Friday, June 7, 2013

See the Stars on a Shoestring Budget

As Science Club rolled around for February this year, I wanted something that would blow their minds.  Something different.  Something over the top. 

Hmmm…. Let’s study the stars!  And put the entire group in a giant, black inflatable bag…

It went so well, we did it for the entire 3rd grade during the last week of school!  Our music teacher kindly let us borrow her room!  It gets MUCH bigger!  We could stand up inside it!

Ok.  I’m losing some of you.  The StarLab was too expensive for our non-budget.  So, I picked up a huge roll of the thickest black plastic I could find at our neighborhood Ace Culpepper Hardware Store.  It cost me less than $30.  I’m a teacher in Georgia- I don’t know about all of the stereotypes, but we all have duck tape (yes, “duck” is the brand!).  Grabbed a pair of scissors and I was set.

I’m such a procrastinator that I actually made it in my living room (much too small) the morning of our meeting.  Hey, it worked out!

Step 1:  Fold the plastic in half.
Step 2:  Using the tape, seal the three open edges by folding the tape over the sides.
Step 3:  IMPORTANT!  Leave opposite corners open by not taking the tape all the way down the sides.  Leave about 3-4 feet with no tape. 

Step 4:  Grab a box fan and stick it in one of the open edges.  You want the hole to be pretty tight around the fan.  I usually place a chair near the fan, just to prevent it from blowing over as excited kids arrive.
Step 5:  Turn on the fan and wait about 3-4 minutes.  By holding the makeshift door (aka hole on the opposite side from the fan) closed, you can make the lab inflate higher. 

I split the group in half and was easily able to fit 25 kids inside at one time.

Once they get inside, now what?

I tried two different methods.  For the first, I printed some constellations and stapled them to black construction paper.  Then, I used a tack to punch holes where each star was, so that light could shine through the holes.  I grabbed an empty box and one of those old, ancient overhead projectors out of our media center’s closet.  Put the projector inside the box to block some of the light that shines from the bottom of the projector.  You want the box to be a bit larger, so the projector does not overheat.  Next, place the black construction paper on the projector to allow the light to shine through the holes aka stars.  My paper kept sliding off so one of my kids graciously allowed me to borrow his shoe, so you may want to bring in some type of paperweight.  Bring extra black paper to cover the area of the glass that is left uncovered when you put your constellations on it.  This sounds like a lot of work, but it really only took a few minutes.  I used a few of my students to help me punch the holes in the constellations during bus call one afternoon. 

My second method was easier, but far less effective.  I found a store bought star projector in our school’s science closet.  See an example here.  This was super easy, but because it projected dark spots for the stars, it was much more difficult to see.

I think that next time, I will try to grab a flood light, just so I don’t have to lug the projector all the way back to the media center.  Any way it goes, the kids walk into the room and see the bag inflating and they get super excited.  Goodness, I was just as excited to share the idea with them! 

Not only did they get to see the night sky, but I also showed them Magic School Bus Sees Stars, so they could “travel” to the stars!  Love Miss Frizzle!!

Good luck!

Tuesday, June 4, 2013

Identity Crises Leads to Ziploc Bag Ice Cream!

Man!  It has been a long time since I've posted!

School is out for summer.  The sun is shining and the pool is crystal clear and cool.  And I've been INSIDE trying to redo my blog.  Yep.  Stop and Smell the .... Children was catchy, but it wasn't a solid fit.  Every time I would come to write, it just didn't seem to sit well with me.

So I stopped writing, but now I'm back and with a clearer focus.  I love all things elementary.  Kids' books-got to have them.  Pictures of classrooms- a whole pinterest board.  Crayolas and Elmers- check!  But my heart always has beat to the drum of science.  So an elementary teaching blog with an emphasis on science!  I'm set!

This past year, I started a science club at my school.  We are a 2nd and 3rd grade school with about 450 students.  I was super excited to see 65 kids sign up.  My goal was to make the science hands-on and messy!  We met once a month and I was important for me that they be able to tell me the science reasoning behind whatever experiment, etc that we did before they got in their cars to go home.  We had a blast!

September - Box Turtles Visit the Classroom
October- What Did Your Owl Eat?
November- Field trip!  Recycling!
December- Electricity for the Christmas Tree
January- It Holds More?!?!  A Volume Tale
February- Homemade Star Lab
March- Plant a Garden, Watch it Grow
April- Ziploc Ice Cream

Which of these do I need right about now?  Ice Cream!

If you have never made ice cream in a ziploc bag, it is a must do!  So simple!

First of all,  kids are amazed that they don't need a machine to make ice cream!  Three ingredients, plus salt, plus ice!  Let's go!

Give each kid two ziploc bags (1 sandwich size and 1quart or gallon size)

Inside the small bag, put 1 tablespoon sugar, 1/2 cup milk, and 1/4 teaspoon vanilla.

Zip the bag up tight!  Put it inside of the larger bag.  Add 3 hand fulls of ice and about 1/3 cup of salt to the larger bag.  Zip it up!  Almost to yummy coldness!

Have the kids mash, mix, twirl, and poke their bags until they see that their liquid milk is looking kind of mushy.  Keep going!  This will take about 10 minutes or so and they are going to fuss that their fingers are soooo cold!  (Hmmmm.... science moment here!)

After my kids got their bags to a good, thicker than milkshake consistency, we pulled out the spoons and the chocolate syrup!  Yummy!

Now it's fun to make, tasty to eat, and interesting to learn how it froze.  I mean, we add milk to drinks all the time and they don't freeze.  Hmmm.....  Check out this youtube video to see ScienceOnTheBrain's experiment with melting ice and adding salt. 

The temperature of a melting ice cube will steadily increase to around 31 or 32 degrees Fahrenheit, give or take and then it will hang around that temperature for awhile.  Milk will not freeze at 32 degrees, so we add salt.  This brings the freezing point of the water down low enough for the thermal energy that is in the milk to flow out towards the freezing water.  Once enough of the thermal energy has left the milk recipe, it will freeze, making ice cream!

Super easy!  Super cheap!  Super yummy!

Try it this summer!  Now I'm off to sit by the pool and read my book (with a bag of ice cream)!