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Friday, July 29, 2011

Beaker Bash Science Camp - Week 3 in Review

It's hard to believe that 3 weeks of science camp have come and gone.  What a great time we've had!  This week we wrapped up our learning with some investigations of force and motion, UV light and properties that make things glow or change color, bubbles, and density.
Here are the highlights:
  1. We used nature paper to create shadow art and made bracelets with beads that change color in the sun. 
  2. We experimented with glow powder and atomic glow under a black light and compared the results to placing those materials in the sun light.
  3. We had a potato gun fight and learned about Newton's 3rd law of motion - "For every action there is an equal and opposite reaction."
  4. We simulated an oil spill in an "ocean" and students tested a variety of materials to be used for clean up.  Student suggestions were dish soap, baking soda, and the dehydrated gel powder that we had experimented with last week.  Then we tried out the oil absorbing polymer and sea sweep.  If you don't know what sea sweep is, it is worth looking up.  I'm not going to tell you so you'll have to do your homework.  I had about 8 packets of it in a cupboard and had no idea what it was for until recently.
  5. Our last day was a huge hit with every student making their very own Mentos geyser.  Mint mentos really do work better.  Caffeine free diet coke gave us our best result.  Shaking the 2 liter before opening is not a good idea because you lose a lot of your carbonation fuel before adding the mentos.  Some of the kiddos found that out the hard way.  On the last day we also experimented with variations of bubble solutions, designed tools from K'nex that allowed us to blow square bubbles, and bounced bubbles on our hand.  (Tip: doing this indoors is ok but you may want to get a painters cloth that has a plastic backing.  I got one at Wal-mart for about $5.00 and it was a great place to spread out and sit, plus it made clean-up really easy.)  We also found out that some bowling balls will actually float.  Who knew?! 

If you've been following along, reading my blog, viewing the videos and looking at the pictures then you have a pretty good idea of just how much we packed into 12 mornings of camp.  While we had just under 10 participants this year, the quality of time spent was outstanding and I think it was well worth every minute.  Hopefully we inspired these kids to keep asking questions about the world around them.

I want to give a public thank you to Andrea, Deborah, and Angela for coming out to help with camp.  Having other teachers to share in this experience was invaluable! 

Friday, July 22, 2011

Beaker Bash Science Camp – Week 2 in Review

 It took us 2 days to get around to making our shoebox guitars but it was a great 2 days!  We built up our background knowledge about sound instead of jumping into the build.  To do this we made all kinds of sounds using balloons, palm pipes, and glass jars.  We got so good at it, we were even able to create some great music videos.  Finally, we understood enough about the effect of air traveling and sound waves bouncing that we were able to make predictions about how to best set up our shoebox guitars and everyone got busy.  Of course they had to purchase their supplies from Mrs. Kaiser first so they all made a trip to Beaker Bank.  After making our guitars, we experimented with the variables a bit.  In the end, we realized that the same exact rubberband positioned differently on the shoebox could produce a different pitch.  I think the kids were a bit surprised at the science behind the music.

Of course we spent time in the garden again this week.  We’re not getting much rain, so it has been important to water our plants well every day.  Even with 6 rain barrels, we’re having a hard time getting enough water to our plants.  We’re getting down to the dregs of the barrels and are really hoping for a nice rainstorm soon to help us replenish!

The last couple of days were spent mixing chemicals and watching to see what would happen.  We have enough adult helpers to break down into really small groups.  The kids had fun choosing their own experiments to complete from the Wild Goose Kits that had never been opened and were over 5 years old.  As they would finish an experiment, they would take turns demonstrating and explaining the science to each other.  One of the things they had fun with was looking for the bottle with the correct scientific name for their next “ingredient”.  We made disappearing ink, a mystery solution that kept changing colors from clear to blue when you shook it up, Patriotic colors that begin clear and change to red/white/blue that neutralizes to clear when combined, and disappearing water to name a few.  The disappearing water led nicely into some experiments with polymers.  We talked about ways they are used like in baby diapers. 

On our last day, we learned about endothermic and exothermic reactions.  I’ll be bringing in some instant hot and cold packs next week for the kids to see how these chemicals are put to use for first aid. We also broke out the talking microscopes and learned about bugs.


Word is getting out about camp and we are growing in numbers, but still small enough to have some real quality time with each student. If you want to see some pictures check them out on my website.  Oh yes.  I gave the kids a little teaser just before they left.  They put on their goggles and I shot potato at them from my potato gun (courtesy Steve Spangler Science in the Rockies).  Next week we’ll learn a little about force and motion.  They can’t wait to get back to camp!

