Category Archives: Teaching Moments

Leprechaun Visits, Green Water and Lots of Mischief for St. Patrick's Day

By Blog Editor Susan Wells

It’s almost time for leprechauns, shamrocks and green water. Yes, it’s March and time for St. Patrick’s Day. If you are looking for some activities and fun things to do with your kids at home or students in the classroom, we have a few ideas.

Leprechaun Traps:

Start with a plan, maybe even diagram your design, then use Legos, cardboard boxes, popsicle sticks, PVC pipes, gold coins, Lucky Charms and green paint to make it come to life. Here is a trap that Steve made several years ago with his son using PVC pipe, gold water and a plastic cup. They spent a little too much time in Home Depot but their end result came out great.

Leprechaun Secrets: 

Did you know that leprechauns have more than one secret? They know where they have hidden the gold, but they also keep other secrets as well. The leprechaunologists at Steve Spangler Science (yes, we have a few on staff) have discovered the leprechauns’ hidden rainbows, leprechaun beads, leprechaun green worms and leprechaun eggs. Learn more about how to uncover these secrets yourself with our Leprechaun Science Kit at SteveSpanglerScience.com.

Leprechauns also know how to turn the water green at your house. Steve did this as well with his kids a few years ago. It’s as simple as waiting for the kids to go to bed and dropping a few color changing tablets into the toilet tank and faucet screen.

The leprechauns visit our house every year. In February, my daughters start planning their traps and getting excited about the visit on March 17th. They are sure they will catch a leprechaun and steal its gold. Somehow that never happens but the leprechauns wreak havoc in our house. Chairs are turned over, cabinet doors left open, pillows tossed around and the water is green. I turned the milk green one year but the food coloring does something to the milk and none of us could stand it, so I let the leprechauns know that green milk is not ok.

I change the water to green by dropping blue and yellow tablets into the toilet, then unscrewing the screens on the faucets and carefully placing a blue and yellow tablet in each before screwing it back on. You have to be careful because the screen is usually wet, which makes the water drip green into the sink. This trick is old hat in our house, so my girls wake up, run and turn on all the faucets and then check for the next surprise. How fun would this be if a teacher turned the water green in her classroom sink?

It has been difficult to come up with different ways the leprechauns can cause mischief.

They have left gold flecks (glitter) in a path across the floor, hidden gold chocolate coins, left disappearing eggs (Jelly Marbles in water), colored green carnations (food coloring and water in vase) and leprechaun soup mix. Leprechaun soup is actually Pistachio pudding mix. When you add milk to the mix, it turns green. No one really likes the flavor, so we tend to pitch it after a few days.

Baby Got Craft has a great idea for using the pistachio pudding mix in Leprechaun dust. Put a little pistachio mix into a baby food jar, add milk and shake. I like how each kid can make their own individual serving. She also made adorable labels for the jars. I wish I were that crafty.

This year, I want to try my hand at green eggs. Not sure I’ll be able to stomach it, but it should be fun for the girls. I also found necklaces at Target and gold coins. I found a few people on Pinterest who have left leprechaun footprints.  The Crafting Chicks have a great idea to make tiny footprints with their hands.

Don’t forget to check out our Pinterest St. Patrick’s board for lots of leprechaun traps and additional ideas for the holiday that aren’t necessarily science based.

What do you do for St. Patrick’s Day? Do you set traps or have leprechaun visits?

 

Make Your Own Mixed Up Chameleon with UV Color Changing Beads

Ann Bridgewater, a teacher who traveled to Denver all the way from Hong Kong to attend Science in the Rockies this year, shared a very cool project with us. She uses UV Color Changing Beads to craft Mixed Up Chameleons for a little craft/science/literacy lesson all rolled into one.

Ann weaves embroidery thread in and around the beads to make a chameleon shape. (You can Google this if you need a pattern.) She used black pony beads for the nose, eyes, and feet. Then she reads The Mixed Up Chameleon by Eric Carle. Her students then take their chameleons out into the sunlight to detect UV rays with their beads. The once white and black chameleon is now colorfully mixed up.

What a fun idea to bring a character to life while mixing a little science and literacy.

The Best Teachers Make Learning Memorable

By Blog Editor Susan Wells

As the summer begins to wind down, parents begin to trek to the stores with supply lists in hand and the summer learning break turns to talk about our education system.

What do teachers do over their summer break? Some take to the classroom to do a little learning themselves. Some of the best of the best travel to Denver for Science in the Rockies, a 3-day hands-on science class taught to teachers by our very own Steve Spangler.

