Category Archives: Seasonal Science

Corms, Bulbs, and Spring Flowers

Whenever the season changes, my mind’s eye starts picturing an all-new panorama of plants and flowers growing “out there.”

In the fall, I picture pumpkins and Indian Corn and apples.  Winter means squashes and root vegetables and evergreens.  Summer is a rainbow of multicolored flowers and vegetables.  But spring. . . . spring is the beginning of all of these.   Every season’s traditional flowers and vegetables begin in the spring.

One of the first spring flowers to appear is the crocus – my favorite flower, by the way.  Crocuses symbolize hope.  Crocuses can poke up through the snow and bloom in spite of winter’s best efforts.

crocus in the snow
A little snow can’t stop me. Neither can a lot of snow. I’ll appear when I’m good and ready.

A long time ago, spring-flowering bulbs were horrifically expensive – hundreds of dollars for a single bulb!  Nowadays, you can buy 50 crocus bulbs for less than ten dollars!  Spring bulbs are a fantastic bargain, in fact; you’ll pay for them once, and they’ll come back year after year in even greater quantities, for they replicate themselves underground quickly.  After just a few seasons, you’ll have three or four times the number of flowers than you planted!

Crocus bulbs are called “corms,” and they are planted flat-side-down and pointy-side-up.  If you reverse that, they might not grow at all.    Plant the corms in bunches for the best effect, although many people like to plant a single corm here and there just for the beauty of a single blossom in the midst of a lawn or field.  Your call.

Plant the corms flat-side-down and pointy-side up.
Plant the corms flat-side-down and pointy-side up.

It’s a good idea to wear gloves when gardening; you never know when a sharp stone or sliver of glass or vicious biting reptile* might be lurking in the soil.

crocus planting
Flat side down, pointed side up, and in groups for a beautiful effect.

Leave a few inches around each corm.  Remember, each corm will replicate itself many times over as the years go by.

Crocuses are ideal for planting all over a lawn or even on a gravesite as the blossoms are gone before it’s mowing time.  Plant the corms several inches deep.  Oh, and don’t mow until the flower’s leaves are well wilted; the leaves of most flowers live on, after the blossoms die, and letting the leaves alone until they wilt puts nutrients back into the flower for next year.

Item:  Saffron, the world’s most expensive spice, comes from crocus stigmas, the yellow pollen-covered thready things growing out of the center of the flower.

saffron, crocus stigmas

 

There’s a lot of science connected to the planting and growing and blossoming of spring bulbs that are sown in the fall.  The bulbs need the dormancy of cold winter weather before they can come to life in the spring.  You can’t plant a crocus bulb in April.  Well, you CAN, but you won’t get a flower out of it.

You might even notice several separate little sprouts growing out of one corm.  Each of those will become a flower, so don’t cut them off!

multi-sprouted corm

To sum up:  plant crocus bulbs/corms anywhere from October – December, and start watching for the beautiful star-like blossoms around March.   If squirrels eat your bulbs, plant again next fall and put a layer of mulch over the bulb bed.  Sometimes the squirrels like to feast on corms and sometimes the squirrels let the corms alone.

Don’t plant bulbs where the ground holds water; the bulbs will rot.  The purple shades tend to be hardier than the white or gold blossoms, but if you mix the colors up the effect is a lot prettier.  Crocuses grow well on hillsides, and while they will grow in the shade, you’ll get more, larger, and healthier flowers if you plant them in the sun.

As with all flowers, vegetables, and plants in general, you’ll get better results if you place a pinch of Water Gel crystals beneath each seed, bulb, or bedding plant.  The polymers will expand when the plants are watered, and they will keep the plants hydrated.  Gardening with Water Gel Crystals is easy, and you’ll get healthier results!

Water Gel polymer crystals are widely used in such applications as forestry, gardening, and landscaping as a means of conserving water
Water Gel polymer crystals are widely used in such applications as forestry, gardening, and landscaping as a means of conserving water.

Besides turning into beautiful flowers, planting bulbs in the fall that you won’t see any results from until spring teaches us patience.  If you have children, this is an especially important lesson – for them, AND for you.

*Just kidding about the vicious biting reptile.  Then again, I really don’t know what kind of animals lurk in your neighborhood. . . .

 

 

 

A Science Fair Project on Time Change That Just Might Change the World

By Contributor Scott Yates

It’s true that not everyone is a fan of science fair projects.

But what if students could be involved in a project that directly affects them and their families? What if they could help prove that a governmental decision is a bad one, and one that should be reversed? What if the could get some extra sleep in the spring, right when it’s needed?

