Middle School Science

Check out what's happening in Pathfinder science!

October 26, 2015
by Shane Boland Harrison
3 Comments

It May be Gross but they are Learning!

In the last few years I have acquired or found dead animals. There have been two pig’s heads, a big salmon, a headless rabbit and this year a chicken. We hang these bodies in a tree down near the beach. Some students are disturbed by this but most are fascinated. Last year, students found a headless rabbit and we learned that some owls decapitate their prey and feast only on the brain! The bodies then go through the process of decomposition. Flies land and lay eggs that hatch into maggots, which feed on the body. Insects can be seen crawling all over and the smell of bacteria off gassing is evident. This is the natural nutrient cycle. It is difficult for students to understand how all of the elements found in them have been here since the beginning of time and are merely recycled. When we went to hang the chicken I had one student ask “What happened to the rabbit?” Such a great question to start a great conversation!

The chicken pictured here was donated by Mr. Matt who is growing meat chickens and had one die. This is a good science experiment from which many students will learn a lot about decomposition and the nature of nutrient recycling. And besides it is Halloween!

Chicken decomposition!

Chicken decomposition!

May 10, 2015
by Shane Boland Harrison
0 comments

Pathfinder April 2015

I have been a bit out of commission due to a fractured knee. I want to thank all of my students and colleagues for their kindness and patience as I work to negotiate my way around on crutches.

I am embedding a video of pictures from April using PhotoPeach. I apologize to the mobile users who may not be able to view it.

Enjoy!

Pathfinder April 2015 on PhotoPeach  

March 23, 2015
by Shane Boland Harrison
0 comments

Compound, Mixture and Element Quiz

I am working on the Edublog Teacher Challenge. This week I was “challenged” to use a new video software program. I love to take pictures of my students in action and have been using PhotoPeach to create videos that recap a month of Pathfinder science. What I didn’t realize was how easy it is to make quizzes in PhotoPeach. I made this quiz for my 6th graders.

Elements, Compounds and Mixtures Quiz on PhotoPeach

February 10, 2015
by Shane Boland Harrison
2 Comments

Smoke Bomb Fun!

The sixth grade is studying the properties of matter. The phases – solid, liquid, gas and plasma along with the physical and chemical properties of substances, are being contemplated. We made no bake cookies and a smoke bomb. We made the smoke bomb because Sonny, a student, has been talking about this for a long, long time!!! Sugar is a main ingredient for both recipes and as the students stirred their concoctions over the hot plate our vocabulary, and the science to go along with, were discussed. Melting point, boiling point, the addition of energy as heat was added – endothermic, as the cookies and “bomb” cooled – exothermic, all came into play. On days like this I wonder why everyone doesn’t want to be a science teacher when the learning is big, the kids are engaged and you get to light off smoke bombs! Here is a video of the smoke bomb and Sonny discussing it….

February 4, 2015
by Shane Boland Harrison
1 Comment

Snowy Question Walk

 

 

It was a beautiful sunny day so the 6th graders and I went on a question walk. As we hiked I stopped several times and asked for a question from each student. There is science in all questions because science is in everything!

Why is snow cold?

Why does snow fall?

Why does snow taste the way it does?

How do snow flakes form?

Why does the snow crunch?

How come some snow is compact and some is not?

Is snow a solid or a liquid because it can take the shape of a container?

If plants are alive how come they don’t have any body heat?

Why don’t evergreen trees loose their leaves and stay green in the winter?

How is a spring formed and why does it not freeze?

Why is the sun brighter in the winter?

Where do frogs go in the winter?

Why does ice float?

How come some lakes freeze and some don’t?

Why can you slide in the snow?

So much learning – so much fun!

February 2, 2015
by Shane Boland Harrison
0 comments

Another Week of Deep Learning in Pathfinder Science!

In 6th grade we are learning about how scientists classify matter. We performed the amazing Bubblelcious Bubble Gum experiment where students predict whether the mass of chewing gum will increase or decrease over time chewed. The students mass the gum over set periods of time while chewing it. It is a disgusting experiment but the student’s never forget! They also realize just how much sugar is added to the gum and how quickly it dissolves.

Measuring the mass of chewed gum!

Measuring the mass of chewed gum!

Volume of the gum

Volume of the gum

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The concepts of density and buoyancy were also explored in an activity called “Dunkin for Density” The students are challenged to get a film canister to sink, one to float and one to hang in the middle of an aquarium. Building on the formula Density = mass/volume the students calculate the density after finding the mass and volume of film canisters with various amounts of pennies enclosed in them. In order to achieve neutral buoyancy, density has to equal 1. Some students realize they need to make the mass equal to the volume and approach the problem-using math versus trial and error.

So Close!

So Close!

     

Checking volume

Checking volume

 

Hopeful this will be the one!

Hopeful this will be the one!

 

Seventh graders are studying bacteria and viruses. In order to appreciate the good bacteria in our lives we made yogurt. The students were challenged to come up with an experiment that proves the bacteria in the yogurt use the lactose in the milk. Students brought in soymilk, lactose free milk, grape juice and goat milk. You can read about their experiments and the results on their blogs, which are attached to this blog.

Yogurt experiment

Yogurt experiment

Scalding the milk

Scalding the milk

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Checking the recipe

Checking the recipe

It tastes marvelous!

It tastes marvelous!

 

Grape juice yogurt!

Grape juice yogurt!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Eight graders finished up their unit on the nervous system. During this unit I have each student research a street drug to find out how it affects the brain. I then invite a fellow teacher to come in and talk about his brother’s death from a heroin overdose at the age of 20. It is very powerful as he describes his brother and everything he has missed in his life. Many tears are shed and the students come away with a very real example of the devastation drugs can do to a family.

 

 

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