Boston University, GK-12 Project STAMP
Fellow: Gerald Brun
School: Broadmeadows Middle School
Teacher: Bill Billikas
Class: 8th grade, General Science
Here are a few succesful activities:
1. All About Gum
Using different types of gum, the kids get to learn how to use a triple-beam balance and use the metric unit of mass (gram). However gross and messy this experiment can get, they will have fun. They will do a little biology when they understand that the enzymes from the saliva dissolves the sugar from the gum. Finally, the experiment introduces them to the scientific method: observation, interpretation and conclusion.
How to proceed: Groups of two, simple intro on the experiment is fine. Relate the biological properties involved with using gum and chewing them by mentioning how the saliva works and why the sugar breaks down. Must also give a short demonstration on how to use the triple beam balance. Explain procedures and tell them to make measurements as accurate as possible and to be consistant with units.
Material per group:
- one triple beam balance
- one ruler
- 2 pieces of sugar sweetened gum (ex: JuicyFruit)
- 2 pieces of sugarfree gum (ex: Extra)
Link to worksheet: All About Gum
2. Paper Pet
This activity presents the students to heredity. Presented with a series of traits associated with phenotypes, the kids will create at random two pets with different genotypes with one male and one female. Then by crossing the the alleles in the table, they can create the first generation born from the Parents. Apparent changes will be in the shapes of the nose, eyes, mouths, hair, and the color of the pet.
How to proceed: As a preparation to this activity, make a first copy of the pet face and create a template with 4 pets on one sheet and then make multiple copie (4 pets per sheet saves paper); they can then be seperated. To begin activity, make sure kids remember how to combine genes and create new combinations using the table. Really go over the instructions since they wont read the sheet. Write the important facts on the board because they will constantly be asking questions whose answers are right in front of them on the sheet. To begin, refresh them on the heredity lesson, and begin. No need to group them for this activity.
Material: color pencils, paper pets, scissors
Link to worksheet: Paper Pet
3. Paper Bridge
This PBS ZOOM's activity introduces the students to bridges. Although the kids from 8th grade were somewhat old for this activity, they still enjoyed it. The only ones who did it correctly and quickly were the ones who had seen the show on tv (only a couple of them). Most of them will spend the whole period working on it. The smarter ones were not the ones who finished it first. Also, many students will get frustrated and question the purpose of science. However, this becomes a great opportunity to explain how important science is in solving everyday problems. At the end of the activity, you can mention the physical concepts behind bridge but hold til the lecture for explanations.
How to proceed: Follow guidelines from the ZOOM booklet; it works well.
Material per group:
- 2 books
- one sheet of paper
- 50 pennies
- paper clips
- ruler to distance the two books properly
Link to activity description: Paper Bridge
4. WestPoint Bridge Design Contest
Once Newton's Laws have been explained, forces involved in bridges can be introduced. WestPoint Bridge Design software is a great way of having the students work with bridges.This program lets you design your bridge however you want while following a few "stability" rules included. The span and height of the bridge can be adjusted. Templates of common bridge designs are included. After placing the joints in the desired locations, members can be placed. There are three options of material for the members that can be combined with making the member hollow or solid. Moreover, the size of the member is adjustable. The "cool" aspect of this software is that it lets you test your design. Once you click on Test Bridge, a cartoonish video appears where you can see your bridge. Many things can happen at this point; the bridge can either hold its mass and therefore not collapse and be ready for the 350kN truck that is about to go by. If the truck successfully crosses the bridge, the design is approved. Another great feature of the sofware is that it shows how the members are affected. Within the animation, members will turn blue and red showing whether the members are in compression or in tension. If the bridge collapsed, the student can then go back to the design and select the buckled members and adjust their size or material. Finally, the predicted cost of the bridge is given as it's built, giving you an idea of what it would really cost in the real world. Make sure to have one full period to present the software and have a demonstration.
Link to worksheet: WestPoint Bridge Design Contest
5. Elements of the Periodic Table
This is a research assignment. The students can do it at school in the computer lab or at home. Each student is assigned an element from the Periodic Table and they must do a little research on it and discover new facts. This activity definitely creates interest in some. You will notice those students looking at other elements, and not just the one they were assigned to. In the end, they will learn that those elements, combined, create everything that's around us.
How to proceed: Hand out a worksheet to each student with a selected atomic number from the periodic table and assigned him or her to complete is at much as possible, not to plainly copy but to use sum up the important information learned. The research is done online. Make sure they understand what the titles mean.
Link to worksheet: Elements of the Periodic Table
6. Families of the Elements
This activity is a chemistry lab. Students will learn how to use lab tools and mix chemical solutions. This hands-on experience helps them determine whether or not they really like science. In the end, it is more fun to learn while experimenting then listening to a lecture.
How to proceed: Refer to worksheet. Mention safety issues when working with chemicals and make sure they follow the instructions as written.
Link to worksheet: Families of the Elements