Connecting the Dots Between Each Lesson

Yes, it’s true;  I use all kinds of science in my writing labs to help my students connect the dots,  from one cool thing to another.  I’ve done this for many years.  And guess what: this WORKS.

Here’s the thing about learning: everything is connected to everything else. As soon as a student understands this one little point, things change.

connect the dotsToday’s lesson instantly connects to yesterday’s lesson, and last week’s lesson, and that lesson in first grade which you didn’t understand – not a single word – but now you do, and it happened all by itself. Or did it. . .It’s like we woke up one morning and suddenly something we didn’t understand before makes sense. We spend our lives connecting the dots, and if we do it right, we’ll have a far cooler end result than the horsie or duckie we ended up with on those preschool sewing cards.  We’ll have constellations of connections.

Everything we learn and know is so ready, so EAGER,  to connect to new things, and to each other. Every student in my labs is smart, and ready to learn new things – perhaps not in conventional ways, but I have NEVER been accused of being conventional  (I consider this a compliment.) and ALL are ready to learn, whether they realize it or not. In my experience, people who learn best in unconventional ways are the creative ones, the thinkers, the ones who DO things, and often the kinds of things that are going to save us all.  I love this kind of student.  All I have to do is keep tossing out potential fascinations.

That’s my job. I throw fascinations in people’s faces. Sometimes I lightly toss them. Sometimes I barrel them into a student’s face as if I were chucking a cannonball at him. Sometimes I see a fascination drifting by and I blow it around the room and make sure every pair of eyes follows it, even for just a few seconds.  I’ve been known to use vocabulary that some might deem, shall we say, unconventional, at times.

The things we learn while laughing, we almost always remember.  Well, I do.

Mundane things are mundane only if we are content to let them be mundane. Old dogs CAN be taught new tricks. There’s no such thing as boredom unless we choose boredom.

I often use Insta-Snow to demonstrate that often the addition of one single simple thing can INSTANTLY transform a little piece of learning into a really big deal.  A few pinches of plain white salt-like powder in the bottom of a bowl, a little water, and HOLY COW, the stuff rises up before our very eyes and overflows the bowl and covers the table with white fluffy coolness. . .

Insta-Snow. . . you know, just like our thoughts when, more often than we realize, one simple additional thing makes a simple thought explode with wonder.

Some connections are made instantly.  Some connections take a little more time.  This is easily illustrated with various polymers.

And, all of these things being polymers, they’ll last pretty much forever.  I’ve got polymer Christmas decorations that are over four years old now, and because they’re sealed up, they’ll never shrink.  Let your polymers dry out again and you can reuse them for years.  YEARS.  Store them in baggies or in Tupperware.  Polymers are so easy.

art, science, wonder These polymers are so versatile – science, art, any other part of the curriculum, sensory projects, crafts. . . there are few areas where polymer products can’t be an enhancement. They’re inexpensive, too – especially when you consider that they last virtually forever.

They’re also beaucoup  fun! (<-cool word – look it up and use it!)

This is what I do all day.  Don’t you wish you were me?  I LOVE my job!

Next up in writing lab:  “I’m dumping this on your head.”

You have been warned.

Lab Ladies: Welcoming Women in Science

Let’s get something straight: I possess a Y-chromosome and am a male.

This single distinguishing factor, splitting our species in two since “a long time ago” was the present, means different things to different people. To the “funny” side of the internet, this means I’m frustratingly clueless. Car insurance agencies view me as more hazardous behind the wheel (until I’m 26). Science views me as a better potential scientist.

And more likely to do this.
And more likely to do this.                              (Source: Wikipedia)

Wait… is that true? It definitely is true for the horse mask, but what about science?

In the last few weeks, news sites have found an inundation of headlines populated with words like “science,” “women,” and “first.” It’s a breath of fresh, feminine air that will hopefully pave the way for even more breakthroughs being credited to women scientists, women-led teams, and more women in science, period.

Take an August 12th, 2014 example of Maryam Mirzakhani winning math’s top prize, a Fields Medal, becoming the award’s first female winner. This is awesome for two reasons: it’s an enormous accomplishment for a woman who has dedicated her life to a field, and for many people (like me), it will have been the first time we’ve heard about the Fields Medal. So now we all know being a mathematician isn’t a thankless job, and we know that girls can math, too.

But, haven’t girls always been able to add, subtract, divide, FOIL, etc. just as well as boys? Of course they have! It isn’t news that girls are just as intelligent as boys, so why is it a big deal when women do things in male dominated fields? There you have it. They are still male dominated fields. There just isn’t enough women in science, yet!

From the first time you choose classes in high school until you become “Doctor,” you’re more likely to find yourself in a Water Buffalo Lodge than a Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants. (Yay, terrible references!)

They're working on a cure for bad imagery in my blog posts.
They’re working on a cure for bad imagery in my blog posts. (Source: Wikipedia)

From the outside, it’s easy to explain away the lack of ladies in the lab. Perhaps girls are just less interested in science, right? That’s a perfectly reasonable possibility. It doesn’t fit with gender roles, either, if we want to go completely antiquated. What else could it be?

Christie Aschwanden recently wrote a shocking piece for The New York Times revealing just how much of a “boys’ club” science really is, and it’s not a good thing. Harassment is a very real problem within the scientific ranks, especially towards the top of the ladder. So, here at the base of the ladder, the bottom rungs, what are we supposed to do?

As a parent of two little boys, it’s admittedly difficult to teach lessons in gender equality. The notions of inequality are so engrained into culture that they inherit the “man, powerful” mentality just from walking around, turning on Netflix, or going to school. The best that we can do is teach them that every one, regardless of any trait, deserves the same respect.

Not my proudest parenting moment.
Not my proudest parenting moment. (Source: Flickr)

Kudos to LEGO for creating female scientists. It’s awesome what Maryam Mirzakhani was able to accomplish. And did you hear about this 6th grader? Girls, ladies, and women BELONG in science just like anyone and everyone else. Our task, as current scientists, is to lay the groundwork for an accepting atmosphere.  Then it won’t be ”1st Woman Wins Field Medal,” it will be “Miryam Mirzakhani Wins Field Medal.”

541289_10151141696561242_1371670891_nFresh Prince of the Science Fair.
Writer for Steve Spangler Science.
Dad of 2. Expecting 1 more.
Husband. Amateur adventurer.

Expert idiot.

Back to School with Steve Spangler Science

Do I smell freshly sharpened pencils?  Is that the clicking sound of a brand new protractor?  Are you surrounded by notebooks, fun new pens and markers that you’re dying to use?

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Back to School with Steve Spangler Science!

Yes!  It’s back to school time!

Not ready for back to school?   Wondering who do you turn to for help to start your new school year off right?   Back to School with Steve Spangler Science is always a great place to start! We’ve never let you down in the past, have we?

Now that you know where to go, you’re probably wondering what should you buy first? Well, the First Days of School Kit, of course!  It’s packed with a little bit of everything to get the kids excited about science.  Jelly Marbles, Water Gel, Windbags, UV beads and more – what else could you need?

First Days of School
First Days of School

Oh yeah, stuff for the rest of the year!

Here’s the good news!  You know that Steve Spangler Science  has all the reliable products that you and your students have come to know and love in the years past.  I mean, who can go a whole school year without  Insta-Snow, Windbags, Jelly Crystals, Slime and Worms?  BUT..did you know that most of the experiments you love come in Classroom Kits, too?  The classroom kits provide enough product for 24-30 kids. Plus, you will also find a teacher guide and even a student guide (in most classroom kits) to help ease the pain of lesson planning.

I see that glimmer in your eye… now, you’re getting excited about the new school year! Which is great, because we have so many more new and  exciting products  coming for 2014-2015.

If you been on the website at all this summer, you probably noticed things like new digital experiment guides, but did you notice that there has been a new Sick Science kit  released each week?

