Friday, February 26, 2010

Energy, Force, & Motion

We have started our new unit and it will investigate Energy, Force, & Motion. We began by establishing that there are 7 basic forms of energy. I gave the students a nmomic to help them rember the the 7 forms of energy - CLASH'EM.
Light (radiant)

All forms of energy can be grouped into two kinds, potential and kinetic. Potential energy is the stored energy of position. Kinetic energy is the energy in moving things.

Forces are the interactions between two things. A force is a push or a pull that produces or prevents motion. Friction, gravity, magnetism, and buoyancy are some examples of forces.
The students brought in small toys to use during the unit to help them better understand some of these concepts. The photos show the students using the toys to demonstrate potential and kinetic energy.

Signs of Spring Calendar - Last Week of February - Early March

Here is a "Signs of Spring" calender for northeastern MA

4th Week

• First of the returning Red-wing blackbirds appear.
• Starlings, House finches, Cardinals, and other birds begin singing their spring songs. Spring is in the morning air.
• February 28th. Full moon 11:38AM. The Snow or Hunger moon.
• Feb. 28th Sunrise 6:21AM Sunset 5:33PM Length of Day 11 hours 12 minutes


1st Week
• Watch for flights of Mourning cloak butterflies on warm days.
• Watch for emerging Skunk cabbage in moist woodlands as soon as the ground thaws in these areas.
• Check the woodland edges for the swelling buds of pussy willows.
• Mud season is upon us.

2nd Week
• March 14th. Daylight Savings Time begins at 2:00AM.
• March 14th Sunrise 6:58AM Sunset 6:50PM Length of Day 11 hours 52 minutes
• March 15th. New moon 5:03PM
• Migratory American woodcocks return to their breeding grounds. Watch for their courtship flights at dusk over old fields and listen for their “peent” call.
• Red-winged blackbirds, Grackles, and Brown-headed cow birds are steadily returning around now.
• Painted turtles are among the earliest turtles to come out of hibernation. They have even been seen swimming below ice.
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.

Monday, February 22, 2010

Bird of the Week - XXll

This week's "Bird of the Week" is the Red-bellied woodpecker. This is the third woodpecker to be a "Bird of the Week".  the other two were the Downy woodpecker and the Hairy woodpecker.  The Red-bellied woodpecker is a relative new-comer to our area. It is a great example of a bird expanding it's range northward. It is not considered migratory, but it is at the northern edge of it's range and may move farther south in very cold winters. Ten years ago, the Red-bellied woodpecker was very uncommon around here. Now, we see it more frequently at feeders and in the backyard. While it's belly is covered in a light, red wash, it is easier to spot by the red on the back and top of its head.

The Red-bellied woodpecker is a medium to large-sized woodpecker, approximately 9 inches long with a wingspan of about 13 - 17 inches. It has a red hood from the top of it's head to the back of it's neck. It's back is barred black and white.

It will glean (eat ) insects from the bark of trees as well as using it's long bill to probe for insects in dead wood. The Red-bellied woodpecker will store food in cracks and crevices of trees and fence posts.
Photos from All About Birds and Bird Watchers Digest.

Friday, February 12, 2010

Museum of Science Visit!

Due to the generosity of our PTO, the Museum of Science came to Parker today to present a workshop entitled, "Motion: Speed, Velocity & Acceleration."  Mike, the presenter, was great and all of the kids were an excellent audience! Many of the concepts presented today will be further investigated by the students shortly after we return from our February vacation.

Monday, February 8, 2010

Bird of the Week - XXl

This week's "Bird of the Week" is the White-throated sparrow. The White-throated sparrow breeds in northern New England and Canada. Here in Reading, we will most commonly see the White-throated sparrow in the spring and fall during migration and in the winter. The White-throated sparrow feeds primarily on the ground, scratching the leaf litter with it's feet, looking for seeds, small fruits, and insects. It is also a frequent visitor to backyard bird feeders.

It is a large sparrow with a white throat, yellow in the front of the eyes, and white and black stripes on it's head. It's song is a slow series of usually five clear whistles that changes pitch once, on either the second or third note, often described as "Old Sam Peabody, Peabody, Peabody" or "Oh Sweet Canada, Canada, Canada."

Photos from All About Birds

Wednesday, February 3, 2010


We have begun investigating a method of heat transfer known as convection.  The molecules of liquids and gases are not as tightly packed as those of solids.  There are spaces between the molecules.  This means that the molecules can move from place to place.

When a liquid or gas is heated:
1.  The molecules closest to the heat get hot first.  They vibrate faster.  They also move.  They move away from the heat.

