Category Archives: Informal Science Education

Back Yard Geology: Crinoid Stems

There are crinoid stems everywhere; they were once so prolific they covered the bottom of the sea like a crop of wheat! The Midwest was once part of a great prehistoric sea, and where there is a sea, there are sea creatures. Where there WAS a sea, there are sea creature fossils. And limestone, which is a sedimentary rock made up, mostly, of calcium-rich fragments of ancient sea animal skeletons, specifically crinoids.

crinoid  Crinoids are often called “sea lilies” because of their resemblance to an underwater flower.  Crinoids were not plants, however; crinoids were animals.  Madeleine L’Engle wrote about farandolae in A Wind in the Door, and her character Sporos and his fellows were meant to resemble crinoids.  Literature and science!

There are still some types of crinoids, but it’s the extinct crinoids that crinoid stemswe’ll be talking about here.  If you live in the Midwest, you already know what part of an ancient crinoid looked like because you probably had a pile of crinoid stems crinoid coinssomewhere in your bedroom, and a necklace of threaded crinoid “coins” around your neck in the summertime.  (If you ever hear of or see a necklace or rosary threaded with St. Cuthbert’s beads, you’re looking at crinoids!)  (Sometimes crinoid stems and coins are called Indian Beads, but that’s very misleading, even though some  Native Americans did use crinoid stems and coins to make jewelry.)

If you have access to a lapidary (rock tumbler), crinoids shine up beautifully!  They can be painted, too!

Don’t forget that there are still crinoids in the ocean; they’re echinoderms, like starfish and sea urchins.

The ancient, now-extinct crinoids are seldom found as an intact fossil crinoids- the arms were too fragile and the pieces were scattered by ocean currents.  But the stalk, or stem, can be found, fossilized, all over the Midwest.  In fact, it’s the state fossil of Missouri!

The next time you’re walking by a creek or stream, take off your shoes and wade right in there.  You’ll probably feel the crinoid stems under your feet.  Start a collection.  If you look really closely, you might even find a fossil imprint of an intact crinoid!

You might also find geodes and arrowheads and caddis shells, but that’s another post.

Take a walk outside.  Look around at all the stone.  Imagine what the land where you are standing might have looked like a million years ago.  Everything you see today is here now because of what was there then.

 

Jane GoodwinJane Goodwin is a professor of expository writing at Ivy Tech Community College, a hands-on science teacher for College for Kids, a professional speaker and writer, and a social media liaison  for Steve Spangler Science.  She wanted to be a ballerina and an astronaut, but gravity got the better of her.

Science Takes a Summer Vacation – Selfies from the Road

Although our science kits and materials don’t sit on the shelves in our distribution center for long, they are still granted a summer vacation, like all of our human staff members at Steve Spangler Science.

Our science kits are also not exempt from the selfie craze.

Summer Science Selfies - Science Kits from Steve Spangler Science

We gave our science kits a one week summer vacation and let them lose in the world. They traveled from coast to coast and even checked out a little football in South America.

The Larry's Lab Crew Visits Times Square in New York City - Steve Spangler Science Selfies
The Larry’s Lab Crew Visits Times Square in New York City

Our products demonstrated that they can go anywhere and bring learning to everyone. This is road worthy hands-on science!

Saltwater Truck visits the Sand Dunes - Steve Spangler Science Selfies
Saltwater Monster Truck visits the Sand Dunes in Colorado

The science kits have returned and are ready to head to your home or school in time for back to school learning.

Growing Creatures visit Washington, DC - Steve Spangler Science Selfies
Growing Creatures visit Washington, DC

We want to hear where you like to do science. How did you bring Steve Spangler Science into your summer vacation? Did you make Insta-Snow on the beach in Hawaii? Or grow a lizard in Death Valley? Shoot soda geysers in Millennium Park? We want to see your summer science selfies.

6 Test Tube Experiments in a Rack visits the St. Louis Arch - Steve Spangler Science Selfies
6 Test Tube Experiments in a Rack visits the St. Louis Arch

Share your science selfies on InstagramFacebookTwitter or email them to us. Use #SpanglerSelfie so we don’t miss them.

Magic Sand visits Rio and the World Cup Soccer - Steve Spangler Science Selfies
Magic Sand visits Rio and the World Cup Soccer

If you haven’t celebrated summer with science yet, what are you waiting for?  Get colorful, get geyser soaked,  slime it up,  wear growing gators as a mustache or whatever your heart desires.  Just make sure your selfie makes you smile!

The Growing Lizards Visit the Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco - Steve Spangler Science Selfies
The Growing Lizards Visit the Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco

Send us your selfie by August 1st. Our team of science selfie experts will choose four favorites and notify the winners by Aug. 5th. Winners will have 24 hours to respond with email, phone and address. If they fail to do so in the time frame, another winner will be chosen in their place. Kits will be sent out after Aug. 6th.

Beaker and Instant Snow Day visit Mount Rushmore - Steve Spangler Science Selfies
Instant Snow Day and Beaker visit Mount Rushmore

Our favorite four #SpanglerSelfies will win a science kit that you can take wherever you’d like.

Geyser Rocket Car visits the Beach - Steve Spangler Science Selfies
Geyser Rocket Car visits the Beach

We also need your vote –

The products have a bet going on whose vacation was the best. What is your favorite #SpanglerSelfie? Is it Magic Sand at the World Cup or Larry’s Lab in Times Square or one of the others? Share it socially or leave us a comment below with your vote. Help us settle the bet and calm down our disputing product line. Those products can get unruly after returning from some down time.

Instant Snow visits the Grand Canyon - Steve Spangler Science Selfies
Instant Snow visits the Grand Canyon

 

 

The Fresh Prince of Science Fair

“The Fresh Prince of Science Fair”
(To the tune of Will Smith’s “The Fresh Prince of Bel Air”)

Screen Shot 2014-07-18 at 12.17.05 PM

Now these are some lyrics all about when
My board got judged with a pad and a pen.
If you have a few seconds, just hang right there,
I’ll tell you how I got a blue ribbon in the last science fair.

In back of the library, past the stairs,
that’s where my school has our science fairs.
Hypotheses, procedures, results, and conclusions
about weird topics like germs and pollution.

...and bowl cuts...
…and bowl cuts…

But a couple of kids didn’t do what they’re told,
forgot to test their guess with any variables.
All those kids got an “F” and then I got scared,
but I remembered all I learned and that I came prepared.

Poster board feelin’ fresh when the judges came near.
They were quickly impressed and said, “It’s looking so clear.
If there were a science band you’d be sitting first chair,
but for now here’s a ribbon. Good job, at this fair!”

I got back to my house about 3 or 3:30
and I yelled to my mama, “It’s cool to be nerdy!”
She smiled at me and had some ice cream to share.
Life is good, as the Prince of the Fair.

ice-cream
Time to invent a time machine.

© DJ Souza for Steve Spangler Science

Show us your Science Selfie & Win a Science Kit

Gone are the days of searching for a good-willed and trustworthy  passerby to ask to take a photo of you and your friend.  (Which has greatly decreased overall camera theft! )

No more sitting still while your Grandma took your picture. Well, I guess we still have to do that..

Actually, we LOVE this photo, and are so happy this grandma (Diane Gribosky) snapped it!
Actually, we LOVE this photo, and are so happy the kids sat still while this  amazing grandma (Diane Gribosky) snapped it!

Thank you technology, for allowing us to turn the camera face around to our selves and take …YES, you know what I’m talking about… The Selfie.

It seems everywhere you look, someone it taking a Selfie.  If you look over your shoulder, the girl who sits next to you at work is probably taking a selfie right now.

Yup, see…

#OFFICESELFIE
#officeselfie

You find Selfies splashed on Facebook walls and Twitter feeds. They are filling up your Snap Chats, and even being sung about on your radio! Maybe, you even see them on our website?!? (Hint, Hint)

So do you embrace the trend, or run away screaming?

NOT ANOTHER SELFIE

No. Stop that… come back here!  We  want you to embrace the selfie.  Love your selfie.

Why, you ask?  Well, because we’d like to ask a favor.

I see you hesitantly nodding in agreement… you know this will be fun!  Ok, ready for the deets?  Here is what we want you to do:

Grab your favorite Steve Spangler Science experiment.  Did you find the one that makes you smile the biggest? Good! Now, get your trusty smart phone in hand, because…

WE WANT TO SEE YOUR BEST SCIENCE SELFIE!

That’s right! Get colorful, get geyser soaked,  slime it up,  wear growing gators as a mustache or whatever your heart desires.  Just make sure your selfie makes you smile!

Here are some examples:

IMG_47190294276284
Not a selfie!
Selfie!
Yay! Slime Selfie!

 

What do you do with your Science Selfie?  That’s a great question! Send them off to us! Share them on Instagram, Facebook, Twitter or email them to us. Use #SpanglerSelfie so we don’t miss them.

**Our favorite four selfies will win a science kit from Steve Spangler Science.**

Don’t forget to share your thoughts on Selfies by leaving a comment below!

**Send us your selfie by August 1st. Our team of science selfie experts will choose four favorites and notify the winners by Aug. 5th. Winners will have 24 hours to respond with email, phone and address. If they fail to do so in the time frame, another winner will be chosen in their place. Kits will be sent out after Aug. 6th.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

No Lesson Plan – Just Insta-Snow

Meet Alan Marshall, who came with his dad to a meeting in our building today.  What a great kid!  Alan brought his iPad to pass the time, but when I saw him passing my office, I thought I’d see how he liked some Insta-Snow, as well.Alan Marshall, Insta-Snow

I think this picture sums up the experience.  Alan was excited about telling his dad what would happen if he put a long-stemmed white flower in some Insta-Snow that had food coloring in it.  (You already know, right?  RIGHT?)  (This works with colored water AND with colored polymers. )  The fact that this stuff lived inside disposable diapers made a bit of an impression, too.  

Alan liked the Insta-Snow so much that I gave him the jar.  He went across the street to the library to show the librarian how it worked.

This is how it happens, you see.  Learning.  True education.  When something makes it to the dinner table library, that something is going to be remembered.

Have fun with your Insta-Snow, Alan.  Polymer science is awesome!