Photo above: The Hertford Bridge in Oxford, England. Used by Permission. © Tom Ley 01302 782837

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Ending with a Bubble?

So the last day of camp was all about bubbles-well not really all about bubbles. First activity dealt with dry ice and exploring how dry ice (which is really carbon dioxide in a frozen state) reacts with water and soap. Campers learned that if you change the temperature of the water you can change the type of bubbles produced!

After the dry ice activity, students learned that you can hold a bubble made with dry ice-but not with your hands! In order to hold a dry ice bubble, you have to use mittens! So on a really hot day our students put on their gloves for the sake of science!

Thanks to all of our parents for sharing their children with us! We had a blast!

Thursday, August 4, 2011


MATH IS BEAUTIFUL! Today, high school math teacher Dr. Darwin Mills came and showed the beauty of mathematics. His energy kept us on our toes and his teaching made us all want to guess what math problem he was going to give us next! His unique methods for teaching and his innate ability to capture the attention of the entire group left the campers AND the teachers wishing that Dr. Mills had been their math teacher in school.

Below is an example of one kind of math we learned today called "pretty math":

1 x 8 + 1 = 9
12 x 8 + 2 = 98
123 x 8 + 3 = 987
1234 x 8 + 4 = 9876
12345 x 8 + 5 = 98765
123456 x 8 + 6 = 987654
1234567 x 8 + 7 = 9876543
12345678 x 8 + 8 = 98765432 (The Doorway)

It may be a hot August day, but we were all wearing our mittens as we investigated Mr. Levering's scientific question: "How do mittens keep us warm?" We worked with temperature probes and the computer program Logger Lite to further explore this question. The campers learned that it's not the mitten that produces heat, but the individual's body heat. This body heat is then trapped inside the mitten and keeps us warm.

After we conducted our scientific experiment with mittens, we transitioned to a job as mathematical problem-solvers "on the farm". Here is a picture of one of our mathematicians using his problem-solving in the cow pasture:

Then we tested our memory with an exciting game led by Virginia Beach's own Dawn Sawyer, a gifted resource teacher, and Susan Hudgins, a math specialist.

OOOOBLECK!!! This word is as messy and exciting as the activity we did today. Corn starch and water are the perfect combination for a gooey, sticky mess that kids love! This activity was led by Ms. Adams, a Senior in Regent University's Interdisciplinary Studies program, and a teacher's assistant in the Chesapeake schools. Below is a video of Ms. Adams and a few of the kids experiencing the excitement of Oobleck:

I scream, you scream, we all scream for ICE CREAM! Our final big activity for the day was making ice cream! The kids loved this tasty treat--not just because it tasted great but because they each got to make their own individual bag of ice cream! Here is a "taste" of the yumminess we prepared:

Here is the recipe for the icecream!

Today was an exciting--practical application--math-filled day that ended in a tasty ice cream treat! For all our campers and teachers, this is Rebekah, signing out.

Wednesday, August 3, 2011


Whelk! No, this isn't a misspelling of the word "welp"--it's actually the name of a creature we learned about this morning as the Marine Science Museum came to visit the camp--aquarium in tow. Questions abounded as the children learned about the ecosystems of the Chesapeake Bay and got an in depth look at the creatures that inhabit the different areas of freshwater, brackish water and saltwater found in the Bay. Below are pictures of the Whelk and of our future generation of marine biologists!

Geometry came alive for the kids through a program called Geometer Sketchpad, and we studied tessellations with the help of our esteemed guest Dr. Trintor of UVA!

Marshmallows flew as the students tested their ability to launch the marshmallows with precision and accuracy. Our challenge was to create a lever capable of catapulting various-sized marshmallows into a bucket three yards away. Students learned how to vary the fulcrum of the lever to reach the goal. To finish the day, we had a competition to see who could accumulate the most points in a skee ball game, launching the marshmallows into the buckets for multiple points. It was neck and neck, but in the end, three sticky marshmallowed campers took the lead!

Another great day at camp! For all the teachers and campers, this is Rebekah and Brian, signing out!

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Flying Hot dogs!

"Flying hot dogs" --were the cries of the children as everyone gathered outside to see the amazing solar bags collect air and then rise as the sun changed the properties of the air inside the bag.

"Scientists from Pioneer Astronautics and Jet Propulsion Laboratory conducted successful tests of its Mars solar balloon inflation system using [Steve Spangler Science's] Solar Bag. This video give you a bird's eye view of what [the] Solar Bag looks like at about 120,000 feet above the Earth" (Steve Spangler, 2011).

Today the children also presented their inventions as engineers of creatures with plane and solid shapes, and at least two moving parts. Here was the winner of the most impressive creature:

After the students debuted as engineers, they tested their lungs with this next air-blowing experiment.

