Probing Into New Science Experiences – Computers, Probeware, Displacement, Fun, and Science Learning

When we add technology to our repertoire of science activities, the best uses are for areas that allow students to do things that they could not do before. A simulation that allows students to explore falling objects with different forces of gravity, like Adaptive Curriculum’s “Free Fall”, extends learning beyond the walls of a classroom.In a similar way, the best probeware allows students to discover things beyond the ordinary science classroom. So, if a school only had a budget for one probe, I recommend that it not be a thermometer, pH, or voltage probe, but rather, PASCO’s Passport motion sensor. Combined with PASCO’s EZ-Screen, this product is so much fun that instead of selling soda to get supply money, a science teacher could charge students a quarter a try. It is more fun than the token games at our local movie theater.Motion SensorThe name “motion sensor” is confusing. One might think it could turn lights on and off when walking into or out of a room. But these don’t; they really should be called “distance detectors”. The detector emits sound pulses that travel outward, and if something is in the path, the sound hits it and bounces back to the detector. It tells how far away a person or object is located, based upon how long it takes the wave to travel to and from the probe. Since it is measuring distance from a fixed point (the detector) in a specific direction, it can be used to track a person or object’s displacement versus time. When the person moves in or out, their displacement from the probe is indicated in the form of a line graph. Thus a student can make a real time displacement-time graph and instantly understand a topic that many students find confusing.EZ-ScreenThe group that designed EZ-Screen should get an award. It is bright, fun, and engaging, which is not easy to say about a lot of graphing software. I recommend starting with free explorations of what happens when students move in, move out, and rest. The graphs show immediately what happens. Charging students twenty-five cents a try is recommended.The most fun comes when students try to match a graph. They see a gray line graph on the screen and then try to walk in such a way that the graph is replicated. They see the graph that was created (scarlet) against the match graph (gray), and get a score (100 being the highest). Bringing in the element of competition amps up the engaging value. (Like when I connected my son’s PS3 online and then played his NCAA 08 Football; competing against a real (even though unknown) person made it so much more interesting to play as the scarlet and gray team.) Both of my sons have greatly enjoyed competitions with Match Graph.Science ClassFor science instruction, I break my class into small groups with each having a computer and a detector. They start with free exploration. Then they practice doing the first match graph. After a few trials, they have a competition to see who is the best for the second match graph. I tell them not to do the third and final match. Each group sends their top contender to the front probe, which is also connected to a projector. We then have the finals, to award the title of “Grand Displacement-Time Graph Champion”. This was great fun and learning for my middle school science children this semester, and for adult preservice teachers in previous semesters. If you set up a little bookie operation you can make some more money by taking bets on the finals. I recommend taking 10% of the action.Of course, with this probe you can do other things as well with other PASCO software, like dropping a table tennis ball and seeing a free fall graph. And then you could go to Adaptive Curriculum to explore free fall with different gravitational forces.ConclusionWhile technology might be used because it makes some things easier, I think when we are on limited budgets, starting with things that we can’t easily do, or that are impossible to do with regular tools makes the most sense. So let your students explore other planets with Adaptive Curriculum, and let them see that some graphing is great fun with EZ-Screen and motion detectors. It’s just too bad that they don’t turn off the lights.The question is… What will you buy with all the money you make?For the RecordI hope you know I was kidding about the quarters and 10% of the action on the betting. I prefer Twinkies and other lunch snacks instead of quarters and I limit myself to 8% of the gambling action.The references to Scarlet and Gray does suggest an affinity for Buckeyes.Some people use the term dataloggers instead of probeware. If you wear smell sensors connected to clothing armpits, these are called probewear, otherwise the term probeware is preferred.

Digital Microscopes in the Elementary Science Classroom – Effective, Affordable, and Easy to Use