Time Change - Science Fair Project | Steve Spangler Science Blog

They can. Here’s how:

Daylight Saving Time is one of the least-understood government mandates out there. It’s confusing, disruptive, and deeply unpopular, especially in the spring when the clocks “spring forward” and we lose an hour of sleep.

I’m happy to say, however, that I’m now leading a movement to do away with the concept, but I need the help of science-minded students all over the country.

You see, the research that has been done about the clock changing for DST is all negative. The New England Journal of Medicine reports that it increases heart attacks. Other studies show that traffic accidents increase, productivity goes down, etc.

And yet, the time change is still with us twice per year. Why?

Well, the time zone a state or even part of a state was in was once something that the state got to decide. Then in 1967 the U.S. Congress passed and the president signed a law making the time more uniform. Only Arizona and Hawaii now keep the same time all year long, an exemption made by that law.

Now when states look at the matter, they find that they can’t decide on their own any more. The federal government will deny any application to change.

The only way we can make it work is if all the states band together. My suggestion is that all the states pass some kind of bill or resolution saying that they want to stop the crazy DST clock-changing. The trick is that no state wants to be first (or last) so I think they should just pass something saying that if two-thirds of the states pass something similar, than they will apply to the Feds and ask to be exempted.

And who should ask our state legislators? I propose that — the science-minded students of America.

There’s not much time left, so the first step is to create a bit of science. I can envision many great experiments, starting with:

  • How does a family’s energy use change?,
  • What are the computational abilities in students on the day after the clock-change?
  • What is the tardiness rates after the change?

Here’s another example from the master himself:

And here’s the part that makes it so great: After you do that science showing that clock-changing for DST is a bad idea, you can take it to your elected state-level official. They love hearing from students.

Than ask them to introduce or at least vote for a resolution that follows this model language for getting rid of Daylight Saving clock-changing.

How’s that for extra credit? Imagine saying that you did some science that helped change federal law and ended the dangerous precedent of changing clocks based on out-dated ideas.

I hope you will join in this effort, and if you do please let me know on this blog. I will be sure to highlight your success there.

 

Scott Yates is founder of a blog writing company, an inventor, and a father.

 

Holiday Science: Long-Lasting Christmas Jelly Marbles Polymer

Our polymers are more than just awesome, great fun, beautiful, and educational, you know.  Our polymers are awesome, great fun, beautiful, educational, and long-lasting.

How long-lasting are they, you ask?  I really don’t know yet.  The polymers in this Christmas decoration are seven years old and still going strong.

Seven years old and still beautiful!
Seven years old and still beautiful!

What you see up there is a Christmas candy jar with about a tablespoon of Spangler Science’s Clear Jelly Marbles, about three drops of green food coloring, and a cup of plain tap water.  Don’t put the lid on the jar until the jelly marbles and water reach the top of the jar.  THEN put the lid on.  Once you put the lid on the jar, the marbles won’t grow any more because they need a little air to help them grow.  (Please notice that this jar has a lid that seals!  That’s important.)

It took these Jelly Marbles only a few hours to grow to the size I wanted them.  If I removed the jar’s lid and drained off the water, the polymer Jelly Marbles would shrink back down to the size of rock salt again, but they wouldn’t be “dead;” when I added water again, they would grow again.

Would they still be green?  Nope.  Not if I rinsed off the food coloring.  I could keep them their own clear, invisible-in-the-water selves, or I could drop in some red, or blue, or green again, or create my own colors by combining primary colors.  I could drop in an Easter egg color tablet. I could use a Spangler Science True Color Tablet.

True Color Fizzers

The point is, seven years ago I made a pretty and decorative Christmas decoration using some simple polymers – clear jelly marbles – some food coloring, and some water, and I’m still using that pretty and decorative Christmas decoration this Christmas.

At Spangler Science, you will find many products and ideas that you can use during almost any holiday time – simple ideas, simple projects, ideas you can use by yourself or with your family, even with young children.

 

 

 

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.

Gift Giving Made Easy

The season of giving is upon us, so  I know you are wondering who you can turn to when looking for the perfect gift for your little scientists, right?   Steve Spangler Science, of course!  And who better to answer all of your questions about what kits will work best for your budding professor, than your friendly Customer Service Team? Um.. no one!

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Steve Spangler Science has tons of great options for gift giving this season!

Steve Spangler Science has made it even easier to shop for the holidays on our website, and we’ve added some great new products just in time for big seasonal shopping.  Simply click the Products tab on the black bar at the top of the page to find our Holiday category.   Under this section you’ll not only be able to search for gifts by age, but you can also check out our selection of Stocking Stuffers, and this year’s Top 12 Toys!

postcard-5inx7in-h-front

The newest edition to Steve Spangler Science was the highly anticipated launch of our Spangler Science Club!  This subscription program is perfect for the children, parents, teachers and even yourself.

