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A new study suggests that a bevy of bacteria and other life could be dwelling in Lake Vostok.
Clay, scrap materials, and a camera help kids learn about insect habitats and morphology.
A stylish home for our arthropod zoo in an old Ikea cabinet!
War of the Currents Redux: Fuel Cells vs Batteries
We wanted to thank all the readers of the Bug Chick's blog for a great year with a free digital coloring sheet of an armoured ground cricket!
It’s always amazing to me that no matter the circumstance, no matter the place, kids want to talk bugs with us. All children, all over the world speak 'bug'.
When a tarantula is sick and weak, what do you do? Stick it in the ICU!
You can make a simple model that shows how the color of ice and water impacts temperature.
People always ask us how they can collect insects safely. Professional insect collecting equipment can be expensive, so we’ve decided to make a little DIY series about how to make your own insect collecting equipment on the cheap.
Hoping to see the disk of Venus cross the sun? We'll tell you how to spot this rare astronomical event.
Back when I was a kid and we walked for miles uphill in snow to school and back, holidays were not quite the avalanche of candy that they are today. Now I'm not complaining -- I love candy as much as the next kid -- but we really do seemed to be buried in candy several times a year. This year I decided to put some of it to good use and see what kind of science we can pull out of a basket of candy!
Anticipating snow and cabin-fever over the holidays, I planned our biggest experiment yet, which I called 'The Great Paper Airplane Experiment.' The goal of the experiment was simple -- does the length of paper influence how far a paper airplane flies? We invited over 60 kids from Annapolis to help us create the planes and gather the data we would need to test our hypothesis.
Build a blimp and become an aerospace engineer! In this hands-on activity, kids explore the physics of force by creating balloon blimps with a propulsion system. They problem solve how to make their blimp buoyant while being propelled forward. The Girlstart girls enjoyed testing different amounts of weight added to their blimps to make them buoyant and propel specific distances.
In this activity, kids become forensic scientists to investigate the solubility of various inks. Students observe if the ink of each marker separates into different colors when placed in water. The Girlstart girls used their knowledge of chromatography to solve an inky mystery. Using household items – various pens, markers and coffee filters – learning about chromatography is fun and easy!
Beckett and I still talk about the earthquake that happened here at the end of the summer, probably because it happened on the first day of school. One of the things we talk about is building safety and how things move in an earthquake. This of course leads to discussions of gravity and how it affects everything. I wanted him to see how gravity acts on an object, so we came up with a basic demonstration and a magic trick to illustrate this mysterious force.
As much as Beckett loves science, he also loves magic. So we decided to combine the two and see what kind of science-based magic tricks we could have fun with. Remember that both science and magic is best done with adult supervision -- and adult participation!
After last week's project arranging blocks to understand crystal patterns, we decided to grow some crystals to see exactly what they look like. For today's project, we decide to grow salt crystals -- a fairly easy and rewarding project that can be tackled at a fairly young age with the proper supervision. I was particularly excited about this project because I did it when I was Beckett's age.
The Engineering Design Process is a process that helps engineers solve everyday problems. In this activity, kids concentrate on the third step in the process – designing a prototype. Kids design containers that can carry a fragile package. The container must be lightweight, water proof, buoyant and protect the fragile package inside. Engineers design and build structures of all types, and as the girls in Girlstart’s After School Program, Club Girlstart, learned matter and energy are important factors to consider in the Design Process. Girls created protective containers out of cups and cotton balls to transport their fragile cargo - a potato chip!
Not two weeks after we posted our little experiments on the different states of matter, science went ahead and discovered another state. Dan Shechtman was awarded the Nobel Prize in Chemistry for his work on quasi-crystals. As I stated then and will re-state now, there are so many states of matter that didn't exist ten or twenty years ago that I hesitate to try to name them all. But Beckett and I did start talking and thinking about crystals. We decided to attempt a two part experiment: this week we will look at the structure that makes a crystal a crystal then next week we will actually grow some crystals.
This week we have a special guest in our house -- Beckett’s Aunt Melanie is visiting from Anchorage, Alaska. We thought it would be fun if she could help with one of our science projects, and since she is a chef, and very creative in the kitchen, we decided to 'cook up' some science. As creative as she is, her first suggestion was that we find out about poaching eggs and make Hollandaise sauce to learn about protein folding. Beckett liked the idea of learning about proteins, but wasn’t so excited about poaching eggs. So...we decided to learn about protein folding by making cookies. That's right. Science and chocolate cookies!
The chemistry of acids and bases is occurring all around us! Many household cleaning items are basic in nature, while our bodies utilize strong acids in our stomach to help digest the food we eat. In this activity, girls learn about acids and bases by using an indicator to test items you could find at home. This summer at Girlstart, campers used cabbage juice to test various liquids such as orange juice, vinegar, laundry detergent, and more.
Last week when we were making our flubber and oobleck we noticed something a bit odd when we were looking at our photo-documentation of the experiments. The photos of oobleck and flubber all had a slight blue cast to them. That got us talking about colors in general which led to that classic question -- what makes the sky blue?