Advances in digital microscope technology over the last few years have resulted in great benefits for students. While there are many different types of digital microscopes, they fall into one of two main categories, those that connect to the TV and those that connect to the computer through a USB port. Instead of students being required to share microscopes and discuss their findings without any references, the digital microscopes allow the entire class to view specimens and discuss findings as a group.One type of digital microscope plugs into a data projector or television. This makes the process of teaching science to a classroom much more dynamic, easier and more cost effective. The presentation of specimens and discussion can be accomplished easily by placing the television in the front of the classroom where all students have a clear view of the screen. The educator places the specimen under the handheld microscope for view by the entire classroom.The educator is able to use the television to point out details of the specimen, encourage participate by all students, and fulfill the objectives of the lesson plan using one microscope. There is no need for software or extra equipment to make the microscope a vital part of the educational process.Students will be able to learn the steps for dissecting specimens properly without the normal trial and error that often accompanies this process. In addition, group discussion, questions, and answers always serve educators well when presenting new or unusual content to students. Teaching students about the cellular structure of animals and plants can be easily accomplished using the large, clear, and crisp picture provided by the television screen or data projector.An added benefit of this type of system is that students with special needs, who may not normally be able to handle the small controls of a microscope or be able to navigate the intricacies of the scope, will be able to participate and learn easily with the rest of the class. This inclusion of all students in the science exploration process will expand and empower students with special needs to participate in learning more actively.The scopes made for use with televisions or data projectors lack the functions and features of the scopes that integrate with a computer using a USB port. These systems are able to record still images, do time-lapse videos, and provide a continual flow of information to students relative to the specimen they are studying. An educator can easily develop a lesson plan that will include the splitting of a cell, or the growth process of fungi or bacteria and treat students to the wonderful excitement of watching nature in action.The most effective microscopes for education use are designed to provide greater magnification of 10x to 200x or higher. They also include easy-to-use controls for LED lighting which will allow for adaptation to light sources in the classroom more easily.Many teachers find that using the digital microscope in conjunction with desk microscopes allows for more flexibility in teaching techniques and methods. It is very powerful to have the instructor be able to display what the students are looking for in their desktop microscopes. The interaction of students and educator when students know what they are looking at allows the educator to focus on the project and specimen at hand for the entire class instead of spending time at individual desks telling students the same information.The benefits of using a digital microscope in elementary science classrooms are tremendous. The SmartScope by SmartSchool Systems is affordable and easy to use and opens doors for educators and students. Educators are able to create dynamic lesson plans that utilize the full applications of the microscope while the students benefit from the wonderful world that has been opened to them through this modern technology.

Harry Potter’s Intriguing Science Lesson Plans

Science Lesson Plans are magical when learned in Harry Potter’s Chamber of Secrets at Hogwarts. Elementary education level students will use their imaginations to become wizard graduates as they perform the philosopher’s easy science experiments. Let your students push up their robe cuffs with all your science lessons plans this term.Science lessons plans can include disappearing water through evaporation, or making a magical rainbow from prisms. Magical potion concoctions from Kool-Aid can add a treat. Try a science lesson plan by growing Basilisk Fang plants in a pot of dirtless, hydroponic soil.Elementary education kids will love solving mysteries by gathering clues about the forests and fields around them. What magical creatures will they learn about next?These science lesson plans can make real wizards out of all of them.Science lessons plans involving the Golden Snitch, disappearing ink, fingerprint clues, mystery powers and bubble powders will excite every elementary education student in your science classes with Harry Potter’s easy science experiments. Your classes will make all your students want to come to school on science days.Science lesson plans with Hagrid and his magical animal friend Buckbeak were always an exciting class for Harry, Ron and Hermione. They went deep into the forest for each science lesson with other classmates from Gryffindor as well as those from Slytherin House who were not as taken with the lessons.When organizing animal and bird science lesson plans for your class, you can incorporate a little bit of Hogwarts’ lessons ideas. Some animals have characteristics and habits that are different from the norm. Perhaps these animals or birds have a bit of creative magic in them similar to that of Fawkes the Phoenix or Hedwig the Owl.Some species have wonderful and unusual colors in the feathers or furs. Why is this? Why does the coloring of males differ from their female counterparts? Why do some animals life deep in the forest, or jungles while the habitat of others is near the oceans or the deserts? Why are some nocturnal, while others are not?Science lesson plans can also incorporate art lessons. Drawing mystical creatures or real life ones can be fun. Reading lesson plans can also incorporate literature from the Harry Potter series, creating an entire Harry Potter module for your class this year.Harry, Ron and Hermione loved their lessons in the greenhouse at Hogwarts school. Each science lesson plan about plants studied with other classmates from Gryffindor and Slytherin House taught them much about the care for living things in their world. Although their world differs a great deal from ours, we need to understand the importance of plant life in our world too.There are many different types of plants that can be incorporated into your lesson plans. Some plants thrive in dry sunny areas while other prefer shade and more moisture. Some species can withstand colder climates, while others can not. Some plants do indeed seem to be magical, such as the Venus Fly Catcher. Why do some plants live for many years and others survive only one season before wilting and dying? These many facets of plant life should be addressed in your plant science lesson plans.Science lesson plans can also include actual student gardens with a hands-on approach as did those lessons at Hogarts with Harry Potter and his friends. An area in your school yard can be fenced off for a gardening club. Students can learn how to plant vegetables and flowers, to care for them and to harvest them. Your lessons can include the proper use of gardening tools for cultivation as well as the importance of composting. A teacher friend of mind has done this at her school quite successfully for many years. Parent volunteers are helpful, especially Dads for the heavier work. Local nurseries have helped supply topsoil, fertilizers and mulches.Flowers are picked for bouquets each June for the school tea. And during the summer time, students and their families share in weekly assignments of watering, weeding, harvesting and caring for the garden.There are many aspects of gardening and plant knowledge that can be incorporated into your science lesson plans. The children love getting their hands dirty and are amazed each week as they watch their garden grow. This hands on approach will have a much greater learning experience than reading from a book.Try some of these interesting ideas to help keep your students focused and interested in science this year.