Monday, April 13, 2015

Middle School Monday - A Little Hands-On Science

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Welcome to Middle School Monday! We've been a bit hit and miss with our Science study over the past several weeks - and unfortunately more miss than hit! Well, I've decided that we'd slacked on it for much too long, and that we needed to do a little homeschool boot camp to get back into a rhythm. Also, we got started on a Weather On the Move Unit Study that we'll be reviewing in about a month's time, so we have that to incorporate into our Science as well.
Middle School Monday - Hands-on Science @
Just over a week ago, we did some review of what Kennady had already done, just to refresh her memory, and I updated my records of what she'd done. What a relief to discover we weren't as behind as I'd feared! There were several hands-on activities that she'd skipped for one reason or another, so we started looking at those.

One was a hygrometer. A hygrometer is an instrument to measure the humidity in the air, and we'd attempted making one last summer using hair. It didn't work. Possibly because it was humid to start with? That was our theory. Anyway, I had told Kennady we'd give it another try during the winter, when we could start on a dry day and then take the hair hygrometer into a steamy hot bathroom right after someone had showered, and then we'd see if it worked better. And all winter long, we either postponed or forgot about that. Then, recently I stumbled across another easy homemade hygrometer demonstration for kids - done with pinecones! Well, we've got lots of pinecones lying around our yard, so we abandoned the hair method completely and tried pinecones.
Middle School Monday - Hands-on Science @
We collected a selection of pinecones from our yard, and tried two different kinds. We had much better luck with one over the other (Here's the promised update! The tighter cones in the picture above, the ones that didn't work so great, were from a Weeping Spruce. The ones that worked really well were from a White Pine.). Once you've selected your pinecones, you'll need two mason jars. Fill one with warm water. Then put the pinecones into the jars - one into the jar with warm water, and one into the empty jar. We set the lids on top of the jars as well. After fifteen minutes, take the pinecones out and observe. The pinecone in the water closed up, while the one in the empty jar was unchanged. This is because the cone is designed to open up and disperse the seeds inside when the air is dry, and to close and protect the seeds inside when the air is damp. (I found this experiment, and several others on the Hooked On Science Weather page.)
Middle School Monday - Hands-on Science @   Middle School Monday - Hands-on Science @

We chose two cones that were similar. It does look like one is more open than the other, but these were the closest.
Middle School Monday - Hands-on Science @

Fifteen minutes or so in the jars...
Middle School Monday - Hands-on Science @

and the difference is now very obvious!
Middle School Monday - Hands-on Science @
This demonstration really just showed the effect of moisture in the air on the pinecone, and didn't have the extra step of making a scale to compare humidity from one day to another. But you can make that kind of hygrometer with a pinecone as well, which we might do (we'll have to make sure to find insect-free pinecones. We did this outside because there were little creepy crawlies inside the pinecones! Eeeeewwww.)  I found instructions for this more detailed Pinecone Weather Experiment at The Happy Scientist.

In addition to doing some more science reading, we also did the simple Cloud In a Jar demonstration as well. This seems to be one of those demonstrations that even big kids enjoy. Put some water in a jar with a lid, set inside a pan of water and heat gently. Then put a baggie of ice cubes on top of the jar lid. I couldn't get a decent picture, but you should be able to see the water condensing near the top of the jar as the water vapor meets the cooled air, and a small "cloud" form.
Middle School Monday - Hands-on Science @

Middle School Monday - Hands-on Science @

Middle School Monday - Hands-on Science @

In the Weather On the Move Unit Study, the project of making a terrarium was suggested, because a terrarium with live plants is a closed environment with its own water cycle. We purchased a terrarium jar and are collecting up the supplies to do this project, so hopefully I will have a picture of that to share sometime soon! I'm also hoping we can fit in a field trip to the TV and radio station we've visited a couple times in the past so that Kennady can see how the weather reports are put together for the news broadcasts.

What have you done in Science class lately?Leave a comment and let me know!

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