YouTube Star Teacher Karen Mensing Opens Up a World of Learning with Her Students

Second Grade Teacher Karen Mensing is a gifted specialist in the Paradise Valley Unified School District. She is a teacher who knows how to get her students to bring what they’ve learned to the dinner table each night by providing her students with hands-on learning opportunities and real world experiences through technology.

 Mensing was named Arizona’s Gifted Teacher of the Year for 2011 by the AZ Association for Gifted & Talented and was recently honored as 2012 Teacher of the Year by the AZ Technology in Education Association. She’s been a member of SENG’s Honor Roll since 2006.

In 2011, she was invited to the Google Teacher Academy where she became a Google Certified Teacher and one of the first 15 “YouTube Star Teachers,” by attending the inaugural YouTube Teacher Studio.

Later that year, Mensing was invited to attend the Google Geo Teachers Institute, & shortly thereafter became a Google Apps For Education Certified Trainer.

We had the pleasure of meeting Ms. Mensing at a recent Hands-on Science Boot Camp in Phoenix and were impressed with her passion for teaching kids and igniting a passion for learning within each of them.

Mensing spent eight years in the radio broadcast industry before becoming a teacher. She is always excited to find new ways to bring broadcasting and communications it into her room.

Her classroom theme last year was movie stars. The class spent the year learning how to make movies and appear in movies. The kids learned all about Twitter and even participated in Twitter chats. One was called #NameThatToy where people tweeted descriptions of toys while students across the United States and Canada tried to guess what they were describing.

The class also took a field trip to the Apple store where they made short movies and learned about technology. Now that’s some hands-on learning we can get behind.

Mensing says her students don’t fall asleep while watching a movie when it engages them and brings conversation into the room. She also uses interactive tools with the movies to get her students physically involved in the activities.

“It s not just a babysitting tool. And it’s not just watching movies. It’s truly engaging my students and bringing them real world experiences,” says Mensing.

Her students not only learn about an educational tool or new technology, they also make videos to explain what they’ve just learned. Her 1st and 2nd grade students defined Webquests, shared their opinions and explained what type of final projects they explored for one classroom video.

Mensing believes we shouldn’t shield kids from being on camera in our digital and video-intense world. Instead, we should teach them the correct way to make a movie using storyboarding and editing. They also need to understand copyrights. Today’s children have the tools at their disposal with camera phones and Flip cameras in most homes. We must teach children how to use the technologies that are out there, how to be responsible with it and what is appropriate and inappropriate versus pulling it away all together. Without an education on these tools, children will easily fall into traps and get into trouble when navigating the Internet and its tools.

We at Steve Spangler Science completely agree with that theory. Children and their parents shouldn’t fear technology, such as YouTube. They should embrace it and learn it. The technology exists and the kids are using it, with or without their parents’ permission and knowledge. They need to be educated about safety, courtesy and the power of the Internet before they stumble upon something they don’t fully understand.

Mensing says she believes YouTube is an underused tool with endless possibilities. And she is bringing it in her classroom and school.

“In my own classroom, I’m really hoping to do a lot with virtual tours and virtual field trips this year. And I really want to use YouTube with that. Giving (students) a glimpse of something they wouldn’t otherwise get a chance to see. Showing them museums, cities, oceans, continents, anything that isn’t possible within the walls of a classroom or even on a traditional field trip,” explains Mensing.

Here’s one way Mensing uses technology in her classroom. Her class watched a movie, wrote their own story, submitted it to a website, and created a video using iMovie. We need more Ms. Mensing’s in our schools!

Check out Ms. Mensing’s channel on YouTube for more educational videos as well as all of her classroom videos. While you are there, visit YouTube EDU – a resource dedicated to education in a global video classroom. Watch quick lessons from teachers, course lectures from universities and inspiring videos. Channels are nominated and approved to appear on YouTube EDU. You will not find ads or inappropriate content for students. For more on YouTube EDU, check out our blog post from last year.

Are you a teacher who embraces new technology like YouTube and uses it in your classroom? Leave us a comment below and share how you use it and how to educate your students.

Eaten Your Fill? How to Experiment on Your Child's Leftover Halloween Candy

By Loralee Leavitt, CandyExperiments.com

Kids love Halloween candy.  But too much candy can lead to stomach aches, cavities, and health problems.  What do you do if your kids collect more candy than you want them to eat?  Experiment with it.

At candyexperiments.com, we’ve created several experiments with candy that teach real science.  Here are some of our favorites.

Acid Test
Sour taste is caused by acid, so any sour candy contains acid.  Test sour candy such as LemonHeads, Nerds, WARHEADS, Pixy Stix, or sour gummy candy by dissolving it in about ¼ cup of warm water.  (If you’re using hard candy like Smarties, crush it first to help it dissolve.) Let the sour part of the candy dissolve, whether it’s the whole candy, or the shell (as with Lemonheads), or a sour powder coating (as with Sour Patch Kids.)  After the sour part has dissolved completely, sprinkle in a small spoonful of baking soda.  The dissolved acid reacts with the baking soda to create bubbles of carbon dioxide gas. The more bubbles you see, the more acid there is!

This experiment is especially fun to do with super-sour Warheads. Drop them into baking soda water, and they’ll bubble right away.

Copyright CandyExperiments.com

Melting
When you melt your candy, you’ll learn all sorts of things about it. Cover a baking sheet with tinfoil.  Unwrap your candy and put it on the sheet. (Caution: never melt a jawbreaker!) Place in low oven (300-350 F) and check back every few minutes to see what happens. You might be surprised by what your candy does.  Smarties melt into clear puddles.  Pixy Stix powder melts and sticks together.  Fruit Lifesavers melt into puddles, but mint Lifesavers don’t.  Snickers bars melt and flatten, leaving the peanuts sticking up.

Copyright CandyExperiments.com

Oil Test
When you melt Starbursts, you’ll discover a secret ingredient.  Place a Starburst on a foil-lined cookie sheet.  Heat it in a low oven until it melts into a puddle.  After it cools, check the surface for white waxy spots.  You’re looking at hydrogenated palm kernel oil, which has separated out from the rest of the candy.

Copyright CandyExperiments.com

Pop Rocks
If you want a really explosive experiment, try testing Pop Rocks.  Pop Rocks contain bubbles of carbon dioxide.  Drop the Pop Rocks into water.  As the candy dissolves, the gas is released, creating a crackling noise.  Look for tiny bubbles–this is the carbon dioxide rising to the surface.

Kids used to worry that if you drank too much soda and ate too many Pop Rocks, you would explode.  Ask your children what they think. Do the Pop Rocks contain enough gas to be dangerous?

Copyright CandyExperiments.com

Let Your Children Choose
Children are natural scientists, eager to experiment, sculpt, and create.  I’ve seen children experiment with what colors they can create, what kinds of smells they can mix up, and whether they can float licorice sticks by plugging the ends with taffy.  Many of our best candy experiments were invented by children, such as the floating letters experiment.

Allow your children to try their own candy experiments.  Let them sort through their candy to select discards for testing, or alternatively, let them set aside some favorite candies and test the rest. Supply them with containers of water, trays for melting, baking soda for acid testing, spoons for stirring, and any other scientific equipment they ask for.  You’ll find that young children often love unwrapping and stirring the candy, even when there’s no science involved, or dumping baking soda into any concoction they choose, acidic or not.  Older children might use elaborate engineering to float heavy candy, or sculpt amazing creations, or design art projects you haven’t imagined. Be on hand with a garbage sack for wrappers, and lots of paper towels and clean water for spills, and remind them that “the candy is not for eating, it’s for experiments.” Most children will naturally shift into the mode of using candy for science instead of sweets, and if they’re sneaking too many tastes, you can close the science lab at any time.

Whether they’re testing for acid, melting candy into bubbling puddles, or creating their own experiments, your children will love this new twist on using up Halloween candy.  So will you, as you pour the sugar down the drain.

 

Loralee Leavitt destroys candy for the sake of science at www.candyexperiments.com.  Her book, Candy Experiments, will be published in January.

 

The Science Behind Sandy – Why Superstorm Sandy Is Such a Super Storm

Superstorm Sandy has devastated the Eastern Seaboard. It is one of the largest hurricanes to hit the United States. It is also a freak of nature so to speak. How did Superstorm Sandy develop into the devastating storm? Many factors played parts into creating this massive, killer storm.

Satellite image of Superstorm Sandy taken at 10:00 am EDT Tuesday, Oct. 30, 2012. Image NASA GSFC

Hurricanes form only in the tropics where extremely moist air and heat are concentrated over the ocean, near the equator. The water temperature must be at least 80o Fahrenheit both day and night. Winds blowing across the ocean in different directions begin to push masses of warm, moist air toward each other. This event is called convergence. When the air masses collide, the air in the center starts to rise, forming an updraft. At high altitudes, the moist air of the updraft begins to cool and water droplets form. These water droplets form clouds. Large cumulonimbus clouds begin to grow and thunderstorms develop. More thunderstorms form as more convergence and updrafts occur. If the thunderstorms do not dissipate, they may start to gather together. This formation is called a tropical disturbance. Many more thunderstorms join the disturbance.

The tropical disturbance begins to swirl and becomes a vortex of thunderstorms. Updrafts are continuously pulling more air into the disturbance. When the winds begin to blow continuously at 23 miles per hour, the storm becomes a tropical depression. The tropical depression continues to gain power and becomes a tropical storm when the wind speed becomes 40 miles per hour. At any time, the disturbance, depression, or storm can run out of hot, moist air and weaken or die out. If it continues to gain strength and reaches 74 miles per hour we call it a hurricane.

Why Sandy Is Unusual 

1. As hurricanes travel north across colder water and move across land, they tend to weaken. Sandy did not. Sandy may actually gain strength and produce strong winds inland.

2. Sandy is one of the largest, but not strongest hurricanes to ever hit the United States. Sandy’s winds covered an area of more than 1,000 miles in diameter. Usually, hurricanes only cut areas of a few hundred miles across. Sandy devastated eastern states from West Virginia to Maine.

3. Hurricane Sandy was a Category 1 hurricane with wind speeds up to 75 mph (150 kph).

4. Sandy is a hybrid storm morphing from a tropical storm into a winter storm powered by temperature and pressure differences. This “Frankenstorm” is packed with cold air and snow along with wind and rain.

5. Hurricane Sandy is meeting a very cold air mass from the north. This created Superstorm Sandy – a dangerous super storm that measures nearly 2,000 miles across. The cold air will be mixed into the hurricane storm. Sandy is expected to drop more than two feet of snow in West Virginia and the northeast.

6. Summer and winter weather are combined into one huge superstorm.

7. Sandy is a very-slow moving storm. Many locations suffered for two days or more instead of just a few hours.
8. Sandy arrived during a full moon and high tides. High tides rise about 20% higher than normal during a full moon. The high tides combined with a strong storm surge pushed tidal waters 11 feet higher than usual. The greatest potential for loss of life from a hurricane is from the storm surge. Storm surge is water pushed toward the shore by the force of winds in the storm. The surge combines with the normal tides to create a storm tide. Storm surge can severely erode beaches, cause massive flooding, and wash away roads.
9. Much of the Atlantic Coast lies less than 10 feet above mean sea level. The storm surge of 11 feet or higher caused massive flooding.
10. This Superstorm hit the northeast and New York City. Subway tunnels are lower than the Hudson and many flooded.
11. Sandy had the lowest pressure of any storm  (27.76 inches) that made landfall north of Cape Hatteras. This includes the 1938 New England Hurricane with 27.96 inches. 1954′s Hazel, which had lower pressure at 27.67 inches, made landfall south of Cape Hatteras. Incidentally, the average atmosphere pressure is 29.92 inches.
12. Some experts believe Superstorm Sandy wasn’t a freak of nature, but a preview at what’s to come. “It’s a foretaste of things to come,” Princeton University professor Michael Oppenheimer told CNN. “Bigger storms and higher sea levels” will pile on to create a “growing threat” in the coming decades.

 

More Information: 

Article written with help from NPR.org, News.Yahoo, Ready.Gov, CNN, Accuweather.com

 

 

The Science of Witches’ Yeast for Halloween

By Jane Goodwin

Back in the days before people waltzed into the grocery store to buy packaged bread. . . even before the days when people baked their own bread using store-bought packaged yeast, people could still enjoy a loaf of light, risen bread.  They used Witches’ Yeast, which people refer to more commonly as sourdough.  The science of Witches’ Yeast is hundreds of years’ old.  Why was it called Witches’ Yeast?  Because it worked magic in the kitchen.

Early pioneers didn’t think of witches’ yeast as science; they considered the family jar of starter to be part of the heart of the home.  Pioneers cherished and regularly fed their family sourdough starters; brides took a jar of the family starter with them to carry on the tradition of fresh-baked bread in the home.

Sometimes, the family jar of witches’ yeast would go bad, usually because of the weather or an accident, and a child would be sent to the neighbor’s to “borrow” a cup of starter, and the feeding and growing of it would commence. (Skimming off a few insects was no big deal back then.  Now, people like to keep it WELL covered!)

The family jar of starter was kept in a place of honor – its home had to be warm enough to let it grow, but not so hot that the starter would die.  Remember, yeasts, whether store-bought or home-cultivated, are living plants, and extremes of temperature, or bacteria, can kill them.  The pioneers usually kept the jar of starter on a shelf near the wood stove.  (The fire in the wood stove never went out; it was banked when not in use.)  The more often bread was baked in a kitchen, the more wild yeast accumulated in the very atmosphere of the home; therefore, each batch of bread was better than the one before.  When the starter’s lid was removed, and it was fed with more flour and warm water, the yeast in the air nourished the yeast in the jar.

Now, remember that the starter must NEVER be depleted, so whenever some of it was used, it had to be replaced, and allowed to grow so it could be used again.

Many families keep a traditional family starter in the freezer, getting it out and feeding it up before holidays and reunions.  Witches’ Yeast freezes well.  Keep it alive and it will outlive YOU.

The starter for the bread you’re seeing here is over 30 years old.  It’s Halloween week. Time to feed and use the Family Witches’ Yeast.

Want to start your own Family Witches’ Yeast tradition?  Here’s how to make a starter:

In a large container with a lid, mix together:

  •  2 cups of warm water
  • 2 cups flour (white or wheat)
  • a package of dry yeast

Mix well.  Make sure there is plenty of expansion room in the container.  Cover and set in a warm spot for five days, stirring well each day.  (Pioneers borrowed a few tablespoons of a neighbor’s starter, but it’s easier to start with a package of dry yeast.)

After five days, you can use your starter.

Put one cup of starter in a large bowl.  If your starter is cold, let it warm to room temperature.  To the container of starter, add another two cups of warm water and another cup of flour; mix well and return to its place of honor.

To the starter in the bowl, add:

  • 2 tsp. of salt
  • 2 tbsp. sugar
  • ½ cup milk
  • 2 tbsp. melted butter
  • 2-3 cups flour  (white or wheat)
  • You can add an egg if you wish.

Knead hard for about ten minutes, adding flour when the dough gets sticky.  Put the dough back in the bowl, cover it, and let it rise for 45 minutes.

Punch it down, knead some more, and shape into loaves.  (You can also use this dough to make dinner rolls)  Place loaves in buttered loaf pans, and let rise another hour.  The accumulated yeast in the atmosphere of your kitchen will encourage your loaves to rise high and higher.  Each time you use your starter, your loaves will rise faster and higher.

Bake for 40 minutes at 375. (Dinner rolls need about 10 minutes)

Let the loaves cool, and slice them, one at a time.  When you eat your bread, think about the many people before you who have used Witches’ Yeast for making bread for their families for dozens of generations before you.  And maybe, when your children grow up and leave, they will want to take some family starter with them.

In the meantime, have another slice of Witches’ Yeast Bread for Halloween.  Then start feeding your starter for Thanksgiving!

 

The Science Behind Hurricanes

Twenty-seven people have died and President Obama has declared New York a major disaster zone as the Superstorm Sandy continues to move across and devastate the Northeast.

Sandy is one of the largest hurricanes to ever strike the United States. The storm covers an area of more an 1,000 miles. The storm has gone from a Tropical Storm to a Hurricane, back to a Tropical Storm and is now considered a Nor’easter.

Here’s a quick roundup of the damage and destruction Sandy has caused (from MSNBC):

  • About 8.1 million homes and businesses were without power across 17 states, and nearly half of the outages were in New York and New Jersey.
  • A massive fire destroyed at least 50 homes in Breezy Point, a seaside community in Queens, N.Y.
  • Seven subway tunnels under the East River in New York City were flooded, leading MTA Chairman Joseph Lhota to declare: “The New York City subway system is 108 years old, but it has never faced a disaster as devastating as what we experienced last night.” Subway service was unlikely to resume for 4 to 5 days, Mayor Michael Bloomberg said.
  • Half of Hoboken, N.J., was underwater, preventing emergency crews from reaching areas of the city, according to Mayor Dawn Zimmer.
  • At least four towns in north New Jersey — Moonachie, Little Ferry, South Hackensack and Hackensack — were submerged by up to 6 feet of water after a levee broke.
  • More than 15,000 flights have been canceled so far and New York City’s airports remained closed Tuesday. Rail traffic was also heavily affected, with Amtrak canceling all of its Northeast Corridor service, in addition to some other lines.
  • Rising waters sparked an alert at the Oyster Creek nuclear power plant in New Jersey Monday night, the Nuclear Regulatory Commission said.
  • Seawater surged into lower Manhattan and areas of Brooklyn, submerging entire streets and parks Monday. An all-time record tide level of 13.88 feet was set at The Battery in Lower Manhattan, Monday night, breaking the previous record of 11.2 feet from 1821, as well as Sandy Hook, N.J., shattering the previous record from the Dec. 1992 Nor’easter and Hurricane Donna in 1960, according to weather.com.
Click here for an  Interactive Map of Hurricane Sandy from MSNBC.com.
For more photos of the storm and its aftermath, visit the NBC News Hurricane Sandy slide show.
Water reaches street level of the West Street entrance to the flooded Brooklyn Battery Tunnel, Tuesday in New York. (Louis Lanzano / AP)
How Does a Hurricane Start?  
The following information is excerpted from The Tornado Tube Book.
The hurricane takes its name from the West Indian word huracan which means “big wind.” Storms that occur over the Atlantic or the eastern Pacific Oceans are called hurricanes. The same kind of storm that forms over the western Pacific or Indian Oceans is called a typhoon. This name comes from the Chinese word taifun or “great wind.”

 

Hurricanes and typhoons are not just violent winds. They are giant, whirling storms that develop in a special way. Hurricanes form only in the tropics where extremely moist air and heat are concentrated over the ocean, near the equator. The water temperature must be at least 80o Fahrenheit both day and night. A wet season with increased rainfall begins in late spring and lasts to early autumn. This is the time of year when hurricanes develop. Evaporation of the warm water into the atmosphere over the ocean makes the air very moist. Winds blowing across the ocean in different directions begin to push masses of warm, moist air toward each other. This event is called convergence. When the air masses collide, the air in the center starts to rise, forming an updraft. At high altitudes, the moist air of the updraft begins to cool and water droplets form. These water droplets form clouds. Large cumulonimbus clouds begin to grow and thunderstorms develop. More thunderstorms form as more convergence and updrafts occur. If the thunderstorms do not dissipate, they may start to gather together. This formation is called a tropical disturbance. Many more thunderstorms join the disturbance. This weather event becomes large enough to be influenced by forces created from the Earth’s rotation.

