Science Education

Category: Content (Page 1 of 11)

Sound Waves

Gravenstein kindergartners have been learning about the science of sound by making rubber band guitars. I wrote a song to help them to remember what they learned.

Sound Waves Song (with chords for guitar or piano)

     C            G            Am           F

Sound waves, sound waves, we're making sound waves

     C       G          Am        F

How fast do they go? How fast do they go? Mach One!

Engineering Design Competition: Make a Thermos

Gravenstein 4th grade students designed and built thermoses with plastic bottles, newspaper and tape. Each class was competing for 1st place, the winner having the coldest thermos. “The Freezer” won, having the largest ice cube after 75 minutes at .3g.

I’ve done a similar competition with high school students, who designed and built houses out of cardboard. We placed a temperature sensor/logger inside them on a hot day, and the coolest house won.

Each ice cube was .5 grams.

Rocket Launching

Gravenstein first and second graders built rockets using paper towel rolls, tape, card stock and foil. I went to Jake’s Performance Hobbies in Rohnert Park and got some model rocket engines and a launcher, plus great advice. After making a cardboard sleeve to hold the engine, we launched them at my sister’s farm and were amazed by how well they flew.

Installing the rocket engine.
Rockets, after flight, with spent engines.

Fall Experiment Summary: Rockets, Solar Ovens, and Mealworms

Strawkets: (these can be made with household materials, and kids get really creative with them) : https://www.calacademy.org/sites/default/files/assets/docs/calacademy-sah-rockets-strawkets-210415.pdf

Alka Seltzer Rocket Materials and Instructions:

Film canisters: Must have a rubber seal, which many sold by Amazon do not. Shutterbug in Santa Rosa said they have a ton of film canisters that work for rockets and they would be happy to give them to Gravenstein parents for free: https://shutterbugcamerashops.com/contact-us

An online source: https://www.teachersource.com/category/s?keyword=film+canisters

Alka seltzer: drugstore generic brand also works fine. 

Directions: Fill the film canister halfway with water. Add one alka seltzer tablet, close the lid tightly, shake, put the canister on the ground upside down and stand back.

We talked about Newton’s Third Law and how the carbon dioxide produced in the canister builds up until it causes the canister to burst open. The gas pushes down on the ground and the ground pushes the rocket into the air- every action has an equal and opposite reaction.

Solar ovens: We’re also making solar ovens, using this guide: https://solarschoolhouse.org/solarcooking/

Mealworms: Students have been learning about the mealworm lifecycle. Mealworms eat almost anything that used to be alive. Food scraps, leaves, flour, dogfood, etc. Students are taking home mini terrariums with soil and mealworms. Eventually they will turn in to pupas, and then beetles. Fried mealworms are a delicacy in some cultures. Mealworms can be purchased at Sebastopol Hardware, or any pet shop.

Mealworms don’t need water, but they do need some moisture. Small amounts of fruit will work. I put my mealworms in a plastic container full of oatmeal and a piece of pear. This variety of mealworm (king) cannot hibernate, so the mealworms need to remain around room temperature.

Build Hack Make Summer Camp

Our first Build Hack Make summer camp at the Chimera makerspace was a huge success. Students built fan cars, synthesizers, strobascopes, keyboards and a robotic finger. Looking forward to adding 3D printed rockets to the next summer’s camp.

All of the parts for the robotic hand, plus instructions, can be found here: https://inmoov.fr/hand-and-forarm/

Electric Motor Design Project

In June 2021, I organized some Mind of a Scientist alums to work on designing and 3D printing electric motors. This is a collaboration between Sonoma State professor Daniel R. Soto, Lawrence Livermore Lab test engineer Jacob Aman, Medtronic mechanical engineer Geoff Orth and Roblox software engineer Alex Katz. Jacob designed a working model using FEMM (Finite Element Method Magnetics). We are working on figuring out how to guide students in tweaking the motor’s design. Much of the work has been done at Chimera makerspace in Sebastopol, but Geoff has also been printing motor parts at Medtronic for us (one is pictured below). We were just awarded a Medtronic grant to purchase more motor parts.

We designed the first motor to be as simple as possible, to demonstrate the principles of electromagnetism. Orchard View science students have built and tested five motors so far. Eventually, the goal is for students to build stuff with the motors they design, such as automated plant experiments and a device for a solar oven to track the sun.

I’ve teamed up with Maker Music Festival founder Joe Szuecs to create a summer camp at Chimera, which will include building motors.

Jacob explains how electric motors work in this video:

Science Camp

Science camp (AKA Eco Kids) at the Sebastopol Center for the Arts featured solar oven building (https://solarschoolhouse.org/solarcooking/). We had a competition like this: https://www.bravotv.com/the-daily-dish/jose-andres-top-chef-solar-power-clean-cookstoves The camp was a chance for me to try out some lessons I’m planning for 6th grade science at Orchard View in the fall.

