October is…… And, the winner is ……

You could say that October is Science Month!

Next week features the announcements of the Nobel Prizes.  So, look for a number of science related stories and features from various science organizations and businesses.  You can anticipate that the news will be filled with science applications connected to the winners of the Prizes in medicine, chemistry and physics.

Additionally, October generally features announcements for various science competitions.  Check out the Intel, Siemens and other notable companies as they begin to announce their regional and national activities.  (You can also check out Discovery Channel, National Geographic, and Science Channel – for many activities, lesson plans, etc.)  There are sites with monthly themes such as the Siemens Science Day in addition to topic specific sites.


October features National Chemistry Week (October 19-25, 2014).  This years theme is the Sweet Side of Chemistry – Candy.  There are a number of activities planned around the United States.  These will be hosted by Local Sections of the American Chemical Society, as well as Student Chemistry Clubs.  You can find teacher resources and associated materials at the American Chemical Society NCW website.  Of particular note – related to this NCW topic – was the dedication of the second National Chemical Historic Landmark related to the production of sugar on October 1.  This Landmark recognizes the work of Rachel Holloway Lloyd, a woman chemist.  (The first recognized the work of Norbert Rillieux, whose birth record states “Norbert Rillieux, quadroon libre, natural son of Vincent Rillieux and Constance Vivant. Born March 17, 1806. Baptized in St. Louis Cathedral by Pere Antoine.”  More information about the work and life of Rillieux can be found here.)

October is a great time for slime, glowing science, bubbling punch, and other fun home/class experiments.  Take a few minutes to do a quick search of the American Chemical Society education resources while you are looking at the Sweet Side of Chemistry – to find a bunch of “goolish” fun activities.  (You can also find sites related to Zombies, Bone Chilling Science, Vampires, and even a bit of graveyard science.)

Have fun and don’t forget to stay safe!  (PS if you need safety resources you can always pick up a copy of Staying Safe while Conducting Hands-On Science.)

The School Year is Here

Now that Labor Day Weekend is here – School is officially back in session. It is time to get back into the swing of things. Do you need science lesson plans? Do you need some interactive ideas? Looking for free resources? Here are some places to start:

From Discovery Education – http://www.discoveryeducation.com/ – In addition to their usual offerings – there is a new package from the Navy.

From National Geographic – http://education.nationalgeographic.com/education/?ar_a=1

From the USGS: http://education.usgs.gov/

From the American Chemical Society – http://www.acs.org/content/acs/en/education.html

From NOAA: http://www.education.noaa.gov/

From NASA: http://www.nasa.gov/audience/foreducators/ specifically from the Jet Propulsion Laboratory: http://www.jpl.nasa.gov/education/index.cfm?page=115

Have a great year in Science.

Continue the Love of Science Over the Summer

The 2013-2014 school year is winding down (and in some locations already done). But, that does not mean learning or the enjoyment of science stops – in fact this can be the best time of year to explore and build upon what your students have learned (or you for that matter).

My husband and I recently took a trip to part of the United States we had never been before – the Upper Peninsula of Michigan and the “North Woods” area of Wisconsin.  Having just taught Earth Science – I found myself looking at the geology and the weather with a different eye.  We even had discussions about the true technical names of various features and debates how to categorize various items.  Here are some examples:

* What is the name of a rock or boulder left behind by a glacier?  – An erratic

* What is the name of the hillocks left behind by a glacier? – Moraines

* Where is the ice age trail?  The North Woods area of Wisconsin

* Just where does the Mississippi-Missouri drainage basin fit in terms of drainage basins in the world?  It is number 3 – the Amazon is number 1.

Questions like these come up while you are traveling place to place.  You may also have the fun mythology of the formations as well – why is Minnesota the land of 10,000 lakes?  They are the foot prints from Babe the Blue Ox.  Or, from geology – they are the result of glaciation.  PS – the name comes from the Dakota word for “clear water”. It is an easy way to bring in literature, folklore and science – without the stuffiness of a text book.

