Friday, January 29, 2010

Signs of Spring Journal Assignment

This is the 4th year I have assigned the students this "Signs of Spring" journal assignment.

“Signs of Spring” Journal Writing Project

“Observation is not only the most fundamental science process skill, it is also the most fundamental act of a caring person” Anon.

During the next few months, I want you to be on the lookout for signs that spring is approaching. Even though spring, or the Vernal equinox, officially arrives on March 20, we all know that spring isn’t really here on that date. I have included a list of some signs of spring for you to be on the look out for, but there are many more. Use your senses! Listen, smell, see, and feel. Each entry must include the following information in your “Signs of Spring” journal:
A. Date
B. Time
C. Location
D. Description
E. Sketch

Your written journal entry should be at least two paragraphs long. A paragraph is 4 – 7 sentences long. Your writing should be descriptive, based on your observations. You may also be more creative and include creative writing such as poetry, your own art work, etc.

You could also include information such as temperature, wind speed, rainfall, etc. This information may be obtained from the weather page of a newspaper, an almanac, or on-line.

Your observations might be of one particular thing or event, and you may follow up with additional observations of that same thing. For instance, if you have a Maple tree in your yard, you might first observe when the sap begins to flow. Next, you might notice that the buds are beginning to swell. Next, you might record when the leaves are beginning to first open, and last, you could write when the tree is fully leafed out.

You may want to comment on how big something grew, how many, or the frequency of, something you saw, or any other subtle changes you observed. Use your senses! Listen, smell, see, and feel.

Your drawings should be observational art, not imaginative art. They need to communicate information. Give evidence in your drawings – size, shape, color, motion, contour lines. Use the “Tips for Nature Sketching” sheet that Mrs. Davis wrote. In addition, I will accept digital photographs you take yourself.

To successfully do this assignment, you will have to get outdoors where you will have a first hand opportunity to use all of your senses to observe the world around you.

We will start the “Signs of Spring journal the week of January 25th. Though it is the height of winter, there are little changes happening that let us know that spring is coming. I will let you know the dates the journal entries are due. We’ll continue this until early June.
Journals will be checked and graded!.

Signs of Spring Calendar - Last 2 Weeks of January 2010

Here is a calendar that shows some possible signs of Spring for northeastern Mass.
3rd Week

• January 14th Sunrise 7:11AM Sun sets 4:36PM Length of day 9 hours 25 minutes.
• January 15th – new moon.
• Jan. 20th - St. Agnes Eve. This night traditionally marks the change from the bitter chill from the bitter chill of winter to the warming trends of late winter. Read the poem, “The Eve of St. Agnes” by John Keats.
• January thaw. Watch for honey bee flights and other insects.
• Look for the gray pellets of owls on the snow under pine trees.
• Watch for twigs that have nipped off by rabbits. Ragged twig ends have been chewed off by deer.
• Listen to the stillness of a winter night.
• Watch for Orion the Hunter in the southeastern sky and other winter constellations if the night is clear.

4th Week
• If snows are heavy, stock your feeders. Watch for mammal tracks around your feeder: skunks, possums, cats, and squirrels.
• This is Woodpecker season. Put out suet and watch for Downy, Hairy, and Red-bellied woodpeckers.
• Bear cubs are born about this time.
• On a winter walk in old fields and woodlands, watch for the pupae and egg cases of butterflies, moths, and other insects.
• A Cooper’s hawk may be keeping an eye on the birdfeeder, looking for small- and medium-sized meals as big as blue jays and mourning doves.
• January 27th – Sunrise 7:03AM Sunset 4:52PM Length of day 9 hours and 49 minutes
• Januarty 27th. Mars makes its closest approach to the earth tonight.
• January 30th – Full moon. 1:18AM. Wolf moon.
I have modeled this after, and drawn heavily from, Mass. Audubon's Monthly Calendar in their Sanctuary magazine.
Here is a link to Mass Audubon's Outdoor Almanac. found on their website.

Thursday, January 28, 2010

Lab Reports!

The "Heat Race" lab report was handed in today.  The kids worked hard on it over the past 4 days.  They wrote up their results following the Scientific Method.
Scientific Method Guidelines

The scientific method is a series of logical steps a scientist or a student can follow to help them solve a problem. All laboratory experiments should be written up in the same manner. Follow this sheet as a guide to write your lab reports for the entire year. List each category separately and always use complete sentences.

