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.
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).
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.
I have mentioned before that, if you are going to spend money on a Makerspace, littleBits are a worthwhile investment. The company has added to their Educator Resources since my last post, and I want to point out a few links that you may find useful, especially if you are new to using this product.
littleBits now offers an Educator’s Guide. It includes some of its older resources, but nicely bundles them into one document. In addition to the Challenge Cards that I’ve posted about before, the Guide also includes specific curriculum references and justifies their use in the classroom. This could be very helpful to those of you applying for grants. I also like the “Reverse Engineering” suggestions on page 21, the “Example Lessons” on page 23, and the “Troubleshooting Tips” on page 25.
Another item that I noticed on the littleBits Educator Resources page is the “Project Booklets.” This PDF gives project suggestions based on the type of littleBits kits you have. This way you will not challenge your students to a project that includes pieces you may not have.
Don’t forget that littleBits offers Educator Discounts, and that some of the kits can also be purchased from other vendors, such as Amazon.com.
Congrats to Tom Kilgore (@Tom_Kilgore), winner of the Family 4-Pack to the Hill Country Science Mill! He and his family have an awesome experience in store for them!
Thanks to all who participated. I hope that you will still find the time to take your family to this fabulous interactive museum. It is well worth the trip!
The next adventure for our after-school Maker Club will be circuits. I’ve already mentioned Little Bits, a great product for creating all kinds of circuits using interchangeable magnetic parts. Those will be at one of our stations. Another station will include “Squishy Circuits.”
Squishy Circuits are made using conductive dough. You can find the recipe for the dough, as well as for insulating dough here. A Squishy Circuits kit, which includes the recipes and “hardware” is available for $25 here. You can probably find the items somewhere else, but I felt like this was a pretty good price that saved me the time of hunting for individual parts.
If you scroll to the bottom of the Squishy Circuits purchasing page, you can see two videos that show this product in action. As you will learn, this is a great way to introduce electrical circuits to young students.
I did a practice run this weekend with my daughter and some family friends. One of the things that is really fun to watch is the natural curiosity that arises once you show them an LED lighting up. Suddenly, “What if” questions begin to flow, and “I wonder what would happen” becomes the beginning of every other sentence.
I did learn a few things from this Squishy Circuits rehearsal:
- If you don’t have food coloring in the house, egg dye can work in a pinch – but it’s going to make your dough smell like vinegar.
- There is a reason the recipe calls for distilled or deionized water for the insulating dough. We didn’t have either, so we used spring water. Our sugar dough – though less conductive – still had some power. This turned into a great lesson, though. (“Why” became the next favorite sentence starter.)
- The buzzer sounds are extremely irritating to adult ears, but highly giggle-provoking to youth.
I found a few other resources for those of you interested in using Squishy Circuits.
- Building Squishy Circuits
- Squishy Circuit Buzzer Beater (video)
- Sylvia’s Mini Maker Show Squishy Circuits Video
- Squishy Circuits Lesson Plan from UCLA
- Squishy Circuit Board Game
- Squishy Circuits Operation Game
- Squishy Circuits Rescue Me Game
As you can see, there are lots of ways to use Squishy Circuits. If you have any other suggestions, please fill free to add a comment to this post. And, if you want to see some other Maker Space Essentials, check out my “Make” Pinterest Board.
For today’s Phun Phriday post, I am sharing a Rube Goldbergian feat by Ariel Llama. Set to the music of “Science” by the Dull Eyed Llamas, you will see an elaborate set-up designed to open a door. Here is part of the summary on YouTube:
“This Rube Goldberg machine took almost 1 year to build, and 2 weeks of intense troubleshooting and filming to finish. It’s amazing what one crazy musician can build in his living room.
I wanted to show my students that you can make a pretty fancy machine out of cardboard and popsicle sticks, straws and dowels, found objects, duct tape, and perseverance. Et voila!”
I think perseverance might be the understatement of the year!