The Experiment of the Week Keeps Them Interested in Science!

School has started for most students by now, and many parents are wondering how to keep their kids interested in science – and other subjects – after school and on weekends.  My suggestion to these concerned and interested parents is to subscribe to the Experiment of the Week!

Steve Spangler Science Making Science Fun

Once you subscribe, you’ll get a super interesting science experiment in your email once a week!  The experiments come with full explanations of the actual science of the experiment, and usually can be done with what’s probably already in your pantry.

Your kids – and YOU – will find yourselves looking forward to every Experiment of the Week; with many families, this is a ritual they all participate in, every week.  Spangler Science’s Experiment of the Week is absolutely free of charge; just send us your email address and enjoy your free experiment – complete with a video explaining it – every week!

science rocks

While you’re signing up, why not check out our Deal of the Day?  You can score some awesome deals with this one!

Whether your children are homeschooled, unschooled, or going to public or private school, all students will benefit from participating in our Experiment of the Week.  In fact, not only will your kids benefit, they’ll look forward to it every week.  Our experiments are far more than merely educational; our experiments are loads of fun, and present scientific principles in ways that will intrigue and interest your kids while teaching them important concepts they’ll be able to apply to other things, as well.

When it’s science fair time, your kids will have sooooo many more cool ideas than the other kids will have!

Did I mention that Steve Spangler’s Experiment of the Week is FREE?  Well, I’m mentioning it again.  We want your kids to become not merely interested in science – we want your kids to become FASCINATED with science.  Come on, sign up for the Experiment of the Week.  You’ll be so glad you did, and your kids will thank you with every  individual experiment they get to experience.

Don’t think YOU will escape being interested and educated, either.  Parents are just as interested as are their kids.  You’ll find yourself anticipating that Spangler Science email as much if not more than Billy and Susie will!

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.

The 4 Elements of a Memorable Science Demonstration

Since starting at Steve Spangler Science in 2009, there’s one question that gets asked of our team more than any other: how do you create a memorable science demonstration? And the truth is, from our customer service team to our production team to Steve Spangler himself, we’ll all give you a different answer. So which answer is right? All of them!

Nobel Prizes for everyone!
Nobel Prizes for everyone!                             (Source: Wikipedia)

No matter who is supplying the formula for a memorable science demonstration, they’re correct. Every demonstrator uses the same 4 elements to create the perfect demo for their group, family, kids, or audience, though their methods may be different. They happen to correspond very well with the 4 classic elements. Most people start with…


DirtEarth – Research
Earth is the most familiar of the elements. We spend every day traversing its dusty, dry surface, but we have no clue what’s actually going on inside of it. For all we know, the core of the earth is a big, bubbling vat of baking soda and vinegar waiting to erupt with dyed carbon dioxide bubbles.

Science fair basics aside, it’s good to reacquaint yourself with the science behind the demonstration you’re going to perform. Even if you’re confident in your answer as to why you can create a teeter-totter by with two candles, it will be beneficial to get a refresher. Who knows, science could have uncovered a different answer!

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The world’s most sinister seesaw results from a children’s demonstration.

Researching your demonstration is also a great opportunity to discover ways of taking your experiment further. Find ways to spin off of your initial demonstration. This is your chance to really find ways of driving your lesson home.


drop-83018_640
Water – Practice
More often than not, mysterious happenings come from the water. Flesh eating river fish, mythical monsters, and giant snakes make sure that no human (scientist or otherwise) ever gets too comfortable within a triple-jump of water’s edge.

You shouldn’t be too comfortable in the performance of your demonstration, either. No one (read: actually, literally no one) likes having their demonstration, presentation, slide show, or what-have-you fail to perform. Geysers that don’t explode, launchers that don’t launch, and paper airplanes that don’t do the “plane”-part are all sure-fire ways of winding up red-faced in front of your audience.

IT WAS A JOKE, PEOPLE!
IT WAS A JOKE, PEOPLE!