"The long bag quickly inflates because air from the atmosphere is drawn into the bag from the sides along with the stream of air from your lungs. For you science enthusiasts out there - here's the technical explanation... In 1738, Daniel Bernoulli observed that a fast moving stream of air is surrounded by an area of low atmospheric pressure. In fact, the faster the stream of air moves, the more the air pressure drops around the moving air. When you blow into the bag, higher pressure air in the atmosphere forces its way into the area of low pressure created by the stream of air from your lungs. In other words, air in the atmosphere is drawn into the long bag at the same time that you are blowing into the bag (Steve Spangler).

Finally, the students designed different experiments and projects to see how air affects the movement of objects:

We had a wonderful day at the Martinson's Center for Math and Science!
This is Rebekah, signing out.

Monday, August 1, 2011

It is Raining Soda!

S.T.E.M (Science, Technology, Engineer, and Mathematics) camp started off with rain-but not real rain-diet cola rain! Students got to observe what happens when you add mentos candy to diet cola and then turned their questions into experiments! Students learned about air pressure and even got to see that they really could sit on a bed of nails!

Tune in tomorrow for more fun!

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

What does responsive professional development look like?

If we want our teachers to engage students in inquiry in the classroom, they need to experience inquiry through the same activities they would use with their students. If we want them to use technology, we need to consider their beliefs, needs, fears, and interest as they pertain to using technology in the classroom. Professional development should be differentiated based on the needs of the teachers that attend!

What would this look like in action? It begins with identifying where teachers are with relation to the topic of the workshop. For example, if teacher have signed up for a technology workshop, then the assessment should try to identify the entry point for teachers with regard to their belief about the use of technology in the classroom, their comfort level with technology, and which forms of technology (probes, blogs, or other forms) they have used or not used before the workshop.

Next, using the data, workshop sessions could be tailored to meet the needs of the teachers attending. This does not mean 25 different learning plans, but rather means looking for where the data forms groups of teachers that are similar. For example, in a recent technology workshop we held though the Martinson Center; almost all the teachers who attended were novices with regard to the use and design of blogs, wikis, and photostory. We did have one teacher who reported she had been using blogs for a while. To ensure she was continually learning and being stretched, we developed an activity that mirrored what the other teachers would be doing, but its design was a little more complex. Instead of just creating a blog, we asked this teacher to mix blogging with what she learned about voice threads. Not only did this keep her engaged during the course, it also kept her learning as it provided a challenge for her. The workshop leader provided support through coaching in order to ensure she was successful. While it would have been easier to develop a session that had the same activities for everyone, this would not have met all of the needs of the teachers participating. With a little bit of effort, we created activities that met the needs of all teachers participating in the course.

Long story short: If we expect teachers to differentiate instruction for students, then professional development should be differentiated for the teachers.

Monday, October 5, 2009

When I work with teachers, it always comes up. It's sort of like the proverbial elephant in the room-science is expensive and I don't have time to get materials.
Research from the National Research Council articulates that new understandings are constructed upon on a foundation of existing understandings and experiences. Without experiences, children are less likely to remember science or math content for very long.
So, if research shows children learn best through experiences, why is it some teachers choose not to do hands-on science. Is it really that expensive or hard to put together? No, not if you believe in the power of hands-on instruction with regard to student learning. Science does not have to be about glass test tubes and beakers. All you need is about 5$ per lesson and many of the materials can be found at stores located right around the corner.

Here is a quick and simple example to articulate my point. My daughter had been studying matter and while she could rattle off the definitions with ease, I wanted to see if she could use what she knew to explain whether or not a substance was a liquid or a solid or both. The materials for the activity were corn starch, water, a bowl, and a spoon. Before we started, I put some corn starch in the bowl and asked her to describe it using words. Next, she began to add the water very slowly while stirring. Eventually the corn starch became like thick gravy.
Gak, oobleck, or whatever you might know it as, is really cool to play with. If you get the consistency of water to corn starch right, you create a substance that seems like a solid, but then moves like a liquid. I think my daughter's face says it all! We had a blast playing with our matter and watching it go from a solid to a liquid. Could she explain whether she thought the substance was a solid or liquid, yes! Was she able to describe the physical properties using words associated with size, shape, and texture? Yes! More importantly, she remembers that experience and is now comparing things to the Gak. Now I know all you science buffs out there will say it is a non-Newtonian fluid and you would be right-but try to explaining that to a 3rd grader!
Long story short: Science doesn't have to be hard or expensive! But the time spent doing science is worth it!

National Research Council. (2005) How students learn: Science in the classroom. National Academy Press: Washington D.C.