Biodiversity and Ecosystems

General Science, Grade 6 Science, Grade 7 Science No Comments »

I recently came across some interesting biodiversity and ecosystem sites. The first site is called Phylo and it would be interesting to incorporate into a biodiversity unit. The website introduces a crowd sourced biodiversity card game (originally proposed as an alternate to Pokeman), and provides various decks for the same game format. Each deck focuses on different living creatures. You really need to explore it for yourself, I cannot do it justice. 

The second is a site called Wildscreen Arkive, and it would complement either biodiversity or ecosystem units. It appears that the main goal of the site is to archive the diverse life on our planet, and animal searches can be conducted based on conservation status. The education section of this website is also worthwhile, and lessons are organized into different age groups. Lessons are well developed, with presentation notes, teacher notes, and student handouts. 

Happy summer, everyone!

American Chemical Society

General Science No Comments »

I have been searching for resources  for next year and I came across the American Chemical Society.  I think that I have run across it before, but I never explored it in depth. Well, today I did, and there are some wonderful resources on the education portion of their site.  There you can find goodies for student in elementary and beyond, including science experiments, lesson plans, interactive activities, animations, and everyday applications of chemistry.  There is also a section to explore chemistry, which includes an informative periodic table, chemistry landmarks and history, and links to explanations of the science in movies and the chemistry in everyday products.

Have a great day.


Interesting Resources

General Science, Math No Comments »

This week I came across two interesting educational resources, the National Stem Centre in the UK and surprisingly, the National Security Agency (who knew?).

I was searching for solubility animations when I came across the National Stem Centre. According to their website, they house  “the UK’s largest collection of STEM and teaching resources”. The e-library is definitely the place to be on that website, where you can search their vast resources by topic, age range, type/format, publisher, or year. If interested, here is the resource I found for solubility (which is actually only a small part of this resource).

The second site was found as I was exploring creative ideas for teaching slope. One of the documents that came up in my search was a pdf from NSA website. I was surprised at the source, and so I went to their main site to see what other type of resources were available. Finding the education section was a bit tricky and wasn’t easily accessible from their main page, but I managed to find the right area. The section is titled “Concept Development Units”, and the right side bar allows you to choose elementary, middle school, or high school. Once on the correct school section, there are a variety of math topics with lesson and unit plans to explore. Here is the resource that I found which uses Geometer’s Sketchpad to help teach slope concepts.

Have a great week.


Rube Goldberg-esque

General Education, General Science, Using Tech No Comments »

Cookie or Cream?

That is the question that Oreo is currently posing to the public. As part of their most recent marketing campaign, they have enlisted engineers, “tinkerers” and roboticists from around the world to design and build machines that separate the cookie part of the oreo from the cream. They are sharing these machines in a series of four episodes. The machines are not quite as extravagant as full Rube Goldberg machines, but I think that the very nature of a machine built to pull apart two sides of a cookie must classify as, at the very least, Rube Goldberg-esque.

Check them out for yourselves.

Episode one

Episode two

Episode three

Episode four

Have a great week.

App Review – The Periodic Table Project

General Science, Using Tech No Comments »

Most science geeks like me are quite familiar with the iPad app, The Elements: A Visual Exploration. It is a stunning app, and I have not found another Periodic Table app that visually compares. However, I recently came across a Periodic Table app that peeked my interest.

The Periodic Table Project is an app that was developed by the University of Waterloo for the International Year of Chemistry in 2011.  It was a joint project between the Department of Chemistry and the Faculty of Science, where the call went out to chemistry educators worldwide to artistically interpret an element. Each piece of art was accompanied by a description from the artist, which explained its significance. As well, specific data can be found for each element in relation to high school curriculum.

It is a free app, so there is no cost to take a look. Alternately, you can check out the interactive version on the University of Waterloo website.

Have a great week.