A parking lot full of yellow cabs is flooded as a result of Hurricane Sandy on Tuesday in Hoboken, NJ (Charles Sykes / AP)

The tropical disturbance begins to swirl and becomes a vortex of thunderstorms. Updrafts are continuously pulling more air into the disturbance. When the winds begin to blow continuously at 23 miles per hour, the storm becomes a tropical depression. The tropical depression continues to gain power and becomes a tropical storm when the wind speed becomes 40 miles per hour. At any time, the disturbance, depression, or storm can run out of hot, moist air and weaken or die out. If it continues to gain strength and reaches 74 miles per hour we call it a hurricane.

Hurricanes have top wind speeds of at least 74 miles per hour, but wind speed can reach 180 miles per hour. The closer you are to the storm’s center, the faster the wind will be. The top wind speed will be reached within 60 miles from the center of the hurricane. As you move away from the center, wind speed is slower. At 300 miles from the center, the wind speed may be only 18 miles per hour. The energy of a hurricane comes from the heat released when water vapor condenses to liquid water. The atmosphere above a tropical ocean is the only place enough warm, moist air is available to produce the energy necessary to create a hurricane.

The movement of a hurricane is somewhat predictable. It is so large that it moves with the Earth’s wind currents that surround it. These wind currents are very large and steady and don’t change course abruptly. Therefore, hurricanes usually travel in one of these wind currents until they meet another wind current, then they may change direction. If a hurricane changes course, it could pass over the same area twice. Sometimes one of these storms stalls over an area for days.

Interactive wind speed and direction map shows the storm over the East Coast.

A hurricane covers a very large area. Sometimes a tropical storm can have a cloud system that is 2,000 miles in diameter. Typically, a hurricane is about 300 miles across. That is about the distance from Chicago, Illinois to Columbus, Ohio. An average hurricane is about 800 to 5,000 times as wide as an average tornado. Hurricanes usually travel across the sea and land at 10 to 32 miles per hour. Some may travel at speeds up to 50 miles per hour. The path of a hurricane usually covers thousands of miles, most of it over the ocean.

It is very important to track these huge storms and to make accurate predications about their movements. Many people live in areas affected by hurricanes. If the National Hurricane Center scientists believe a hurricane is threatening to reach a populated area within 24 hours, they will issue a hurricane warning. People prepare by gathering and sheltering property and boarding up homes and businesses. Sometimes people will even be evacuated from an area if the forecast calls for an extremely strong storm. Many lives have been saved by these preparations.

A general view from Exchange Place shows the skyline of lower Manhattan in darkness after a preventive power outage caused by giant storm Sandy in New York on Tuesday. Millions of people in the eastern United States awoke on Tuesday to flooded homes, fallen trees and widespread power outages caused by Sandy, which swamped New York City’s subway system and submerged streets in Manhattan’s financial district. (Eduardo Munoz / Reuters)

To study conditions inside hurricanes, teams of pilots and weather scientists fly regular missions into these storms. They get measurements of wind speed, temperature, air pressure, and other weather conditions at different altitudes. These investigations help scientists make predictions about hurricane formation and movement. The National Weather Service names hurricanes to quickly identify them. The names are assigned in alphabetical order alternating between female and male names. There are separate lists of names for hurricanes in the Atlantic and Pacific oceans.

You can create your own Hurricane in a Bottle and watch how a vortex is formed. Visit the experiment page for the complete activity.