Enjoy Your Summer!!

We made it through another year! Enjoy your summer, sleep in (but not too late), and eat lots of ice cream! In an effort to keep your STEM brains sharp during the next few months, I’m sharing some of my favorite science-y YouTube channels over in my Resources tab. These channels explain everyday science in fun, easy-to-understand ways. I hope you’ll sprinkle some of these in with your daily YouTube-ing, you’ll be surprised at what you learn!!

See you in August!!

Words from an expert

This Wednesday, the 6th, 7th, and 8th grade students were able to get some information on energy conservation and renewable energy from subject-matter-expert Steve Marshall. Mr. Marshall is an engineer at The Brewer-Garrett Company, and he prepared a very informative presentation for our students in order to help them complete their portion of the whole school’s Carbon Footprint PBL.

How far away?!

As an introduction to our unit on space, the 8th grade did an activity to give them an idea of just how big our Solar System is. We learned that scientists measure distances in space using astronomical units (AU), with 1 AU being the average distance from Earth to the Sun. In this activity, the students measured out a length of string, and positioned themselves along the string at the approximate location of each planet, with a scale of 1AU = 10cm. They were surprised at how close together the inner planets seemed, and that the outer planets could be so far away!

Alex is representing the Sun. Jessica, as Mercury, is at 3.9cm from the Sun, Angelina is 7.2cm away as Venus, and Nevaeh is an even 10cm away as Earth. At 15.2 cm from the Sun, Megan is representing Mars. Julius is a full 52cm away as the planet Jupiter, Beth is 95.4cm away as Saturn, and Genevieve is representing Uranus, which is 191.8cm away. At 300cm (3 whole meters!) Ian is Neptune, and Ryan is holding the place of dwarf planet Pluto at nearly 4 meters from the Sun!

Can you spot the butterflies?

While learning about various ways that organisms have adapted to their environments, the 7th graders studied, among other things, camouflage and mimicry. To put these ideas into practice, they were given a white paper butterfly and told to camouflage the butterfly so that it would blend in with a certain area of the science classroom. I was very impressed with the results! Can you spot all 8?

Onion DNA

8th grade got to do an exciting extension activity during our most recent Flex Day – extract the DNA from the cells of an onion! Using only common household ingredients, the students and I prepared a mixture of chopped onions, water, meat tenderizer, and dish soap. We blended and strained the mixture, and divided it into test tubes. The students carefully poured some rubbing alcohol into the test tube, allowing the extracted DNA to separate from the mixture. This activity brings to life some of the concepts 8th grade is learning during our heredity and genetics unit!

Resilience – an Engineering Habit of Mind

Recently, the students learned about resilience, and the importance of being resilient when trying to solve a problem. To help the students practice this skill, we took some time on Flex day to solve a riddle. The students worked for over an hour, independently at first and then in groups, on this riddle before finally solving it. And boy, were they proud when they did!

Read on if you’re interested in testing your resilience and solving it yourself!!

Four people need to cross a bridge in the middle of the night to escape an oncoming horde of hungry mutant zombies. The old, rickety bridge can only hold a maximum of two people at any time, and you only have one flashlight so you must travel together (or alone). The flashlight can only travel with a person, so every time it crosses the bridge it must be carried back. You cannot cross in the dark. It takes you 1 minute to walk across the bridge, the Lab Assistant can cross in 2 minutes, the Janitor can cross in 5 minutes, and the Old Professor takes a full 10 minutes to cross. If two people cross together, they can only go as fast as the slower person. You must account for the time it takes to cross the bridge AND the time it takes to bring the flashlight back. The zombies will reach the bridge in 17 minutes. How can everyone cross the bridge in 17 minutes or less?

Need a hint? Ask a 6th grader!!

PERSEVERANCE and DISCOVERY – Taking the SALT out of ocean water!

Over the last couple weeks, our 6th graders have discovered the process of distillation. It started with a curiosity question about the dangers of drinking salty ocean water, which lead to a desire to make ocean water safe to drink. First, we had to find out exactly how salty ocean water is. A quick Google search later, we had made a big beaker of “ocean water”. Now to get the salt out!!

Their first thought was to filter the water. We tried pouring the water through coffee filters, but that didn’t work. We even tried double- and triple-layering the filters, but with no success. The water still tasted very salty. Their conclusion was that a “stronger” filter was needed. I brought in a Brita pitcher, and we ran the ocean water through that filter, and… still salty! Back to the drawing board!

 

One creative method we tried involved capillary action – the “wicking” of water from one container to another through a paper towel. The idea was that the salt would get stuck in the paper towel. Unfortunately, the students discovered that this method didn’t work either.

The one hint I gave was to put a small amount of water in a shallow dish, and let it sit over a weekend. When we came back to school, the students were surprised that although the water had evaporated, white salt crystals had formed on the bottom of the dish. This led one of our students to come up with a new idea – what if we could make the water evaporate, and somehow “catch” the steam? Using a hot plate, a pot with an upside-down lid, and an empty beaker, we were ready to test this idea.

The salty water in the pot began to boil, and the steam condensed on the lid, which directed the drips into the empty beaker. Once the water was cool enough, we tasted it… SUCCESS! Through their own sense of curiosity, and with a lot of perseverance, they had discovered how to distill water!

 

8th grade archeologists

The 8th grade uncovered some secrets of the past this week by making fossils! We first made a mold of a shell in some damp sand, then made a cast fossil. This activity helped the students reinforce some concepts they are learning about the formation of fossils and how this relates to Earth’s geologic past.

 

Water, water, everywhere!

6th grade spent Tuesday morning creating this model of the distribution of water on Earth. Many were shocked to learn that of all the water on Earth, only 0.6% is fresh, accessible water. 97% is salty ocean water, and the remaining 2.4% is fresh water that is frozen in glaciers or ice caps. Amazing!

We used some of our new math skills, and multiplied whole numbers by a decimal in order to figure out the exact amounts in our scale model. We started with 10,000mL of water to represent the total water on Earth. We went on the figure out that with that scale, the amount of fresh water is 300mL, and the amount that is accessible to us is a mere 60mL!

Gearing up for ALTERNATIVE ENERGY!

6th grade is preparing for their role in the whole-school PBL with a discussion of alternative energy! Since this is a relatively new topic for 6th grade, we first had to figure out what we already knew, and what was left for us to learn.

chart