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New Sick Science Kits – Only from Steve Spangler Science!

No? Here are the 6 new Sick Science Kits you may have missed, but were newly released this summer:

Plus,  5 more new Sick Science Kits are still on the way!

Not sure how to incorporate more Science into your curriculum for the year? Your friends at Steve Spangler Science can help with that, too!

With younger students, you might want to try connecting Science to Children’s Literature.  Here are some great stories that keep the kids interested and inspire thought, paired up with fun science experiments: Axle Annie with Insta-Snow, Put Me in the Zoo with Spot Dot, Diary of a Worm with Insta-Worms and Zack’s Alligator (you get not just one, but two growing alligators with this activity set).

Zack's Alligator Kit
Zack’s Alligator Kit

Need more ideas on Science and Literature connections but like to learn in the privacy of your own home?  You say you also need more continuing education credits, but prefer a hands-on workshop? Then you’ll probably want to take Julie Gintzler’s Story Time Slime Online and Steve Spangler’s Virtual Science Workshop!

Story time Slime
Story Time Slime Online

Steve’s putting the “S” back in STEM! The Virtual Science Workshop will teach you how to use inquiry-based experiments and eye-catching demonstrations to promote independent exploration, increase student engagement and open the opportunity for STEM careers.

So go ahead, click that bookmarked SteveSpanglerScience.com webpage and start ordering up some Back to School fun!  If you need help finding experiments or activities to fill your lesson plans, don’t hesitate to call our friendly Customer Service Representatives at 1-800-223-9080, or leave a comment below!

Joy Gintzler's Bio
Joy Gintzler’s Bio

Bio: Joy Gintzler is a jack of all trades.  Currently a Customer Service Guru and Blogger for Steve Spangler Science.    She mixes cereal without remorse and loves engaging with customers, especially when helping plan events. 

 

 

 

Do You Love or Hate Back to School Supply Shopping?

The smell of 24 newly sharpened pencils is in the air – it must be time for Back to School supply shopping.

Back to School Supply Shopping - Do you Love it or Hate it? | Steve Spangler Science Blog
Is that a chisel-tipped low odor marker?

It’s an emotional and expensive time of year for parents. Their babies are taking another step towards adulthood – entering a new grade and sometimes even a new school – be it kindergarten, middle school, high school or college.

Don’t forget the added pressure of registration fees, bus passes and so many other expenses flying at parents from all directions.

Add to the todos a complicated list of required school supplies and you have the makings of hurricane mama spinning through the aisles at Target.

Over the years I’ve heard a lot of parents complain about the number of pencils or glue sticks needed or size or materials of notebooks and folders. The question is always WHY? Why so many glue sticks? Why a SAFE-T 12″ View-Thru flexible Inch/CM ruler?

Here’s an example of a real school supply list I found online:

        • 2 Boxes Facial Tissues, 160 count box
        • 1 Ruler – SAFE-T, 12″, View-Thru, flexible, Inch/CM
        • 1 Calculator, Texas Instrument TI-108
        • 2  Notebook Filler Paper – Wide ruled, 150 pages, 8×10.5
        • 1 Scissors – Fiskars for Kids, 5″ pointed tip
        • 1  Notebook – Composition book, Mead, 100 pages, wide ruled (black and white)
        • 2  Glue stick, washable school glue (1.4 oz.)
        • 1 Pencil case – Zipper, Mesh pocket, 3 ring for binder
        • 9 Folders – 2 pocket, with fasteners, plastic, no paper – 2 yellow, 2 blue, 2 green, 2 red, 1 purple
        • 1  Markers – Crayola, 8 color pack, thin line (classic colors)
        • 2  Pen – BIC Round Stic, ballpoint, medium point, single (blue)
        • 4 Pen – BIC Round Stic, ballpoint, medium point, single (red)
        • 1 Index Cards – Ruled, 3×5, 100 count
        • 1  Protractor – SAFE-T “View-Thru,” 6″, clear
        • 2  Dry Erase Markers-Expo Low-Odor, 4 bold colors with chisel tip, and eraser

No wonder parents are losing it.