We designed and built fog catchers similar to these: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=G4GHGBov15U&list=PL6-8azVpUKW4TJG-pbf7Wl9HIqajRCiwk&index=4

We played ecology bingo, in which students observe and sketch parts of an ecosystem on bingo cards: https://www.mcguffey.k12.pa.us/Downloads/Bingo%20Card.pdf

Audubon Canyon Ranch shared their mountain lion curriculum with us, and we learned about our wild neighbors. Check out this activity book

Additional resources: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xbwliZJiHe8

Mind of a Scientist

Mind of a Scientist is a partnership with the Sonoma County Library and librarian Rosalie Abbott. The program features live presentations with scientists and engineers each week.

Here’s our page on the Sonoma Library site with all our videos, worksheets and answer keys: https://sonomalibrary.org/mind-of-a-scientist

We have featured Sonoma State, UC Davis, Sonoma Water, Dow Labs, the Bay Area Air Quality Management District, Bodega Bay Marine Lab, plus Medtronic and Keysight engineers.

Recently we’ve had climate scientists Rob Nelson and Katherine Wentz (From NASA’s Jet Propulsion Lab and Remote Sensing Systems respectively). NOAA marine biologist Steven McKagan Zoomed in from Saipan. Laguna Foundation wildlife biologist Shelly Spriggs presented as well as data scientist Shawn Boye and NOAA meteorologist Zach Tolby.

I’m grateful for the support of the Sierra Avalanche Center and the Shasta Avalanche Center for our series on snow science.

Roblox engineer and Orchard View alumni Alex Katz gave a fascinating talk, followed by Jacob Aman from Lawrence Livermore.

Recently, I have been creating decision making scenarios with our speakers for students to work on. Here are a few examples:

Conservation Biology Scenario: Imagine you are an environmental scientist developing a conservation plan for a preserve on a North Coast estuary. You have been asked for your expert opinion on the best approach to trail access along the estuary and how to minimize impacts to natural resources. State which option you recommend and why, and identify one method of minimizing – or mitigating for – that option’s impacts on wetlands  or wildlife.

OptionImpacts. Cost Connectivity to Other Trails.
1. Build a short boardwalk
to a wildlife viewing platform.
LowLowLow
2.Build a long boardwalk
that provides a full trail connection along the river to the north.
Moderate-HighModerateHigh
3. No boardwalk; instead,
work with other agencies to build a paved trail along the highway – a long-term project.
Moderate -HighHighHigh

Electric Motor Scenario: Imagine you are a car company executive in charge of launching a new line of electric trucks. You must choose a motor that will please customers as well as be practical and efficient. It’s important that a lot of people buy the truck, but you also face fierce competition from other exciting models. After discussing, choose which type of motor to use in this new truck.  

Type of Motor: Pros:    Cons:
1) High torque, lower
speed   
Good for
towing,
simple
Heavier  $$
2) Low torque, high speed Faster, more
efficient $
Poor tow rating, more maintenance 
3) Medium torque, medium speed   All around
performance $   
Less exciting

New Garden Area at Orchard View School

Summer vegetables growing in the newly rebuilt raised beds.

We recently rennovated our vegetable garden at Orchard View. After new cobblestones were installed, agro-ecology students have been working on rebuilding the raised beds along with benches and trellising.

This is what the garden looked like before the renovation. Bermuda grass had swallowed our entire garden.

Bermuda grass remains a formidable foe, but the cobblestone patio now prevents it from spreading from the nearby field in the beds from below. Bermuda is still trying to creep in, so it still needs to be managed.

This year, we will be adding several new raised beds on either side of the picnic table pictured above. Right now we have cover crops of favas beans, crimson clover and mustard growing in the beds.

Serving up Squash at Local High Schools

I recently helped CAFF (Community Alliance with Family Farmers) stage a Farm Invasion at Analy High School in Sebastopol to raise awareness about the importance of healthy local food in schools. Katina Connaughton and her husband Kyle (owners of Single Thread restaurant) generously donated their time to help me prepare roasted squash for the event. After an initial roasting, and adding butter, brown sugar and toasted pecans, Kyle used a torch to brulee the tops and create a caramelized crust. My sister Sarah and her boyfriend Ty grew the Delicata (which they donated to the event) at their farm in Sebastopol.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Our table in the Analy Quad.

When we got to Analy, I joined Heather, Susan and Danielle from the Sebastopol CAFF office, and Gayle Dyer, director of food service at all three West County high schools and we handed out samples of the roasted Delicata during school lunch. The roasted Delicata turned out to be a hit with staff and students alike. The kitchen manager liked the dish so much that she decided to put it on Analy’s menu for next week and I made my first delivery of Delicata to her the next day.

On Tuesday, we staged similar Farm Invasions at Laguna and El Molino high schools. For these events we added sliced Fuyu persimmons from Rancho Pillow.

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