Posted by: Amy | January 12, 2009

Ivory Soap – Wow!

Wow your students and anyone walking by your classroom.  Get a bar of Ivory Soap or 2 or 3 bars.

Why does Ivory Soap float? Ask your students.  Let them investigate different soaps.

Steve Spangler suggests you walk down the detergent isle and notice dozens of different kinds of soap. Green soap, smelly soap, big soap, even soap that floats.ivorysoap Ivory soap is famous for floating. How do they make some bars of soap float and others sink? Believe it or not, we’re going to cook the soap in the microwave oven to uncover the secret. Just wait until you see what happens when the soap that floats also cooks. You get a bar of soap that grows bigger than a football.


– Bar of Ivory soap
– Various bars of another brands of soap
– Deep bowl of water (or a plastic tub)
– Paper towel
– Microwave oven

Steve Spangler has directions and a great explanation for this investigation on his website.

Posted by: Amy | January 9, 2009

The Golden Gate Bridge


Born 9 Jan 1870; died 16 May 1938.
Joseph B(aermann) Strauss was an American civil engineer who was chief engineer for the construction of the Golden Gate Bridge, San Francisco. His career began as a draftsman. A few years later had become a principal assistant engineer. By 1904 he had his own Strauss Bascule Bridge Company which constructed hundreds of drawbridges around the U.S. From 1919, he spent a decade campaigning for the idea of the Golden Gate Bridge, which was eventually funded by a vote on 4 Nov 1930 to issue bonds. It was his first suspension bridge, and was assisted by engineers Charles Ellis and Leon Moissieff. The bridge opened to the public 27 May 1937. He was exhausted by the major task, and died within a year afterwards.«

The Mighty Task is Done

At last the mighty task is done;
Resplendent in the western sun
The Bridge looms mountain high;
Its titan piers grip ocean floor,
Its great steel arms link shore with shore,
Its towers pierce the sky.

On its broad decks in rightful pride,
The world in swift parade shall ride,
Throughout all time to be;
Beneath, fleet ships from every port,
Vast landlocked bay, historic fort,
And dwarfing all the sea.

To north, the Redwood Empires gates;
To south, a happy playground waits,
In Rapturous appeal;
Here nature, free since time began,
Yields to the restless moods of man,
Accepts his bonds of steel.

Launched midst a thousand hopes and fears,
Damned by a thousand hostile sneers,
Yet Neer its course was stayed,
But ask of those who met the foe
Who stood alone when faith was low,
Ask them the price they paid.

Ask of the steel, each strut and wire,
Ask of the searching, purging fire,
That marked their natal hour;
Ask of the mind, the hand, the heart,
Ask of each single, stalwart part,
What gave it force and power.

An Honored cause and nobly fought
And that which they so bravely wrought,
Now glorifies their deed,
No selfish urge shall stain its life,
Nor envy, greed, intrigue, nor strife,
Nor false, ignoble creed.

High overhead its lights shall gleam,
Far, far below lifes restless stream,
Unceasingly shall flow;
For this was spun its lithe fine form,
To fear not war, nor time, nor storm,
For Fate had meant it so.”

— Joseph B. Strauss
Written upon completion of the building of the Golden Gate Bridge, May 1937
There are several websites that will guide you through building toothpick bridges.
Kennesaw Education – Lots of Bridge Links
Building Bridges – Lesson Plans
Posted by: Amy | January 8, 2009

Fellows Program in Washington, D.C.

From: Jennifer Carter <>
Date: Tue, 6 Jan 2009 13:57:23 -0500

Subject: New Fellows Program AT Society for Science & the Public

Hello Everyone,
My name is Jennifer Carter and I am the new Director of Outreach for the Society for Science and the Public located in Washington DC. Society for Science & the Public (SSP) is a nonprofit 501(c) (3) organization dedicated to the public engagement in scientific research and education. Our vision is to promote the understanding and appreciation of science and the vital role it plays in human advancement: to inform, educate, inspire.

Inform To deliver the events and news of the scientific world daily. Through online and print media, we keep the world informed of the latest scientific news and advances.

Educate To further the many disciplines of science by reaching students, teachers and the public.

Inspire To encourage and nurture the next generation of scientists, engineers and teachers, through our acclaimed science competitions.

In January of 2009, Society for Science and the Public (SSP) is launching a new Fellows program for high school science and/or mathematics teachers (administrators) in U.S. schools. The official announcement has not been released, but I thought since you all may know of competitive candidates, I would give you a heads up and hope that you will call or write so I can help either you complete the application or help someone you know complete the application over the next few months. I have used information off this portal before to help others so I thought that this program may benefit someone you know.

