Sunday, February 24, 2013

Food For Thought on Character Education

I've been enjoying our mid-winter break from classes, and attempting to clean through old files in our spare bedroom to make way for the new baby.  My husband stumbled across some old family paperwork, including a report card from 1961.  It is pretty interesting how "Character Traits" take up almost a third of the report!  The middle school report cards of 2013 have some obvious similarities, but aside from teacher comments, there is little or no focus on character traits.

So... I got to thinking about the middle school child and all that they endure during these transitional years.  If you work in middle school you know first hand the immense change that occurs from 6th-8th grade.  These kiddos go through a huge academic, social and emotional transformation during the tween years.  While perusing a handful of old report cards, the questions started flowing! (My poor husband will now be forced to engage in conversation on this topic over dinner.)  We know that holding our students to high academic standards is a necessity, but are we holding them to high moral standards?  Do we focus so much on the test, the content, the core, that we forget to recognize, teach and assess how our students are growing into respectable young adults?  (We all have our own way of bringing character development into our classrooms.  Some use literature, prizes/rewards or just verbal praise, but is it enough?)  Food for thought: Is the age of academic accountability overshadowing character education?

Happy Teaching...

Saturday, February 9, 2013

Liquid Experiments Kids Love!

I love giving students a chance to interact with science content through exploration activities.  Although direct, explicit instruction is a necessary component of any middle-level science program, hands-on experiments can bring science to life.  Here are some snapshots of our recent learning target on liquid viscosity.  My students had a lot of fun gathering data and drawing conclusions, but more importantly these activities got their minds to stir and think critically about how all matter is made of particles whose properties determine its characteristics!
We did a lot of activities to explore the unique properties of liquids, but this shampoo viscosity lab was definitely a favorite amongst my 6th graders.  In order to do this experiment with your class you will need shampoo (I bought white rain for $1.00 per bottle on sale), glass marbles, a stopwatch and a place to keep the bottles at different temperatures.  It was super easy to set up!
Students tested how long it takes for a marble to pass through a shampoo bottle kept in warm water, ice and at room temperature. Groups were assigned different scents and tested only one scent throughout the experiment.  We talked about how scientists keep many factors constant in order to maintain fairness in their experimental design.  This was necessary because I divide my class up into 9 lab groups and I couldn't find a store that had 9 bottles of the exact same shampoo!   

(In the past, I have been able to keep these bottles outside in the snow but on the day of this experiment we had a record 65 degree day....just my luck!  Having the cooler actually worked out to be easier because I did not have to be concerned with sending students to an exit door to get the cold bottles.)
Students used their phones or ipods to time the marble moving through the shampoo for multiple trials and then averaged their data.  


My students recorded their work in their interactive science notebooks using the framework from the packet pictured above.  Graphing the data and having a class discussion proved to be a great opportunity to talk about inverse relationships, trends and interpreting graphs.
This activity would make a nice extension to any science unit on properties of matter.  If you are interested in more of the materials that I used for teaching about liquids, check out my TpT on Liquid Viscosity!


Happy Teaching!


Thursday, February 7, 2013

Check out this Giveaway!


Congratulations to Krystal at Lessons From the Middle on her first blog birthday.  She has over $500 of awesome products and gift certificates to give away in celebration!  The giveaway runs from February 8th to the 11th, so be sure to stop by and register.  The prizes are grade-level specific, so there is something for everybody!  Good luck and happy teaching...

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Surface Tension Activities with Freebie


One of my favorite lessons to teach is on cohesion and surface tension.  The kids are naturally curious and very excited about it, so that makes my job pretty easy!  Here are a few fun activities we did today in class.

Soap Powered Boat Race 
 Fill a large pan with plain water.  Cut small boats out of card weight paper.  Provide students with cups filled with soapy water eye-droppers.  Students race to use the soapy water to break the water's surface tension behind the boat, which propels it forward.  When I demonstrated this for the class, I showed them how using an eye-dropper with regular water will not move the boat.  (The boat at the top of the photo loses the race for this reason.)
Cotton Race

Soap and heat reduce the surface tension of water.  This demonstration is great springboard for a discussion about why we use soap for cleaning our clothes!  This can be done with soapy water or with very warm water.  Drop a cotton ball into water and soapy water at the same time.  The cotton falls faster in the soapy water because it has less surface tension.  The lower the surface tension, the faster the water can move into tiny spaces (like the spaces between the cotton fibers).

Exploding Rainbow 

This one is probably the biggest hit with my 6th graders because it does a great job showing molecules in motion!  Fill a petri dish or glass pie pan with Vitamin D (whole) milk.  Place single drops of food coloring on the surface.



Add one drop of full strength liquid dish soap to the center and observe!  The soap breaks apart the cohesive bonds between the milk molecules (made of mostly fat, water and vitamins) which disrupts the surface tension.  This sends the food coloring swirling about.    GROOVY!


Shake'n Up Surface Tension

Pour a small amount of water in a small dish.  Sprinkle pepper on the surface.  Add one drop of soapy water to the center of the dish.  When the soapy water breaks the cohesive surface tension, the pepper rapidly scatters to the sides of the dish.  So simple...yet still cool! (Sorry for the low quality images on this one, I sent them on my phone.)

Freebie!




If you are looking to do some of these with your class, download this free activity packet from my TpT store.  It gives you a little more information about some different ways to teach surface tension!  Happy Teaching...



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