Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Physics: Parallel Circuits

Before completing their houses, the kids learned how to make parallel circuits as well as the advantages for doing so.

The finished houses look great! Very high-tech with lights, alarm systems, fans, doorbells, and one group even attempted to make a swimming pool (don't worry this part did not include a circuit!).

Physics: Quizshow!

This week the kids started to build quizboards.

What's a quizboard? A quizboard is a game in which you try to match up questions with the correct answers. If you succeed, a light bulb turns on, and if you get the question wrong, nothing happens.

Interesting child psychology fact: When I do this activity, it is almost always the case that kids suggest adding features to the quizboard that will punish players with a beep or even a shock for wrong answers. Not your kids! Not only do these guys understand electrical circuits, but you can rest easy knowing they are far more forgiving (read less cuckoo) than your average kid.

But, they do have their issues...I made the CATASTOPHIC mistake of saying, "We probably won't finish the experiment today," when what I meant to say was, "We will NOT finish the project today." The kids were a bit (and by a bit, I mean extremely) disappointed that we weren't able to complete the quizboards today. I guess this comes with the territory working with 8 super-smart and highly motivated kids... Please assure them that they will definitely come home next week with quizboards, and that it will be worth the wait.

Anyway, all psych experiments aside, with the exception of the last 5 minutes, the kids had a great time, and next week they'll be finishing up and bringing their quizboards home.

Biology: Microscopes: Honey, I shrunk the kids!

This entry summarizes our work over the past 2 weeks.

Last week we took out our old friend, the microscope. We reviewed how to use it and got started by examining cheek cells, onion cells, and assorted bugs.

This week we took things to a new level by learning how to measure specimens under the microscope. The kids measured the lengths of lice, spiders, ants, and even actual cells. You can be sure we weren't measuring in meters or even centimeters. The kids got some practice with micrometers, 1000 of which make a millimeter.

Friday, November 13, 2009

General Science: The Right Stuff

This week the kids had to design a spacesuit that could withstand the intensely high temperatures one might find on Venus. Lacking the funding to actually travel to Venus and not wanting to violate the Helsinki Declaration (ethical principles for research on human subjects), we used shlukim instead of people and boiling water instead of Venus. The kids decorated their cold-blooded subjects and then dressed them in spacesuits they designed from a range of materials including aluminum foil, plastic wrap, and inflated zip-lock bags. The subjects were then placed in boiling water for 1 minute. Afterward, the kids opened up each shluk and measured the liquid's temperature to see which one was wearing the best-insulated space-suit.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Physics: Building a house always takes longer than you expect

This week the kids continued building and wiring their houses. As is the case in real life, these things ALWAYS take longer than expected!

We also spent a few minutes looking at some cool bones that I came across last week while biking near the Hermon. Based on its teeth we guessed that it had an omnivorous diet, and we also noted that it had several unerupted teeth, suggesting that it was a juvenile. As for what kind of animal it was...several bikers at the front of the line reported having seen a wild boar charge by. I guess by the time I caught up, it had fully decomposed!

Biology: Playing with Proteins

This week we took the first few minutes to analyze the results from our investigations into organic compounds. It's a credit to your kids' ability to record data carefully, that they were able to analyze the results 2 weeks later in order to figure out which foods contain protein, starch, simple sugars, and fats.

The main focus of science this week was to observe reactions between the enzyme catalase and hydrogen peroxide. After discovering that the catalase in potatoes causes hydrogen peroxide to break down into water and oxygen, the kids designed experiments to test other substances for the presence of of this enzyme. The kids chose a wide range of substances to test including chocolate, avocado, lemon, grass, and Pringles. Sadly, unlike with regular potatoes, hydrogen peroxide had little to no effect on the Pringles.