22 September 2014: What does environment mean?

ListWhat does environment mean?

The more you talk about it, the longer the list grows. It can be anything, defined as physical or even defined as a mood. After collectively developing a list, and a short digression to understand that in space, the space really has nothing in it, we moved on to fish.



We will be dwelling on fish for a while, because in the communities of the Gray Area, the fish are dying. As many as a 1000 have washed up on the shores of Synchrony City, and the citizens are growing concerned.

To start to detect what might be killing the fish, we generated a list of what fish need to live:food, clean water, habitat, mates, the right temperature….were just a few. Pollution came up in many ways as being a problem for fish. We will be strict though: pollution is not one thing; there are many types of pollution, and as scientists we will be more specific than that when we concern the role of pollution in killing fish.


First task: To get to know the Gray Area better, from its past to its present.

16 September 2014: Analyzing the Garden Data

The garden study has been quick. It can take a long time to design a question and then test it. Analysis can take even longer.

Our garden questions were very, very real. There are many, many scientists in the world that ask questions about how a plant varies fruit and seed number, which visitors come to pollinate, and how the flowers of one variety differ from another. I am not sure the whole class believed me when I said that, but it’s totally the truth.

Analysis is the next step. I threw a curve ball that I didn’t mean to when we set out to analyze data using the ubiquitous Google sheets instead of Create Graphs from 6th grade. Thanks for going with it. Google sheets will be useful for more later in school and is more similar to Excel which so many people in the non-PDS world use. It is good to learn new programs since it adds to flexible thinking– even if it’s uncomfortable at first.

Class moved along so well that most people got to start writing up the results, which is the homework due next week, as a series of answers to questions.



15 September 2014: Testing Questions in a Garden

Last class we wrote questions. At the start of this class we revisited them to see if they were testable.

Questions are not all the same.

There are factual questions like: What is the capital of New York?

There are opinion questions like: What is your favorite ice cream flavor?

There are philosophical questions like: How many angels can dance on the head of a pin?

And there are testable questions like….the ones we eventually came up with today.

Testable questions often have these characteristics in common:

  • They can be answered by an experiment or comparison observation
  • The answer is not found by reading; it is “discovered”
  • The answer often has a numerical answer

Once groups refined the questions, we were off. Within the period, we had answers.

Now what?

Well, not much sense in keeping a good answer to oneself is there? The data will be analyzed and presented next.

10 September 2014: How to ask a question in a garden

Today started off with some administrative procedures that many science teachers do the first day of school. I delayed, since we wanted to get started with the penny work.

First administrative action: set up a Google doc for HW and share with me. This will hold most assignments for the year and new assignments will always be posted as the most recent.

So, there’s HW now? Yes. I try to be the last teacher to assign the first HW assignment…I guess I came in second to last this year, though.

HW is on the website and it is handy to copy and paste the questions into the HW doc for convenience when answering. And yes, part of the HW involves watching a little movie.

Next administrative task: Setting up a Table of Contents in the lab notebook.  Nothing quite says “book,” like a Table of Contents!

Next– finally– new lab! How to ask a question in a garden…

It’s not easy. The question has to be based on observation, has to be answerable by observing and/or measuring, has to be doable within a few class periods, and can’t have the answer already known. Phew. It was tough, and we were just beginning to get somewhere when…class ended.

That’s ok– we have more classes. And, we get to cut open that gall in the next one!

8 September 2014: Variables and more variables

Today we tried to narrow the gap amongst the groups.

We switched out one partner to work with someone else and share information. Then the new partnerships counted drops on a penny after analyzing the differences between their techniques.

At the end of the period, the class determined that the height of the dropper and the amount of water in the dropper were two of the most important variables in determining the number of drops.

There is another question:

Why do does so much water stay on such a small surface to being with?

4 September 2014: Can 2 people get the same number of drops on a penny?

Can two people get the same number of drops on a penny?

Pretty much. But not without a plan.

We generated a long list of variables that can influence the number of drops on a penny:  22 items on the list.


What causes differences in the number of drops that a penny can hold?

What causes differences in the number of drops that a penny can hold?

Then we went to the lab and tried to standardize as many variables as possible. Things were looking good!

To wrap up we gathered and related the number of drops each group counted.
Uh oh.
While partners were able to get similar numbers, the whole class had wide variation.

What’s going on now?

3 September 2014: First day of science class!

We had a pretty short, but still very active class.

Here was the task: Quickly set up a notebook to collect data, then, collect data!

The study seemed straightforward: use a dropper and count the number of drops the penny can hold before the water spills.

And the answer is…

We have no idea! The numbers were so different– and we haven’t even compared the whole class yet, just table by table.

Stay tuned. This mystery can be solved, one way or another.

April 30, 3013: What We’ve Been Up To

Going more than a month without a post could give someone the wrong idea about how busy it’s been.

Here is a recap:

After we returned to school on April 2, we began to juggle not one, not two, but three parts of the science curriculum.

1. Nutrients:  Before the MS trip and break, students worked in groups to prepare a nutrient cycle explanation.  Since break, they have presented, and also been working on answering an “un Google-able” question about what nitrogen, carbon and phosphorus do in living things. (See photo above.)

2. Air Pressure: To start the meteorology unit that will end the year, we have been investigating air pressure through some stations that each hold a “discrepant” or unexpected event.

3. Science Symposium:  Given that the Science Symposium is on May 3, this has taken the largest share of our class work.  Students have been fiercely editing during class, and at home.  We are almost there!Science symposium project about bactera