Tag Archives: science

Lego's new mini fig star!

Lego Female Scientist Set

image from: ideas.lego.com
image from: ideas.lego.com

I am really pumped about the new Lego set to be released this August, 2014! It was just announced that it will be called, “Research Institute” and will feature three female scientists: an astronomer, a paleontologist, and a chemist.  I must admit that I never really looked at Legos as anything but silly toys for boys until I was called on to co-sponsor a robotics club last year.  Now I have seen the creativity that they can unleash, and I am really excited to see that the company is going to create a set that will not only encourage girls to see this as a more gender-neutral toy, but will also encourage them to consider S.T.E.M. careers.  Congratulations to Dr. Ellen Kooijman (a geochemist) who submitted this concept on the Lego Ideas site and now gets to see her dream turned into reality!

Are you interested in all things Lego?  You might want to check out my post, “Build Something Awesome.” Or, if you are interested in other educational games and toys, take a look at my Pinterest Board of recommendations.

 

Elephant Toothpaste and Vortex Cannons with Jimmy Fallon and Kevin Delaney

Click here to see the awesome science tricks Kevin Delaney performs on The Tonight Show with Jimmy Fallon!
Click here to see the awesome science tricks Kevin Delaney performed on The Tonight Show with Jimmy Fallon!

For today’s Phun Phriday post, I direct your attention to a recent segment from The Tonight Show with Jimmy Fallon.  His guest, Kevin Delaney, is the Director of Visitor Experience at the Museum of Discovery in Little Rock.  You can read about how Kevin ended up on the show here.  After watching this amazing demonstration, I predict that Kevin Delaney will be making many future appearances on the show!

 

Leafsnap

Screen Shot from Leafsnap app
Screen Shot from Leafsnap app

My Kinder GT students are learning about “Scientist Thinking.”  This includes looking at things closely and trying to put them into groups based on their attributes.  Around this time last year we had a plethora of ladybugs in the field behind my classroom, and my then-Kinder GT students had a grand time collecting them, examining them, and trying to identify them.

Strangely, the ladybugs have not graced us with their presence this year. However, we do have a plethora of leaves all over the ground (and pollen).  So, we decided to go leaf hunting.

I am horribly inadequate when it comes to naming plants and trees.  For this particular situation, I decided that, rather than risk misinforming my students, we would use the Leafsnap app on the iPads for this activity.

First, the students gathered a few different leaves each during an outdoor walk.  Then we came back inside, and I showed them how to use the app to take a picture of each leaf on a white piece of paper. Once the user clicked “Snap It” the app contacted a database of plants and generated a list of possibilities.  The students could then look at the list and determine the most likely label to give each leaf.  They worked with partners, and it was interesting to listen to their conversations as they consulted each other and debated the true identities of their leaves.

Leafsnap is a collaborative project from Columbia University, the University of Maryland, and the Smithsonian Institution.  They are working to include trees from all over the continental United States, but began with trees from the northeastern portion.  Therefore, the app might have difficulty recognizing leaves from other regions.  We live in Texas and, overall, I think the app was pretty accurate.  Of course, just about the only tree I can be relied on to identify regardless of the season is a palm tree :)

Leafsnap is free.  It currently appears to be available only on iTunes, although I did find some mentions of it as an Android app as well.  It’s not a new app.  According to my research, it has been around since at least 2011.  (If you learn that it is available for Android, I would appreciate it if you would comment below with the link.)

If The Moon Were Only One Pixel

Moon One Pixel

This is an amazing site that will give you the sense of the depth and breadth of our solar system – with a tinge of humor added to it.  It begins by showing the size of the moon as one pixel.  Then, by scrolling horizontally, the user can take a trip through our solar system beginning from the sun.  You not only see the relative sizes of each of the objects compared to the moon, but also the massive distances covered in space between each one.  To keep you from getting too bored with the tremendous amounts of scrolling, Josh Worth interjects witty comments every once in awhile.  This is a great way to show students the enormity of space in a way that they can understand.

For more sites like this, check out “5 Resources to Help Students Understand the Size of the Universe” from Richard Byrne.