The Escalator

General Science, Math No Comments »

I came across a neat resource from the University of Toronto. As an educator who lives in Toronto and a University of Toronto alumnus, I am surprised that I had never heard of it before. The resource is called The Escalator. It is an outreach site from the University of Toronto, with an emphasis on math and science.

Under the Math tab at the top there are two options: Mathematics and Fields. Click on the Mathematics link and you are taken to the University’s Department of Mathematics page. Here you can find links to math competitions, teacher resources, and other tidbits.

There are two links under the Physics tab. The Physics link takes you to information for the Physics Outreach program and the Physics Olympiad Preparation program for high school students, complete with practice problem sets. The Candac link takes you to the Canadian Network for the Detection of Atmospheric Change, which has a variety of links and information, as well as a teacher resource page. The Chemistry tab also takes you to an access page for the Canadian Chemistry Olympiad for high school students, again complete with practice problem sets. The Engineering tab takes you to a list of robotics competitions and a variety of summer programs for students in grade 5 and up.

Click on Universe under the Astronomy tab, and you are directed to University of Toronto’s public portal. Here you can video chat with astronomers and send them questions, or book a planetarium visit or speaker. There is also a link here to the Transit of Venus. On June 5, 2012 Venus will pass across the sun. This has not happened since 2004 and will not happen again until 2117.  (Alternately, you can read about the Transit of Venus here.)

The resources tab has a few areas to explore, including a link to the teachers’ resource page of the Canadian Mathematical Society, which has its own database of resources to search through. The curriculum link is still being developed, so check back to see its full potential. Currently you can find the link to the Science Rendezvous for Educators site. The Science Rendezvous is what first led me to The Escalator website. It is a one-day science festival, hosted on university campuses, research institutions and community sites across Canada on Saturday, May 12, 2012. The database on the educator page is not yet built, but again, I am curious to see what will be included there.

Have a great week.

Science Interactives

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Interactive sites allow students to practice learned concepts in a fun and engaging way, especially with the increased use of interactive whiteboards and iPads. This week I have chosen to share some of my favourite interactive science websites. If you have a website that I should add to my list, please send it along.

Have a great week.

Phet Interactives

Nova Interactives from PBS

Utah Education Network Interactives

Foss Interactives

Sheppart Software

NASA For Students

Sumanas Inc

Science NetLinks

Jefferson Lab

Cool School

SEED Laboratory

BBC Schools Primary

BBC Schools Secondary


WISC Online Learning Objects

Study Jams

Let the labs begin….

General Science, Grade 7 Science, Grade 8 Science 1 Comment »

After completing my first lab with my grade 7 and 8 classes, the following thoughts have filled my mind:

It is hard for students to have a triple beam balances in front of them, and not play with them. After the labs this week, we went from having 7 working triple beam balances to four. I am not quite sure what happened, and it is quite possible that they were on the brink of doom before the labs, but still…

To help students learn proper use, I will be posting the following websites on my school science page:
(This will, of course, be followed with more in-class practise. In my class, the more hands-on activities, the better. )

WISC Online – Reading a Triple Beam Balance

Triple Beam Balance use and tutorials from OHAUS

But there is also the thought that using triple beam balances may not be the only way to go. We have now begun to consider the use of digital scales. I was on a tour of the science labs at another IB school in Toronto, as we are looking at design considerations for a new science lab. The school that I visited had a slew of digital scales out on the counter. The cost is greater, and so we must consider whether or not cheaper digital scales will be as effective. But they have to be more effective than non-functional triple beam balances, don’t they? There is also the skill factor. Students should be learning to use various lab tools. I don’t think that we should abandon the balances, but perhaps find a way to incorporate both.

Then we come to graduated cylinders. With my grade 7 class, it came to the point where I was doing the measuring for them. Not the way I would normally go, but there were other considerations that were more important at the time. Over the next few weeks I need to make sure that I properly teach students how to read a graduated cylinder. I will be posting these sites to help them review the process, and then will follow up with an in-class activity:

WISC Online – Measuring Volume using a Graduated Cylinder

ChemPages Laboratory Resources – Reading the Volume from a Graduated Cylinder

This week my grade 7 and 8 classes will be handing in their first lab reports as a follow up to the in-class labs. In past years, the marking of lab reports has been all-consuming. I welcome any strategies that you can share so that I do not have to enter hibernation as I mark.

