Thursday, August 6, 2020

Digital Graphing Calculator Apps

It just occurred to me you may not be familiar with emulators.  Emulators, in this case, mimic TI graphing calculators.  I bought GraphNCalc83 six years ago for my iPad—under $10.  The software app transfers to new iPads, too.  The TI calculator app behaves a bit differently from TI 83/84 calculators.  I use it when my class needs an extra calculator.  I loan it to kids who aren’t flustered easily and can troubleshoot.  An emulator app to use on your phone is much less costly than buying a graphing calculator—even used.  My kids have downloaded different emulators for their phones; we have not found a free version to rival GraphNCalc83.

Wednesday, August 5, 2020

Science at Five Below

Do you think Science when you visit Five Below?  Okay, I think Science in every store.  But Five Below has a few gems: Gadgets and GizmosStalagmitesSpider Robot, Whales, and  Wolves.  You can buy Gummy Bears (for the Gummi Bear Osmosis Lab), a Slime kit, Commercial Slime—for comparison, Metallic Glue (for your own Slime)—even a Sensory bottle.  

I like the Sensory Bottles because it has Water Beads.  (You can make Ghost Crystals.  Use Water Absorbing Crystals from the Gardening section in a box store.). I just ordered Stalagmites.  It’s just like Magic Rocks Crystal Growing Set.  The contents are sodium silicate (water glass) and metallic salts, such as copper II sulfate.  Here are instructions to make your own crystal garden.  Home Science Tools sells sodium silicate.  See?  Five Below does have science stuff.

Rocks for Sale

One topic I rarely use here is Earth Science, especially Geology.  Oh, I’ve taught Earth Science.  It’s just not my favorite subject.  I would rather have a root canal than teach anything relating to Astronomy.  Geology is a close second.  Yet, both Astronomy and Geology are important topics in Earth Science.  Good Will has a listing for rocks and gems.  When I do teach Geology I need sets of rocks and minerals identified for Mineral ID labs.  Good Will often has rocks and minerals sets— like this one.  If you are teaching Earth Science, check out mineral sets.

Tuesday, August 4, 2020

Project Based Learning

Serendipity!  Young House Love posted a Wall Paint Treatment which is a project with math, budgeting, photos, ... In other words, this project is another great example!  Think of the math!

Are you familiar with Project Based Learning?  The basic idea is to cram a lot of learning around a theme.  Here is an example: Create a Backyard Habitat.  How would you start?  I would start with an inventory of my existing backyard.  Our small yard has a raised bed, a tiny rain garden, winter bird feeders, a bird house, and a bat house.  I recommend measuring the space and taking photos.  You may want to set up a trail camera to see what types of wildlife visit your yard.  Next, ask about plans.  What have other people done in their yards?  What are the costs?  Then create practical, affordable plans for your household.  Your kids could create a complete presentation: photos, detailed scaled plans, bird and mammal lists, With completed bird and bat houses they build themselves.  Projects like a backyard wildlife habitat can involve tremendous amounts of research and  writing.  Often kids learn about local species of plants and animals.  Guess what?  The entire family can be involved!  Talk with your family.  What type of project might be of benefit?  A new storage shed to plan, build, and paint?  A new raised bed?  Container plants?  Chickens?  A Stock Tank Pool?  Home projects make fabulous educational projects.  Brainstorm ideas at your family meeting.

Monday, August 3, 2020

What is a good price for a used graphing calculator?

I am a big advocate for tech—especially affordable tech like TI 83/84 graphing calculators.  They are hard to buy at affordable prices.  I have purchased several from Good Will similar to this listing.  I try to pay about $15-20 for a TI 83 model and target $35 for a used TI 84 calculator. I usually get the best deals when I buy two or three in a lot.   I reeaaaallly want more TI 84 models to take advantage of Vernier sensors.  The TI 84 has the Easy Data app preloaded.  The TI 84 can accept sensors to collect data.  Sorry, I’m off topic.  eBay has loads of TI calculators.  Right now, the TI 84 goes for about $50 with shipping.  Amazon has used models for about $60.  TI 83 plus models are $30-35 on eBay and about $30 on Amazon.  TI 84 calculators new are $88 and TI 83 is $81 from Walmart.  Incidentally, if you buy a TI 83 model try to buy a TI 83 plus; it has more math apps.  The reason I hate to pay more than $15 for a TI 83 or $35 for a TI84 is because used calculators are a gamble.  I have had great luck.  Once in a while, a calculator dies or a kid borrows one and forgets to return it.  I am not upset because I do not have $100 tied up in the calculator.  See?  I am back to bidding at Good Will.