Below are some important facts about the program:

All potential candidates will be ranked based on the following criteria and the most competitive, meeting all the criteria will be selected for the Fellows program for 2009. This Fellows Program in no way creates an advantage for the teacher or student who participates in Science Talent Search (STS). STS students are selected based on merit alone regardless of how they came to the program.

Selection Criteria:

Demonstrated interest in research but actual research experience not required.

Have taught or actively teaching 9-12 grade science (must have teaching credentials) -If you are not actively teaching but have in the past, you must demonstrate access to students to mentor.

Teacher (Administrator) must be from a school that has enrollment that is at least 40% underrepresented minority and/or have at least 30% of students receiving free or reduced rate lunches

Demonstrated evidence of engagement with students (e.g. Field trips, science clubs, mentoring requiring time to teach, supports independent research)

Excellent written and oral communication skills

Must be able to attend Fellows Institute in Washington DC July 27 through July 31, 2009 – fully paid trip

Each applicant must submit the following electronically:

1. Completed online application (not until Mid-January)

2. A written Essay describing the following: a 400 word description See application guidelines for guidance on how this should be written

Methodology by which the applicant will recruit and mentor students over the commitment period

A brief description of what the teacher/school is currently engaged in recruiting and mentoring students in the production of science fair projects or project based research and the support network that is             already established to support those students or if not established description of plans to establish.

3. Copy of Curriculum Vitae

4. Proposed Budget of $ direct support funds for each year over the 1 year commitment

5. 1 Recommendation letter from school or district administration

6. Administration should state how they will substantively support teacher’s efforts.


Each teacher may be granted up to two hours of administrative leave per week, not to exceed ten hours per calendar month, to participate in the Society for Science & the Public Fellows initiative, including participating in an established mentoring program serving a school district.

“Coaches” pay

Laboratory/classroom space

Community Partnership/Co-op program

Substitute pay

There will be a significant stipend given to each teacher (up to $8500/year) if Fellowship is awarded. The Institute may have college credit or continuing education credit awarded to it which can be used to complete a degree or certification. The commitment is for 1 year with an option of non-competitive renewal after the first year for 3 more award years.

You may know a teacher who is already making a difference with minimal resources and we want to give them the additional resources to be as effective as they can!

This is going to be a great Program so thanks for spreading the word if you can!

Jennifer A. Carter
Director of Outreach
Society for Science & the Public

1719 N Street NW, Washington, D.C. 20036-2801
202.872.5140 (phone), 202.822.3922 (fax) <> <blocked::> <blocked::>

Posted by: Amy | January 7, 2009

21st Century Students’ Excuses

Scott McNealy’s (2006) p. 244 of web 2.0:  new tools, new schools

Top 10 reasons why students can’t turn in their homework:

10.  Tech support for my PC was outsourced offshore.

9.  I had to delete to make room for my iTunes.

8.  I’m still handwriting it.  The MS Office license was too expensive.student-computer

7.  I e-mailed it….didn’t you get it?

6.  I couldn’t afford the HP ink cartridge.

5.  It took too long to type on a regular keyboard.  Can I text it to you instead?

4.  The cut and paste keys on my keyboard are worn out. (Google, cut, paste)

3.  I plan on “open sourcing” from the kid next to me.

2.  I had a visit from the Blue Screen of Death.

1.  The dog chewed up my laptop.

From Web 2.0:  new tools, new schools by Solomon and Schrum

These could just as easily be our own teachers’ excuses, couldn’t they?  Things are changing.

How comfortable are you with 21st century tools?  How comfortable are you with learning new skills?

Posted by: Amy | January 6, 2009

Beware of Gifts from Geeks

culture1“To save yourself from liability, responsibility, and a lot of expensive and unrewarding work, never accept gifts or donations from well-meaning parents, upper-grade teachers, business and industry, or anyone else.  You will not have the appropriate MSDS documents, and you cannot be certain of the age, purity, and prior storage conditions of chemicals that are not ordered and received directly form a reliable science supply house.  Some donors even make “gifts” only to rid themselves of the responsibility of hazardous waste disposal.”

From Inquiring Safely: A Guide for Middle School Teachers by Kwan and Texley

Where do you get the chemicals for your labs?  Do you order just enough for the year or do you find yourself storing them year after year?

Have you ever had anyone donate chemicals to your program?  How did you handle it?

Posted by: Amy | January 5, 2009

Flying Tinsel

When I was growing up, my mother always had us put icicles on our Christmas tree….one at a time.  My brother and I liked to fling a bunch of them at a time and watch them land on the tree.    That never did go over very well. There is another use for them. The Flying Tinsel science experiment will put them to good use.  The Exploratorium will give you complete directions for this easy and fun investigation.  click on this link and you will go directly to the directions.