Have a great week.

A Great Beginning

General Science, Math 1 Comment »

I had a fantastic first week of school. I incorporated some great resources into my repertoire, both internet resources and resources shared through twitter.

For my grade 7 and 8 science classes, I used the Subversive Lab Grouping Game, courtesy of Frank Noschese. His version uses American states and American presidents as two of the categories, which were not as relevant for my students. Instead, I added in chocolate bars (Twix, Aero, Milky Way, and Kit Kat). My largest class is under 20 students (yes, be jealous), and so there was no need to come up with a 6th category. I anticipated the questions regarding Mars – is it a planet or a chocolate bar? Technically, the chocolate bar is called a Mars Bar, but I was going to be lenient with this. As it turned out, that conversation came up, and the students knew that it is correctly called a Mars Bar. I also anticipated some discussion around Milky Way, as it could be grouped with planet names under a “space” category, but the students kept it in the chocolate bar grouping and just grouped the planets together.

For my grade 8 classes, I also conducted an activity on observations vs. inferences. Using this Powerpoint (original source unknown, but greatly appreciated), we talked about the differences between what we know and what we think. Students looked at a series of tracks on the first slide, and shared what they observed on the slide. At first it was difficult for them, as they immediately began making assumptions about the scenario being portrayed. After we shared every possible observation, they then had the opportunity to infer what they thought was happening. We then went to the second slide and third slides, which showed a continuation of the tracks, and went through the same procedure. As a final wrap up, we discussed how these skills are important in the science classroom.

In grade 7 math, the students completed the Fish Dish rich task from Bowland Maths. This activity required the students to help a chef determine the correct order to cook a meal, in the shortest possible time. Many students came up with the correct order, but soon realized that they had not determined the most efficient time. We compared everyone’s answers, and they helped each other determine how they could improve upon their methods.

In grade 8 math we conducted an investigation of the game of Tic Tac Toe, courtesy of Jim Noble from InThinking. The first investigation asked all students to determine the number of ways one could win with the basic 3 x 3 game of Tic Tac Toe. They were then asked to determine the number of possible ways to win in a 4 x 4 grid where four-in-a row wins, and in a 5 x 5 grid where five-in-a row wins. They then looked for the algebraic expression that determines the number of ways to win from the grid size. This immediately had them recall learning from the previous school year. The students then had a choice between two further investigations. They needed to attempt one, but were free to attempt both. One investigation had them determine the number of possible ways to win with three-in-a row, given a 4 x4 grid, a 5 x5 grid, and a 6 x 6 grid. Again, they searched for the algebraic expression, which was definitely harder this time.  The other investigation had them determine the number of possible ways to win with three-in-a row, given 3D grids (3 x 3 x3 and 4 x 4 x 4). I had only a few students attempt this investigation.

I spent many hours this summer researching rich math tasks and assigning them to specific units for grades 7 and 8 that I will incorporate throughout the year. The success of this first week of school has shown me that the time taken to search out these tasks was time well spent.

Have a great week.

The NEED Project

General Science, Grade 6 Science No Comments »

I came across this website quite a long time ago, but I still love it. It is the site for the National Energy Education Development Project, or NEED. The project began over 30 years ago in order to enhance energy education in schools in the United States.

Click on the Educators tab and you will find a variety of curriculum guides with lesson plans on energy education, organized by title, subject, or grade level. There are also activity suggestions, games, and more. In the Students tab you will find information and resources on many topics, organized by curriculum level, as well as ideas for science fair projects. They have also added an assessment bank with knowledge, comprehension, and application questions for various grade levels.

It is a great resource for energy education, and worth checking out.
Have a great week.

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