Affordable Subscription Kits

Subscription kits?  Really?  I’m just like you!  Sure, I am always tempted by STEM kits.  When I want to gauge a subscription kit, I look on Good Will Online.  They have Kiwi Crate and MEL kits occasionally.  Keep an eye on eBay for Spangler Science Kits.  Usually, I order a kit to see the instructional booklet.  I’ll bid on a lot of kits as gifts, too.  I am surprised by the number of unused kits which turn up on Good Will. I guess the kid who received the kit was less than thrilled; a parent or grandparent donated it to Good Will.  This is one way to satisfy your curiosity about a science kit without breaking the bank.  I just ordered a MEL kit on eBay.  After it arrives, I’ll let you know if it’s a worthwhile investment.

Sunday, August 2, 2020

Apologia Science: Grocery Store Chemicals

For years I taught at private schools with shoe-string budgets.   I bought many chemicals from grocery and hardware stores.  Let me share some lists.  Here is a list with the chemical name, common name, chemical formula, and source, such as a grocery store.  Supermarket Chemical Reactions uses chemicals you likely already have—with the exception of red cabbage.  Yes, you can make your own red cabbage indicator.  Off the Shelf Chemistry has ideas for more labs to do with super market chemicals.  You are welcome.

How does your garden grow?

We just ran out of commercial plant food.  Ordinarily this would not be a problem.  However, we are in strict quarantine.  Yes, we do use the pick-up lane at Walmart.  There have been some glitches with the local store.  (Two weeks in a row, we got 21 bananas instead of seven.  In fact, groceries have been something of a surprise.  What was shorted?  What was substituted?  What do you mean the order went to another family?  Yes, really.). So I googled DIY plant food And tried the recipe on our container plants.  I will post results.

Saturday, August 1, 2020

Null and Alternate Hypotheses

The DNA Extraction Lab is a good lab to learn how to write a hypothesis with both the null and alternate hypothesis.  Let’s say your kids want to test different detergents to see which type produces the most DNA: Dawn dish soap, Joy dish soap, soft soap, shampoo, and Tide.  Which soap do you think will produce the most DNA?  Many sources say Dawn works best to produce DNA.  This is the alternate hypothesis.  The null hypothesis is that all of the soaps or detergents will produce an equal amount of DNA.  After you complete the experiment, you should explain whether the results support the null or the alternate hypothesis.  The results CAN refute both the null and alternate hypothesis.  None of them might produce any DNA or Tide produced more DNA than Dawn.  If your experiment has a hypothesis, stretch your thinking to include both the alternate and null hypotheses.

Scientific Method

Apologia’s secondary science textbooks usually have a section on the scientific method.  I prefer to teach experimental design.  I emphasize hands-on activities and labs because kids learn more.  Use activities for instruction.  Start with the Rainbow Lab.  What factors or variables should be controlled or kept the same?  Ask the kids before the lab.  Answers may include drops of pigment, water temperature, all tap or distilled water—even same sized graduated cylinders for measures.  Look at Scientific Method Using Alka-seltzer lab.  Instead of following the directions precisely, start with Alka-seltzer tablets, beakers and water.  Before lab, ask kids how to manipulate the rate the tablets dissolve.  Let the class discuss the method, say water temperature, and ask which variables should be controlled in order to test one variable temperature. See the difference?  The kids should tell you to keep water volume, type of container, and mass of the tablet the same.  

I use this approach often.  Here is another example: DNA Extraction Lab.  First the kids follow the directions.  Next, I issue a challenge.  Does the type of detergent matter?  Many recipes recommend Dawn dish soap.  Would soft soap, laundry detergent, or shampoo work?  How will we know which detergent works best? (Which method produces the greatest amount of DNA?). There are other factors or variables to manipulate: coarse or fine salt, iodized or noniodized salt, 70% or 90% rubbing alcohol, rubbing alcohol or ethyl alcohol, cold alcohol or room temperature alcohol.  Remind kids to test one variable at a time.  

Don’t get hung up trying to formulate ‘if than’ statements.  Instead identify the single independent variable to test and derive a hypothesis.  For example, Dawn dish soap will produce the most DNA.  Then run equal amounts of every brand or soap you can find in your house.  Here is a simple scientific method template which ironically is NOT ham-strung by rigid adherence to the scientific method.

Friday, July 31, 2020

Apologia Chemistry: Name Ionic Compounds

Flinn has an ion kit called Putting the Ions in Their Hands and sells these kits, Ionic Formula Writing Kits.  I bought the kit years ago from Flinn.  So I print the cations on to red card stock, the anions on to blue card stock, and the ion formulas, on to yellow card stock—like the original kit.  Kids as young as ten can use this kit to learn how to name ionic compounds.  Generally, kids in eighth grade Physical Science are ready to learn how to name ionic compounds.  Chemistry kids of all abilities can learn to name ionic compounds with this kit.  I give the kids one example and then float around answering questions, locating ions, and showing kids how to interpret the ionic compounds.  Below are pix and an explanatory video.  Take a look.


Digital Graphing Calculator Apps

It just occurred to me you may not be familiar with  emulators.   Emulators , in this case, mimic TI graphing calculators.  I bought  GraphN...