You can use the time to enhance observations – just check out these pictures – taken during our trip. The following are two different examples of cloud formations.  They were interesting to the eye.

The sky above Lake Erie

The sky above Lake Erie

Ponca City Oklahoma

Ponca City Oklahoma

Here are some other observations from the North Woods – are they mushrooms?  What is the plant going to be?  Fungi

New Plant

And look at how the dew decorates the fir tree.


All of these – are just observations – but lead to questions – and questions lead to exploration.  Use this time to explore.


Oh, My where has the time gone! – Preparing to Learn Science

Life has a tendency to catch up with all of us.  And, it even becomes more challenging when spring is in the air.  I started this blog to help those that wanted a bit of enrichment to add to their science curricula – whether a home school or a classroom situation.  Also, wanted it to be fun for the whole family.  My intent was to do something weekly – but as with all good intentions things happen.  And, so with me.

A little background – in January I took a position as an instructor of science (physics, chemistry and Earth science) at two year college.  I am now teaching full time – lecture and laboratory.   This has definitely helped me with topic areas for the blog and insight into new ways of communicating science.  However, April became a bit busier than I thought as I have been actively working on my college curricula.  With the semester winding down, I am able to pick up where I had left off – and hopefully bring some new insights in preparation for taking and teaching science.

During this past semester – I have learned a great deal about student preparation for their first two years of college – or the preparation of the returning student to college.  Hopefully, I will be able to incorporate and share some of these through this blog.  So, while I will continue to bring fun science activities to this space – I am also hoping to help parents, teachers and even students to prepare to learn science.

For most people there is a perception that science is hard.  (In reality, all learning in any form or subject can be considered “hard.”  Science is no different but the attitudes about science are.)   It has been my observation that there are two fundamental reasons for this and they are both related.  It is the language of the scientist – i.e. the terminology and the math.  Math is the language of the physical scientist – it shows the relationships and communicates specifics.  This mixed with the terminology, the names and jargon, and scientists and practitioners of science tend to “scare” people.  It is because of your human nature – people fear what we don’t understand. And, thus because the language being used is outside of the norm for most individuals – science is hard.

But, stop and think for a minute – what is science?  Science at its most fundamental level is observing your surroundings and trying to understand how things work or why the physical world is the way it is.  Why is the sky blue?  Why is the grass green?  How do plants get the energy they need to grow?  Why does the ball fall to the ground when you drop it?

I have always said it is much harder to teach science to a bunch of preschoolers or kindergartners than high school students. The first is because you have to teach the science in a terms that are understandable for the age group.  But the biggest reason is because they are not conditioned to ask the “right” questions, i.e. a preschooler will ask a very difficult question where a high school student may not even ask a very simple one.

As I mentioned previously – it is the learning that is hard – not the subject matter.  And, what we are seeing particularly in science is that students have yet to understand how to best approach the process of learning.  Sure, in most public or private schools; students have been exposed to the subject matter, have been taught how to prepare for the test, and how to meet the expectations of the course.  But, because of the changes in our systems – note taking skills, using technical literature, practical application of the material, etc. are not as emphasized.  These skills are vital to success at the next level.

Over the next three months, Sophic Pursuits will be working on developing tools, resources, and reference material to help prepare students for the transition into the college and/or upper level course environment.  The focus will be on utilizing the resources that are now available to the student such as virtual laboratories, youTube short lessons, simulations, ect.  As well as focusing on the more traditional type of resources – note taking, “how to read a chapter in a science text”, or “how to succeed in science”.

For those of you in this transition phase or those working with someone in that transition – I would love to hear from you to learn what challenges you are facing.  I would also like to know what questions or concerns that you may have.  And, would love to know what resources you have found helpful.

Stay tuned and hopefully there will be something that helps you take the next steps.  And, you can be better equipped to take those first science courses in college.