008

Clouds PreTest

Here's a nice little PreTest you can give your students to see who knows what about CLOUDS.

Click here for the PreTest.

Here is a GREAT PowerPoint on CLOUDS! Click here. You don't even have to download this. Just go to this on your Smartboard and Voila!


Thursday, November 20, 2008

Tree Cookies

A wonderful way to teach how scientists determine Absolute Time is to have some Tree Cookie Activities.

Here are a collection of great activities to choose from. I would usually do the PowerPoint first and then do a simple "count the rings" lab. If I had time, I would do a cross-dating activity, which shows how dendochronologists string rings from many trees together to determine the climate of an area. Exploring the Methuselah Grove is a really nice way to calm them down after a couple of active activities. Give them a homework worksheet and they will do both things at the same time!

What fun! And real learning, too!

These are in the order I would do them over one or two days, with extras at the end.
  1. Tree Cookies PowerPoint - fun way to introduce the whole concept of using trees to do some Absolute Dating. NOTE: I'm having problems with some of these images! Email me if you are, too. Can probably work something out.
  2. The Stump - show your students how to count tree rings.
  3. Be a Dendochronologist - good practice reading two different tree cookies
  4. The Tree Cookie Lab Activity - Great lab. You need your own Tree Cookies for this lab, at least a couple dozen, preferably from several different trees - and if you must make your own, use downed trees, please! Try to find trees with different ring thicknesses and/or wounds.
  5. The original Tree Ring Science Lesson - FABULOUS crossdating lesson - I used this idea for many years.
  6. My version of the Tree Ring Activity - I've got it simplified and organized with a page to run off multiples of the "straws"
  7. Interactive Tree Ring Activity - from NOVA - requires Shockwave -project onto your SmartBoard
  8. Explore the Methusalah Grove - from NOVA - uses a QuickTime plug-in - beautiful 360 degree panoramic view of very old bristlecone pines - project onto your SmartBoard
  9. Tree Cookie Game - not really a game but good practice for "reading" tree cookies
  10. Tree Cookie Worksheet - basic identification of terms - might be good followsheet for PPT
  11. Label Tree Ring Anatomy - from Enchanted Learning - also might be good PPT followsheet
  12. How to Make Tree Cookies - good basic info for teachers - has a great section on what the different Special Features mean, such as thin rings, wide rings, scars, narrowing of rings on one side, etc.
  13. YouTube has several videos on Reading Tree Rings; such as this one, which includes a visit to the Methusalah Bristlecone Pines. Search for Dendoclimatology or Reading Tree Rings.

Monday, November 17, 2008

Landfill Games and Puzzles

Some fun things to jazz up the subject of Landfill.

Landfill Word Search - fun word search

Dumptown Game - from the E.P.A. - online simulation - requires Shockwave

Garbage - How can my community reduce waste? - simple online interactive

There is No Away in Throwaway - mini-lesson on waste management

Environmental Education Kit - has a nice chapter on Landfills

Brown Countyt Landfill Page - fun concentration that could be played on your SmartBoard! Other games, too.

Teaching about Landfills

What does a dump look like? 

Your students should understand that modern landfills are NOT dumps!
Waste is no longer just dumped on a vacant property out in the "county" somewhere. 

Show your students a good video on what happens after they take the trash to the curb. This one is from Oklahoma City:

There are state laws about how a landfill is constructed to protect the groundwater and adjoining properties.

CONSIDER THIS: Make a mini-landfill in your classroom! Do one the "right" way and one the "wrong" way! Click here for a great example of this concept. Great worksheet that goes with the lesson.

  1. This one contains a good puzzle page.
  2. Need more background yourself. Go to How Stuff Works.
  3. This site has a couple of nice videos.
  4. Click here for my FREE simple version of a Groundwater Pollution Lab.

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Using Discovery Education's PuzzleMaker

Here's a Hidden Message Puzzle you can put out on your Pick-Up Table Monday morning!
Click here.

(BTW, the hidden words in this puzzle are reuse, reduce, and recycle.)

Want to make more of your own?
Want to use the vocabulary you are teaching at the moment?

GO TO: Discovery Education and use their wonderful online Puzzlemaker.
Click here.

Wonderful website. Many different puzzles to make.

What fun!

CONSIDER THIS: Make a puzzle for your students! It could be a bonus page, a quiz, a pairs game or activity, a team game, or a test review.

The Sky's the Limit!

Friday, November 14, 2008


One-Minute Mysteries

My good teacher buddy, Janet, loved to do this with her students when she had a spare minute.

Here's how this works:
Read a scenario. You know the answer. Your students get to ask yes or no questions to try to figure out the solution.