2.  Cooler molecules move in and take their place.
3.  The cooler molecules are heated.  Then they move away.
4.  Other molecules move in to take their place.
5.  This happens over and over again.  Little by little, all the molecules in the gas or liquid are heated.
The first activity we did was called, "The Convection Snake".  The second activity was called, "Spot Drop" where we set up a convection current in water usling food coloring.

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Great Backyard Bird Count - 2010

The Great Backyard Bird Count is an annual four-day event that engages bird watchers of all ages in counting birds to create a real-time snapshot of where the birds are across the continent and in Hawaii. Anyone can participate, from beginning bird watchers to experts. It takes as little as 15 minutes on one day, or you can count for as long as you like each day of the event. It’s free, fun, and easy—and it helps the birds.

Why Count Birds? Scientists and bird enthusiasts can learn a lot by knowing where the birds are. Bird populations are dynamic; they are constantly in flux. No single scientist or team of scientists could hope to document the complex distribution and movements of so many species in such a short time.
Your counts can help us answer many questions:
How will this winter's snow and cold temperatures influence bird populations?
Where are winter finches and other “irruptive” species that appear in large numbers during some years but not others?
How will the timing of birds’ migrations compare with past years?
How are bird diseases, such as West Nile virus, affecting birds in different regions?
What kinds of differences in bird diversity are apparent in cities versus suburban, rural, and natural areas?
Are any birds undergoing worrisome declines that point to the need for conservation attention?
Scientists use the counts, along with observations from other citizen-science projects, such as the Christmas Bird Count, Project FeederWatch, and eBird, to give us an immense picture of our winter birds. Each year that these data are collected makes them more meaningful and allows scientists to investigate far-reaching questions.
Please consider participating in this years Great Backyard Bird Count!

Monday, February 1, 2010

Heat Moves One Way

Heat Moves One Way

When thermal energy is transferred – conduction, convection, radiation – it is called heat. Heat is thermal energy moving from a warmer object to a cooler object.

If two substances have different temperatures, heat will flow from the warmer object to the colder one. When heat flows into a substance, the thermal energy of the substance increases. As the thermal energy increases, its temperature increases. At the same time, the temperature of the substance giving off heat decreases. Heat will flow from one substance to the other until the two substances have the same temperature.

What happens when you make something cold like ice cream? The ingredients used, such as milk and sugar, are not nearly as cold as the finished ice cream. In an ice cream maker, the ingredients are put into a metal can that is packed in ice. You might think that the ice transfers cold to the ingredients in the can. But this is not the case. There is no such thing as “coldness.” Instead, the ingredients grow colder as the thermal energy flows from them to the ice. Heat transfer occurs in only one direction – from a warmer object to a cooler object!

To help with our understanding of this concept, we went outside for a while today.  We discussed, and demonstrated, how our jackets, coats, sweatshirts, hats, gloves, scarves, etc. help keep us warm.  They don't make us warm, they help trap and keep our body heat close to us.

Bird Of the Week - XX

This week's "Bird of the Week" is the Great horned owl. The Great horned owl is one of the most widespread and common owls in North America. It is not often seen because it is nocturnal, meaning that it hunts at night. It will sit on a perch watching for prey, and then fly out to catch it. It mostly eats small mammals, rabbits, skunks, some amphibians and reptiles, some birds, and even other owls. Small prey is swallowed whole, while larger prey is carried away and riped apart at feeding perches or at the nest.

Great Horned Owls can vary in color from a reddish brown to a grey or black and white. The underside is a light grey with dark bars and a white band of feathers on the upper breast. They have large, staring yellow-orange eyes, bordered in most races by an orange-buff facial disc. The name is derived from tufts of feathers that appear to be "horns" which are sometimes referred to as "ear tufts" but have nothing to do with hearing at all. The large feet are feathered to the ends of the toes, and the immature birds resemble the adults. Females are 10 to 20% larger than males.

Great horned owls have a large repertoire of sounds, ranging from deep booming hoots to shrill shrieks. The males resonant territorial call "hoo-hoo hoooooo hoo-hoo" can be heard over several miles during a still night. Both sexes hoot, but males have a lower-pitched voice than females.

Nesting season for Great horned owls begins in January or February when the males and females hoot to each other. Listen for their hooting at night.
The best way of locating an owl is to let the other birds do it for you! When you hear a group of crows "cawing" madly, follow the crows and you may find a hawk or an owl. This "mobbing" technique is used by other, smaller birds, too.
Bird Note is a series of radio shows about birds.  To listen to a show about the Great horned owl, click on this link.
Photos from All About Birds and National Geographic.