Posts Tagged ‘current events’

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!

Engineering Design: Kosciuszko Bridge

There was an article in one of the New York Times’ blogs recently on the plans to rebuild the Kosciuszko Bridge on the Brooklyn-Queens Expressway in New York City. There’s also a video that shows a virtual tour and test drive of the bridge and an opportunity to vote and comment on the final bridge design to be started in 2014.

What a great opportunity for an engineering design project. You could analyze the different design proposals and discuss the benefits of each. It’s also a great chance to talk about the aesthetics involved in design and debate their importance. Finally, kids could team up to build scale models of their favorite proposed design!

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:

Homemade Cooking Gas!

Found this really neat video on this morning. It’s all about a man who has figured out a way to make his own gas for cooking. What a great discussion for class!

Octopus, Coconuts, & Airplanes, Oh My!

I woke up this morning to some pretty cool current events.

First, as I turned to ABCNews, I saw this crazy article about an octopus who uses coconuts for shelter. I never realized there were coconuts in the ocean, but I guess there are since these researchers have discovered that octopus are able to use coconuts by removing the innards and carrying two halves of the shell to a certain location and then reassemble them to create a shelter. Apparently, this is the first example of an invertebrate using a tool.

Then when I switched to CNN, there was an article about the new Boeing plane. This is the first time in over a decade that Boeing has unveiled a new plane and they claim it is the best yet. “It’s more environmentally friendly, it’s more efficient, uses less fuel, it’s going to cost the operator less to fly, it’s going to allow the passengers to pay less and feel better when they land,” according to Boeing’s CEO. Test flights in the next few months will prove to the world that Boeing’s still got what it takes.

Note: if you’re interesting in reading more about airplane companies, check out Michael Crichton’s book Airframe. It’s a really fun and thrilling read. I had hoped it would be great for a classroom library, but the language leaves a bit to be desired.

If you found the Boeing article interesting, you should check out the Intrepid Museum of Sea, Air, & Space!

What Happens To Your Trash?

Ever wonder what happens to your trash? So did a bunch of MIT researchers! In an effort to learn more about the efficiency of recycling and trash in America, they devised a way to track pieces of trash. The data has not all been compiled yet, but you can read more about the study on CNN.

Geology: End of Unit Project and Activities

I just finished writing a lesson plan for the end of a middle school Geology Unit. The basic idea is to give kids the opportunity to apply their knowledge of sedimentary layers to digging and drilling wells. There is a power point that shows pictures of clear and colorful sedimentary layers in Nevada as well as of oil rigs, which initiates the discussion and exploration of the techniques and tools involved in drilling for oil. The class then transitions to the discussion of clean water and the problems associated with dirty water in developing countries.

Students begin learning about the organization Charity:Water, which raises money to provide wells in the villages of  several developing countries and also sponsors a project for school children to raise money for wells to be dug at village schools.

An in class investigation involves students “drilling” through several layers of food or other materials to get to the water source at the bottom. They must keep the water as clean as possible and assess their success. In the end, students will apply their learning and knowledge to a campaign to raise money for schools in developing nations to have clean water.

Get it here: