We Can Only Scream If We Have A Voice

Let’s talk about voice.  Let’s talk about connections.  Let’s talk about screaming.

I wear a lot of hats in the course of my days. This past week, I’ve been wearing this one:

Look familiar?  I hope so.  Respect the hat!
Look familiar? I hope so. Respect the hat!

The lesson last Halloween week in my writing labs was “Nobody will hear you unless you have a voice, and you’ll only have a voice if you’ve got something to say.” This ties to my ongoing themes about connections and schema and how everything affects everything else.

One of my favorite experiments is Steve Spangler’s Screaming Balloons. It’s also one of the simplest experiments – you need only two things! – but it can be used in so many different ways.

The science behind the scream is in the inside of the balloon. Depending on what’s inside, you’ll get no sound, a soft sound, a pleasant sound, or a really really loud scream that sounds a lot like those earsplitting vuvuzelas that had to be banned from the Brazilian World Cup!

Just imagine the loud distracting voices coming from this crowd!
Just imagine the loud distracting voices coming from this crowd!

The sound your balloon will make depends entirely on what it’s got on the inside. You know, pretty much like the voice you have depends entirely on what YOU’VE got on the inside.

If you are full of many-faceted connections, your voice will be loud, proud, and well worth listening to. With many-faceted connections, in fact, your voice will be of vital importance, and listening to it will enlighten the people around you who are lucky enough to hear it.  When you use a voice full of schema, people will pay attention.

Now, a Screaming Balloon will not enlighten all the people around it, but it’s a pretty good analogy all the same.

Put a smooth facetless marble, for example, inside the balloon, and it won’t scream. You’ll just hear the round, smooth marble spinnning around and ’round. It won’t have much of a voice because it’s not complicated enough.

But here at Spangler Science, we don’t put voiceless marbles in our balloons. We put hex nuts in them, because the facets on a hex nut will give the balloon enough reason to scream. The complications on the hex nut will give the balloon a voice.  Screaming Balloons definitely have a voice!

The balloon will scream only if there's something inside with a voice!
The balloon will scream only if there’s something inside with a voice!

Wait.  Why was I wearing Professor McGonagall’s hat to school last week?  Besides it’s being Halloween, you mean?  Easy enough.

When I talk about schema, I am also talking about attention.  My beginning writers need to be reminded, over and over, about the importance of paying close attention to, well, everything.  Distractions exist, of course, but letting themselves be easily distracted by things can be disastrous, depending on the context.

Getting distracted while driving can be fatal.  Getting distracted while eating can be messy.  Getting distracted in my writing lab can mean the professor might dump something on your head.

Don’t let the professor distract you too much.

Fair warning.

 

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.

How to Combine Thanksgiving and Science in your Elementary Classroom

How to Study Seeds with Popcorn
by Christy McGuire, Contributor

Students’ minds are turning to the holidays. You can harness some of that excitement by including some holiday-themed activities in your classroom.

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

There are many great learning activities that follow holiday themes. Here are two activities that combine Thanksgiving and science.

We love studying (eating!) popcorn seeds year round at our house.

Here are two activities that will help your students understand the parts and functions of a seed.

Used together you have a hands-on opportunity to discuss all the parts of a seed and their functions, and the general characteristics of a seed as well.

A key to making these activities irresistible. Is to use the same popcorn for all parts of the demonstration. If possible, pop the corn in front of your students.

Activity one : Grow a Popcorn Plant

This classic demonstration is more intriguing done with popcorn.

Materials:  

  • unpopped corn
  • baggies
  • wet paper towels
  • tape
  • windows

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

Steps: 

1. Let your students place three or so kernels in the baggy with a wet napkin.

2. Write their names on the baggies and tape them to the window.

Corn germinates quickly, so if you set this demonstration up on Friday, chances are good that by Monday you will have something fun to look at.

Some questions to ask the day that the seeds germinate:

“Where does the energy for the little plant to grow come from?”

“Why do all of our plants look similar to each other?”

“Why is corn planted in the spring and not in the fall?”