Beckett has been wanting to do some more 'hands-on' experiments, so we decided to revisit two classics and talk about properties of matter. Beckett's friend Ian came over to help out. Using common household materials we made two different compounds with some very unusual properties.
As soon as we finished cleaning up the mess we left on the front porch from our Earthquake experiments, we had to take everything off the porch to prepare for the hurricane! One thing we did last week and last weekend was watch hours and hours of news reports and satellite footage of Hurricane Irene churning counterclockwise up the coast. It seemed as good a time as any to talk with Beckett about huge weather events such as hurricanes and what shapes and directs them.
We had a very rare earthquake here in Maryland this week, and a pretty big one for us at 5.8 on the Richter scale. It turns out that there are over 100,000 earthquakes a year world wide that can be felt by people and almost 500,000 total that scientists can detect! Naturally, Beckett had a lot of questions, so we set up an experiment to help us better understand what was going on.
We decided to add some science to our vacation this year, and a whale watch seemed like the perfect choice. We drove up to Provincetown, Massachusetts, the Northeastern most point of Cape Cod and the sight of some really great whale watching. We headed out mid-afternoon and were rewarded with one of the very best whale watching days of the summer according to the naturalist on board.
The Earth's surface has craters created by collisions with rocks—called meteors—that crash into its surface. The Meteor Crater site in Arizona is about 4,000 feet (1,219 meters) across and about 570 feet (174 meters) deep. So does that mean that was the size and shape of the meteor that crashed there? Nope! It was much smaller than that. In this activity from Scientific American's 'Bring Science Home', you can use small snacks to study this striking feature of Earth's—and the moon's—surface.
Wind is one important source of alternative energy. In this activity, kids create their own wind turbine and attach it to a Hot Wheels Car. Then they can use a fan to power the turbines so their cars can move! Wind is a great alternate to fuel since fuel pollutes the air and is nonrenewable. Because wind is a renewable energy source, we will never run out! However, as the girls at Girlstart discovered from testing their own cars, there are some cons to powering a car with wind.
Have you ever looked closely at a piece of sandwich bread—really closely? Notice all of those tiny holes? They probably got there thanks to tiny living organisms called yeast. In this activity from Scientific American's 'Bring Science Home', you will use yeast to blow up a balloon.
Beckett's fascination with tiny creatures continues -- and his Science Grandma pitched in and gave him a ladybug habitat filled with Ladybug larva. It is a great way to learn about the ladybug's life cycle. Like many insects, Lady bugs (also called lady birds, lady clocks, lady flies, and lady cows) go through four distinct life stages: egg, larva, pupa, and imago.
Happy 4th of July weekend to everyone! Since our country achieved independence at the height of summer and we celebrate with fireworks and ice cream, we often say that no day is hotter than the 4th of July. But why is it so hot? It sure feels like the sun is closer some days than others, and indeed the earth has an elliptical orbit. But here's a question I put to Beckett -- when is the Earth closest to the sun?
Why is it so hard to get out of quicksand? Is it a solid? Is it a liquid? Can it be both? In this activity from Scientific American's 'Bring Science Home', you will make a substance that is similar to quicksand—but much more fun. Play around with it and find out how it acts differently from a normal liquid and a normal solid.
We had a busy week around here -- Rowan turned three! Beckett, however, was doing his own science projects all week, and, at the last minute, after a long afternoon and evening of parties and cake, asked me what we were going to do for Science Dad. Sheesh! Since Beckett had already been independently working on creating a lemon battery, we decided to see if we could get the battery to function.
To be perfectly fair, Science Mom should be sitting here at the computer writing this, because when I came home the other day she and Beckett were planting herbs in the little pots I was planning on using for this post. Oh well, there can never be too much science in a house or too many scientists
As a parent, I often wonder (and worry) if any of these projects and experiments stay in Beckett's head. Yesterday, when he got home from camp, he told me that he had caught and identified a male Cabbage White butterfly. Now we haven't seen many Cabbage Whites this year and certainly haven't talked about them since last summer. Honestly, I didn't remember if the male had one spot or two, so I looked it up in his bug book and was very pleased to see that he was right. Science Dad didn't remember how many spots meant what, but Science Kid did! Also this week we saw and captured our first firefly -- which was perfect because I had been planning some activities to talk about luminescence.
Beckett got a new bike last week, a 'real' bike with gears and brakes. We've all been out several times already, including one near disaster in which Beckett crashed into me on a local bike trail. He was trying to learn how to use his gears, and I found it harder than I thought it would be to explain how they work. So, time for a science project to figure it all out! I decided to introduce him to a couple 'simple machines' to explain it all. Traditionally, there are six 'simple machines': the lever, the incline, the wheel, the screw, the wedge, and the pulley. The primary function of each simple machine is to use mechanical advantage to change the way work or force is applied.
Beckett has his last day of kindergarten today, so we decided to take the week off from science projects and experiments and take a look back at all the science we've done this year. And full disclosure: the project originally planned for this week hit a snag; the brine shrimp we are attempting to grow in our tiny aquarium have not hatched.