Good idea to recommend they start with general questions and narrow down to more specific questions.

Might be fun to make this a Team Game! Each team gets to ask a question and then take a stab at the answer. If they are wrong, then the next team gets a question.

You can purchase books of One-Minute Mysteries here.

Here is a website with over 100 Mysteries and the solutions.

EXAMPLE from the above website:
Mystery: Bob and Carol and Ted and Alice all live in the same house. Bob and Carol go out to a movie, and when they return, Alice is lying dead on the floor in a puddle of water and glass. It is obvious that Ted killed her but Ted is not prosecuted or severely punished.
Solution: Alice is a goldfish; Ted is a cat.

CONSIDER THIS: Add some Friday Fun to your classroom with One-Minute (or Two or Five!) Mysteries!

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Moon Features Lab

The Moon Features Lab was one of my all-time favorites. For me AND for my students.

I had found some beautiful raised-relief moon maps in a new science classroom I was assigned to one year. They showed all the main features with labels--in raised relief, no less!

I quickly found a black and white map of the Moon's Features in some old science workbook. (No Internet back then, you understand.) And the rest, as they say, is history!

I wrote up a version of this lab and gave my students an entire class period to find and label their maps. I had a huge 5 feet by 5 feet moon map that I taped to the front wall. It had all the Moon Landings as well as all the Moon Features.

My students LOVED the lab and I know for a fact they never looked at the moon in the same way again! I ran into a student of mine years later and he talked about THAT lab. Still knew the Moon's features and was looking forward to teaching them to his own children. That and Moon Phases AND Constellations, all of which I had taught that year's classes.

I remember another teacher sharing my classroom that year, on my planning period. She got interested in the lab and asked if she could do it with her students. This was a teacher who almost NEVER did any active labs or activities! SHE LOVED IT! So did her students and she was more open to trying active learning labs the rest of the year.

CONSIDER THIS: Teach the Features of the Moon!

FUN LINKS: Go to YouTube and look for Moon Clips to show during the Lab. The further they get into the Lab, the more Moon Features they will be able to call out to you as they look at the images on your Big Screen or SmartBoard! YouTube has several Moon Landings which would also be fun to show!

Starry Skies has a great Moon Features Image you could project as well.

And you ABSOLUTELY have to go to Google's Moon Map!!

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Paper Airplane Team Game

Here's a fun Team Game that would work great the day before a Big Test.

First, have each team make a paper airplane out of their team color. Click here for a good website for patterns and instructions. Give each team a piece of paper in their team color. They can choose an "expert" to make their favorite plane.

Establish a line at one end of the room. Have the teams line up behind the line. Or you can have one person per team come up to the line and the rest stay seated.

Put signs on different classroom objects that assign points, such as: chalkboard-5 points, teacher's desk-10 points, trashcan-20 points, etc.

Ask a Color Team a question and after a Team Huddle, the student in the front of the line answers for the team. If the answer is correct then that student gets a chance to throw their team's paper airplane and try to hit one of the target objects to win points.

Keep track of points and give the winning team a prizel such as: a free homework pass worth 10 points, or candy, or a new pencil, you name it!

The Questions could be similar to the ones on your test. They could be the exact Test Review Questions the students have already completed. They could be a review of what you've taught in the last couple of days.

CONSIDER THIS: Allow each student to bring their test review with them to the Team Game Table, which rewards those who do their homework!

CONSIDER THIS: Add a Paper Airplane Team Game to your arsenal of tricks!

Find Someone Who...

Find Someone Who... is a basic classroom team game.

If you Google it, you will find it all over the Internet. But mostly just as a First Week, get to know people, activity. Which is fine, don't get me wrong!

But it can be adapted to just about anything you are teaching and is a good, quick game that gets your students out of their seats and busy interacting with others AND trying to remember what they've learned lately.

Basically, you have about five things on a sheet of paper; such as:

Find Someone Who... (Basic First Week)
  1. has lived in another state
  2. has more than 3 siblings
  3. speaks a language other than English
  4. is taller than you
  5. is an only child


Find Someone Who... (Cloud Week)

  1. can describe a cumulus cloud
  2. can define "lenticular"
  3. can list three "high" clouds
  4. can sketch a cumulonimbus cloud
  5. can list the weather associated with a nimbus cloud


Find Someone Who... (Planet Week)

  1. can list the four inner planets
  2. can list the five outer planets
  3. knows how Pluto is now categorized
  4. knows what's in between the inner and outer planets
  5. can list three unique characteristics of Earth

The rules are simple.

