Backyard Archaeology

There is genuine archaeology in your back yard; you don’t have to travel to Greece, or Pompeii, or the La Brea Tar Pits to discover archaeological artifacts and fossils, you know.  More often than you think, these things (maybe not the dinosaur bones, but you never know!) can be found in the back yard.  Let’s talk about artifacts first and save the fossils for next time.

arrowheads kn gravel These two arrowheads, for example, were found by my husband and my son on two different occasions as they plowed and planted our garden. Arrowheads and spearheads will often turn up when the earth is turned up!

We lived out in the country in a big house that sat well off the road, and every year we had to buy a huge load arrowheads2of limestone gravel. After the gravel was spread over the quarter-mile driveway, the excited search began. Almost without fail, at least one arrowhead would turn up in the load. Finding it kept my two children busy for at least three days, and while they almost always found at least one, sometimes there were as many as six or seven.  The arrowheads were often chipped or broken, but there were always enough intact ones to make the search thrilling.

What my family liked best, though, was walking through the woods behind our house and glancing down to see a spearhead.  This didn’t happen often, but it happened often enough that even today, we all walk through the woods with our eyes on the ground.  Of course, this is also how people here find morel mushrooms in season, so, you know, double coolness.

spearheadsWe lived in that house for over twenty years, and in that time my kids and my husband collected a lot of arrowheads.  Only a few spearheads, but a lot of arrowheads.

This experience was an incredibly awesome combination of general science, history, archaeology, local culture, geography, geology, craftsmanship, man-made tools, warfare, cooking, biology, indigenous people, and observation.

As are most lessons if they’re done right.

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.

Back Yard Geology: Crinoid Stems

There are crinoid stems everywhere; they were once so prolific they covered the bottom of the sea like a crop of wheat! The Midwest was once part of a great prehistoric sea, and where there is a sea, there are sea creatures. Where there WAS a sea, there are sea creature fossils. And limestone, which is a sedimentary rock made up, mostly, of calcium-rich fragments of ancient sea animal skeletons, specifically crinoids.

crinoid  Crinoids are often called “sea lilies” because of their resemblance to an underwater flower.  Crinoids were not plants, however; crinoids were animals.  Madeleine L’Engle wrote about farandolae in A Wind in the Door, and her character Sporos and his fellows were meant to resemble crinoids.  Literature and science!

There are still some types of crinoids, but it’s the extinct crinoids that crinoid stemswe’ll be talking about here.  If you live in the Midwest, you already know what part of an ancient crinoid looked like because you probably had a pile of crinoid stems crinoid coinssomewhere in your bedroom, and a necklace of threaded crinoid “coins” around your neck in the summertime.  (If you ever hear of or see a necklace or rosary threaded with St. Cuthbert’s beads, you’re looking at crinoids!)  (Sometimes crinoid stems and coins are called Indian Beads, but that’s very misleading, even though some  Native Americans did use crinoid stems and coins to make jewelry.)

If you have access to a lapidary (rock tumbler), crinoids shine up beautifully!  They can be painted, too!

Don’t forget that there are still crinoids in the ocean; they’re echinoderms, like starfish and sea urchins.

The ancient, now-extinct crinoids are seldom found as an intact fossil crinoids- the arms were too fragile and the pieces were scattered by ocean currents.  But the stalk, or stem, can be found, fossilized, all over the Midwest.  In fact, it’s the state fossil of Missouri!

The next time you’re walking by a creek or stream, take off your shoes and wade right in there.  You’ll probably feel the crinoid stems under your feet.  Start a collection.  If you look really closely, you might even find a fossil imprint of an intact crinoid!

You might also find geodes and arrowheads and caddis shells, but that’s another post.

Take a walk outside.  Look around at all the stone.  Imagine what the land where you are standing might have looked like a million years ago.  Everything you see today is here now because of what was there then.

 

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.

Teacher Passion Project – Get to Know Your Teacher

Steve Spangler Science wants to team up with students and parents to make a lucky teacher’s Passion Project come to life! Turn an idea into an experience with the perfect opportunity to really KNOW who your teacher is and all about their passions.

All of us at Steve Spangler Science have a passion for ongoing learning, a passion for making science fun, a passion for teaching a love of science and a passion for educators.

Teacher Passion Project - Get To Know Your Teacher's Passion

We are introducing a new campaign for the 2014-2015 school year – the Teacher Passion Project. This is an opportunity for students and parents to get to know their teacher and make their passion a reality.

The first step in the Teacher Passion Project is for you to get to know your new teacher.

Find their passion. Is it Algebra? Short stories?  American History?  Writing Haiku?

Or … SCIENCE?

Teacher Passion Project - Discover Your Teacher's Passion and Win

(If you are a homeschooler or part of a homeschool co-op, share your homeschooling teaching passions with us!)

Make a quick video (90 seconds or less), take a picture or create a graphic that explains what your teacher’s passion is all about.

If you are a teacher – make your own video or photo and share it with your students and parents. Remember, passion fuels passion.

Teacher Passion Project - Discover Your Teacher's Passion and Win

Then share your passion or your teacher’s passion with us in the comments below or use #SpanglerProject on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest and Instagram.

Submit your teacher’s passion by September 12th . Our staff will pick our favorites from all channels and ask our fans to vote on the finalists.

Finalists will be announced September 17th.
Voting will close September 24th.
Winner announced September 25th.

Teacher Passion Project - Get to know your teacher, discover their passion, make it a reality from Steve Spangler Science

One lucky teacher will receive a Virtual Science Workshop from Steve Spangler (a $250 value), $250 in materials and a $100 gift certificate to SteveSpanglerScience.com.

That’s a grand prize valued at $600!