I found that trying to explain lines of sight took a lot longer than just showing it so we started with a basic demonstration. We pulled out a couple big sheets of paper and a long ruler. Beckett knelt at the edge of the table and we marked on the paper how far apart his eyes are. We put a Lego block at mid page with another longer Lego block behind it. Looking down the sheet of paper, first with one eye, and then the other, Beckett could see the first Lego block 'change position' relative to the second block. Why was this happening?
This week things will be a little bit different. While visiting the grandparents last week, Grandpa suggested a science topic for Beckett to think about! It took me about two seconds to invite him over to talk about science and give myself the week off. Science Grandpa asked Beckett how seeds moved around and were spread. They started in the backyard where we have a small Japanese Maple. It is in full bloom and has just produced seeds, which both Beckett and Science Grandpa call helicopters. They picked seeds off the tree and ground and fluttered them around -- the airfoil shape lets them float slowly to the ground in a whirligig fashion.
After we made the Newton's Cradle at Easter, we talked about Newton's laws on the Conservation of Energy. Don't worry, it was not an overly technical conversation for a six year old -- my memory and refresher course on classical mechanics only got me so far. But these basic laws govern sports like croquet, billiards and pool, curling, bowling, shuffleboard, and even marbles. They are easy enough to grasp, especially if you can play the sport or some version of it.
I’m Chris and this semester I am in the progress of teaching 4 lessons at the New York Hall of Science (NYSCI) to first graders and their families. If you recall, my unit is called Harnessing the Elements. I will be teaching students and families about energy and how we can “harness the elements” for our use. Students will learn about wind, water, and solar energy.
In this lesson, students will learn about wind energy and build and race sail cars. Students will be able to: 1) distinguish between nonrenewable and renewable energy 2) understand that wind has energy and the stronger the wind, the more energy it has 3) identify ways of harnessing wind
I would like to thank everyone that read last week's post and either commented or left a calculation or guess about how many M&Ms were in the 1/3 measuring cup. What I liked most about the many answers was how they collectively reflected the activity of science. Some started with guesses. Others tried to form a methodology for guessing. Several tried to find prior research to aid them. And some even tried to duplicate the 'experiment' -- although no one actually had M&Ms or my stainless steel measuring cup.
Last week I had the naive hope that explaining weight, mass, and density would answer most of Beckett's questions on the topic. Of course our discussion only led to more questions and questions that were more difficult to answer. Beckett was helping me get one of my bikes ready for riding again and noticed it did not have a kickstand. "Why not?" he asked. "Because I don't want to carry the weight up a hill," was my answer, although we live at sea level and the highest 'hill' around here is the 80 foot high bridge over the Severn River. "You don't have to carry it up the hill, it's on the bike," was his answer.
Hi everyone, I’m Chris and I am one of the bloggers for the Engineers as Teachers (EasT) blog. The goal of EasT is to give engineering students an opportunity to give back to the community by teaching underserved elementary and middle school students about engineering through fun experiments that range from the physics of amusement parks to engineering in the heart. These lessons are taught in “Family Science Night” format, usually in the evenings so children and their parents can learn about engineering together.
In this lesson, students create a Rube Goldberg machine to learn about energy and energy transfer. At the end of the activity, students should be able to: 1) understand energy and give examples of energy 2) distinguish between potential and kinetic energy 3) understand that energy does not get created nor destroyed, but rather it is transferred or converted from one thing to another
Beckett's bike has a slow leak in the back tire, so every time we go for a ride we need to pump it up. This has led to many interesting conversations for us about mass, weight, and density, so I though we could do some simple projects to help understand the difference between mass and weight and how density factors in. I decided to start with the easiest concept, density. When the tire is flat the density (pressure) of the air inside the tire is the same as the density of the air around it. Every time Beckett pushes down on the bike pump he is forcing air into the tire. This makes sense -- if you force more air in, there will be more particles of air in the tire than the air around it.
Beckett learned to ride a bike this spring, so we've been talking a lot about his sense of balance. Learning to ride a bike is one of those strange activities that you just have to do in order to do it. How do you learn to balance? You just do it. In the midst of all the conversations Beckett and I have had about balancing on a bike, he somehow hit on the one question that could tie it all together -- "Why do surfers hold their arms out?"
One of the great things about spring break at the beach is all the extra time. So much extra time that one morning I decided to make pancakes from scratch. Now, I haven't made pancakes from scratch in decades, but I thought I could handle it. What could go wrong, right? We had all the ingredients, I found a basic recipe on the internet... Wait, stop right there. An untested recipe from the internet. The recipe seemed ok. I hesitated when it called for two full tablespoons of baking powder -- seemed like an awful lot -- but Beckett and Rowan were sitting on their breakfast stools patiently watching, so I dutifully added two full tablespoons and started cooking.
This week we decided to put the measuring skills we learned last week to the test. Since we are at the beach for spring break, we decided to utilize our location for our science experiments. We wanted to measure two of the most difficult things to measure -- sound and light. We started with light, because even though it travels much, much faster than sound, it is actually easier to measure and calculate.
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