Category Archives: Teaching Moments

Can You Really Balance an Egg During the Equinox?

This is an encore posting of an article we ran in spring of 2010 about balancing an egg on the equinox. 

The first day of spring and the vernal equinox is this week. The vernal equinox marks the start of spring, an autumnal equinox marks the start of fall.  During the spring and fall equinox, the sun is directly over the Earth’s equator and day and night lengths are equal for most of the planet – 12 hours of light and 12 hours of darkness.

The earth rotates around the sun on a tilted axis, which doesn’t change. When the Northern Hemisphere is tilted toward the sun, it experiences warmer, longer days. When the Northern Hemisphere tilts toward the sun, the Southern Hemisphere is tilted away, experiencing colder and shorter days.

As the earth continues on its path around the sun, there are two points at which the sun hits the Earth perpendicular to the axis. When the earth is in this position, the sun is directly over the equator and there is an equinox. The earth then continues to tilt the opposite side of the sun and the seasons change to winter in the Northern Hemisphere and summer in the Southern Hemisphere.

Where we live in the Northern Hemisphere, the vernal equinox signals the start of spring. The North Pole is tilted toward the sun and days grow longer and warmer while buds on trees and plants begin to sprout. In the Southern Hemisphere, the opposite is occurring. The South Pole tilts away from the sun and the days grow shorter and cooler.

It is believed that during the equinox an egg can balance on end. This is more myth than science, but every year during the equinox, this question arises. Yes, with a little patience you can balance an egg on end during the equinox.

What will happen if you try to balance the egg on March 21st? Or April 20th? Or October 2nd?  The egg will balance the same on any day as it does on the vernal or autumnal equinox. It helps if you try it on a rough surface or choose an egg with a bumpy end for better balance.
The myth comes from an assumption that during the equinox a special gravitational balance exists. The equinox is about balanced light, not balanced eggs or special gravity.

As an aside, a solstice occurs when the poles of the earth are tilted at their maximum away or toward the sun. At winter solstice, the pole is tilted furthest from the sun, at summer solstice it is tilted closest to the sun.

Staff Spotlight on DJ — The Man of Many Words … and Hats

Q: Tell us a little about who you are…
A:
My name is Daniel Joseph Souza. I’m a father of a 3-year-old English Springer Spaniel named Boomer, a brother to a soon-to-be-married baby sister, a son to the two most amazing and inspiring parents in the world, and, as of right this second, a person with the perfect life. Also, I like to wear hats.
Q: What do you do at Steve Spangler Science?
A: Speaking of hats, I wear a few of them for the company. I am a copywriter, marketing assistant, speaking assistant, and pretty much anything else that’s asked of me. Like I said, I like to wear hats.
Q: What do you like best about what you do?
A:
I’m lucky enough to use my degree and do something I love on a daily basis in copywriting. And what’s more, I get to be incredibly creative in the copy I do for the website, emails, and a lot of the other stuff you read from our company. Oh‚ and I get to wear hats.
Q:  What is your favorite Steve Spangler Science moment?
A:
  My favorite SSS moment, huh? There’s a ton to choose from, but recently I walked in on the product shoot for Crack Open Geodes. Bryan and Mattea (on our video team) were kind enough to do a bit of improv with me. We proceeded to convert a single Crack Open Geode into a “DJ Egg.” The new baby DJ hatched with a hat on and everything.
Q: What is something you wish every SSS customer knew?
A:
I wish every SSS customer knew how much time and care goes into every single step of them getting their awesome science gear. From product development, to customer service, to marketing, to production, to shipping‚ we all care immensely about getting you the best product, whether that be the information you get on the website or the sweet Potato Gun you get from FedEx. Some of us even wear hats to show how much we care.
Q: What is your favorite science experiment?
A:
 My favorite science experiment was one that I conducted my junior year of high school (shout out to Mr. Landis) in college-level chemistry. The experiment involved a reaction between potassium permanganate and glycerin and created this sweet purple flame. There was a point when that experiment went terribly wrong, but you had to be there. Also‚ hats.
Q: What do you like to do when not on the job?
A:
I’m really all over the place when I’m not at work. I don’t think I can possibly understate it any more than that. I’m currently trying to write a fiction novel about a post-Civil War boomtown in Colorado. I love listening to music. I love my people. I also have an affinity for eating food. And yes, you are correct, I wear hats.
Q: Anything else you’d like to share?
A:
Three things: 1.) Please, please, please use the Oxford Comma. B.) Are you having a bad day? Stop that. You’re awesome. III.) I love you. Hats.

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.