  • You can sign a sheet only once.
  • You can't sign your own sheet.
I absolutely loved getting my kids up and out of their seats for a quick leg-stretch. But with an educational goal in mind. If you have ever attended a teacher convention, think how you felt sitting all day listening to expert after expert talk-talk-talk. Exhausting work. Or think back to your college days!

How can we ask kids to sit quietly without fidgeting all day when it's hard for most of us to do the same!

Which is why I like to get kids up. If you don't trust yourself to get your students sitting back down in their seats quietly and quickly, you need to work more on classroom procedures. It IS possible to have kids up and down all period with a minimum of fuss and bother. It's just a matter of training them properly. Click here for more details on this.

CONSIDER THIS: Add more leg-stretching games such as FIND SOMEONE WHO. Make up a quick review game today and use it tomorrow!

FUN LINKS: click here for an example of Basic First Week.
Click here for an example of Find Someone Who Knows Safety.

Saturday, November 8, 2008

Cell Phone Cheating

Be alert to the many creative ways a teen can cheat using a cell phone!

"Technology has provided students with ways of cheating that are more sophisticated than writing answers on the palms of their hands and using cheat sheets. Last summer, a member of our history faculty discovered two of his students using their cell phones to cheat on a test. The students were using text messaging to send test answers back and forth across the room. My advice is for instructors to direct their students to put everything under their desks and out of reach while taking an exam, including their cell phones. ... Cell phones with built-in digital cameras and e-mail allow sneaky students to send silent questions and answers to one another right under teachers' noses."
From I Speak of Dreams Blog

"Your first line of defense is to prepare multiple versions of the same test. This is completely free shareware. It works for all questions. You can download a copy from this site. Just click on the header on the top of the page."
From Cheating in the Classroom: What to do When a Student Copies During a Test © Dorit Sasson

Mosquito Ringtones

Hopefully, you've all heard of the Mosquito Ringtone. Go to this website for a demonstration. See which ringtones you can hear. I can hear the one for Everyone, the one for 60 and younger and just barely the one for 50 and younger.

Take the poll and let me know what you can't hear!

Students are answering their cellphones and most teachers and parents can't hear it ring!

CONSIDER THIS: High-Tech Cheating IS probably occurring in your classroom if any of your students have PDAs or cellphones! What can you do to combat it?

Volcano Flash Movies

Flash Movies are showing up all over the Internet.

Visit YouTube and search for Volcanoes and see what comes up:
Volcano Movie
Mount St. Helens

Great videos show up. Of course, you should preview all YouTube videos before showing in the classroom.

Enlarging to full screen means you can project on your SmartBoard or BigScreen.

Visit THIS PAGE and click on the Flash Movie about Volcanoes that would be fun to use on a SmartBoard. Very Interactive.

CONSIDER THIS: When Teaching Volcanoes, have flash movies running when your students enter the room and also when they are working on volcano-related activities: labs, foldables, worksheets, etc.

Friday, November 7, 2008

Cloud Speed Game

Cloud Speed Game

Teaching clouds? Start today off with a Cloud Speed Game.

Run off enough pages of this Cloud Speed Game so you have one per team.

If you already have Teams set up, have them get into Color Teams with each team member taking a pencil with them.

"On your mark, get set, go!"

Every team member writes as many cloud names on the paper as possible.

When they are done, they need to holler, "Done, Red." Or whatever their color team is. Keep track as they yell. Collect the papers. While they go on to another assignment, such as recording the day's weather information onto their Week's Weather handout, check the papers for accuracy.

Announce the winners!

CONSIDER THIS: Start the day off with a fun team game that reviews material you've already taught. Then counter that frantic activity with some quiet but meaningful. Good way to start the day!

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Setting up Labs

Lab Time should be Happy Time for both teacher and students.

Often it isn't.

Here's how to give yourself every chance that your Labs will go smoothly and your students will learn something in an organized, non-chaotic environment.

Start with using COLOR. Yes, COLOR!

The VERY first thing I did when I started each new school year was tape colored squares of paper onto each desk. I cut out two inch squares of the following colors of Astrobright paper: pink, red, orange, yellow, green, blue, purple. I would always have two tables of each color, except red, which had three including the work table in the back of the room. This was for larger than usual classes.

When I assigned students to seats, they were by default being assigned to a COLOR TEAM. Since two students sat at each table, this made each team have four students, three in a smaller class.

I had a stack of small plastic baskets. Each year I would also tape two-inch squares of colored paper inside these baskets. I would have two baskets with yellow squares, two baskets with blue squares, etc. Three baskets with red squares.

Each table would get their corresponding team color basket for a lab with the required materials inside.

