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!
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 CNN.com 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:
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:
It’s been awhile since I’ve posted, but here’s something really exciting!
The National Science Teachers Association (NSTA) is offering a FREE SciPack related to the Ocean’s Effect on Weather and Climate. It’s got all sorts of great resources for your class.
I just downloaded mine – I’m so excited to check it out!
Happy Earth Science Week 2009!!!
For all sorts of cool resources, check out Teach Science and Math’s Resources Post.
Last winter, I participated in U.S. Satellite’s professional development course called 3-D View. You can read my entries about the course at the following links: Day 1 and Days 2-5.
I recently got an email that they are offering this course at a discounted rate.
I strongly recommend any teacher involved in general science, earth science, environmental science, ecology, or biology participate.
You can get more information at the 3-D View website.
While I was watching last night’s episode of The Colbert Report, I was pleased to see that Steven Colbert’s guest was Dr. Neil DeGrasse Tyson, an Astrophysicist associated with the Hayden Planetarium at the American Museum of Natural History in New York City.
Dr. Tyson hosts the PBS show NOVA scienceNOW. He described the show as an opportunity to share all parts of science with the public in a way that is easy to understand and interesting. The show’s website has episodes and information listed by scientific category: Health & Biosciences; Natural & Human Worlds; Physics & Space Science; Scientist Profiles; and Technology & Math.
I clicked on the link to Physics and found a great page all about CERN, the particle physics laboratory in Geneva, Switzerland. Websites like this are so important in expanding science literacy. Even now as I am reading Dan Brown’s book Angel & Demons, I am frustrated that his depiction of physics and of CERN are inaccurate, fully knowing most readers won’t do any research to find what information is correct and what is not. I hope that programs such as NOVA scienceNOW will aid in correcting myths about science.
For more information on Dr. Neil DeGrasse Tyson, visit his official website.