Snow Monsters That Glow in the Dark!

JoAnna Cobb is a math teacher in southern Indiana by day, but by night, she creates snow monsters!

Mrs. Cobb and one of her Snow Monsters
Mrs. Cobb and one of her Snow Monsters

Mrs. Cobb is an excellent teacher who likes to make her math classes as interesting as possible – she’s been known to use some Spangler Science, in fact!

But during this long snow day after snow day week, Mrs. Cobb and her mom decided to be innovative with their snow creations.  Some inexpensive Glow Bracelets (Dollar Tree – two for a buck!) and some snow-rolling later, and the Cobb lawn was covered with creepy snow creatures with glow-in-the-dark eyes and a scary, smiley mouth!  (At least Mr. Cobb won’t have to mow for a while!)

Did I mention that Mrs. Cobb’s mother came over and helped cover the lawn with monsters?  Proof:

Mrs. Cobb's mother likes to make snow monsters, too!
Mrs. Cobb’s mother likes to make snow monsters, too!

Mrs. Hackney, you’ve definitely done a good job raising your daughter.  I think we know where she got her creative streak, too!

If you’re passing the Cobb lawn and see a swarm of glowing-eyed snow monsters, don’t be afraid.  They’re friendly.

I think.  Well, what do YOU think?

They're not scary, right?
They’re not scary, right?

Maybe I’ll wait until daylight to drop in, Mrs. Cobb.

Science isn’t always about labs and test tubes and chemicals, you know.  A lab is any place where experiments are being performed, and a snowy yard where people are experimenting with glow-in-the-dark faces on snow monsters is definitely a lab.  Every classroom is a lab.  Every kitchen is a lab.  Yes, every classroom, and every kitchen.  Any place wherein people are laboring in some way is a LABORatory.   Working in your yard?  You’re working in a lab.  You’re LABORING, aren’t you?

Mrs. Cobb’s yard was definitely turned into a laboratory this week.  She didn’t know how the Glow Bracelets would work until she experimented, did she?

Laboratory.  Experiment.

Vivipary and the Tomato on the Kitchen Counter

A few days ago, I bought some tomatoes at the grocery store.  They were on-the-vine tomatoes, so it’s safe to assume that all of them were about the same age.

I assumed these were quadruplet tomatoes - all the same age!
I assumed these were quadruplet tomatoes – all the same age!

Mom told me to never keep tomatoes in the refrigerator. She said cold tomatoes lost their flavor quickly, and that tomatoes should be kept on the windowsill or on the kitchen counter. She also claims that tomatoes should be stored upside-down so the flavor is evenly distributed. I’m sure that’s true because it’s my mom saying so, but I’m not sure how that one works. But I do it anyway. Because, you know, Mom.

Two days ago, I selected one of these very nice-looking tomatoes at random and cut a slice off the top.  This is the sight that greeted me.

I thought those were worms at first!
I thought those were worms at first!

I was so startled; this was NOT what I expected to see when I sliced open that outwardly attractive tomato!  What WERE those creepy squiggly things?  Were they worms?  Had I purchased a wormy tomato?

A closer look told me that I had not purchased a wormy tomato; I had, however, purchased a tomato with a little well-preserved age on it, and the two days upside-down on my kitchen counter had added to the aging process in a rather unique way.

Instead of getting mushy, like most tomatoes would do after a few days, this tomato got fertile.

A tomato is, biologically, a fruit, since its seeds are on on the inside, and those seeds had germinated.  When this happens, it’s called Vivipary, which is Latin for “live birth”  My tomato, meant for salad, was experiencing live birth.

It’s not just tomatoes that can do this; almost any fruit will occasionally experience Vivipary.  Apples, peaches, pears, melons, squashes, pumpkins. . . almost any fruit’s seeds can germinate while still inside the fruit.   Another pretty cool thing:  Seeds germinated inside the fruit will eventually poke right through the skin of the fruit!

Check out my Viviparious tomato today.  The sprouts, still watery but now with room to grow tall, are doing just that.

They're growing really fast, too!
They’re growing really fast, too!

I looked up this phenomenon on the internet and discovered that it’s not really a phenomenon at all; it’s quite common.  It’s just that most people will say “GROSS!” and throw the sprouted tomato away, rather than put it in water and take pictures of it.  And maybe plan to separate the seedlings and plant them when spring finally arrives.  And probably serve the resultant fruit to unwary friends and family and not tell them the origin until they’re already eaten them.

Of course, my family and friends would probably think it was really cool, which, of course, it is.

Be aware that any tomatoes you do get from a Viviparious tomato will probably not be the same kind of tomato you bought, since commercially grown tomatoes are usually hybrids, but there is no reason your tomatoes won’t be real tomatoes, and they’ll probably taste great.

Know, too, that “Vivipary” is not a kind of tomato, like Brandywine; Vivipary is merely the name for the germination-inside-the-fruit process.

As for the other tomatoes on that very same vine. . . . they were fine.  They were just. . . . tomatoes.  We ate them.  They’re gone.

But their Viviparious sister?  If all goes well, she will live on and on.

Come on over for dinner.  Care for some salad?  It’s, um, home-grown.

 

Education, Connections, and Humpty Dumpty

Sometimes I feel like several different people when I talk or think about education.  Most of me can’t even begin to comprehend how anyone could not want to learn as much as possible, every passing moment.  Some of me can understand how a person can be too exhausted from the labor and stress of a typical day to even think about thinking.  And all of me wonders how people who hate everything about learning can remember to breathe.  Education is too important.  How can a person be too tired to live properly in the universe?

