Posts filed under ‘Curiosity’

Kid 2 Kid Puerto Rico Solar Oven Project

With the power taking so long to be restored in Puerto Rico, solar ovens could be really helpful.  So we tweaked the solar oven project to challenge students to engineer a solar oven out of household items that 7th graders could easily find and assemble.

  1. We started with a do-anything, make-any-old solar oven with no guidance. They got the hang of it, and some experiences to link the physics of solar ovens to. The challenge was to heat 60ml of water the most in 2 minutes. I provided boxes, pizza boxes, mylar survival blankets, masking tape, magnifiers, scissors, cling film and other office supplies I had lying around as they asked. This playing around piece might sound like a waste of valuable academic time but it really does make the rest of the learning and the engineering go MUCH more smoothly. It’s also straight up more fun for me – I hate having to over explain stuff and boss around kids who don’t quite get the instructions. Obviously, I keep an eye on safety and circulate all the time to answer questions and give encouragement/re direct. The level of engagement is so high that there are very few discipline issues – the chaos that seems to be implied is way less than you’d think.

2. Then we studied some physics on a need-to-know basis:

 

a. Energy transformations in appliances, toys, pets and cars to review concepts they learned in earlier grades.

 

b. We had to review the definitions of energy and matter with a card sort, this time on a continuum, rather than one or the other. Much easier this way.IMG_1624

c. Light and optics lab to learn about reflection and refraction using light boxes.

 

c. Students researched ideas from other solar ovens being used in the world – in developing countries, by off-the-grid homesteaders, by campers and even by The Chef in his solar oven episode.

3. They put together their knowledge of physics and already-invented solar ovens and designed new solar ovens to fit the challenge with a second build day.

4. All the ovens were tested for effectiveness (temperature change of 60ml of water in a bean can).  Good to repeat the test to iron out data collection issues. I have kids put the ovens by temperature rise rank on the black top so we can easily compare and contrast them.IMG_7364IMG_1727IMG_2179IMG_2961IMG_1731

5. We evaluated the ovens on the use of easily available materials, and on ease of assembly and use. Then we combined the best ideas – what do you think? Think, pair, share. Each class came up with a design that was based on one of the top two or three

6. Apply for a job in the How-2K2K Video Production Company. Here’s the list of jobs. The application was a half page for them to say why they wanted the job and why they would be good at it. IMG_5485

7. Review and test on the science concepts we have been applying – optics, spectrum green house effect, energy transformations. Students see the test and use it to guide their review – I’ll use different solar ovens and energy transformers for the real thing.

Here’s the test and answer sheets.

8. Make the How-To video.

This was harder than saying ‘Hey kids, now you know your jobs, make a video.’ Who knew? After some false starts (chaos 🙂 I grouped kids by their jobs and briefed each group on what I expected. The director(s) were only in charge of the filming.

It’s a good idea to let the ‘how to’ group re-assembling the solar oven rehearse first with the camera people. Maybe one to record a time-lapse, one to videotape and one to take stills.

Props was the hardest job in the end. Students had a really hard time getting past ‘we don’t have a steel bowl at home.’ end of story. Went over how to solve a problem like that and one mom did go out in the evening to actually buy something. Ugh, not what I intended. I used the props people as floaters to fill in for other jobs that arose.

We talked about ‘finding something useful to do’ if they had spaces of time when their job was not immediately needed. What a great life skill.

It was really hard for the directors to assert themselves with their peers, as it is for most of us.

I allowed a catch-up day for editors, script writers and any other crews to finish off their jobs. Much better than a rubbish end product.

9. The Kid 2 Kid Solar Oven How-To Movie Premiere!

Here’s one of our best videos from Period 7

Here is the link to our other videos. And from Marshall Sachs’ classes too.

 

 

 

 

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October 31, 2017 at 2:44 PM Leave a comment

How do Flowers Work?

Relaxing laundry list requirements for this traditional lab results in this:

Usually, it’s a slog through the parts of a flower, structure and function followed by a recall test. Kind of sucks the joy out of it and anyway, all that is available on the internet in one second.

Just asking the question “How do flowers work?” is a much more open ended and fascinating investigation. Students watch for pollinators, they look up a variety of search terms:

 

They examine their flowers and draw them from life. If they really struggle with drawing, I give them a little instruction on how to ‘see’ the flower and get started. If they were still struggling, I had them take a photo of their flower and put tracing paper over the iPad screen – it’s better than just downloading a photo I think for appreciating the minute beauty of nature. Which is part of the subtext of the lab of course.

We talk naturally about the co-evolution of pollinators and flowers, about the benefits of cross-pollination.

Students who are confused about how to move beyond the structure and function grid, I ask them to tell the story of how pollinators are attracted to the flower, how they are guided for where to go etc. in a 1, 2, 3 kind of way.

Circulating, praising, poking flowers around with kids looking on, we are all fascinated with the pollen under the binocular microscopes. It’s pin-drop quiet right now with my squirmy 5th period completely absorbed in the old-fashioned art and science of making a nature notebook sketch to show others how flowers work. With classical music playing. So yeah, I have the best job in the world.

IMG_3605Instead of giving extra credit for extra greatness, I gave extra kudos by making a display of the best ones in the display boxes outside the school office. Kids are excited to see each other’s work. Should have thought of this years ago!

IMG_3616

March 10, 2017 at 12:18 PM Leave a comment

HIV/AIDS – setting the scene

Mystery storytelling set-up for teaching HIV/AIDS plus links and a ppt presentation.

Continue Reading April 15, 2015 at 4:31 PM Leave a comment

Getting started with notebooks in science

The Common Core hits science, aaarrrrggghhhh…. or is it (shhh) not so bad? 

Continue Reading August 30, 2014 at 10:31 AM Leave a comment

Improv All Kinds of Classrooms

Improv ideas for all kinds of classrooms, especially science. Have fun yourself, relax a little and enjoy a smorgasbord of improv games to add to the start of your year.

Continue Reading August 13, 2014 at 7:21 AM Leave a comment

The Take Action Project 2.0 is a go: Pick an Action.

I’ll be posting the new Take Action Project in parts, after Marshall and I actually teach it. So far, we have managed to fan initial student interest in environmental issues as they choose what to do and start a little light research. It’s a balancing act between student choice, rigor and unmanageable chaos. So far, so fun, for us as well as our classes.

Continue Reading April 27, 2014 at 11:28 AM Leave a comment

Start with fun, finish with depth of knowledge

On the edge of overwhelm with the new standards? Start with what’s fun for kids (and you) to funnel them into real depth of understanding. Here are some ideas and sources to lighten up and light up your students.

Continue Reading February 2, 2014 at 4:04 PM Leave a comment

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