Gyrocopter Lesson

Tami O'Connorby: Tami O’Connor

As an elementary and middle school teacher and Girl Scout leader, I had a bag of tricks that I dug into frequently…  One of my favorites was the gyrocopter.  I always kept a template in my files and when teaching about air, friction, forces symmetry or flight, out it came.  It was simple enough for kindergarten students to build, yet complex enough to hold the attention of eighth graders as we discussed principles of drag, the characteristics of flight or even just isolating variables in an experiment.

Nearly 400 years before the invention of the helicopter, Leonardo da Vinci sketched out a machine designed to compress air in order to obtain flight.  When Igor Sikorsky designed the first successful helicopter in the late 1930’s, da Vinci’s spinning wing was his inspiration.

Today, you can easily build gyrocopters with your students to explore different designs and variables.

How Does It Work?

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Making Waves

Tami O'Connorby: Tami O’Connor

Energy is transported by waves.  That’s an important concept to teach students, but it’s not always an easy one for them to understand. At the beginning of our unit on the electromagnetic spectrum, my class and I made wave models so they could all see and understand how waves work.

The kids loved this activity when we did it in class and, when I run into former students, some tell me they still have their wave models hanging from their ceilings more than 10 years after we made them!


Materials:Wave model

  • Popsicle Sticks
  • Kite String
  • Low Melt Glue Gun
  • Ruler or Yard Stick
  • Tape
  • Pen, Pencil, or Marker

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I Was a Science Convention Newbie

donna_giachettiBy: Donna Giachetti

 First Day of School Jitters

Heading to LaGuardia airport for my first science convention, I was reminded of my first day of kindergarten.  Instead of a shiny new lunchbox, I toted a battered old suitcase but otherwise, it felt much the same.  My first convention!  Would I make friends?  Would there be name tags?  Bathroom breaks?  Worst of all, would I get lost?

When I joined Educational Innovations in September 2014, my new colleagues tried to describe the magic and mayhem that occurs at science conventions.  “You’ll see,” I heard more than once.  They tossed around terms like “regionals” and “nationals” as if they were talking about March Madness.

I listened to their stories wondering when I would get my turn to become part of the larger-than-life Educational Innovations convention crew.  And then, in mid-November, my moment arrived.  CAST—the Conference for the Advancement of Science Teaching—would be my initiation into the world of science teachers.

Dallas, Here We Come!

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What’s the Weather? Check Your Weatherglass Barometer

Ted Beyer

By:   Ted Beyer

Predicting the weather is an age-old guessing game.

Over time, more and more sophisticated devices have been developed to aid in the guessing game.  Indeed, some of the largest computers in the world today are dedicated to modeling the weather using millions of data points collected all over the world—all in an effort to determine if going to the beach this weekend is a good idea, or if you should just stay home and binge watch Game of Thrones (again).

torricelli engraving from The Granger CollectionAfter temperature, one of the earliest scientific observations about the weather is the variation in barometric pressure.  Local changes in air pressure usually signal changes in the weather.  Falling pressure generally indicates rain, snow or wind storms, and increasing pressure most often indicates nicer weather.

One of the earliest gadgets used to try and track barometric pressure was the Weather Glass, also known as the Goethe Barometer [1].   Evangelista Toricelli [2] came up with the first truly accurate barometer—the classic, mercury-filled device—sometime around 1643-44.  [Note: Educational Innovations has a mercury-free version of this Science classroom “must-have.”] Read the rest of this entry »

A Firsthand Lesson on Colds, Flu & Infectious Disease

Priscilla Robinson headshotby:  Priscilla Robinson

Talking about Infectious Disease

These days, it’s hard not to hear reports about the spread of infectious disease, from serious viruses like Ebola to the “common” cold.  There are ads for flu shots and cold remedies, nightly media coverage about rampant epidemics all over the world, and pundits predicting whether these contagious diseases might someday get to this country.

So how is this affecting your students?  Are they asking questions?  Are they anxious about where these germs may be lurking, and whether they or their families are in any danger?

As a teacher, I’ve found that the science classroom is the perfect environment to help students understand the world around them.

A few years ago, my students and I survived an outbreak of the Swine Flu.  So many kids were getting sick that our school had to establish a quarantine room to isolate ill students until their parents could pick them up.  During this time, I set up stringent hand-washing techniques for students (and myself), as well as protocols for disinfecting desks, chairs and door handles.  Ultimately, my students had a lower rate of absences than their peers, and I stayed healthy as well.

Below you’ll find two fun and engaging classroom activities related to infectious disease transmission and prevention.  Try them with your students! Read the rest of this entry »