Archive for the ‘World-Wide Science’ Category

Ms Frizzle In The News!

I am so thrilled to let you know that Just Call Me Ms Frizzle was just honored as one of the Top 50 Science Teacher Blogs!

Teacher Certification Degrees, the website sponsoring the list has great resources for aspiring teachers. Resources include information regarding teaching degrees, state certification, education related careers, and other helpful tools!

Check out the other 49 recognized blogs as well and enjoy the summer!

Highlights: Atomic Testing Museum

I have been so busy with end of school chaos that I haven’t blogged in ages. Therefore, to commemorate the end of  my first year, I’ll be writing about some highlights throughout the year.

My first field trip was a success!!!! I took my physics students to the Atomic Testing Museum and (aside from last minute chaperone cancellations, paperwork nightmares, and students missing the bus to the museum) it was amazing. I loved watching my kids learn and experience things outside of the classroom; there was much laughter :)

My kiddos - gonna miss this crazy bunch over the summer!

Guest Speaker: Accident Reconstruction

Today I had my first guest speaker (the cheaper alternative to a field trip!). Officer Michael Lemley of the Las Vegas Police Department came to speak to my physics students about accident reconstruction today. It was great for someone else to be in charge of the class and it was so fun to hear my students asking questions and thinking through this particular application of physics!

Officer Lemley was wonderful. He kept the kids laughing and made clear connections between the content and the real-world. One of my favorite parts of the day was Lemley’s insistence that he wishes he had paid more attention to his classes in high school because he had to relearn it all 20 years later. He told my students he never thought he would use his high school knowledge, but it always comes back.

He closed by talking about the cause of most fatal accidents he works on: distracted drivers. He illustrated several instances of people dying because they were texting or on the phone. He asked students why the United States is not willing to show gruesome commercials about drunk and distracted driving; the kids got into quite a debate over offending people v. being honest about consequences.

Since he was in the building for the whole day, he addressed my 9th grade general science classes for the last 20 minutes – I think it was the first time they had heard about applications of science in the “real world”. In my 5th period, I have a specific young gentleman who has the potential to be a lovely person, but has chosen bad friends and a worse attitude instead. When Officer Lemley began addressing the class, he asked the young man what career he would like to pursue. When my student answered the Army, Lemley told him that his attitude would not allow him to be successful. As the boy began to answer, “What attitude??!”, Lemley made him aware of the fact that he had been observing the class during our lecture time. The kid came up to me after class and whispered very softly, “Miss, I’ll never give you a hard time in class again!”. I then discovered that the kids thought Lemley was my personal friend and I had asked him to come in on account of their behavior – ha!

I am so glad I had Officer Lemley come to class – I am really looking forward to inviting more guest speakers soon!

NASA’s Great Moonbuggy Race

I saw this photo gallery about NASA’s Great Moonbuggy Race the other day and just had to share!

Students and other participants flock to Marshall Space Flight Center in Alabama to race their Moonbuggies: vehicles they have designed to withstand the elements on the moon. Teams race their buggies around the course and compete for speed and design.

This would be a fantastic project for a high school or university engineering or physics course! Check out the Great Moonbuggy Race website for more information.

Magnetism Unit

I’m working on developing a high school Physics magnetism unit. The lessons I’ve written so far are posted on the Lesson Plans page. So far, it consists of an introductory lesson, two lessons on magnetic fields, a computer-based lab connecting electricity and magnetism, as well as an end of unit project.

Since I am relocating to Las Vegas, NV, I am working to connect each of my lessons to the community. This unit easily demonstrates the science associated with the hydroelectric generators at the Hoover Dam. I can’t wait to bring students there for field trips!!

General Motors [GM] Education Resources

I just discovered that GM has an incredible wealth of resources for educators!

First, there’s Teach Green, the education blog. It is written by science and technology teachers with tips and commentary on teaching students to be environmentally literacy. As written on the website:

This section of GM Education was created as a gateway for “green” educators to share their experiences and inspirations for teaching lessons about the environment. To educate. To inspire. To, well, teach green.

You can contribute your ideas a stories by emailing

Second, the general education page for GM is chalk-full of excellent resources for energy and environmental lessons for all grades:

  1. About GM Education Page
  2. Grade Appropriate Resources – Separated into K-4, 5-8, and 9-12, this section gives students, parents, and teachers resources related to energy and the environment.
  3. Lesson Plans – fantastic plans for teachers that are interactive and interdisciplinary in nature.
  4. Games include topics such as the environment, science and engineering, general knowledge, and word games.
  5. Teach Green – education and energy blog written by educators.
  6. Coloring Pages for kids related to cars, energy, the environment, and our planet.
  7. Photos from the 2010 Auto Shows

I am really looking forward to getting to know this resource better – I am certain that students will enjoy it as well!

Earthquakes and Tsunamis

Coincidental to the earthquake in Chile and tsunami in Hawaii, my class is studying waves. On Wednesday we even studied the refraction of water waves and discussed tidal waves. I am glad we discussed the formation of tidal waves before this occurred so my students have a scientifically literate knowledge of what is happening.

We watched this video of an annual tidal wave and discussed that large waves are created when a large amount of energy in the deep-sea is forced into a more shallow area, causing a higher amplitude and faster wave velocity.

The important difference between a tidal wave and a tsunami is the initiation of the energy of the wave. Tidal waves are generated the same way as tides – by the changing distance between the earth and the moon. Tsunamis are caused mainly by earthquakes.

