Mr Calaski

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Science 7/8 Update: Earthquake-resistant towers

Students in Science 7/8 are studying a comprehensive unit on plate tectonics.  They have started by learning about earthquakes, and how seismologists use earthquake waves to study the interior of the earth.  Currently, 7th & 8th graders are using real engineering techniques to build earthquake-resistant towers out of toothpicks.  The towers will be tested on an earthquake simulation table that models real earthquake waves.  Next, students will be creating an earth’s interior art project as part of our arts and science integration.  After the art project, students will be studying Pangaea and will piece together the continents as they appeared 200 million years ago using the same evidence used by real scientists.  This will immediately be followed by the processes of plate tectonics, i.e., continental drift, seafloor spreading, convection in the mantle, etc., to help explain how the continents could have moved from the Pangaea formation to their current positions.  Finally, the unit will conclude with the different types of plate boundaries and their affect on shaping the earth as we know it today.

Science 6 Update: Rocks, fossils, and earth’s history…

During the 1st term, students in Science 6 covered three units on scientific inquiry, chemistry, and density.  Now that we are in term 2, the 6th graders are diving into an in-depth unit on geologic history.  So far they have learned about rocks, minerals, and fossils, and how geologists use them to date the earth, such as index fossils and the law of superposition.  Students are currently investigating how the six types of fossils are formed and will be moving into relative and absolute dating techniques.  The conclusion of the unit will find students creating an earth’s history brochure, which is an artistic representation of earth’s major time periods including the life forms that existed during each period.

Welcome Science 7/8

Science 7/8 had a great start this week.  We began by learning about types of earthquake waves and the 7th and 8th graders even simulated EQ waves using a slinky and recorded some excellent data that we will analyze tomorrow.

*Thursday’s quiz has been postponed until Friday due to the arrival of the citrus truck.

What to study
Types of earthquake waves:  P-waves, S-waves, and Surface waves
Wave anatomy:  crest, trough, wavelength, amplitude, and frequency

Click here for all the notes on types of waves.

Rocks and Minerals and Fossils, oh my!


This week in Science 6, we started the rocks & minerals unit, beginning with minerals. Students learned how to identify minerals vs non-minerals using the 5 requirements to be considered a mineral.  They also learned a mnemonic device to help remember the 5 requirements (SNIFC), and then explored some specimens to apply their new knowledge in a real life situation.

Next, we started a mineral identification lab using a series of tests such as luster, color, hardness, streak, magnetic, smell, and feel.  At the end of the week, we started exploring characteristics of rocks and how rocks are made.  Next week students will investigate the rock cycle and dive deeper into rock forming processed of the Earth.

Finishing up density, and starting rocks & minerals

Last week in Science 6, we finished up our mini unit on density. Students discussed the relationship between mass, volume, and density; investigated the density of different materials; and discovered what makes objects sink, float, or suspend in water. This week, students will begin learning about rocks and minerals and perform some mineral identification.

Science 6 Weekly Update – Chemical Reactions & Density

This week in Science 6, students investigated chemical changes and even created their own chemical reaction using vinegar and baking soda.  We learned about open and closed systems and their affect on mass during a reaction.  We also learned about endothermic and exothermic reactions.  An endothermic reaction absorbs heat and feels cold to the touch.  An exothermic reaction gives off heat and will feel warm.  After observing chemical reactions, student began learning about density and the relationship between mass and volume.  We conducted a lab to investigate cubes that have the same volume but are made from different materials, such as pine, copper, acrylic, brass, and steel.  The students hypothesized that if the cubes are the same volume, then the density can still be different because the mass of each material is different.  Then they used their data results to support their hypotheses.

Physical vs Chemical Changes & Observing Chemical Reactions

This week in Science 6, students analyzed the difference between physical and chemical changes, learned how to read chemical equations, and started preparing to create and observe a chemical reaction.  Students discovered that physical changes are a change in physical state (solid to liquid to gas, etc) or in appearance, and chemical changes happen on a molecular level when you have two or more molecules that interact.  Chemical changes happen when atomic bonds are broken or created during chemical reactions.

physical vs chemical change

Melting a sugar cube is a physical change because the substance is still sugar.  Burning a sugar cube is a chemical change.  Fire activates a chemical reaction between sugar and oxygen.  The oxygen in the air reacts with the sugar and the chemical bonds are broken.

Iron (Fe) rusts when it is exposed to oxygen gas in the air.  You can watch the process happen over a long period of time.  The molecules change their structure as the iron is oxidized, eventually becoming iron oxide (Fe2O3).  Rusty pipes in abandoned buildings are real world examples of the oxidation process and we just saw some during our Mass MoCA field trip this week.

Next week students will create and observe a chemical reaction between baking soda and vinegar, and be able to explain the reaction on the molecular level.  Here is a key to reading chemical formulas:

chemical formula

And here are the parts of a chemical equation:

parts of a chemical equation

And finally, here is the new vocabulary we studied this week:

chemical change: a change that results in the formation of one or more new substances: chemical reaction.
reactant: the starting substances in a chemical reaction, written before the arrow.
product: the end result(s) in a chemical reaction; written after the arrow.
closed system: a container (system) that does not allow atoms in or out (closed); mass is conserved (stays the same).
open system: atoms can move in and/or out of the system; mass is not conserved (it changes).
endothermic reaction: absorbs heat energy; will feel cold because it takes heat away from your hand.
exothermic reaction: gives off heat energy; will feel warm because it gives heat to your hand.

Molecules Matter!

This week in science 6 students are studying chemistry, which is the study of matter.  Students were introduced to the idea that matter is composed of atoms and molecules that are attracted to each other and in constant motion.  Atoms and molecules make up the three common states of matter on Earth—solids, liquids, and gases.  We explored the attractions and motion of atoms and molecules by experimenting and observing water during Monday’s lab.  On Wednesday, students created, conducted, and observed an experiment to answer the question, “Is the speed of water molecules different in hot and cold water?”  By adding two colors to the water molecules, students discovered that the color mixed faster in the hot water and more slowly in the cold water, thus heating a liquid increases the speed of the molecules and cooling a liquid decreases the speed of the molecules.  This increase and decrease in the speed of the molecules competes with the attraction between the molecules and causes molecules to either move a little further apart or bring them closer together.  We drew simple models to show the motion and attraction of the molecules in the water.  Next up, we will investigate the behavior of atoms and molecules in a solid.  Stayed tuned…

Click here for a supplemental student reading.


Making Observations

Students have been developing their skills of inquiry, experimentation, and design through the paperclip lab.  For example, they have formulated a testable hypothesis, designed and conducted a controlled experiment, practiced making observations and collecting data, presented data and findings using a data table, drawn conclusions based on their data, made inferences based on patterns in the data, communicated procedures and results using appropriate scientific terminology, and reflected on their overall performance and validity of the experiment.

This week, students are learning new vocabulary to support their foundational knowledge of the scientific method.  On Tuesday, students analyzed qualitative vs quantitative observations and practiced making their own observations.  Here is a copy of the assignment:  Making Observations Assignment.

Thinking Like A Scientist

This week in Science 6, students put on their figurative lab coats to investigate scientific inquiry, or the act of asking a question.  Specifically, “how many jumbo paperclips fit in a full cup of water without it overflowing?”  (Hint:  it’s WAY more than you think.)  After creating, conducting, and observing the experiment in lab groups, students discovered that quality scientific investigation requires some key components, such as constants, a control, a hypothesis, and independent & dependent variables.  Tomorrow, students will step back into the “lab” to conclude trial #2, analyze their data, and report their results.

Click here for the lab notes.