Category Archives: Science

Hidden Miracles of the Natural World

I am so thankful that my colleague, Suzanne Horan, shared this video this week.  Hidden Miracles of the Natural World is a video of filmmaker Louie Schwartzberg’s TED Talk in 2014, where he shared some clips from his film, Mysteries of the Unseen World.  The footage serves as an incredible reminder that humans are not alone in this world; we are merely a part of a vast system of living things -many of whom are yet to be discovered.

Thing Explainer

Randall Munroe was first brought to my attention when a parent directed to me to his fun website, xkcd.com.  One of my favorite Randall Munroe comics is “Up Goer Five,” a diagram of the Saturn V explained in simple language.  The best part, in my opinion, is at the bottom where it says, “This end should point toward the ground if you want to go to space.  If it starts pointing toward space, you are having a bad problem and you will not go to space today.”  I feel like this is the perfect metaphor for some of my lessons ;)

To my delight, I noticed on one of my “Lists That Can’t Be Missed,” that the author of The Kid Should See This, has recommended Munroe’s new book, Thing Explainer, as a great gift.  I’m one of those geeky teachers who asks for things for her classroom as gifts, and my husband kindly indulged me by putting it under the tree.

The book’s Table of Contents is called, “Things in this Book by Page.” Munroe is kind enough to put the more formal names of each explained thing underneath the titles, which you may find more necessary in some cases than others.  For example, “Boat that goes under the sea,” is a submarine.

Of course.  What do you think “The pieces everything is made of,” refers to?

Periodic table.  Maybe you got that one, but I have a feeling that, “Shape checker” won’t come so easily to you.

You’ll have to buy the book to find the answer to that one ;)

I see a lot of uses for this book in the classroom.  Have students pick a page and do research to find the actual names for each part on the diagram, for example.  Or, don’t show them a picture at first, and have them try to guess what it is as you read the descriptions. Another idea is to, once the students see some examples, have them create their own “Thing Explainer” diagram for something that is not in the book.  (Challenge them to use only the words on Munroe’s list of the “Ten Hundred Words People Use the Most.”  They can check sentences with his simplewriter tool online.)

Included in the book is a nice poster of a “Sky Toucher” which I intend to laminate for my classroom.  If you’re interested in other xkcd merchandise, here is a link to the store (which includes a poster of the Up Goer Five).

thingexplainer
Buy Thing Explainer here!

#EngineerThat

KQED Science has a challenge for students ages 11-18.  Design a solution to a problem that is in the world around you, and share it on social media using #EngineerThat.  (Students under the age of 13 must share through a parent’s social media account.)  If you have questions about the contest, there is a live webinar being held this Thursday, January 7th, at 4 PM PST.  The deadline for contest submissions is January 24th 2016.

This sounds like a fun activity to help promote creativity, innovation, and entrepreneurship.  For more information, visit their website. Even if you don’t think your students will be competing, it is a great challenge to share with them to see what they might create.  There is also a short introductory video.

On a side note, I was exploring the KQED Science site, and found the “Do Now” section to be a great resource for science-related current events that offer opportunities for student voice.  If you read my student’s blog post yesterday, you might be interested in the the topic, “What Would You Study About the Ocean? Students Weigh In.”  I found all of the titles intriguing, and definitely recommend you take a look at them if you teach middle or high school students.

Image from Wesley Fryer at sppedofcreativity.org
Image from Wesley Fryer at speedofcreativity.org

Curiosity Machine

Curiosity Machine is a wonderful resource for educators and parents who are interested in cultivating a love for S.T.E.M./S.T.E.M. as well as making.  The site aims to cultivate “curiosity, creativity, and persistence” to help children succeed by offering hands-on engineering challenges.

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The challenges are in a vast array of topics from aerospace to food science to satellite systems.  One topic that interests me is biomimicry, as my 2nd graders are currently studying the physical adaptations of animals.  All of the challenges walk students through the design process, something that has become increasingly recognized as an educational necessity for citizens of the future.

Educators, parents, and students can access the challenges by getting a free membership.  Educators are able to create class groups, but students must join first before being invited to a group. If students are under 13 years old,  parents must first complete a consent form.  However, educators and parents can join themselves to access the materials and use them without the need of student membership.

There are also paid memberships, These include mentors (professional engineers and scientists) on student projects , training for parents and educators, and online support.

To get some great ideas for building, inventing, and problem-solving, visit Curiosity Machine and explore its wealth of resources!

EngineerGirl

EngineerGirl has been literally rated, “A Great Website for Kids” by the Association for Library Service to Children.  After visiting the site, I have to agree with ALSC that it is an awesome site for young students who would like to know about engineering.

Obviously, the site is aimed at girls.  However, there is a lot of information that will appeal to both genders.  The “Try on a Career” page allows you to click on different types of engineering occupations to learn more.  The site also includes interviews with engineers, resources,  and information on “How to Get There.”

EngineerGirl is currently sponsoring an essay contest for girls and boys in grades 3-12.  Students must propose a new technology that they think would help in at least one of these areas:

  • Safety
  • Health
  • Well-being, and
  • Environmental sustainability

Entries are due by 2/1/16.  For more information, go to this page.

I’m definitely adding EngineerGirl to my “STEM Inspiration” Pinterest Board!

EngineerGirl

The Brain with David Eagleman

My 3rd grade GT students are studying systems – including the brain.  When I received an e-mail about a new series by that name, hosted by David Eagleman, I was intrigued.

The 6 hour television series will begin airing here in the States on October 14th on PBS.  However, you can view some clips from the show ahead of time – and many of them are the perfect length to show younger students (2-3 minutes).

I showed my students “Inside a Child’s Brain” and we all learned something from that short clip. The thought that a two-year old child has more neural connections than any adult is staggering, but reinforced our learning that if we don’t use those paths regularly they will disappear.

We also enjoyed “Brain City.”  Comparing the brain to a thriving metropolis perfectly explains the interdependence of this system, and the difficulty we have isolating any one of its parts.

My short sampling of clips has told me that I am definitely going to enjoy this series!

image from: PBS
image from: PBS

Star Stuff

The Kuriositas blog posted this beautiful video that was inspired by the life of Carl Sagan.  It’s nearly 10 minutes long, but well worth showing to your students if you want to encourage curiosity and following your passion.

Star Stuff
from Star Stuff, written and directed by  Ratimir Rakuljic