  • Tinsel (a thin strip of aluminized mylar about 30 cm long)whitetinsel
  • PVC tubing (1/2 inch or 3/4 inch)
  • wool (You can get wool cheap at used clothing stores, wash it and dry it well.)
  • plastic drinking straws
  • scissors

Depending on how you approach the investigation you may cover one or more of the following standards.

Arkansas Standards:

PS.7.1.5, Demonstrate methods of producing static electricity
EM.11.P.1,Calculate electric force using coulomb’s law
PS.7.4.2 Classify electrical conductors and insulators.

Have fun and let me know how it goes.

Posted by: Amy | December 31, 2008

Classroom Blogging

Students generally enjoy time on the computer and expressing their thoughts to their classmates.  Blogs can combine these 2 motivators and put them to good academic use. Blogging is a like an online journal that is visible to whomever you choose.  It can be password protected or public, depending on the host of your blog and your settings.  Many teachers are using blogs to motivate students to write and to respond to their classmates’ writings. Examples of classroom blogs can be found at David Warlick’s site.

Here is a 2 minute explanation of blogs.

(Blogs in Plain English by Lee LeFever – Common Craft)

I also found a blog created by a college student that explains blogging in the classroom.  She has several examples that you might want to check out.

Posted by: Amy | December 30, 2008

MSDS Sheets

In 2002, the Washington Post reported that there had been 150 students seriously injured in school laboratory accidents in the past 4 years.  They expected that number to increase.  What can a science teacher do?rains_science_lab

A Louisiana case in 1974 involved a group of eighth-grade pupils who were preparing a science fair project. A boy poured alcohol from a jug and a girl lit a match near the mouth of the jug, which exploded, severely burning a 14 year old girl who was standing nearby. The trial court found the teacher was negligent and awarded plaintiff $ 7890, which was affirmed by an appellate court. The appellate court declared:

Pleas of contributory negligence and assumption of the risk by the defendant were overruled, the [trial] court finding that Miss Station [the plaintiff] did not appreciate the danger or take part in the abortive attempt to relight the burner. We affirm the judgment of that court.

The jurisprudence of this state is firmly established that where one creates, deals in, handles or distributes an inherently dangerous object or substance, that an extraordinary degree of care is required of those responsible.

This duty is particularly heavy where children are exposed to a dangerous condition which they may not appreciate.

Here, a dangerous instrument was placed in the hands of children without any special degree of care, supervision, or direction. Alcohol, a highly flammable substance, was left in their control to be used in connection with a faulty alcohol burner which had continually given trouble. That the situation was fraught with danger is proven by the results.

Station v. Travelers Insurance Co., 292 So.2d 289, 291-292 (La.App. 1974)[citations omitted].

Retrieved from the web, December 29, 2008,

Every teacher is responsible for all of the materials brought into the classroom.  The teacher must know what it is, what it can do, and how it must be stored.  The teacher is also responsible for informing school personnel of the hazards in case of an emergency.

The federal government requires that manufacturers supply Materials Safety Data Sheets (MSDS) for everything they produce.  These documents need to be kept in the classroom and copies in the office.  The local fire department should also maintain a list of all potentially hazardous materials to be able to respond appropriately to an emergency.  Exploring Safety by Terry Kwan and Juliana Texley

MSDS sheet for 70% isopropyl alcohol

An inquiry-based science classroom requires more materials and greater risks than the textbook only classroom.  However, engaging students in real world problems and investiagtions brings far greater rewards.  Through careful planning and supervision, the science classroom can be safe and investigative in nature.

What steps do you take to ensure the safety of your students in the science lab?  What does your school still need for safety to be achieved?

Posted by: Amy | December 29, 2008

Cartesian Diver

Here is a simple investigation that will help students understand Boyle’s Law, density, and pressure.
Squeezing a plastic bottle filled with water and a condiment packet makes the packet sink. Letting go of the bottle makes the packet rise.
  • Squeeze condiment packet (soy sauce, ketchup, etc.)
  • Clear plastic bottle with tight-fitting lid
  • A glass or cup of water

This is the easiest Cartesian Diver to make.  The Exploratorium has directions on how to make this simple model. The materials needed are listed above.

This website from Purdue University has a great explanation of the concepts observed during the Cartesian Diver investigation.
Posted by: Amy | December 26, 2008

Who Invented Strands of Electric Christmas Lights?

Surprise! Surprise!  christmas_lights

Thomas Edison, the inventor of the first successful practical light bulb, created the very first strand of electric lights. During the Christmas season of 1880, these strands were strung around the outside of his Menlo Park Laboratory. Railroad passengers traveling by the laboratory got their first look at an electrical light display. But it would take almost forty years for electric Christmas lights to become the tradition that we all know and love.

From the Library of Congress website

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