From "If the Moon Were Only One Pixel"
From “If the Moon Were Only One Pixel”

 

We the Geeks

We the Geeks

We the Geeks

In the fortuitous way that things seem to often happen in my life, I spent a fabulous Saturday morning with my daughter at a free event designed to spark girls’ interest in all things STEM related, then 24 hours later stumbled across a “Women Role Models” video on We the Geeks that reinforced all of my strong feelings about this topic.

We the Geeks is a series of Google Hangouts sponsored by the White House.  The purpose is “to highlight the future of science, technology, and innovation here in the United States. “

In the latest episode, “Women Role Models,” several female guests are interviewed (you can see the guest list below), and give their insight on how to encourage more girls to pursue scientific careers. Many of the guests mention how influential their teachers and teachers were in stimulating their interest in science.  What I heard repeated several times, though, was how important the excitement of the adult mentors can be.  One guest said, “If you have an excited teacher, you’re going to be excited about it.”  Another guest advised that parents should “learn with the kids… stay excited with them.” The latter point is key because, as she pointed out, if parents show that they are intimidated by science and math, that “trickles down” to the children.

Some of the other past episodes of We the Geeks have included: “Celebrating Black History Month,” “Student Startups,” and “Don’t Be Bored, Make Something.”  I haven’t watched any of the other videos, yet, but they all look pretty intriguing.

(Here is a link to a collection of videos to encourage girls in STEM from Amy Borovoy at Edutopia.)

Guests who recently appeared on "Women Role Models" in We the Geeks series
Guests who recently appeared on “Women Role Models” in We the Geeks series

 

My daughter peers through a telescope at the sun during the Girls Inc Science Festival
My daughter peers through a telescope at the sun during the Girls Inc. Science Festival

Elements 4D

Chlorine This isn’t a new resource.  Drew Minock and Brad Waid (Congrats again, Brad, on getting on this year’s 20 to Watch List!) have mentioned the Elements 4D Cubes several times on their website as well as on their weekly show, Two Guys and Some iPads.  I thought the cubes looked pretty cool, but didn’t really see a use for them in my classroom at the time.  Also, I missed out on the Kickstarter campaign for the wooden cubes, and figured I would be out of luck unless Daqri started selling them.

The wooden Elements 4D Cubes are still not available to the general public. (I tweeted them last night, and they responded that they are planning to make them available for sale in the near future.)   And I still don’t really have a use for them in my current curriculum.  But I sense a Genius Hour project may be planned in the immediate future – because my daughter and I have been having a blast with the free paper version of the cubes for the last two days.

My daughter came home from school the other day and mentioned that they had begun studying the elements in her science class, and that she had to do a report on Chlorine.  She chuckled at the coincidence (she is a synchronized swimmer who spends a lot of time washing chlorine out of her hair), but didn’t sound too excited about the project.  We were busy that evening, but I had a fleeting memory that someone had mentioned something about the paper version of the Elements 4D Cubes, and I decided, before school the next morning, to give them a try. At 6:45 A.M., I cut out 2 cubes, glued them together, and downloaded the free app.  My daughter, who had just woken up, got a demonstration at the breakfast table.  My performance was not well-received – probably largely due to the fact that she is not a morning person.

After school, she came home and started playing with the cubes and the app. The next thing I knew, she was busy cutting out the rest of the cubes.  As I sat in our home office trying to think of a post to write, I could hear her Facetiming her friend so she could show her the app.  When that call was done, she gathered all of the cubes to bring to the office to show me all of the elements she was discovering, and the fascinating combinations that could be made. Suddenly, Chlorine is an incredibly interesting element.  My daughter had no idea that it is a gas in its natural state (as the cube clearly shows), or that it combined with Sodium to make salt. Every new discovery she made with the cubes was exciting. We took a lot of iPad screen shots. I encourage you to try it out for yourself.  Download the free iPad app, print off the free cubes (I highly recommend printing them on card stock if possible), and spend a bit of time cutting and pasting so you can give yourself hours of fun.

(For more Augmented Reality Resources, check out my page of apps and activities here.  Also, you might be interested in Daqri’s Enchantium app, which Drew Minock reviewed here.)

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