Title: This is what you call the experiment, and it is centered on the page and underlined.
1. Problem: This is the reason for doing the experiment. It is usually written in the form of a question.
2. Hypothesis: This is an educated guess that answers the question asked in the problem. It is a possible solution to the problem, so make your hypothesis before actually doing the experiment. Include a reason for your “guess”.
3. Experiment:
A. Materials: This is the list of materials used to carry out the experiment, like an
Ingredient list in a recipe.

B. Procedures: The steps you need to follow in order to carry out an experiment. These are written in numbered sequence.
4. Observations: There are two types of observations to be included here. First are the quantitative results. This data is usually expressed in numbers or measurements, and recorded on a data table and/or graph.
The second type of observation is the qualitative results. This is the written description of “what happened” during the experiment. This is where you write what you observed.
5. Conclusion: In the conclusion you always answer the following questions:
A. Did your results support your hypothesis?
B. What did you learn from this experiment?
C. How does this experiment apply to the real world?
D. What recommendations can you make for further testing?
You may also be given other questions to answer that are specific to the experiment you are doing.

Monday, January 25, 2010

Bird of the Week - XLX

This week's "Bird of the Week" is the House Sparrow. The House Sparrow is not native to North America. It was introduced into Brooklyn, New York, in 1851 and has now spread successfully across North America. The House sparrow is the noisy sparrow-like bird you see nesting in store signs and in and around buildings. The House sparrow almost always stays near people and their buildings.

The House sparrow is a small, stocky songbird with a thick bill. It is about 6 -7 inches long with a wingspan of about 7 - 10 inches. It has wing bars and an unstreaked chest. The male has a black throat and white cheeks.
The House sparrow lives here year round and eats seeds from bird feeders, weed seeds, and insects.

Photos from All About Birds.


We have begun our new unit.  After investigating Matter and how Heat energy effects it, we will now focus on Heat Transfer.  We will learn about Conduction, Covection, and Radiation.
To begin with, I taught the students how to safely light a strike-on-the-box match.  Education and practice in a safe, controled environment will eliminate most chances of an accident.

We then did an activity called, Hot Soup" where the kids placed a metal soup in a beaker of hot water for 5 minutes and then recorded their observations.
Conduction is the movement of heat energy through a solid, usually a metal.  Heat energy makes the molecules of the substance vibrate faster and they bump into other molecules.  Then, the other molecules become hot, vibrate faster, and bump into other molecules.

Today, we finished up an experiment call. "The Heat Race" where we investigated the question, "Will heat energy travel through different metal wires at the same rate?"

 Conduction - The Heat Race!

1. Problem: Will heat travel through different metal wires at the same rate?
2. Hypothesis:
3. Experiment:

A. Materials
Copper, brass, and iron wire
Chocolate bit
Safety glasses
2 beakers for the bridge

B. Procedures:
1. Gather all of your materials
2. Place the chocolate bit on the wire as demonstrated by Mr. Williams
3. Measure 10cm from the chocolate bit and put a mark on the wire.
4. Place the candle under the mark; make sure the flame is just below the wire, not touching it.]
5. Light the candle, place it under the mark, and start your stopwatch.
6. Record how long it takes for to chocolate bit to fall off. Repeat 3 times.
7. Share your results. Make sure you get results for all 3 types of metal.
8. Clean up.

4. Observations: Make sure you do both your Qualitative and Quantitative (data chart) observations.

5. Conclusion: Answer the 4 Conclusion questions from your Scientific Method Guidelines sheet. Do a nice, neat, labeled sketch of the experiment.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Bird of the Week - XVlll

This week's "Bird of the Week" is the Sharp-shinned Hawk. If you are a back yard bird feeder, you have probably had a Sharped-shinned hawk zip through your yard attempting to catch a bird. The "Sharpies" are built to chase and catch small birds. They will hunt birds using a low, stealthy approach-flight or after a short chase. They use cover such as trees and bushes, and man-made structures like fences, to conceal approach. They will catch birds at bird feeders, too.

The Sharp-shinned hawk is a small hawk with a long, barred tail that ends with a square tip. Its wings are short and rounded. The adults have a blue-gray back and wings with reddish barring on their underparts.
The female Sharp-shinned hawk is about the size of a Blue Jay or a Mourning Dove, with the female bigger than the male.