Some of the advantages of this system:
  • I could call one person from each color up to pick up their materials (and return them). I would just say, "Send one person when I call your Color Team ." So two people would come up each time I called a color. Easier than having 14 kids all come up at once. (Same for return of materials.)

  • In a cramped classroom, having baskets of materials meant some labs could be done at desks, not at the lab stations around the perimeter of the room. Nice some days not to have to push all the desks toward the front to make room.

  • I could aways tell who returned a messy basket and give them a chance to clean it up before they lost clean-up points off their lab rubric.

  • The Color Teams worked together as a team for labs, some assignments, and Team Games. When I reassign students to new desks, they changed Color Teams, too. I kept track of all the Color Teams during the semester and tried to give my students as many new Team members each time as possible.

CONSIDER THIS: Set up Color Teams. Great classroom management tool!

Using Google Maps

Google Maps can be used to show the Plate Tectonic Features of the planet Earth.

I discovered this quite by accident once when Google Maps had just added the Satellite Pictures to their site.

Go try it yourself: Go to the middle of the Atlantic Ocean. Click on Satellite. Do you see the Mid-Atlantic Ridge System? What Google's done here is spectacular! You can show your kids the bottom of the ocean!

You can show them the Mid-Atlantic Ridge!

You can show them tons of others things, too:
  • The Mariana Trench in the Pacific Ocean where the Pacific Plate is subducting under the Eurasian Plate.
  • The Juan de Fuca plate as it subducts under the North American Plate.
  • The Andes Mountains where the Nazca Plate is subducting under the South American Plate.
  • Northern India where the Indo-Australian Plate is Colliding with the Eurasian Plate, thus forming the Himalayan Mountains.
  • Iceland where two plates are moving apart, splitting Iceland in half. NOTE: When in Iceland, click on Terrain, which shows where the glaciers "should" be. Then click back on "Satellite" to show how much is actually left. Astounding.
  • Go to Hawaii. Show them how most of the Hawaiian Islands are undersea volcanoes formed by the Pacific Plate moving over a Hot Spot.

Click on "More" on the upper-right hand area and see Photos or Wiki entries.

Now, if you have a projection system hooked up to a Smartboard or big screen, you have just an ideal setup! When I've done this, my students were absolutely glued to the screen! They loved it.

At the very end, go back to your schoolyard. Start at the largest map of the planet. Double click on North America. Double click on your state. Keep double-clicking down-down-down to your school. If you are very lucky, your car will be in the parking lot! (Mine still is! The satellite photos are a couple years old!)

Only thing is: be prepared for them to ask to see their own homes!

NOTE: The YouTube video at the beginning of this blog entry is not from Google Maps, of course, but shows the ocean as it appears on Google Maps. This video would also be a great teacher tool! Project this on your Smartboard/Big Screen! Let it play to the end and then "surf/browse" along the bottom for all sorts of great videos, including one called, "Approaching a Trench."

CONSIDER THIS: Add Google Maps to your Plate Tectonics unit!

FUN LINK: Click here for Google Maps.
Click here for Google Maps Guide for Teachers.

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

The Fabulous Flexagon

I love introducing students to FLEXAGONS!

Flexagons are Fabulous!

Flexagons are flexible hexagons.

Flexagons can be successfully made and flexed by almost any middle schooler if they want to give it a try. I've seen an entire class of 5th graders get caught up in Flexagon Fury!

A Flexagon in a seemingly flat piece of cut and folded paper that has hidden surfaces. When you pinch and flex, you can get the hidden sides to show up.

The easiest one is called the Trihexaflexagon. It has three surfaces, made of triangles (Tri) that fold to form a hexagon shape.

Click here for the simplest blank TriHexaFlexagon I could find. You can play with this yourself and by making one and color coding or number coding each face, you can backtrack to where you have numbers 1, 2, 3 on the sides that make each individual hexagon and then your students can color them.

Or click here to see a colored one and add the numbers in this order.

Click here to see an animation of the flexing of one of these Fabulous Flexagons!

This is one thing I would recommend: making and learning yourself first. Once you are comfortable making Flexagons, you can convey that confidence to your students.

The other really simple Flexagon in the Tetraflexagon. This series is made of squares, not triangles. There is a Tritetraflexagon (three surfaces) and a Tetratetraflexagon (four surfaces).

Click here to see the Tritetraflexagon and click here for a pattern. I had trouble finding a good blank pattern. Here's a image. Use the image to make your own pattern (or buy a book of them!). Put the "back side" letters on the front in parentheses. The students put those numbers on the back after cutting out the pattern.