Four runners up will receive the First Days of School Kit for their classroom along with a $25 gift certificate to Steve Spangler Science – a prize valued at $65!

Ease & Engage Your Students Back into the Learning Routine with  First Days of School Kit from Steve Spangler Science

So what are you waiting for? Get to know your teacher and discover their passions.

Hang on to those passions – we will have more throughout the year on the Teacher’s Passion Project. Keep watching our social channels and this blog for additional posts.

 

**By submitting videos and photos to #SpanglerProject gives  permission for Steve Spangler Science to use and share on all of our social channels, website and blog.

Blast Back to School with End of Summer Fun!

As the long lazy summer days begin to dwindle and the new school year fast approaches,  it’s a rush to pack in all of your summer fun.

End Summer with a Blast - Rocket Science from Steve Spangler Science

Wait a minute.., do I see you moping?  That is no way to enjoy the last few days of vacation time. Turn that frown upside down and blast back to school with end of summer fun! Not sure what to do to put some pep back into your summer? Why not let your friends at Steve Spangler Science help you find some fun experiments and activities to pull you out of your end of summer doldrums? Here are some great ideas to take away those end of summer blues:

Tie Dye T-Shirts from Steve Spangler Science

Want more instant ideas?  Try downloading one of our digital experiment guides!

That’s right, now you’re excited!  So go ahead, get that brain of yours back in gear with super fun, end of summer experiments from Steve Spangler Science!

Have more ideas for end of summer fun? Share them with us by leaving a comment below!

Science & Music – 4 Fields of Science and Their Tunes

IMG_1533
(morguefile.com)

Music makes everything better. While that might not be scientific fact, it’s an opinion that holds a lot of stock, for me. In fact, I believe that certain types or styles of music can make things better to the point of being perfect. We’ve all heard people say something along the lines of “this is the PERFECT song.” It can be driving a car or going for a swim. Songs can be perfect for situations… and fields of science! Science & music go together like dry ice and dish soap… that is to say, they’re better together.


4. Physics and EDM
stained-glass-aqua-tiles copy

Physics is arguably the most applicable field of science, as it pertains to human existence. My very typing on a keyboard is governed by physics: friction between my fingers and the keys, potential energy in stationary fingers, kinetic energy in moving fingers, etcetera, etcetera, on and on. I would float away if it wasn’t for physics.

The necessity and application of physics to real life makes it seem like the musical suitor should exhibit similar real-world tendencies. Country music with lyrics that harken to blue collar life, runaway dogs, and heartbreak? Symphonies that fit perfectly with the dance of planets, stars, and other universal bodies? Nope.

Electronic Dance Music, or EDM, fits the bill.

Younger scientists will think of popular artists/DJs like Skrillex, Diplo, or deadmau5. (That’s “dead mouse,” if you were curious. It is not Dead Mow Five, however incredible that would be.) For older scientists, EDM is that weird noise that has been referred to as “that noise,” “robot sounds,” and “what in the…?”

The majority of EDM music falls in a beat per minute (BPM) range that only seems suitable for things like running, faster running, and sprinting until your heart explodes. However, isn’t movement what physics is all about? And while EDM does tend to stay above 100 BPM, there is a TON (metric) of movement from key changes, tempo adjustments, and more. Listen through one of your favorite tracks (or, one that you can tolerate) and imagine vectors, angles, and Sir Isaac Newton holding headphones to his ears. Glorious.

flickr.com
D-d-d-d-drop the apple… er… bass! (flickr.com)

 

3. Biology and Hip Hop
Philips_D_8210-00_vintage_boombox copy 2

I’ve heard it said that life has a beat, a pulse, that drives each being, each action. Therefore, biology is essentially studying that beat.

Hip hop, more than any other style of music, relies heavily on a beat. Some songs are comprised of nothing but lyrics over a kick and snare drum combination.

A BUH-bum, BUH-bum gives your body the rhythm required to make you a functioning homosapien. I know more than one person that has made a hip-hop beat out of their own heart beat. Time lapse videos show plants swaying to a muted tune like commuters on a train. Biology, the science of life, has a beat, because life has a beat.


 

2. Ecology and Atmospheric Nature Sounds
OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

If you’re an ecologist and you listen to anything except atmospheric nature sounds when you’re doing lab work or paper work, I question your dedication to your work.

Aren't my sounds relaxing? Guys? [crickets]
Aren’t my sounds relaxing? Guys? [crickets] (pixabay.com)
Turn your lab into your passion!


 

1. Chemistry and the Late 60’s
60s_wallpaper copy

The Late 60’s comprise an era of music as diverse and all-over-the-place as Janis Joplin’s hair.

Pictured: A GOOD hair day.
Pictured: A GOOD hair day. (wikimedia.org)

If one field of science can relate to that, it’s chemistry.

Good ol’ chemistry: identifying, studying, and playing with the building blocks of life. From the first time your dad convinces you that vinegar and baking soda taste really great together and that, “No! They won’t make a mess,” chemistry is just… THERE. Chemistry is involved in your life whether you like it or not. Want to know the reason your shampoo foams so much? Chemistry. (Well, foaming agents like cocamid, DEA, MEA, or TEA, to be more exact.) Gasoline propelling your vehicle? That’s combustion, and that’s chemistry!

You know how I made fun of older scientists before? Well… younger scientists, take a listen to 10 recent pop songs. Odds are that, whether inconspicuous or blatant, nearly half of those songs feature a sample. Where did that sample come from? Let’s just say the 60’s would be a very, very solid guess. That era of music is still everywhere, even though we don’t know everything about it. What did they take when they wrote that? What in the world are they singing about? Doesn’t matter! It’s good music!

That sounds a lot like the constant investigation of chemicals and elements, don’t you think?