 

Activity two: Seed coat observation

This activity was actually developed by my children. Playing in water is always a hit!

For maximum excitement, pull this activity out on the day your students find the germinated popcorn seeds as a kind of extension.

Materials:  

  • unpopped corn
  • a method for popping the corn
  • water in small dishes

Steps: 

1. Hand out popped and unpopped corn.

2. Tell your students to draw pictures and write descriptions in their science journals.

3. Have your students place unpopped corn in a dish of water.

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

4. Pop some corn.

5. Have your students place it in a second dish of water.

6. Wait for five minutes or so. While you are waiting, discuss the seeds.

“What is the difference between these two types of popcorn?”

“What is the yellow shiny thing on the outside of the unpopped corn?”

“Why do you think seed coats are important?”

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

7. When the five minutes has passed, encourage your students to make observations and record them by drawing pictures and  writing descriptions. First have them just look at the seeds, then allow them to touch the seeds as well.

Some questions to ask in summary:

What about the seeds changed?”

“What stayed the same?”

“Why do you think the seed coat is important?”

Finally after all that work, be sure to EAT some popcorn.   (Check for corn allergies first.) Nothing is better than eating your own experiment! Oh, and while you are munching, “What is it about seeds that makes them good to eat?”

 

 

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.

 

 

Until Next Year, Polymer Body Parts

Halloween is over and it’s time to put away the polymer body parts, but first, let’s compare what they look like at the end of October with what they looked like at the beginning of October.

Each polymer body part is about two inches long.
Each polymer body part is about two inches long.
Each body part is between 4 and 7 inches long!
Each body part is between 4 and 7 inches long!

Watching a polymer grow is always fun;  with some polymers, the transformation is instant, and with others, the change takes a little more time, but never very much time.  With the dismembered body parts, watching the transformation is like watching the hour hand on a clock; it never seems to move while you’re looking at it, but when you look away and then look again, there’s been movement.

Now Halloween is over and the body parts are drying out.  They didn’t grow in a day and they won’t shrink back in a day, but once they seem dry, I’ll put them back into their jar and put the jar back in the laundry room until NEXT October.

One more time, look really closely at how big they got.

Big polymer body partsMore big polymer body partsBig polymer parts again

Until next October then, dismembered body parts.  (Polymers last pretty much forever, you know.)

 

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.

Dismembered Body Parts: Day 31

Check out our dismembered body parts now!  Skipped a few days, do you think?  I got busy playing with other polymers with my students – pictures to follow.

When last we left our dismembered body parts, the hypothesis was that the polymer hand, foot, brain, nose, ear, and hungry alligator would eventually grow so large that they would push off the lid of the jar.  As you can see, that’s exactly what happened.

Check out the jar's lid.  It's being pushed out of the way by those giant still-growing polymer body parts!
Check out the jar’s lid. It’s being pushed out of the way by those giant still-growing polymer body parts!

Actually, as the jar seems to be completely full of dismembered body parts, I don’t think there’s any place for them to grow and go except up and out.

Quite a contrast to the tiny body parts that didn’t even cover the bottom of the jar a few weeks ago, huh.

That’s how polymers work – just add a little water and they morph into giant things that astound us.  Polymers are so cool.

Stay tuned for details on size.  I’ll need TWO rulers this time.

Dismembered Body Parts: Day 9

I’ve missed a few days since Day One, but the point remains that our hydrogel polymer dismembered body parts just keep on growing.  Kind of as if they were real. . . .

I need to add more water!
I need to add more water! The dismembered body parts need room to grow!

Remember how tiny each of these dismembered pieces used to be? Two inches, and all of them together not covering the bottom of the big jar, and now? Pretty soon they’ll be outgrowing the jar! I wonder if they’ll push the lid off. . . Well, we’ll have to wait and see.

Hypothesis: If the jar’s lid is not screwed on tightly, the hydrogel polymer dismembered body parts will push the lid off and completely outgrow this jar.

Therefore, I’ll unscrew the lid, add more water, and set the lid back on loosely.

And now we wait.

 

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.