Category Archives: Humor

Hands-on Science at Home: Needless or Necessary?

Some of us grew up with fantastic science teachers. Mrs. Russell, Mr. Steward, and Mr. Landis are names that you won’t necessarily recognize, but they’re the three science teachers I’ve had in my entire lifetime. I will never forget them, because they were and are awesome science teachers. (Forget the fact that I graduated with less than 20 kids in my class and that the last of those teachers is my best friend’s dad, or that my sister married my best friend’s little brother… Hooray small towns!) But some kids will never have that, that’s why you need to get hands-on science at home.


Classroom Thumwar with DJ
I assume that not everyone had the beneficial science teacher experience that I did, but it blows my mind. How can that even be possible? Then I discovered that the “science teacher” is an endangered species.

Especially when it comes to elementary-aged chitlens, there aren’t teachers dedicated to educating 6- to 12-year-olds on the FREAKING AMAZING WORLD OF SCIENCE! If you were to remove science education from my elementary education, I can personally guarantee that I would not have graduated. Math never made sense unless there was a scientific application. Science is the answer to “when will I ever use this?”

Tomorrow. You'll use this tomorrow... what's the squiggly line mean, again?
Tomorrow. You’ll use this tomorrow… what’s the squiggly line mean, again?                            (Source)

I’m definitely NOT saying that the current teachers being tasked with educating the youth on science are incompetent. They’re already stretched beyond their means, for Bill Nye’s sake. I’m saying that science deserves its own special time, teacher, and even room in the school. I want to scream, because it isn’t getting the attention it deserves.

When I worked in customer service here at Steve Spangler Science, I cannot count on all of my fingers and toes how many times I heard that there’s no budget for science, or that it is being cut, or that teachers had to squeeze it into after-school programs. DEAR SCHOOL BOARDS: Science is the reason that there is a school in the first place, that your children aren’t dropping dead from small pox, and is the basis of all advancement for our planet.

Math = important. Language = important. History = important. Science = meh.

Yeah. That looks super boring and unimportant.
Yeah. That looks super boring and unimportant.

That just doesn’t add up. And again, I’m not arguing importance of anything except science, here. Without language, how could results be replicated? Without math, how would we understand measurements necessary to science? And history… well, there’s the whole saying about it repeating itself. Then there’s science, down at the bottom of the budget list below the coffee expenses.

But, as we’ve seen in recent history, schools take for-eh-ver to change their ways, and the government takes even longer. So how do you inject science into your children’s education? YOU have to do it. You don’t need to home school your kids, but I’ve got all kinds of props for parent/teacher hybrids that I like to call Parajucators. But, take some time out after dinner, before bed, or when the kids get home from school to do some hands-on science.

I'm partial, but may I kindly suggest... YouTube.com/SickScience
I’m partial, but may I  suggest… YouTube.com/SickScience

Don’t have a lot of dough for science supplies? You don’t need it! There are plenty of simple experiments, projects, and activities that can be done right at home and there are plenty of resources to go off of… *cough* SteveSpanglerScience.com *cough*

I’m not going to toot my own horn. Instead, I’m going to conduct the entire band. Have you seen our Sick Science videos? They’re less than 10 minutes long, every time, and walk you through the steps of simple hands-on science projects to do at home. Worried about cost? You probably have well over 90% of what you need right at home!

I’ve spent over 4 years writing the step-by-step instructions for our write-ups, but when I finally started doing the activities with my 6- and 8-year-olds at home, I realized just how easy it is to get them excited about ciencia (that’s science in Spanish). Now, even if there just isn’t time for the actual hands-on experience, they mix in science how-to videos with all of their usual video games and talking cats. Your kids can do it, too, I bet. But I don’t gamble.


 

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Fresh Prince of the Science Fair.
Writer for Steve Spangler Science.
Dad of 2. Expecting 1 more.
Husband. Amateur adventurer.

Expert idiot.

5 Non-Volcano Kids’ Science Activities Using Vinegar

Want science activities using vinegar? Look no further than Classroom Thumb War with DJ.

Vinegar is a smelly staple of science educators everywhere. The solution of acetic acid is the most often-used, simple acidic solution in the lab, and it’s non-toxic and safe to be handled. It’s no wonder that vinegar is a key component of tons of activities and projects for all sorts of chemically based experiences. What’s that? You only know that classic vinegar and baking soda volcano? C’mon, science-based blog reader!

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Insta-Snow Steals The Show!

