Monday, March 30, 2009

Straw Rockets

Today we began building and testing Straw Rockets. Last year, at the National Science Teachers Association national convention, held here in Boston, I saw this cool rocket launcher from PITSCO. No power or air source is required; the pneumatic force is developed by releasing a weighted drop rod in the cylinder. The force of the launch can be controlled by varying the release height of the rod. We purchased this launcher and now we are testing it out.

Using a straw, scotch tape, modeling clay, and paper, the students built a rocket that had 3 fins and had a mass less than 2.5 grams. Their goal was to launch the rocket from first floor, up over the second floor railing, and into the recycling bucket. the distance is about 35 feet and the height is about 10 feet. The students could vary the angle of launch and the amount of force given to the rocket. All this data was recorded. Students will be working on accomplishing this task during the next couple of science classes. Eli and Bryant were the first, and only, group to get the rocket into the bucket today.

Bird of the Week- XXVlll

This week's "Bird of the Week" is the Mallard duck. The Mallard is one of the most common of all ducks, and is found throughout North America. It is found in all kinds of wetlands and is a familiar inhabitant of urban park ponds. If you have wetlands near you, there is a good chance you have seen these ducks occasionally in your yard.
The Mallard is a large (almost 2 feet long) dabbling duck. Dabbling means that it tips upside down to feed on aquatic ( water) vegetation. They weigh between 2 -3 pounds and have a wing span of about 3 feet. The male has an iridescent green head, rusty chest, and gray body. The female is mottled brown.
Mallards will eat insects and larvae, aquatic invertebrates, seeds, acorns, aquatic vegetation, and grain.

Friday, March 27, 2009

Bird of the Week Quiz #6

Can you identify this bird? It is one of our "Birds of the Week." E-mail me with the correct answer by Monday, and your name will be put into a pool of correct answers. There will be several winners. I will buy the winners a lunch time ice cream from the cafeteria. Good luck!

Monday, March 23, 2009

Bird of the Week - XXVll

This week's "Bird of the Week" is the American robin. The Robin is the first true sign of spring for many people. The American Robin is a familiar sight pulling up worms on suburban lawns. The Robin is a large thrush with gray back and wings and red underparts. It has a dark head with white eye crescents (marks above and below the eye). The males and females look alike with the female paler, especially on the head.

The American Robin eats both fruit and invertebrates. Earthworms are important during the breeding season, but fruit is the main diet during winter. Robins eat different types of food depending on the time of day; they eat earthworms early in the day and more fruit later in the day. Because the robin forages (eats) largely on lawns, it is vulnerable to pesticide poisoning and can be an important indicator of chemical pollution. Robins will occasionally winter over here in Reading, surviving on berries.

In early spring, Robins can often be seen a big flocks in grassy fields feeding.

Robins have adapted very well to human-modified habitats. I bet you have seen and heard Robins in your yard, and maybe even have found a Robin nesting in a bush or shrub in your yard. Robins mate in the spring from April through July and may have as many as three broods (families). Their loud, musical, whistled song sounds like, "cheerily, cheer up, cheer up, cheerily, cheer up."

Photos from All About Birds.

Friday, March 20, 2009

Design Camp 2009

If you enjoyed this week's trip to the MIT Museum and the Programming Mindstorms workshop you took, you might to consider attending UMASS Lowell's Design Camp 2009 this summer. This is a fun and exciting summer science and engineering camp for students in grades 5 - 10. The Design Camp offers a wide range of challenging, creative workshops where you will get to design, explore, invent, and experiment. Workshops such as Crime Scene, Electrical & Mechanical Gizmos, Flight School, Robo Alley (here you'll use the LEGO NXC sytem we used at MIT), and others will really excite and challenge you! Some of these workshops have sessions for girls only. For more information about this summer's Design Camp 2009, visit their web site.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

MIT Museum Field Trip

This week's field trips to the MIT Museum were very successful! All of the students participated in the 1 1/2 hour workshop, "Programming Mindstorms." This was an introduction to programming robots. the kids learned how to program their robot to move forward and back, turn, and how to program a light sensor so that their robot wouldn't run off the table.

The kids also toured the MIT Museum and visited Kinetic sculpture, Holograms, and the All About Robots exhibits.

Monday, March 16, 2009

Bird of the Week - XXVl

This week's "Bird of the Week" is a bird you probably haven't seen before, but does nest here in Reading. It is the American woodcock. The American woodcock is a shorebird that lives in forests. The American Woodcock is most frequently encountered at dusk when the male's chirping, peenting aerial displays attract attention. Otherwise the superbly camouflaged bird is difficult to discover on the forest floor where it probes for earthworms.

The Woodcock is plump, with a round head, no apparent neck, and a long bill. It's coloring is shades of brown, buff, and gray which allows it to camouflage itself quite nicely.

The male American Woodcock has an elaborate display to attract females. He gives repeated "peents" on the ground, often on remaining patches of snow in the early spring. After a time he flies upward in a wide spiral. As he gets higher, his wings start to twitter. After reaching a height of 70-100 m (230-328 ft) the twittering becomes intermittent, and the bird starts chirping as he starts to descend. He comes down in a zig-zag, diving fashion, chirping as he goes. As he comes near the ground he silently lands, near a female if she is present. Then he starts peenting again. You can observe this spectacular courtship display at the Bare Meadow Conservation Land, off of Pearl St. here in Reading. They diplay just before dawn and again at dusk.

Friday, March 13, 2009

Bird of the Week Quiz # 5

Can you identify this bird? It is one of our "Birds of the Week." E-mail me with the correct answer by Monday, and your name will be put into a pool of correct answers. There will be 2 winners. I will buy the winners a lunch time ice cream from the cafeteria. Good luck!
Photo from USGS

Monday, March 9, 2009

Heat Transfer Projects

All of the students turned in their Heat Transfer projects last week. They were great! To demonstrate to me what they learned about heat energy and how heat travels, each student needed to select an activity to show their understanding of either conduction, convection, radiation, heat insulators, heat conductors, or the Electromagnetic Spectrum. Their work needed to be original their grade was based on: their understanding of the concept, creativeness, and originality.

There were over a dozen videos produced. Some were shown on You Tube, some on the kids own blog, and others were on CD's. In addition, there were songs, poetry, dioramas, models, Jeopordy game, short stories, 2 tee-shirts, newspapers, and others. here are some photos of a few of the projects.

Energy Conversions

For the past week we have been working at understanding that energy cannot be created or destroyed, it can only be changed from one form of energy to another. To learn the 7 basic forms of energy, the students have learned the mnemonic:CLASHE"M.
Atomic (nuclear)
Heat (thermal)
Using toys such as wind-up mechanical toys, balls, push cars, jack-in-the box, etc. the students have used them to demonstrated potential energy and how that can be converted into kinetic energy. The kids have also learned how to draw Energy Conversion flow charts to help them better understand the concept that energy cannot be created or destroyed, only converted (changed) from one form to another.
The students have used the GenComs, small, hand cranked electrical generators, to produce electricity to light small light bulbs, ring door buzzers, and operate small motors. They have also examined small generators so that they could see that electricity is produced (generated) by having copper wire move through a magnetic field. They began to understand that some type of mechanical energy was neceassary to to turn the generator. To help them with this, they have studied flow charts for photovoltaic (solar) cells, hydroelectric, and nuclear powered generators.