Friday, July 15, 2011

Beaker Bash Science Camp – Week 1 in Review

The turnout for camp is small in number but we had a great 1st week.  In our absence, the poor student garden had been overrun with weeds.  The campers and my adult helpers took care of that with determination.  Each person claimed a section for themselves, pulled weeds, fed them to the pig to make compost, watered existing plants, transplanted cabbages, and planted some seeds.  We were rewarded with a few cherry tomatoes and when we visited the school/community garden we collected enough blueberries to make muffins from scratch!  On top of that, we found a robin’s nest with an egg.  We’re watching it and wondering if the egg is one that didn’t hatch in the spring or some late bloomer.  As if that isn’t enough life science, we hit the jackpot when we discovered that our young apple trees are getting along nicely.  A golden delicious apple was hanging gingerly from a branch.  We agreed the best thing to do for the tree was to pick the apple so that the tree could focus its’ energy on growing big and strong instead of bearing fruit.
Plus, we each got to sample the fruit and it was just right!

In order to make some real world and math connections, we created our own little economy system of Beaker Bucks.  The kids decided to get paid for being on time, completing a job, and cleaning up.  They pay for things like lab supplies, snacks, and fines if they make a poor choice.  By the end of the week some kids had earned as much as $40 beaker bucks.  They make their deposits and withdrawals in a database that I created.  From time to time, they stop by the Beaker Bank to check their balance.  A popular purchase this week were the materials to make slime.

At the end of the week, Michael mentioned that he knows how to make a shoebox guitar and asked if we could do that.  My response was, “Sure!  How about if we focus on learning about sound next week?”  Everyone was on board with that and I’m excited to be able to build our experience at camp around student interests with no constraints of a curriculum that must be taught.

If you want to see some pictures of our 1st week, check them out on my website.

Friday, July 8, 2011

Day 3 Science in the Rockies


All good things must come to an end… and so it is that the end of Science in the Rockies 2011 has arrived.  This morning was magnetic, electrifying, and a real shot in the arm!
I mean all of that very literally.  We took the Total challenge and found the iron.  Steve made us all Money Smoothies rich in iron 
(ok – so we didn’t all get to have one but we watched him do it). 

I learned that electric pickles are awesome; so I’ll be stopping by the grocery store before going to science camp this week.  All graffiti isn’t bad.  LED graffiti is cool. Having a game of tug-o-war at the family reunion will never be as entertaining as the potato gun fight at SITR11!!

If you don’t believe me, then you’ll just have to see it for yourself.  Given the opportunity, spending time at a Steve Spangler event will exceed your every expectation.  You walk away with knowledge, experience, and “the stuff” you need to “do science” with your students.  I’ve never seen a more professional, organized, capable group of presenters and I’ve been to more than my fair share of conferences in the past 13 years.

What was my primary take away from this conference?  It’s hard to pick just one but I suppose it would be this…
As I prepare to offer a science camp to my 4th & 5th grade students for the next 3 weeks I pledge to remember that when it comes to “doing science”, anything worth doing is worth OVERDOING!!!

Thanks a bunch Steve, Carly, Doug, Julie, and the Gang!!

Day 2 Science in the Rockies

Just another day in the life of the average science teacher... You know what it looks like... start by getting some caffeine in your system.  If you're my roomie for the conference that is your pre-coffee coffee.  Then proceed directly to the pile of broken glass and walk across it in your bare feet!



Slip Steve a note (like a middle schooler) and pray he'll honor your request to bring your friend up on stage as one of his "special little helpers" for her birthday
Then get ready to play with some dry ice and make a bubble you can hold and bounce.
Happy Birthday Angela!

As if we weren't having enough fun, then we got to make music and alter our voices using Sulfur Hexafluoride.
Like I said, just an average day in the life of a science teacher.  IF you are at Science in the Rockies with Steve Spangler that is.  Want to see more pics and some video?  Check out my gallery.

Thursday, July 7, 2011

Day 1 Science in the Rockies

Yesterday was our travel day and all went well. Three of my colleagues and I have arrived in the Denver, CO area for 3 days chock full of exciting science adventure.  Steve Spangler is every bit the master scientist that he appears to be on YouTube folks!  We already have filled a large teacher tote bag (you know the ones I mean) TWICE and it is absolutely overflowing with materials.  The evaluation for today asked which of the demonstrations we would be most likely to use and which one we would not.  I can honestly say there isn't a single thing he showed us today that cannot be applied in K-5 science.  The current challenge will be aligning it with the NC Essential Standards.  That is totally do-able though.
What do I really like about Steve?  Let me name a few things:
1. High energy level.
2. Half comedian/half scientist.
3. He makes real-world STEM career connections to the activities.  (This should really be the #1 on the list of things I like about Steve.)

Of course we did a little site seeing tonight in downtown Denver.  Checked out the 16th St. mall area and enjoyed the atmosphere.  Time to get a little shut eye if I'm going to soak it all in again tomorrow.
I can't imagine a better way to start out this 5 year career award cycle.