Drought

Drought.  What immediately comes to mind?  If you live west of the Mississippi River in the United States, water or lack there of is usually the first image that occurs.  This morning’s news indicated that while California is getting some much needed rain, an estimated 6 to 7 inches over the next few days, they need over 47 inches to make up for the extended drought that is currently taking place in that region.

States like Oklahoma, Texas, New Mexico, Kansas and Colorado are very familiar with drought.  And even though this past year has helped – there are still areas behind in precipitation.  The Oklahoma and Texas still have a number of counties that are listed as being in a severe drought.  Still, it is not the worst it has ever been that distinction, for North America,  is still held by 1934.  (See a Science News Article) {The current United States Drought Map can be found here and current world conditions can be found here.}  Water is a very precious commodity that many take for granted, yet wars have been fought over it.  Boundaries are defined by it.  And, movies plots are based on it – Interstellar, 2014; Leap of Faith, 1992, and The Man who Fell to Earth, 1976.

Because of this natural link to water, which is required for our very survival.  The word drought is a very powerful thing.  There can be droughts of kindness, droughts of thought, and a drought of feeling.  In today’s society, as evidenced by just turning on the television and watching the news; there is a drought of understanding and connection to ones own neighbor, and potentially even to ones self.  We have lost our sense of connection both to others and to our natural world.

It is time to reconnect.  To make the links between where the water from the tap or the milk in the refrigerator comes from.  It is not just a pipe or the local grocery store.  For water there is a grand cycle – rain to ground to ponds, creeks rivers, underground reservoirs, and oceans, then evaporation back to clouds and back to rain.  Yet, for its presence; too much can be a hazard, in the form of snow or excess rain, and too little have a huge impact.  Almost 800 million people (water.org) do not have access to clean water.

During this season, let us begin to reconnect.  Make links.  Show connections between individuals. Show the things that we have in common, rather than our differences.  Look at cycles.  Look for chances to renew bonds.  Look for the good and fulfilling – rather than the barrenness that drought in all its forms brings.

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.

ncw-candy-banner

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.)

February is Snack Food Month

Besides Valentines Day and Presidents Day – February is Snack Food Month.  Makes sense in the month leading up to Lent, the month of the Super Bowl, and a day focused on chocolates (Valentines Day) – that February would be dedicated to the ever present snack food.

There are lots of activities that can demonstrate science principles using food – so it seems appropriate for snack food month to highlight some food related science.  Penn State has a great food science website that points to a number of other sites that focus on various science activities.

So – explore how molecule handedness changes how it smells.

Find the speed of light using a marshmallows.

Measure the “energy” in food.

Test for glucose and starch.

And have some fun!  – But be safe!

Boston Tea Party

Two hundred and forty years ago on December 16, 1773, there was an event in Boston.  It was a protest over taxes and triggered a number of cultural differences between England and what is now the United States.  In the US we have a coffee break – not a “Tea Time.”  

For many – this time of year is the beginning of a winter break – so how about starting another tradition?  Celebrating the Boston Tea Party – but having a Science Tea Party!

Here are some suggestions:

Want to keep everyone around the dinner table a bit longer?  How about a Tea Bag that floats in air?  (Note this demonstration uses fire – so needs to be done by an adult – but it is really cool!)  

Or a diffusion demonstration with a tea bag – or make a supersaturated solution – Southern Sweet Tea.

How about making a dye for paper or fabric? (For the paper you can make a treasure map.)

Finally – you can explore all five senses with this fun activity.

Have fun and be safe!

Fun Activities for November

Now that Halloween has past and we are beginning to look toward the holiday season – there are a number of activities that can be integrated into any curriculum.  In the northern hemisphere – fall colors are in full display.  In North America – Canada and the US – Thanksgiving is just around the corner. And, the summer season is starting in the southern hemisphere.

So here are some ideas for some fun science!

Natural dyes are great this time of year – as fruits, berries and spices are abound.  The Learning Channel has a “how stuff works” activity on natural dyes. There is an integrated science-art lesson plan from the University of Minnesota.   And, there is a quick article from Gardening Know How, which will help you to integrate science into everyday life.

While food science is fun any time of year – in the US and Canada – November is a feasting month.  Chemistry and physics abound in the kitchen – look for anything written by Shirley Corriher (Cookwise and Bakewise) – she has wonderful descriptions of what is happening during the cooking and baking.  Penn State has a list of several food science activities.  The American Chemical Society has an activity page for food as well.

So have fun in November – doing great science while playing in the kitchen.

Don’t forget to stay safe while conducting any hands-on activities with children.  These activities should be conducted under the supervision of an adult and should be reviewed prior to conducting them.  For more safety tips for hands-on activities.  Return to http://www.sophicpursuits.com/Educational-Materials.html.