Sightings of Sharp-shinned hawks in our area have dropped over the past 10 years. We are now seeing more Cooper's Hawks at feeders. It can be a challenge to tell the two species apart.
Listen to a Bird Note show about Sharp-shinned hawks.
Photos from All About Birds.

Friday, January 15, 2010

Dry ice!

To conclude our unit on Matter, we investigated Dry Ice!  I purchased 25 pounds of Dry Ice in pellet form from the Acme Dry Ice Co. in Cambridge.  Dry Ice is frozen carbon dioxide, a normal part of our earth's atmosphere. It is the gas that we exhale during breathing and the gas that plants use in photosynthesis.

It is also the same gas commonly added to water to make soda water.  Dry Ice is particularly useful for freezing, and keeping things frozen because of its very cold temperature: -109.3°F or -78.5°C.  Dry Ice is widely used because it is simple to freeze and easy to handle using insulated gloves.

Dry Ice changes directly from a solid to a gas -sublimation- in normal atmospheric conditions without going through a wet liquid stage. Therefore it gets the name "dry ice."

Dry Ice Challenges!

You and your partner will try the following Dry Ice activities. Follow the proper science safety rules at all times and do not pick up the dry ice with your hands! Write your observations for each activity. When done, answer the questions below and do two sketches of activities we did today on the back of this paper.

A. Place your piece of dry ice on your desk top and watch it. Did it melt? What do you observe?
B. Put a tiny piece of dry ice into cold water. Does it sink or float? Try poking it with your tweezers. What can we infer about its density as compared to water?
C. Put several drops of water on a piece of dry ice. Observe.
D. Press the metal paper clip against the dry ice. Observe.
E. Compare dry ice in hot and cold water.

a. What is dry ice made of?
b. What happens to solid dry ice at room temperature?
c. Are the molecules in “solid dry ice” different from the molecules in “dry ice gas”?
d. What makes the solid carbon dioxide change to gaseous carbon dioxide?

Monday, January 11, 2010

Bird of the Week - XVll

This week's "Bird of the Week" is the American goldfinch. The Am. goldfinch is a small, colorful, abundant songbird. American Goldfinch is frequently found in weedy fields where it eats the seeds of weeds, flowers, and other plants. It is a common visitor to backyard bird feeders where it will often appear in flocks.

The Goldfinch is a small bird, about 4 - 5 inches long, with a small, pink, pointed, conical bill. It's wings are dark with large, white wingbars. The body is bright yellow to a dull brown and it's tail is short and notched. The breeding male is a bright yellow with a black cap and wings.

The American Goldfinch is one of the latest nesting birds. It usually does not start until late June or early July, when most other songbirds are finishing with breeding. The late timing may be related to the availability of suitable nesting materials and seeds for feeding young.
Photos from All About Birds.

Thursday, January 7, 2010

Drying out - Learning About Evaporation

What factors influence how fast or slow something dries out? What conditions allow for evaporation to happen the quickest? To investigate these questions, you and your partners will get one paper towel and find the mass of it using the electronic balance at the front of the room. Record its mass here ______g.

Next, measure out 25ml of water using a graduated cylinder and pour it into a beaker. Stuff the paper towel into the beaker so that it absorbs all of the water.

Now you are ready to begin. Write the time it is now here ________. Ready, set, go! Dry out the paper towel until it is back to its original mass. You may use anything you can find in the classroom to help you provided that it is safe. NO OPEN FLAMES ARE ALLOWED! Record the time you finished here _______.

Under what conditions will evaporation happen the fastest? List 4 factors below.

How does your clothes dryer at home incorporate (use) these factors to dry your clothes?

Liebig condenser

Yesterday we used the Liebeg condenser to illustrate the water Cycle.  We had a heat source - the Bunsen burner, and we clearly observed  evaporation, condensation, and precipatation.

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Can Matter Change Its State? - Frying Ice!

Today we investigated weather or not matter can change its state. 

We heated up my old, black, cast iron frying pan on a hot plate and when it was good and hot, we dropped a block of ice in it.

 We quickly discovered the answer to our question! 

We had a good discussion about what it takes to change the state of matter - heat (thermal) energy and we referred to several interactive SmartBoard graphics for additional information.