Now, this is science, so there’s always a chance that things just won’t go your way. THAT is what makes practicing your demo so valuable. Practice gives you the chance at troubleshooting possible issues with your demo. From setup to procedure to clean up, practicing makes sure you’re ready for anything that science throws your way.


air-19227_640Air – Application
Without air, we’re dead. That’s just a fact of life, and YES I intended that horrible pun.

We all require air to run our body. While you never forget how to breathe, we don’t think about it very often, unless we’re really USING our breath. Runner, yoga instructors, midwifes… these people know what it means to really use our breath, because they learned to apply it.

The same goes for so many science demonstrations and lessons. When our minds learn new information, like that hot air has low pressure and rises, we are much more likely to remember it with a direct application. Talk to them about how the downstairs of their house probably feels cooler than the 2nd story or talk to them about weather, wind, and pressure.

Blue and yellow make blellow. Just so you know... it's science.
Blue and yellow make blellow. Just so you know… it’s science.

When demos don’t match up with a solid application, you create the dreaded, “When am I ever going to use this?” You need earth and water to be ready for that one!


fractal-22188_640
Fire – Passion

Earth is solid, water is liquid, and air is gaseous. Fire is plasma? Fire is flame? Fire is part of a grouping of things called “intangibles” by sports coaches everywhere; just like passion.

Here we see the intangible ability of narcolepsy.
Here we see the intangible ability of narcolepsy.                           (Source: Flickr)

Passion may not be absolutely required to pull off a memorable science demonstration, but it definitely aids in the effort. People of all ages can tell when someone is passionate about what they’re doing. The more genuinely excited you are about the demonstration you’re doing, the more excited your audience is going to be. Your energy is contagious.

Now just go and do it!

 

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.

The Beauty of Clouds

Ever since I was little, clouds have fascinated me.   A simple little visible mass of condensed water vapor floating in the atmosphere,  I realize, but mesmerizing, nonetheless.  Storm clouds have especially intrigued me over the years, and with weather season right around the corner there is no better time to talk about clouds, then now!

My Instagram-ed photo ofLenticular Clouds at sunset just outside the Spangler Office.
My Instagram-ed photo ofLenticular Clouds at sunset just outside the Spangler Office.

As a child I would lay in the grass and imagine the fluffy white clouds as the gates to heaven… beyond which, the wonder of the universe was endless.   And sometimes… they just looked like an animal or an ice cream cone. Nature’s scribble pad for me to browse through for hours on end.

Nature's Paint Set
Nature’s Majesty – some stratocumulus clouds at sunset over my apartment. Kind of makes you want to break out your True Color Tablets, doesn’t it?

In school, we learned that clouds form when moist, warm rising air cools and expands in the atmosphere.  When that water vapor condenses, it forms tiny little water droplets.  After the cloud droplets form, they either collide with each other and grow by joining together.  If those droplets grow too large, they will fall to the ground as rain or snow.

Which is cool and all, but it’s the beauty of the cloud,  the visual stimulation of the formation itself, is what always makes me stop in my tracks to snap a shot.

Cumulonimbus Cloud with a rainbow
Nimbostratus Cloud with a rainbow – caught on my way home from work one day.  Time to break out your prisms, right?

As I grew older, I began snapping pictures of clouds, particularly clouds during storms,  and have gained quite a collection of some amazing cloud formations.  So I have decided to share them with you throughout this post.  Some clouds are in formations that I had never seen until I moved to Colorado.

I’m no expert by any means, but I’ve done my research over the years.  When I snapped a picture of an interesting cloud, and wanted to know more, I did what every other human being would do..I asked the internet! hus have decided to share some of the facts that I’ve found!

Super Cool, dark and ominous Nimbostratus Clouds.
Super cool, dark, and ominous storm clouds I caught on my way home one day.  The darker the better for me and my camera!

 

Did you know that the smaller those cloud droplets are, the brighter they appear?  This is because the tiny droplets scatter more sunlight.  Large droplets allow more sunlight to pass through, which is typically why it’s lighter during the biggest downpour in a thunderstorm, rather than the darkness we experience during  the cloudy portion of the storm. (Which is my favorite part!)