Those plastic, pocketed, 3-prong folders in specific colors are usually the items that drive me to the edge of sanity. How many stores do I have to visit before I can find 1 purple, plastic folder, with prongs and pockets?

Parents have a vision of teachers compiling these lists as they wring their hands and cackle about the torture their new parents suffer in August.

A recent post on People I Want to Punch in the Face vowed tongue-in-cheek revenge on a merciless teacher’s school supply list. The author claims it is a joke, but all parents understand the emotion, stress and general frustrating truth behind it. We’ve all been there.

Teachers can’t possibly choose the 8-crayon packet ($3.99) because they know the 24-crayon pack will be on sale for $0.25 just to spite parents and make them pay more.

Anytime I’ve talked to a teacher about the unattainable treasure on the supply list, they have a suggestion or a replacement. They don’t hold those lists to the letter – the 24 pack of crayons is usually just fine.

Teachers are also facing the stress of pulling together their classrooms and collecting supplies they need but may not have the budget.

Parents stop stressing and complaining over the supply lists. Work with your teacher and compromise. Stop taking the list as the end all vex from teachers to parents. They don’t intend it, I promise.

If you are a teacher,  share your thoughts and processes for creating the supply lists. Do you have a say in it? Does the school or ultimately the district that develops these lists? How strict are you with exact supplies?

If you are a parent, share your frustrations and let our teachers know what you are facing out there in the school supply jungle.

Let’s stop complaining and start working as a team.
We are all in this together.

While you do that, I’ll be out hunting down low odor Expo chisel-tipped markers…

 

Susan Wells Blog EditorSusan Wells is a mom of two girls who are growing up way too fast. She is the Marketing Manager and Blog Editor for Steve Spangler Science. In past lives, Susan has been a social media manager, web developer, web content manager, online news writer,  photographer, classical and jazz bass player and live sound technician. 

 

 

#SpanglerSelfie Winners!

Well, you’ve done it!

You’ve allowed yourself to be sucked in by the selfie craze… and we LOVE IT!!  We are ecstatic that you are enjoying Steve Spangler Science product, so much that you have chosen to include them in your #SpangerSelfie!

Our Spangler Team definitely had a tough time judging all the wonderful selfies that we have received.  But we finally came up with  the top picks.

Here are your #SpanglerSelfie Winners:

Brandy Kauffman‘s wonderful Worms Selfie!

Is that a worm sneeze?
Is that a worm sneeze?

 

Maliha Iqubal‘s super-staticy, plasma ball selfie!

Maliha and her daughter playing with one of their favorite experiments - the plasma ball!
Maliha and her daughter playing with one of their favorite experiments – the plasma ball!

 

Jessica & Ashlin Cook‘s fun-tasticly fizzy selfie!

First Grader Ashlin Cook gets fizzy with some pop rocks and soda!
First Grader Ashlin Cook gets fizzy with some pop rocks and soda!

Chris Carpec Trinckes‘ crazy conference creations selfie!

Chris with her conference pals making windbag structures at SITR14!
Chris with her conference pals making windbag structures at SITR14!

Kara Dahlberg‘s colorful Bubbling Concoction selfie!

Colors are so bright, you gotta wear shades!
Colors are so bright… you gotta wear shades! (Extra Points if you can name the song reference! Anybody?)

 

Isn’t alliteration fun?

Congratulations winners!  Now it’s time to get ready for some cool Spangler products to head your way! All winners were notified via email and accepted their prizes.

Much appreciation to everyone who submitted a #SpanglerSelfie!  We hope that more of you out there will continue to send  and cpost your favorite photos (selfies and standard) of you with your science experiments.

Need more science experiments to fill your days?? Itching for some of our new Sick Science Kits??  Well good news, we have some!! Why not try out the Egg in a Bottle , the Rising Water Secret or the Density Divers?

As always, don’t forget to leave comments below to let us know what you think!