Thursday, December 18, 2008

Building the Sun Clinometer

I love having kids make scientific instruments!

Making scientific instruments requires a certain mindset from students. They have to be careful, precise, and CARE about what they are doing. Basically, if you are picky-picky in the grading, but cheerful and encouraging, you will be thrilled with the results!

Some students who are normally sloppy will rise to the occasion and make beautiful instruments. I personally believe that if you push kids to dig deep and find the BEST they've got inside themselves, THIS is what gives them self-confidence in themselves! Not empty praise!

So, in the making of the Clinometer, you need to set the stage correctly. By that, I mean:
  1. Have all the materials collected.

  2. Have a couple of Clinometers made by you and labeled with your name.

  3. Have the Rubric run off.

  4. Have the Clinometer Directions run off.

Here's how you introduce the day:

Show your Clinometer to the class. Talk with enthusiasm about how you will be going outside every sunny day for the next month to take sun measurements and once a week after that for the REST OF THE YEAR. Encourage them to make a really good one because it must be properly calibrated to get good measurements. Tell them you will know for sure if someone's Clinometer isn't made correctly because their measurements will be different from the class average. Tell them you are going to be picky in the grading so that everyone has a good Clinometer to use.

Go over the Directions and the Rubric with them step by step. Don't repeat yourself at all! This is important. You want them to hear it once and then look at your examples later if they missed something. There is great value in not overdoing the set-up. Quick and clean, I say. Them set them loose.

Put some fun music on the CD player. I love playing a CD collection of science fiction movies and having them guess what movie it is.

When they are done, they line up by you with their Clinometer and the Rubric and you grade them on the spot. If they are less than perfect, give them a chance to go back and fix the errors and come back to get a new grade. THIS IS VERY IMPORTANT. By giving them a second-chance, they will TRY HARDER!

Tell them you will teach them how to use this Clinometer tomorrow and move on to the next thing if you have time or dismiss the class.

Be sure to collect the Clinometers in a bin labeled for their class.

Come back tomorrow for Teaching Azimuth and Using a Compass Rose.

Click here for the complete Build a Sun Clinometer Pdf, including a fun Improve Your Clinometer Follow-Up Activity!

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