Click here to see the Tetratetraflexagon and click here for a pattern. I had trouble finding a good blank pattern on the Internet. Make your own pattern. When I've made them, I put the "other side numbers" on the front in parentheses. The kids knew to put them on the back after they cut it out.

Flexagons are one of those secrets that good teachers understand. It is when we give kids difficult things to accomplish and show them the tools for success, that kids gain the self-confidence they need to face the world.

In other words, give a kid a really hard thing to do! Show him/her how to do it. Then watch them smile!

CONSIDER THIS: Add Flexagons to your BONUS BAG!

Monday, November 3, 2008

The Classic Cloud in a Bottle Activity

You gotta be brave to do this one! (Matches in a Classroom?) But it's worth it!

The best way I know how to do this lab: Demonstrate the activity.

But how do you demonstreate without spoiling the fun?

Here's how:

The main principle of this activity: Everyone does this together .

(1) Pass out the equipment to each small group. Warn them NOT to do anything without your direction! (If anyone does, tell them you're sorry they jumped the gun and to step out in the hall.)
(2) Ask each small group to pick the most responsible person in the group who can light the matches. Have them raise their hands. If you don't approve, reassign in any group that needs it.
(3) Talk about open flame safety for a minute. Impress on them that it's important to be safe, etc.
(4) Put a dash of cold water in the water bottle. This can be done with a beaker for each group in the tray of equipment you handed out. (You might have popped an ice cube in each one.)
(5) Watch while everyone does this.
(6) Have every group have one group member shake the bottle vigorously for about 5 seconds.
(7) Then someone squeezes the bottle in each group. What happens? (Nothing) Why? (They won't have a clue but ask them to try to put something down.)
(8) Now the fun stuff: The responsible person lights the match. Some one else unscrews the cap. The lighter drops the match in the bottle. The other person quickly recaps the bottle.
(9) The bottle gets shaken again.
(10) The bottle gets squeezed again. Squeeze. Release. Squeeze. Release. They should see it get foggy when it's squeezed. If not demonstrate with your bottle. They are looking for little cumulus clouds floating in the bottle. They are actually only going to see fog in the bottle.
(11) Have them read the explanation. Talk about CONDENSATION NUCLEI.
(12) You can have them do the hot water if you want. Not really necessary.
(13) Not hardly worth taking points for this activity. Might be a good time to roll into a Clouds PPT with FollowSheet (coming soon).
(14) Give them time to redo the experiment a couple times. It's FUN!!

NOTE: Always a good idea to do this activity yourself several times so you know what to expect. That way you'll know how much water to tell them to put in the bottle. It's different for different-sized bottles. Also the match can burn a hole in the bottom of the bottle.)

CONSIDER THIS: Make Clouds in your Classroom!

FUN LINK: Click here for the Cloud in a Bottle Activity.
Click here for Cloud Types Word Search.

Saturday, November 1, 2008

Teaching Fossils

I loved teaching Fossils!

Great fun with high interest for your students. They love to study fossils!

Here are three active-learning based activities all rolled into one package. Well, actually, three packages. It was too big to upload all in one package.

Activity One is a Fossil or NonFossil? Lab.
Good way to introduce fossils to your students. They get fossils mixed up with things like modern shells (just mother nature!) and pottery shards (artifacts). Can be done with a variety of materials. Really nice if you have a pottery shard. We had them in our department. Make some if you can. Break up something you painted at a pottery store and get it really dirty.

Activity Two is a real-deal Fossil Lab, simplified for middle school students. I don't think it's necessary for younger students to memorize anything about fossils. At the middle school level, your goal is to teach what a fossil is, what an index fossil is, and what type of time index fossils can indicate (relative).

Activity Three is a wonderful Mystery Bones Activity. It's been around for years. I have no idea where the original originated. I used it at least 15-20 years ago.

FUN BONUS: Fossil Word Search Puzzle.

Beyond that, make sure they have fun!

CONSIDER THIS: Add a few Fossil Activities to your Geologic History unit.

Earth Science Wordle

Gotta GREAT SITE for you: Wordle

"Wordle is a toy for generating “word clouds” from text that you provide. The clouds give greater prominence to words that appear more frequently in the source text. You can tweak your clouds with different fonts, layouts, and color schemes. The images you create with Wordle are yours to use however you like. You can print them out, or save them to the Wordle gallery to share with your friends."

Type in words: the more of the same word, the bigger the word in the Wordle.

Here's one for fun.
Circle Meteorology in red. Circle all words related to Meteorology in red also. Repeat for the other three Branches of Earth Science.

CONSIDER THIS: Make fun BONUS Puzzles using Wordle!