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 »


Desperately Seeking Goldenrod Paper


donna_giachettiby: Donna Giachetti

 In a February 2014 blog post we said goodbye to the last of our goldenrod paper supply, a beloved staple in many science teachers’ classrooms.

Truthfully, we can’t count how many times in these past months we’ve had to tell customers that our stock was gone—and unlikely to ever be replenished since the manufacturers had permanently ceased production.

Sure, it may not seem like such a big deal to the uninitiated.  Stationery fashions come and go, after all.

But this was not just colored paper—it was G O L D E N R O D !  If anything can prove the old idiom that appearances are sometimes deceiving, this was the stuff.

goldenrod paper SM-925

Goldenrod paper in action

Assuming you dampened a sheet with a bit of plain water… well, you’d be looking at some soggy golden-yellow paper. But try spraying it with a base solution such as washing soda or Windex® and stand back! Everywhere the liquid touched, the paper instantly turned bright red. (Blood red, in fact.) Immerse the paper in vinegar and it “magically” shifted back to its original color!

Customers lamented the loss, loudly and often. “How can it be gone?” they asked.  “Don’t you even have a few sheets left?”  They understood that our goldenrod paper was a guaranteed show-stopper—whether their audience was toddlers, teens or tenured educators.

Knowing this terrible shock had to be softened, we came up with our own recipe for Do-It-Yourself goldenrod paper, involving heaps of tumeric (a bright-yellow spice) and several hours of mess.  It wasn’t the same as our goldenrod paper, but in a pinch it would do.

Until now!

If you haven’t already figured it out, take another look at the first letters of the paragraphs above.

IT’S BACK!

Let the rejoicing—and experimenting—begin.

Reunited... and it feels so good!

Reunited… and it feels so good!

For a refresher course in all the wonderful experiments you can do to captivate students of all ages with a simple sheet of goldenrod paper, we refer you to master teacher Ron Perkins’ blog of simple and advanced activities. We also offer free lesson ideas online.  (Just scroll down to the tab marked “Lesson Ideas.”)

And don’t forget to stock up!

Finally, check out our new video below—consider it a little preview of some of the fun you can have with our wonderful goldenrod paper. Every time we watch it, we start humming Peaches & Herb’s classic, “Reunited (and It Feels So Good).”

PS: Is it our imagination, or does the color of that stamp on their album cover look a bit like goldenrod?

 

 


What It Means to Be a Teacher


donna_giachettiby:  Donna Giachetti

If you’re reading this, chances are you’re a teacher.

If you spend more than an hour a day with kids—from 1 to 100 (in age and quantity)—chances are you’re a teacher.

If you’ve grinned at our Facebook comics or said “I need that!” while clicking through our website, chances are you’re a teacher.

But what is a teacher?

Here’s what the dictionary says:

teacher

The definition of a teacher

Source: Merriam-Webster dictionary online

Read the rest of this entry »


At Halloween, Science Is Cooler than Ever


donna_giachettiby: Donna Giachetti

In the spring
a young man’s fancy
lightly turns to thoughts of love.”

 —Alfred, Lord Tennyson

Alfred may have a point, but these days our thoughts turn to darker, spookier things—zombies, ghouls, witches, monsters and ghosts (more about them later, scroll down to the end of the blog).

29357602_s

Why is autumn one of our favorite times of year?

Let us count the ways:

  •     A new school year…
  •    Cooler temperatures…
  •    Warm, cozy sweaters and boots…
  •    A procession of colorful fall foliage…

But best of all, there’s the anticipation of HALLOWEEN! What a wonderful time to be a mad scientist! Read the rest of this entry »