Over 100 teachers from across the country (and a few from across the globe) came to learn how to squeeze a little science, a little laughter and a little engagement into their classrooms this next school year.

As testing pressures increase, budgets shrink and class sizes grow, how do teachers motivate and cultivate learning and thinking inside and out of their classroom?

Preschool is all about hands-on learning – tactiles, imaginative play, color mixing and science centers. But what happens when they trek off to elementary school?

At our elementary school, science and social studies rotate. Two weeks for science, while social studies take a break, then two weeks for social studies. The same is true for arts and culture – art, music and P.E. all rotate. I can’t complain about the “specials” rotation. I’m just glad they are still part of the curriculum.

Those classes are special, but I believe they are as important as math and reading. We want to expose our children to a lot of different experiences, right? Well rounded children are stronger functioning members of society  and have a better chance at being successful in their adult lives than those who only have a few skills.

I understand that teachers have a lot to pack into a day. They are under a lot of pressure to squeeze in a full curriculum that is not only based in essentials of learning but also diverse.

When my oldest was about to enter kindergarten, a local charter school was highly recommended in our area. I went to parent night. Not having any preconceived notions about what was expected outside of my own education, I went in with an open mind.

Yes, this school ranked high on the Colorado standardized tests in math and reading. But where was the rest of the children’s education? Three-fourths of the kindergarten day was dedicated to math and reading. That’s great, but where was the rest of their education? The principal promised that all kindergarteners would be reading at a first grade level by Christmas. They were proud of their reading program.

The kindergarteners had 10 minutes for recess. They had reading and math homework every night. Those test scores will be bright come 3rd grade.

I thought this was great, until they began describing the rest of the program. There wasn’t much time for social studies, science or art. The kids would be so busy learning the important subjects, these lesser important and non-tested subjects would happen in a rotation.  The teachers would sneak an art project in once every three weeks. Creativity once every three weeks…in KINDERGARTEN?

Then they took us on a tour of the school. I did a double take when I saw a graph on the lunchroom wall “______ days of quiet lunch.”

No socializing either.

The principal made a comment about “if you are lucky enough to become a family here…”

I realized at that moment that this school was not for us. I want my children to be strong in reading and math. But I also want them to learn how to learn,  understand about the world we live in, create masterpieces and get to know their friends during lunch.

Teachers have a huge job. Schools and districts have a huge responsibility. Parents have a huge job and responsibility to raise their kids and find the right fit for their children.

My hat is off to the teachers and educators who put children first, who make it memorable and bring the lessons to life. Those teachers who are innovative enough to figure out a way to sneak in a science activity during a birthday cupcake celebration, get their students excited about learning and know how to motivate their students beyond the covers of a book.

Boy Scouts Become Mad Scientists to Earn Science Merit Badge

Twenty-one Boy Scouts from the Mesa, Arizona area recently came together to earn a Merit Badge in Nuclear Science. Yes, Nuclear Science.

This lesson wasn’t as easy as it sounds.

The scouts built electroscopes and cloud chambers to earn their badge.

They also had to learn about radiation, radiation hazards, radiation safety; define terms like “atom,” “gamma ray,” & “beta particle;” construct a 3-D model of an element from the periodic table; and discuss modern particle physics and how nuclear energy is used to make electricity. That’s just the first four bullet points in the checklist of requirements.

Here’s one of the bullet points from the checklist –

Using a radiation survey meter and a radioactive source, show how the counts per minute change as the source gets closer to or farther from the radiation detector. Place three different materials between the source and the detector, then explain any differences in the measurements per minute. Explain how time, distance, and shielding can reduce an individual’s radiation dose.

This isn’t your father’s Boy Scout Merit Badge. In two days the boys worked hard, learned a lot and had a lot of fun.

We were proud to donate Tie Dye Lab Coats to help the scouts get their mad scientist on. We had nothing to do with the rainbow wig.

Congratulations to all of the Boy Scouts and their fearless leaders for a job well done and an amazing lesson in nuclear science.

Tricks and Challenges for the NBC Hit Show Minute to Win It

The producers of the NBC show, Minute to Win It, have called our offices with questions about some of our science tricks that they’ve seen on our weekly appearances on Denver NBC affiliate, 9News. Some of our science experiments like Egg Drop and Tornado Tubes have made it on the show. Here are a few more table tricks and stunts for the producers to use in upcoming episodes -

For more on the Coin Drop Experiment and Inertia Experiments click the links to read the experiments.