Friday, April 18, 2014

Model a Chemical Reaction with Common LEGO® Bricks!

Another 2014 NSTA experience...
This session was geared toward the middle school level; however, I was curious to see what I could possibly learn and bring back to teachers in my district. The first activity involved the following materials and chemicals per 2-4 students: Ziploc bag, baking soda, calcium chloride, phenol red, water, and plastic vial or test tube. The presenters had us put a teaspoon of baking soda followed by two teaspoons of calcium chloride in a bag. Participants were instructed to place a vial (or test tube) with approximately 10mL of phenol red solution into the bag and hold it upright (this vial came with a cap). We were then instructed to leave the bag upright, remove the cap, and remove the remaining air inside the bag. Finally, we were instructed to tip the phenol red solution onto the solid mixture and mix it from outside the bag with our fingers. 

As always, here is a video for you demonstrating what I discussed above...

There were two other sections (I have not included pics since I've done this countless times with my students). The first allowed students to design two more experiments in order to determine which reactants would produce a color change, gas, and/or heat. Session facilitators handed baggies with different labels. Here is a rough sketch of what this part of the worksheet looked like; this is just to give you an idea.
The second section of the activity was a class activity where students and teacher worked together to determine which substances, when mixed, produced a color change, gas, and/or heat; and this was completed on a worksheet. 

On a side note, there was a participant at my table that clearly did not believe that this activity was suitable for middle school students; however, the rest of us were in agreement that this was an activity that was appropriate for the indicated grade level. Her comment baffled me and left me wondering if that was the reason why many of my students come to me with limited chemistry / wet lab experience because they had a teacher who didn't (1) believe in them and/or (2) challenge them with scientific experiences.

Anyway, the second half of the session involved playing with LEGOs®. 

I won't bore you with all the extraneous details; however, the basic concept of this activity was to help students write formulas and develop an understanding between elements and compounds. 

 If the set interests you, here is the link to a PDF flyer where you can learn more about the number of sets, costs, etc.  If you have/had children, you might just borrow from them or take a stroll to the nearest store to see if you can purchase LEGOs® for a much cheaper price.
Atoms and Molecules Set Info
Rationale for Using LEGO Bricks as Atoms

Thursday, April 17, 2014

Engaging Students in Mitosis and Meiosis

I had the opportunity to attend the 2014 National Science Teachers Association (NSTA) conference in Boston. I am behind in recapping my experience and therefore, I am going to select certain sessions to discuss/share - the first session I'm sharing is covers mitosis and meiosis. Sorry the pictures are arranged weird. I was experiencing issues with the site and just gave up after a while.

The presenters (Mary A. Gobbett and Nancy O. Steffel) shared their stations for engaging students in learning / reviewing mitosis and meiosis. I believe Mary mentioned that the activities were created for and by college students; however, the activities can be used for students in a high school level biology class. The presenters spent 20-30 minutes going through each station (pictured below) and then provided participants the opportunity to go through the stations during the remaining time. 

Station 1: Popbeads
This station consisted of popbeads which I believe you can purchase from Wards, Sargent-Welch, or other science companies. The idea behind this station was for students to experience a chromosome simulation via manipulation of the popbeads (since you can take them apart and connect them together however you wish). The students are able to illustrate the stages of mitosis and meiosis. 

Wondering what this looks like? Paul Anderson (Bozeman Science) demos that in the video below. Yes, I was able to get a picture with him at NSTA this year; however, I'm not one for posting horrible pictures of myself haha.

Station 2: Root Tip Slide Photos
I've seen and used a station like this before. I believe the presenters ordered a set from one of the science companies (Wards, Flinn, Caroline, etc.); however, they also mentioned that you could find images on the Internet - provided that you give proper credit, of course. The one thing that the presenters talked about that I liked was the fact that students used their phones to take pictures of the slides through the microscope. I thought that was a neat way to incorporate technology and cell phones, especially when that phones tend to be a hurdle for educators. Students use the pictures to identify the different stages of mitosis shown in each picture (as well as quantify the different stages).

Station 3: Cell Cycle Plates (Eukaryotic Cell Cycle)
The presenters used large pieces of filter paper to create the cell cycle plates. However, you could create these out of paper plates. There really wasn't much else to this station. I'm sure a teacher could have questions or scenarios for students to complete while they are at this particular station. 

Station 4: Playing Cards
The presenters used small cards, magnetic tape, and a magnetic cookie/baking sheet. However, take a look at the YouTube video (click the link) to get an idea of what this station is about (lower your volume if you have headphones on).

Station 5: Sister/Homologous Chromatids/Chromosomes
To be honest, I forgot exactly what this station was about. I think it was to help students develop an understanding of the vocabulary by presenting multiple visuals. I will have to email the presenters to find out. The presenters used pool noodles (top picture)  and dyed packing peanuts (bottom picture).

Stations 6 & 7: Human Chromosome Genome Map Sheets
I believe this set had to be purchased from a science company (VMR - search for the title of this station). I think she used this station as a means of helping students determine the genotype/phenotype given the maternal and paternal alleles for over a dozen traits. There were several pages that went along with this activity; however, I am not able to post them here - sorry.

Mitosis and Meiosis Dance
The name says it all. The presenter had volunteers demonstrate mitosis and meiosis to the rest of the group using hangtag chromosomes. Each person with a hangtag (see pics below) represent a chromosome and the entire room/class represents a cell.  The M = maternal, the P = paternal, and the color cloth (in this case, black) represents the the trait on a gene for that particular chromosome. Students are then lead through mitosis and/or meiosis as facilitated by the teacher. I need to ask if it would be possible to share the here and/or provide a link to the materials.

While this does not show the actual dance, I found it on YouTube and thought it was interesting...

And that's all I have for now and this session. Stay tuned for more...