January 2011

Monthly Archive

Friday Fiddling: Challenger, Force and Motion

Posted by on 28 Jan 2011 | Tagged as: force and motion, Uncategorized

Today was the 25th anniversary of what is called the “Challenger Disaster.” I was standing in a line outside a chow hall in Orlando, Florida when the launch took place. I had my back to it, so didn’t notice it. I was devastated later when I heard — I have always been intrigued by the space program, ever since I watched the first moon landing, and even when busy with life in general I kept up with news of every rocket launch. We tend to think about our usually reliable rockets as completely safe. But, clearly, they aren’t.

So, what is it about rockets that fascinates? The sheer power they exude, I think. What a HUGE amount of force it takes to escape Earth’s pull. What an amazing display of vectors as the rockets arc over the hemispheres. Wow. Math, physics, a good bit of chemistry (solid fuel rockets, anyone?), anatomy… I think there is a link to nearly every branch of science in today’s space programs.

Today, feeling nostalgic for the young woman who dreamed of going into space (that would have been me) and for more optimistic times about the space program, I looked up NASA and Christa McAuliffe and found that her lesson plans are still available!

With some minor updating, here are ideas relating to science that she was excited about sharing with students all around the world. Ideas that teachers are still excited about sharing.


Wednesday Wonderings: Thinking about Thinking

Posted by on 26 Jan 2011 | Tagged as: force and motion, measurement, required journal, Uncategorized

This last week I have been thinking very carefully about the camera obscura we made last Friday and how it allowed even those of us who have some experience and knowledge about optics to engage in the process; to be able to observe things that formerly were “known” only through books and thought experiments. Rather like the connaitre and savoir of the French language, the process and engagement allowed deeper learning.

Side note: we are looking at a two-week (or thereabouts) length for this unit. I am going to assume 40 minutes’ work-time and ignore ideas such as set-up, clean-up and transition times, though I am aware those will need to be built into our science routines.

Back to the ideas. I was so excited, I took my camera home. I shared it with my kids, my husband, my parents. Would have shared it with my dog if I could, and with friends if any had been brave enough to visit. It has had me thinking all week long about light and vision — and, since I use magnifiers of various types, how do lenses work? I understand the physics of light, but I continue to find prisms and the magic of color fascinating. And that is what I want to set up for my own students in the unit I am planning, something that is so compelling and interesting that they continue to think about it and work on it in unexpected ways later on.

I want to provide my students with experiences that make them think about force and motion — and at the 4th/5th grade level more specifically measurement of force and motion — in similar ways. I have done some additional looking around on the internet and on my own bookshelves. I know that there are many resources both online and in libraries that can help me find materials, projects and ideas.

Here is a brief outline. Again, each “day” is 40 minutes long; if I have two hour-long blocks each week there would be some shuffling and condensing or an extension into the third week.

Day 1: playing with measurements: What can be used to measure what? (hands-on, journaling)
Day 2: What is force? What is motion? (hands-on, journaling)
Day 3: How do we communicate our ideas about science? (hands-on, books/video, journaling)
Day 4: History and science: who said what about force and motion, when? (books, video) How does it compare to our work this week? (journaling)
Day 5: Week summary — in pairs or small groups students will create posters or blogs or ?? about their own learning. Need to set this up and work on it a little bit each day; part of normal science routine is to document everything!

Week Two is about deepening the sophistication.
Day 6: Review — share what was learned last week, preview of next three days. Whole-group sharing.
Day 7: Math and science — communicating with symbols (introduce the idea that there may be formulas that can be used to job the memory). (hands-on — how?)
Day 8: What do we use to measure force and motion, how do we represent this? (hands-on, paper and pencil, journaling)
Day 9: A world of movement: When an irresistible force meets and immovable object? (books/video, hands-on, journaling).
Day 10: Wrap-up. What do we know and how do we know it? Blogging, whole-group presentation, or … ??

Extensions or things that we can trade out: force and motion in the real world. On earth, in space? How do I experience force and motion in my own life (self-to-content connection)?

Things to consider: vocabulary development, reading levels, writing levels, organizational support for creating posters and pages, behavioral or movement issues.

Quality Questions:

  • Can there be “negative force?”
  • “How can I measure the ‘size’ of something in a way that helps me understand the force used to move it?”
  • “Is there a relationship between time and force? Motion? — What is the link between force and motion?”

New Test Theme

Posted by on 23 Jan 2011 | Tagged as: Uncategorized

This is called “PhoenixBlue” and it seems both simple and attractive. The other one didn’t work well on my data phone. We’ll try this one for a couple days. I had to tweak the css a little already — for some reason, many links were preset to be white — on a white background?!?

Garden Improvement

Posted by on 23 Jan 2011 | Tagged as: children, environment, Family Matters, garden, Gardens and Life, good things, Green Living, Uncategorized

Well, it only took eleven years, but here is our latest gadget for the garden.  We saw it on sale at woot.com several weeks ago, but it only arrived last week.  Tom and the kiddo finished putting it together Friday night.

stidkid puts the first load in the new composter

stidkid puts the first load in the new composter

As you can see, Lucky is very interested in the entire process.  And the stidkid is happy that shovels are no longer required on a near-daily basis!

The added advantage is that I will be able to take out the compost now, no matter how painful my hip or back.  So as the kids begin to fly the nest, I can still keep up with the work!

No Name Calling Week Starts Monday

Posted by on 22 Jan 2011 | Tagged as: Uncategorized

Bullying — and domestic violence — start small, but have big impacts. Take action, take a stand.


Friday Fiddling: More Detail

Posted by on 21 Jan 2011 | Tagged as: force and motion, measurement, Uncategorized

The PDF from the OSPI on the Science standards says that this unit will focus on:

In upper elementary school students measure the quantities of force, time, and distance, and compare the speed of two objects. (p. 107)

I will be planning a two or three week unit that gives general guidelines for investigating measurement. See also page 6 for how this section of physical science fits into the K-12 science spectrum.

The focus is supposed to be on the use of an inquiry-based model, so look for me to document my specific learning about the learning and teaching of this topic.

Wednesday Wonderings: The BIG IDEA

Posted by on 19 Jan 2011 | Tagged as: force and motion, measurement, required journal, Uncategorized

Three “Quality Questions”

  1. What is the nature of measurement?
  2. What can we use to measure force? Motion?
  3. How could you explain force or motion to someone who has never moved?

What I know: The idea of measurement comes easily to me to me at this point in my life. I have a vast repository of prior experience regarding measurement, force and motion. So does every person in this room. From the time a young child discovers gravity and begins to observe the way objects (pacifiers, spoons, toys, cheerios) move when pushed, dropped or hurled from a high chair (car seat, stairs, stroller) the world opens up in a great physics experiment. “Science” is a natural outgrowth of living. I also know that learning new ways of measuring can be rough.

What I need to know: What do my students already understand (preassessment of measurement, principles of force and motion)? What known/documented limitations do my students have (visual, motor skills, hearing, learning disabilities, vocabulary or ELL considerations) and what accomodations or supports are needed and available? What interests of my students are likely to give them handles on these lessons, making them peer-coaches from the get-go (model airplanes, boats, archery….)?

What I want students to remember: How to innovate ways of investigating force, motion and measurement. To derive some common understandings before the “technical” definitions cloud meaning. Ultimately, to be able to explain why (or how?) specific measurements “work” for force and motion.

Resources for this week: OSPI website (see links), prior knowledge, discussions with others, a quick look around “Google” for websites I can investigate further. I have chosen this topic for a 4th-5th grade classroom, as I anticipate being in an intermediate school in the Spring. There is a lot of information out there!

My next steps: Figuring out whether I need to fully describe each lesson in the unit I am planning or if it’s more about scope and sequence; length of unit and documentation. Identifying what would be logical experiments to get kids to start thinking again about the relationships of objects to each other, and force and motion (so many ideas begin to whirl around — inertia, mass, time, velocity). Which ones to focus on? Which ones to “nail” and which to leave amorphous? I can think of ways to use groupwork effectively, but how to do that and still allow students some individual exploration time? What are some of the characteristics of 4th/5th graders that will be helpful to remember (social, fine motor, gross motor, interests, attentional, academic….) as I plan this unit? Questions!

[originally posted at midnight, updated at 10:40]

Changes in the Air

Posted by on 17 Jan 2011 | Tagged as: Uncategorized

In preparation for rethinking my site’s look, I have gone for a minimalist theme. All the pages and information should be there (somewhere)… Also integrating the pages for the new science coursework. Unfortunately as I import those pages the posts for that assignment will merge with the posts for this website. Not a “huge” problem… but something I don’t have time to mess with.

Monday Musings 17 Jan 2011

Posted by on 17 Jan 2011 | Tagged as: measurement, Uncategorized

Measurement is a key component for science at all levels in all branches.

How fast?
How far?
How heavy?
How many?

The concepts surrounding counting begin when we are very little. We start with a concept of “one-ness” then add “two-ness” and “more than two (many).” Over time, we learn that we can always “add one more” (the idea of infinity) and that anything can be cut in two or more parts (fractions). From there, we move to more and more complex understanding of the ways that numbers interact.

We measure things in terms of numbers and comparatives.

Hotter than. (Hottest)
Cooler than. (Coolest)
Slower than. (Slowest)
Faster than. (Fastest)
Bigger than. (Biggest)
Smaller than. (Smallest)

What are ways we can measure our world? What are some things (items) we can use to compare? What are some other words we use when we are measuring?

Update on Cadbury

Posted by on 14 Jan 2011 | Tagged as: Uncategorized

Kraft Foods is NOT on my list of favorite entities.


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