Most people think of a tsunami as a The Day After Tomorrow-sized wave that will take out all of lower Manhattan.

I guess the possibility of that happening one day is not out of the question, but tsunamis are not classified by being at least 30 meters tall. In the case of this tsunami, the amplitude of the waves have not increased more than 1 meter every 20 minutes. This might be the greatest change in amplitude that is observed.

The biggest concern with this storm is that the major changes in tides could cause an extremely caustic environment for the flora and fauna within the ocean.

The reason I’m writing tonight is not to teach you about tsunamis, but to stress the importance of using every opportunity to provide our students with an education rich in scientifically literate experiences. Watching the news today, I have heard too many people panic that a tsunami means ginormous wave that will inevitably destroy everything. I shutter at the idea that these people went to school for at least twelve years and never had a science lesson that corrected the “2012” inspired misconceptions about tsunamis.

This is why I teach science – to give students an opportunity to learn about the world around them.

NOTE: It may seem that your content area is not suitable for teaching about tsunamis (especially if you’re not a geology or earth science teacher!), but if I could work it into a physics lesson, you can work it into any science course! A biology class could discuss  the effect of the tsunami on the ecosystem of the Hawaiian Pacific Ocean, as could an environmental course.  A chemistry class could discuss how the changing chemical composition of the ocean will affect the organisms. Any way you do it, you’re giving your students a priceless exposure to scientific current events!

Olympic Science

Most people with cable TV have been huddled around watching the Olympics the past week. I proudly include myself in that group! And I can shamelessly say I’m becoming addicted to Curling. It is such an incredibly skillful sport, not to mention the epitome of competitive Physics! Ahh…my dream come true!

I just watched these ladies beat the Russian team…

I wish I played Curling so I could describe the rules, strategies, etc., but I’m not, so I’ll just give the link for the Wikipedia page, which is surprisingly thorough.

Other science teaching bloggers have been posting about the Olympics as well, check out these posts:

Finally, a comment on snowboarding by the infamous Dave Barry:

Snowboarding is an activity that is very popular with people who do not feel that regular skiing is lethal enough…. I now realize that the small hills you see on ski slopes are formed around the bodies of forty-seven-year-olds who tried to learn snowboarding.

Sci Ed Innovations Conference

A friend and I were privileged to be in attendance at NYU’s inaugural Sci Ed Innovators Day. There were very interesting speakers as well as a poster presentation session by New York City middle and high schoolers. The entire day was in the honor of Jhumki Basu, an NYU professor who passed away a year ago and whose life mission was to improve science education in NYC.

Before I share some of what I learned, I just have to share two moments that were absolutely hysterical (or at least I thought so!):

NYU’s president kept mentioning the world-wide campus they are developing and kept mentioning Agra. My friend asked where Agra is and all I could guess is it must be near Agrabah, where Aladdin lives. Just then, the president said, “It’s hard to do Organic Chemistry in Agra.” Haha, I didn’t realize Aladdin was so into O. Chem!

Later in the day, a presenter from Cisco was commenting on how technology has transformed education: “…you had to be a monk or an Aristocat to have knowledge.” Yup, he said Aristocat. I didn’t realize Disney movies and science education had so much in common :)

Joking aside, it was a conference rich in information. Members of the Ashoka social entrepreneurs company presented their ChangeMakers website: a website full of social issues that can be solved by organization (sort of like a grant project for competitive people).

NYU’s Steinhart School of Education is revamping their program to focus on training teachers through “serious play” – using exploration to learn and not just traditional paper, pen, lecture, test, etc. Along with their partnership with the Jhumki Basu Foundation, Steinhart is developing (still under construction) as a resource for science teachers in under-served areas.

Astronaut Lee Morin was the keynote speaker and I learned so much:

  • When in orbit, a shuttle moved at 5 mi/sec…yes, that’s 5 MILES PER SECOND!
  • The aurora borealis looks even more amazing from space.
  • NASA employs artists to render images of new technology and missions that are still being developed. Therefore, artists must be scientifically literate.
  • Lee Morin was part of the “grandfather’s walk” – the first ever space walk of only grandfathers :)
  • Lee Morin is funny: “Is a bulldozer on the moon still called an earth mover?”
  • NASA is developing technology to make regolith (the dust covering the moon) into a glass that could be used to build space colonies – this is extremely important because a major issue of space colonization is the fact that a shuttle needs an incredible amount of fuel to get to space and, therefore, can only carry a small mass in its payload bay.
  • NASA has TONS of resources for teachers.

friend, Lee Morin (astronaut), and myself

Other fun little bits from the day include an amazing video of the future of magazines:

I’ve never been a proponent of electronic textbooks, but if they are made to be interactive like this, I might be convinced to change my mind!

Lastly, we were introduced to the Apple Store Kid. I have no words, you’ve just got to watch for yourself:

Can you believe this kid just went into the Apple Store, recorded this, and posted it to YouTube? So cool :)

If you’re in the NYC area, keep your eyes open for future Sci Ed Innovators events!

CoRoT-7b: The Disappearing Planet

In the Fall of 2009, astronomers found an exoplanet that seemed to be similar to Earth, orbiting a different sun. However, now they have discovered the orbit of the exoplanet continues to change because of its changing tides; the tides are changing due to its continuous loss of mass. The surface of the exoplanet is so hot that it is merely evaporating.

This would be a fantastic article from to use in an Astronomy, Physics, or Earth Science class in a current events section or when discussing orbits.

Here are three of the articles from September/October 2009 when the exoplanet was first being monitored: