Category Archives: What Happens on the Road

The Big NAEYC 2009 Experiment Revealed – Bed of Nails

Have you guessed what our surprise experiment might be yet? Let me give you one more clue… it just arrived at NAEYC – forklift and all – and it has 4,500 sharp nails, all staring up at us, waiting for the first victim… um, guest of the day. Just in case you still don’t know, here’s a picture to help you out.

That’s right… it’s our giant bed of nails from the Ellen Degeneres Show!  And guess what?  Just stop by our booth at NAEYC and we’ll take your picture on the bed of nails and even give you a personalized nametag with your photo on it for free!  We can’t wait to see everyone there.

Spangler's Cornstarch Walk on Water Featured on Discovery's Time Warp

Time Warp is one of Discovery’s newest shows and it’s definitely worth watching… even if you’re not a science geek. Hosts Jeff Lieberman and Matt Kearney are on the prowl for anything and everything that might be cool to examine under high-speed photography. On the November 5, 2008 episode, Time Warp featured the Cornstarch Walk on Water stunt our team created for the Ellen Show back in February.


It’s good to see that our mixing proportions of 2,500 pounds of cornstarch to about 200 gallons of water – all mixed in a cement truck – worked well for them, too. The best part of the segment was the slow motion photography showing just how the non-Newtonian cornstarch and water mixtures behaves under stress. The images are nothing short of amazing. Continue reading Spangler's Cornstarch Walk on Water Featured on Discovery's Time Warp

4-H Hydrogel Experiment Travels Cross-Country

4-H Hydrogel

While I’ve been winding down from my media tour as the 4-H National Experiment Spokesperson, kids across the country have been exploring the powerful water-absorbing qualities of these amazing hydrogels.  From Georgia to Hawaii, I’ve read articles about kids tearing open those baby diapers, shaking out the polymers and digging their hands into science.  4-H coordinators across the country helped get their students excited about science by performing the National Experiment using Water Gel and Water Jelly Crystals.  I especially liked reading about the New Jersey student who was observing the “giggly” Water Jelly Crystals… through this national focus on science, kids are learning valuable lessons in comparing, classifying, wondering, observing… and, in the process, building strong foundations for science education.

Science Boot Camp – New York Finale

Now the trick is to get everything back into the trunk and shipped homeThe final stop in New York on the Science Boot Camp tour was a great way to wrap up our twelve city tour. I always enjoy working with east coast teachers (there’s an edginess to their sense of humor) and this group of highly motivated teachers was no exception. And not all of the workshop participants were from New York. I was honored to have teachers from all over the east coast, in addition to a number of non-teachers.

One non-teacher participant introduced herself as a Chinese art dealer from New York who found out about the workshop through our website and wants to be a “science mom” at her child’s school. I’m seeing more and more of this type of hands-on parental involvement on this year’s tour than ever before. Maybe it’s a sign of great parents or maybe it’s an indication that parents are worried that we [teachers] are allowing science tThe hotel staff only wonders what happenedo become an extra-curricular activity. We were also fortunate enough to have three alumni from Science in the Rockies 2007 (our three day Hands-on Science Institute in Colorado) in attendance at the workshop who spent a good part of the lunch break answering questions about the summer experience. Not a bad way to wrap up a great Science Boot Camp tour.

People who attend my workshops know that I don’t pass out “smile sheets” at the end for comments and suggestions. Instead, I send all of the participants a link to the blog post and ask them for their honest feedback once they’ve had the opportunity to try out some of the ideas and teaching strategies. Check back in the coming days for the results.

Boot Camp Update – Dedicated Teachers in Pittsburgh Area

We just wrapped up the final leg of our teacher boot camp tour with workshops in Pittsburgh and New York. While everyone on the team is exhausted, the one thing that keeps the energy high is meeting other teachers who are truly making a difference. I met teachers in both cities who paid to come to boot camp on their own – no funding from their schools or the district. I asked the same question you’re probably asking, “Why did you do it?” One self-funded teacher in the Pittsburgh workshop described answered with this…

I’m a professional who believes that training is important. I think that teachers who isolate themselves to their classroom never grow. I really enjoy teaching science and I came to the workshop to find new ways to get my kids fired up. Once my Principal sees the results, she’ll support more and more. I know it.

It’s tough to believe that we work in a profession where our leaders don’t believe in or support professional staff development, but I can’t help but be inspired by her dedication to teaching and to her students.

I also met these two amazing teachers… Penny Hampshire and Kim Carpenter, teachers at Clawson B.E.S.T. Pre-K. I’ve learned over the years to pay particular attention to the teachers who sit in the front row at my workshops. They either don’t know any better (and they’re going to get soaked in flying soda) or they’re extremely enthusiastic. Penny and Kim were both! Here are two teachers that do more solid science with their Pre-K children than some kids get during their entire elementary school experience. I could go on and on, but just check out the Claswson website – Science Thursdays and enjoy watching master teachers at work.

As always, I invite teachers who attend my workshops to share their comments and take-aways on the blog. Any thoughts from Pittsburgh?