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Spangler Science Club

Spangler Science Club provides a box packed with new experiments that are delivered to your door each month.   The best part of the Spangler Science Club is that you can tailor it to your budget!  If your pocket book is tight this season, you can start with a month to month subscription.   But you will gain the most value if your budget can stretch to purchase the 12 month subscription (up to $5 savings each month, per kit!)

20141016_Spangler_Science_Club_05.3If you’re a one and done kind of gift giver, we have a huge selection  for you too!  Our Customer Service Team has complied a few ideas for giving to both the individual child, as well as some for a family to share.

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Six Test Tube Experiments in a Rack  (Item#WTTC-200)

Customer Service Team picks for giving to the Individual Child

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Sick Science Simple Circuits ( Item #WSKS-123)

 Customer Service picks for giving to a Family

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Pop Top Rockets (Item #WPTR-500)

 

Customer Service picks for giving to your Teacher

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Baby Soda Bottles Test Tubes & Rack (Item# WBSB-500)

 

If there are just too many options and you simply can’t decide, the best choice would be to give the gift of shopping! A Steve Spangler Science Gift Certificate will always fit perfectly, and is an amazing gift for that special educator, parent or child.  Plus, the customizable amounts allow you to give great gifts without breaking your wallet.

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If you need more information on any of our products, please call our Customer Service Team at (800) 223-9080, or leave a comment below and we would be happy to help you out.

Happy Shopping!!!

How to Study Density with Popcorn

by Christy McGuire, Contributor

Thanksgiving is almost here! You can use one of the original foods from the first Thanksgiving to discuss density with your students. Popcorn is fascinating because it changes so drastically during the cooking process. The color, shape and texture of a popped kernel are all different than those of an unpopped kernel. If you can spare the day before Thanksgiving break, this simple density experiment would be a great way to practice their inquiry skills, and a great excuse to have a treat in class!

How to Study Seeds with Popcorn/How to Combine Thanksgiving and Science in your Elementary Classroom

If your students have already covered density, this is a great time to practice doing a full exploration complete with a written report. You might simply give them access to the relevant materials and set them loose with this challenge:

Find how density changes for popped verses upopped corn. Check the results of your experiment and write a description of your findings, including an error analysis.

If density is a new concept, or if your students are struggling to get the hang of the scientific method, you can help them figure out the procedure. Make them do as much of the thinking as possible though! Science is more fun for the engineer making the decisions than for the technician doing as he is told.

Leading questions to help students develop their procedures

How do we calculate density? (mass per volume)

What measurements will we need to take in order to find density? (mass and volume)

How do we measure mass? How do we measure volume? (balance, and appropriate beakers)

How are we changing the popcorn? (popping method)

The Science of Popcorn

Hints for a successful experiment

You can expect your popcorn to increase in volume by about 16X.

To  pop the corn over heat, put a couple of tablespoons of oil in the pot or beaker, add corn and heat over medium heat.

If you are using a microwave, you can measure the volume of the popcorn in a bag of microwave popcorn and assume the same volume is in a second bag of popcorn that you pop before class.

Increase accuracy by repeating with varying quantities of popcorn, or by combining data from multiple lab groups.

Science of Popcorn

Data Analysis

If you wish, you can have your students graph mass a function of volume for various amounts of unpopped corn, then do another graph for the popped corn. The slope of these graphs will be the density of the popcorn.

You can also ask your students to compute density algebraically, then graph density as a function of popped or unpopped.

Requiring students to analyze the accuracy of their results could provide some very interesting feedback. Lab groups could compare results with the rest of the class. They can also compare the initial and final masses and try to defend any changes that they find. My experience is that the mass of the popcorn actually increases during this experiment. Don’t tell your students! See what they can come up with to justify their own answers. Factors that they may want to consider include the mass and volume of the oil used to cook the kernels and the humidity on the day of the experiment.

No matter what your students’ level, this experiment can be adjusted to provide a challenging, and interesting exercise. I hope you will enjoy. Happy Thanksgiving!

 

Christy McGuire is a trained physics teacher who loves developing new ways for students to engage with science.  While taking a break from the high school classroom, Christy rediscovered that young children are tons of fun, and can learn powerful science and math too.  Now she is attempting to cross the excitement of early childhood style learning with serious STEM study to benefit students on both ends of the learning process.    Find activities and reflections on STEM learning on her blog: www.ThrivingSTEM.com.