Monday, March 29, 2010

The Cool Blue Light Experiment.

Wind Power

I hope the explorers are having a good break. They deserve it. They have been working so hard at the after school club, MicroExplorers. This past week we looked at chemiluminescence. We had a great time mixing chemicals to create a cool blue light. We learned about color using a Newton color wheel and had a lively debate about wave and particle theory. (just kidding-some things will have to wait for high school)  Next week we will talk about cleaner ways of generating electricity. We have a series of wind turbines that we will learn how to use to generate a current. The wind turbines are from a midwestern company,  They have an amazing website and very useful alternative energy kits for kids. Explorers will learn how to collect data and analyze their results. After we learn more about wind power, the explorers will modify their wind turbine in an attempt to increase its efficiency.  Good luck!

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Link to the C. elegans video.

NSTA ends.

It will be wonderful to be back at home later today and see the students tomorrow. The last few days of the conference were amazing. I met a lot of teachers who had innovative ways to teach and inspire children. One of the best sessions I attended was a workshop about an organism I worked on this summer, C. elegan. I am working with a researcher at the UW who uses the worms for her research. We are collaborating on writing a children's book using the worm. It is really exciting. I created a music video with images/videos of the C. elegans. I will post a link to the video later this week. It is good to be heading back to school.

Friday, March 19, 2010


Well, the conference is going great. I am meeting a lot of new friends and catching up with some old friends. I presented a poster about the lessons we did on super hydrophobic surfaces. It went well. I also got some cool new materials to use when we start the lessons on light. Very fun!

I also saw one of my heroes, Bill Nye the Science guy. I kept missing him at the conference, but ran into him at a restaurant. My good friend Evelyn took our picture and Bill Nye was nice and posed. 

Tuesday, March 16, 2010


MicroExplorers is skipping a week since I will be gone to the National Science Teacher's Association conference in Philadelphia. I am looking forward to the conference. I will lead a workshop talking about MicroExplorers. I am hoping to generate interest in spreading the club to other schools around the US. I am also doing a poster presentation about the lessons I worked on about super hydrophobic surfaces and categorizing leaves on the maco, micro, nano scale. The poster is absolutely beautiful. I will show the students the poster at the next MicroExplorers club meeting. As a recipient of the Toyota Tapestry grant I will spend a couple of hours at their table talking about MicroExplorers and how I will use the funds. Thankfully, I will also be able to go to quite a few sessions. I am registered to see Bill Nye the science guy. I am so excited. I will post pictures and updates throughout the conference.

Thursday, March 4, 2010

Toyota Tapestry Grant Announcement

I am happy to report that MicroExploreres has been awarded the Toyota Tapestry Grant for the 2010-2011 school year. This year, 50 large grants of up to $10,000 each and 20–32 mini-grants of up to $2,500 were awarded to K–12 teachers of science in the United States. The categories are Physical Science Application, Environmental Science Education, and Integrating Literacy and Science.

MicroExplorers has been awarded a large grant that will support an after-school science club at Aldo Leopold Elementary School in Madison, WI. The awards reception will take place at the National Science Teachers Association annual conference in Philadelphia in March of 2010.  

This award will allow Leopold students the opportunity to expand the afterschool science clubs started in the 2009-10 school year.

For more information about the Toyota Tapestry Grants, please visit their website.

Thank you for supporting science education!

Iridescence in nature

Today went too well. I was able to get though only about have of what I had planned for the day. The students are looking at the following objects: a peacock feather, a beetle wing, a milkweed silk, and a sea shell. All of these objects have something in common. It took over an hour to guide the students through the lesson that finally lead to their discovery that they all exhibit iridescence.  Next week, we will look at how light interacts with surface structure and how not all color is created by pigmentation. We will test out the wings of the blue morpho butterfly to see if it gets its color from structure or pigmentation and then attempt to create iridescence using all that we have learned about how light reacts with surface structures. Super exciting lesson next week. I hear that Dr. Tracy from the UW may join us.

Super Hydrophobic Surfaces

The students last week started looking at super hydrophobic surfaces. We continued our investigations on levels of scale. Students categorized leaves based on their properties. On the macro scale kids sorted leaves based on color, texture, shape. After categorizing the leaves using the microscopes, they came up with some really amazing ways of categorizing the leaves. One group came up an interesting response I had not heard before. They grouped together leaves that all had a similar micro-structure that looked like a human tongue. Another group put all of the leaves together that seems to shine under magnification, or as one of the students said, “It looks like there are diamonds.” Finally, the students used water on the leaves to see if they had the nano-structures that would make its surface super hydrophobic. The first time I submerged a nasturtium leaf, the students gave a couple of wows. Then they were able to test the leaf surfaces of the leaves they had been using to test for super hydrophobicity. The poster by at NISE-Net is a great representation of scale. I also was able to share SEM images of the nasturtium leaf. The students were able to “see” what was happening on the nano scale.
Then, to represent through a model, I used a glove that is usually used to wash cars, to represent the nano sized “hairs.” Bubbles were used as a model of the water droplet, showing that because of the “hairs,” the water is not able to impregnate the surface of the leaf.

Dr. Neil Shirtcliffe from Nottingham Trent University used another model to demonstrate this using a bed of nails and a balloon. So, I tried it out with the students. I may need to modify my design a bit, but I think the students really liked it when we put the balloon on a single nail and got a nice loud pop.
This week’s investigation is about iridescence in nature and how light interacts with various surface structures.