Turn off the TV and pick up a book.  Go outside and do things.  Look around – the world is a beautiful, fascinating place.   Play games.  Playing is learning.  Climb a tree.  TALK to each other.

I write about connections a lot.  Once a person of any age – and it can start in infancy – learns that everything in existence and out of it is connected, the learning will never end.  Things like nursery rhymes (which were not intended for small children, but that’s another topic.) connect to adult literature and history and sociology.  Did you really think Humpty Dumpty was an egg?  I’ve had students who didn’t know a single nursery rhyme, which makes me despise their parents, but that’s another topic, too.  (They were not in the top class, by the way.  Or the average class. Far from it.) Connections.

connections, education

 

Fairy tales (also never intended for small children) are also a wonderful connection to modern literature, history, and many other topics. (Not the Disney versions – the real ones.) Connections.

Humpty Dumpty, Battle of Colchester, cannon, king, not really an egg
. . . not really an egg. . . .

 

As for mythology. . . . well, connecting the dots from mythology to science to literature to music to poetry to everything else will give you great works of art, not just a hen and chicks, when you stop and take a good close look at the picture you’ve made by connecting.  Almost everything in the night sky is named for a mythological character, as are most of NASA’s spaceships and a great deal of scientific vocabulary.  Oh, and a great deal of every other kind of vocabulary, too.  Connections.

connections, education

 

I know there are people who care nothing for learning.  They come home from work or school and sit in front of the TV and cherish their mindless, effortless evenings.  It’s beyond my comprehension.  I’m so sorry for their children – the children who will come to school with no connectable schema – no prior knowledge.  It’s hard to learn anything without something to tie it to.  Shame on these parents.

turn off the TV, education

Educators owe it to the universe to try harder with these poor neglected children, to give them a base on which they can start making the connections necessary to become a learner – an educated person who is curious about the world and never stops trying to find out “why.”

There is no such thing as a subject that exists only unto itself.  Everything is connected to everything else.  You know something about everything.  YOU KNOW SOMETHING ABOUT EVERYTHING.  Just think about that.

contented cowsPlacid contentment is a good thing only if you’re a cow.

ONLY if you’re a cow.

Presley from Act Out Games Loves the Spangler Science Club

One of our very favorite fellow YouTubers, ActOutGames, has reviewed several hot toys and kit of the month subscription boxes.

They have even honored us with several reviews of Sick Science kits and Spangler Science Club.

We always look forward to every video that Presley and her dad produce and really enjoy their reviews. Here’s Presley’s review of the January Spangler Science Club kit. Her excitement and enthusiasm for science is the reason we come to work every day.

Presley also reviewed the December kit –

Presley is truly a rock star, but don’t take our word for it. Check out her YouTube channel, ActOutGames and watch her videos on DIY, education, Cosplay and even Japanese Anime lessons! This kid is the complete package.

Don’t Miss Your Best Chance to Study Electrostatics

By Christy McGuire, ThrivingSTEM.com

For those of us who live in the United States it is winter time right now.  Most people think about snow as the main scientific aspect of winter.  Some may even think about the increase in darkness.  However, for most of us, winter also means your best chance to do electrostatics and have your demonstration actually work.

StudyElectrostaticsSquare-McGuire

Electrostatics are all those cool demonstrations where you remove the electrons from one object and then the other object wants to stick to it. You can then send the electrons back, creating mini-lightning. Electrostatics are also responsible for the phenomenon of hat hair.

I am sure some of you know the joke about biology stinking,  chemistry exploding, and physics failing.  Electrostatic experiments are super cool, but they can also be particularly prone to failure.  The main culprit is usually extra humidity.  Extra water molecules hanging around will ruin your experiment because those polar water molecules attract extra electrons to hang out with them instead of going to the object of your choice.  That means that the potential difference that should have been created by the electron imbalance may be too small to do anything impressive in your demonstration.

The amount of water that the air can carry decreases with temperature.  Colder air, is often dryer than it would be if it were warm.  Hot air can also be dry, but cold air has to be dry. That’s why your electrostatic experiments will be at their best now, in the winter.  Of course, if you live in Florida, that may be a bit different, but at least it will not be raining every day, so I would still pull out your toys and give them a try if I were you!

Ready but not sure quite what to do?

Here are some ideas.  You will notice that Van der Graaf generators are conspicuously missing. I do not have access to one right now, but if you do and you have a great post about, please link it up in the comments. Most of these are ideas are simple enough that you could have each student do their own.  You could then assign each student to teach a family member how the demonstration works and why.

Ideas for electrostatic demonstrations

Attraction

Steve Spangler uses a charge of static electricity to make objects float with Floating Static Bands.

The Rebecca at the Kids Activities Blog lists four different demonstrations that can be done with balloons.

You could add some fun with paper frogs like they did at Science Sparks or a Snake, Kids Activities Blog.

Schooling a Monkey recommends using a comb. 

This electroscope from education.com could be calibrated to allow your students to do some experimentation and numerical analysis.

I think this butterfly from I Heart Crafty Things is my favorite though!

Electrostatic Discharge (AKA “lightning”)

This demonstration from Raising Life Long Learners is really simple to prepare.

Learn Play Imagine has another demonstration that would probably be pretty impressive and save you the need to find a dark room, or to take your class into one.

 

Happy Experimenting!

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.