Wall clouds during sunset.
Wall clouds at twilight can be super pretty, even though they may pose a weather threat.  These however, feel less threatening as I take them through my window!

Wall Clouds are large formations caused when moist, humid air near the ground gets drawn up into the storm cloud, and condenses to form this monster. (Even though it may appear that the cloud is being compressed from above.)  These amazing clouds are always rain-free because of the air moving upward into the cloud.

Wall Cloud Rotation
Wall Cloud Rotation

Wall Clouds often have a very noticeable rotation, which is what makes our other not so welcoming friend, the tornado!

 

Mammatus Cloud Formation
Small Mammatocumulus Formation

Mammatus (a.k.a Mammatocumulus)   I found is a meteorologic term used for cloud pockets or pouches that hang underneath the base of a cloud.   These clouds do not produce severe weather, but tend to be associated with strong storms and tornados. But don’t fret, they do not signal that a tornado is forming like our wall cloud friends sometimes do.   What really happening is that those pouches are created when the high concentration of saturated air is heavier than the surrounding air, so it sinks back down toward the earth. 

Mammatocumulus formations out my window.
Mammatocumulus formations just outside my living room window.

 Hole Punch Clouds  are another formation that has always made me ask, “How did that happen?”  These formations are found in altocumulus cloud layers, but the reasoning behind the formation tends to cause speculation.  What is believed to be creating these formations are airplanes.

These altocumulus layers  where the Hole Punch Clouds reside, contain super-cooled water.  When something comes in contact with the clouds, like an airplane, the cold water droplets rush over the warm propeller blades or wings of the plane.  As this happens, those tiny frigid water droplets begin to expand and contract.   They will contract back into the cloud themselves, leaving a hole in the layer.

If the droplets can’t find a particle to cling to you get drifting ice crystal particles that will sometimes fall, and make a streaky cone shape under the hole, which is also called a Fall-streak Cloud.

Super Pretty formations, most likely due to an airplane.
Super Pretty Hole Punch Cloud formations, most likely due to an airplane.

Wow, I didn’t realize how much I knew about clouds!  So, thanks for allowing me to share some of my photos with you today!!

Anyone know what kind of cloud this is?
Anyone know what kind of cloud this is?

Intrigued by weather yourself and want some great weather related products?  Look no further than with us here at Steve Spangler Science!  We have fun things like Insta-Snow Powder, Tornado Tubes and Cloud in a Bottle that can really boost your weather lesson.

Need more ideas or just love clouds like I do? Leave a comment below!

STEM and Humanities are The Heart of the Matter

The Heart of the Matter, a film by the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, is an illustration of why we need to build an education system that goes well beyond the teaching and memorizing of facts and the ability to regurgitate those facts on a standardized test.

The Heart of the Matter from americanacad on Vimeo.

We need to give the students of today a well-balanced education that includes all factors, including STEM and Humanities to create well rounded members of the work force and society tomorrow.

“Philosophy, religion, history, literature, music, culture – the humanities are those subject areas that allow us to probe what it means to be human” - Earl Lewis, Historian and President of the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation.

The short film includes many of America’s brilliant minds who are part of the Commission on the Humanities and Social Sciences sharing their inspirational quotes and thoughts to illustrate our need to combine STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) along with Humanities and Social Sciences to fully paint a picture of history, development and progress in our society.

“If we look at what’s beautiful and ask the question, is our lives only about the mundane? Was it also about the beauty?” – Earl Lewis, Historian and President of the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation.

In other words, teaching the power of technology and advancements along with human emotion and the WOW of it all.

“If we leave behind the humanities and see it as unimportant, I think we will lose our ability to dream.” – Billie Tsien, Architect.

To be truly valuable members and innovators in our society, STEM students must graduate with  an appreciation of the humanities and humanities and social science students must graduate with an understanding of STEM.

“No humanity is no soul” – George Lucas

Source: American Academy of Arts and Sciences, Humanities Commission

 

 

 

 

 

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.

 

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.