Ordinarily, I talk about how students and young people of all types and sizes adore Insta-Snow and other products and experiments featured here.  However, don’t think for even a second that you have to be a child to have fun with science.  It’s not just children who are fascinated by Insta-Snow. Polymer science has the power to fascinate grown men and women –  sensible adults who are attending a serious conference and sharing business techniques and practices and products and advice, for example. I’ve seen it happen.

 

Make fake snow in seconds with Insta-Snow
Insta-Snow! Order as much or as little as you need!

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Science & Music – 4 Fields of Science and Their Tunes

IMG_1533
(morguefile.com)

Music makes everything better. While that might not be scientific fact, it’s an opinion that holds a lot of stock, for me. In fact, I believe that certain types or styles of music can make things better to the point of being perfect. We’ve all heard people say something along the lines of “this is the PERFECT song.” It can be driving a car or going for a swim. Songs can be perfect for situations… and fields of science! Science & music go together like dry ice and dish soap… that is to say, they’re better together.


4. Physics and EDM
stained-glass-aqua-tiles copy

Physics is arguably the most applicable field of science, as it pertains to human existence. My very typing on a keyboard is governed by physics: friction between my fingers and the keys, potential energy in stationary fingers, kinetic energy in moving fingers, etcetera, etcetera, on and on. I would float away if it wasn’t for physics.

The necessity and application of physics to real life makes it seem like the musical suitor should exhibit similar real-world tendencies. Country music with lyrics that harken to blue collar life, runaway dogs, and heartbreak? Symphonies that fit perfectly with the dance of planets, stars, and other universal bodies? Nope.

Electronic Dance Music, or EDM, fits the bill.

Younger scientists will think of popular artists/DJs like Skrillex, Diplo, or deadmau5. (That’s “dead mouse,” if you were curious. It is not Dead Mow Five, however incredible that would be.) For older scientists, EDM is that weird noise that has been referred to as “that noise,” “robot sounds,” and “what in the…?”

The majority of EDM music falls in a beat per minute (BPM) range that only seems suitable for things like running, faster running, and sprinting until your heart explodes. However, isn’t movement what physics is all about? And while EDM does tend to stay above 100 BPM, there is a TON (metric) of movement from key changes, tempo adjustments, and more. Listen through one of your favorite tracks (or, one that you can tolerate) and imagine vectors, angles, and Sir Isaac Newton holding headphones to his ears. Glorious.

flickr.com
D-d-d-d-drop the apple… er… bass! (flickr.com)

 

3. Biology and Hip Hop
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I’ve heard it said that life has a beat, a pulse, that drives each being, each action. Therefore, biology is essentially studying that beat.

Hip hop, more than any other style of music, relies heavily on a beat. Some songs are comprised of nothing but lyrics over a kick and snare drum combination.

A BUH-bum, BUH-bum gives your body the rhythm required to make you a functioning homosapien. I know more than one person that has made a hip-hop beat out of their own heart beat. Time lapse videos show plants swaying to a muted tune like commuters on a train. Biology, the science of life, has a beat, because life has a beat.


 

2. Ecology and Atmospheric Nature Sounds
OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

If you’re an ecologist and you listen to anything except atmospheric nature sounds when you’re doing lab work or paper work, I question your dedication to your work.

Aren't my sounds relaxing? Guys? [crickets]
Aren’t my sounds relaxing? Guys? [crickets] (pixabay.com)
Turn your lab into your passion!


 

1. Chemistry and the Late 60’s
60s_wallpaper copy

The Late 60’s comprise an era of music as diverse and all-over-the-place as Janis Joplin’s hair.

Pictured: A GOOD hair day.
Pictured: A GOOD hair day. (wikimedia.org)

If one field of science can relate to that, it’s chemistry.

Good ol’ chemistry: identifying, studying, and playing with the building blocks of life. From the first time your dad convinces you that vinegar and baking soda taste really great together and that, “No! They won’t make a mess,” chemistry is just… THERE. Chemistry is involved in your life whether you like it or not. Want to know the reason your shampoo foams so much? Chemistry. (Well, foaming agents like cocamid, DEA, MEA, or TEA, to be more exact.) Gasoline propelling your vehicle? That’s combustion, and that’s chemistry!

You know how I made fun of older scientists before? Well… younger scientists, take a listen to 10 recent pop songs. Odds are that, whether inconspicuous or blatant, nearly half of those songs feature a sample. Where did that sample come from? Let’s just say the 60’s would be a very, very solid guess. That era of music is still everywhere, even though we don’t know everything about it. What did they take when they wrote that? What in the world are they singing about? Doesn’t matter! It’s good music!

That sounds a lot like the constant investigation of chemicals and elements, don’t you think?