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!

Building Bridges

Grade 7 Science No Comments »

My grade 7 students will begin building bridges next week. They will be allowed to use white glue and wooden sticks of their choosing, such as popsicle sticks, toothpicks, and stir sticks. They will model it after a real bridge that exists somewhere in the world, and so a research component will be involved. They will have to meet the following design specifications:

  1. The bridge deck must be able to span a distance of 30cm but may not be longer than 40cm.
  2. The bridge must be able to carry a load of at least 1kg.
  3. The bridge can be no higher than 20cm off the ground.
  4. The travelled portion (width) of your bridge must be at least 3cm wide, capable of transporting a Hotwheel © or Matchbox© car (each car’s dimensions are approximately 30 mm wide x 70 mm long x 25 mm high).

The following websites will help them as they prepare to build their bridges:

Bridge Building page from 42Explore

Physics Balsa Bridge Building Contest – scroll down to the links at bottom

In addition, they can also explore the following bridge building game sites:

Smart Kit Bridge Building Game

Nova Build a Bridge

Have a great week.

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.

Getting warmer….

General Science, Grade 7 Science No Comments »

In my grade 7 science class, we are currently working on a unit on heat. The students have just finished learning about thermal expansion, and tomorrow they will be handing in an assignment that considers the role of thermal expansion with rising sea levels. I look forward to reading about the various efforts that are undertaken to protect coastlines and river edges from the dangers of the rising waters.

This week’s task will be for the students to assess how to make a home or building more energy efficient. They will explore the various ways that homes and other buildings are designed to maintain comfortable temperatures in various weather conditions. They will consider both the materials used for construction, as well as what goes on within the building. They will be encouraged to investigate the advantages and disadvantages of airtight buildings and how green roofs can be used to help with energy efficiency.

The following is the assignment they will be receiving tomorrow, and the links which will help them to begin their research:

Energy Conservation Inc Word Docx

Energy Conservation Inc PDF

Energy Efficient Homes  from Natural Resources Canada – A good resource – this website discusses energy efficiency in all parts of the house.

US Department of Energy – A similar website as the one mentioned above, this time from the US government.

Energy Star – From the US Environmental Protection Agency, the website behind the Energy Star ratings for your home.

Green 3D Home – Look at the resources under “Go Green” and “Your House”.

Green-Energy-Efficient –Homes – Another website that provides ideas for making your home more energy efficient.

Green Building – This website goes through some of the science behind building green homes.

 City of Toronto Green Roofs – Learn about green roofs and how they are being used in the city of Toronto

HGTV Goes Green – Home and Gardens Television tips and tricks for energy efficient and sustainable homes , and check out their page on green roofs.

World Health Day 2011

General Science, Grade 6 Science, Grade 7 Science, Grade 8 Science No Comments »

April 7th is World Health Day. Every year the World Health Organization creates a World Health Day with a different theme. This year’s theme is “antimicrobial resistance and its global spread”.  What does this mean, exactly? It refers to a resistance to the various antibiotics medications that we use to fight infectious illnesses and diseases. At some point they become ineffective in our bodies, thus no longer achieving the goal for which they were created. This problem is becoming more widespread. The World Health Organization is using World Health Day 2011 to bring this issue to the forefront in the eyes of governments and stakeholders so that they can begin to combat this problem.

Who are the stakeholders? The people within the World Health Organization might have their own opinions, but I think that the stakeholders would be every living person in this world. The entire human population stands to gain, or lose, from the effectiveness, or lack thereof, of the various medications that we use to fight infection and disease.

It may be too late to plan a whole unit around this topic in time for World Health Day this year, but you can certainly begin the conversation by introducing some thought provoking activities. Here are some links to get you started in your planning:

World Health Organization – This is a direct link to the World Health Day page on their website. Go here for information about World Health Day for this year, and for past years. Here is their document which provides information about antimicrobial resistance:  World Health Day 2011

Antimicrobial Resistance from Public Health Agency of Canada

Antibiotic Awareness

Evolution and Antibiotic Resistance from PBS

Similarities Between Spread of an Infectious Disease and Population Growth

Unit Plan on the Evolution of Antibiotic Resistance

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