Friday, October 7, 2016

We Are All Scientists!

Welcome to SK Science 2016! This is the place to come for a window into the topics the students have been covering, the activities that they are performing and experiencing, the longer term projects they are working towards, and the skills that they are acquiring along the way.

For the incoming 3rd graders, this is their first time working with me, so I like to begin in the 3/4 grade class by introducing them to the concept that they are all already scientists when they observe, describe, and identify things in the natural world.  I use a video of muppet martians investigating a grandfather clock to stimulate a discussion of how to tell that someone is a scientist or is using the scientific method.  (Some of you may remember the martians from Sesame Street:  We eventually agreed that even though these goofy visitors were incorrect in their identification of an “earth person”, that they had used “Observation”, “Description” and “Identification”, as part of their process like any good scientist!

Our first major topic of study in the 3/4 class is Light and Optics. We began with the question “Why is the sky blue and the sunset red?” Using a small clear container full of water, some powdered milk to simulate particles in the atmosphere, and a small flashlight to represent the sun, we were able to simulate the conditions that occur during the day and at sunset.  It is a fun experiment that introduces the concepts of reflection and refraction.  Being able to communicate scientific ideas in writing is an important skill for all scientists, so I have been asking them to write about their experiences and have been following up on their reflections (no pun intended!).  The following week, we carried their understanding into a different activity using their flashlights and some simple household materials.  These activities are designed to help them understand three different things that can happen to light, reflection, refraction, and absorption, depending on the nature of the material it encounters, and whether the surface the light encounters is opaque, transparent, or translucent.  
In our latest activity, the students observed how light can be separated into bands of different frequencies of light using a diffraction grating, and they experimented with using different colors and types of light bulbs as a light source.  We will be expanding this into an exercise for recording and reporting information next week. Tune in soon for more upcoming investigations of the nature of light!

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