Center of Mass Challenge


By Jeremy Johnson

In my 13 years of classroom teaching experience, I’ve learned a few tricks to keep my students from becoming overwhelmed—or bored—by their science textbooks.  One of my favorite tricks is to get my kids up on their feet, doing science instead of reading about it.

When I teach about gravity and center of mass, for example, I like to shake things up by turning our classroom into an impromptu biokinetics lab.  I challenge my students to perform a series of seemingly simple physical tests, described below.  Lift a chair?  Raise your leg?  Pick up a quarter?  No problem!  (Or so they think…)

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The Sun Is Pretty Hot Stuff!


Ted Beyer, Educational Innovations, Inc.by Ted Beyer

The sun is, on average, about 93,000,000 miles (149,668,992 kilometers) away from us.  That’s pretty darn far.  In fact, if the sun went out right now, we would not know about it for about eight minutes.  Not to worry, that’s not going to be a thing to fret about for quite a while—a couple of billion years last time I checked.

That huge (try 109 times as big as Earth) ball of fusion reactor up in our sky is arguably responsible for all of the energy we use on Earth.  Not just solar power, but all of it.  Fossil fuels (oil, coal, and natural gas) were created from ancient plant and animal matter—which all lived because of the sun.

The Sun Is Pretty Hot Stuff! Educational Innovations Blog

  Image source: Stanford Solar Center

Hydropower is only possible because of the water cycle (best look that one up on your own, they won’t let me make these posts too long).  Wind power relies on, well, wind—and that is a byproduct of the warming and cooling of the atmosphere—and that’s the sun doing that warming too.  Atomic power uses heavy elements like Uranium, which was created in the hearts of suns.

I could go on and on, but I think you get the idea.

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First Graders and the Drinking Bird: A Love Story


First Graders & the Drinking Bird: A Love Story - Educational Innovations Blogby John Frassinelli

Having first seen a “drinking bird” in elementary school myself, I had never forgotten it.  Our teacher, I think, had placed one on the windowsill.  We had no air conditioning in those days, and the windows actually opened!  Air circulated through the room, and that probably influenced the bird.  I think it’s too bad that many classrooms are hermetically sealed these days, but we do what we can.

Recently I decided to introduce my first graders to my old friend, the Drinking Bird.   I bought a few birds and fooled around with them, making sure each one would “drink” as it was supposed to.  I learned that some birds need a bit of adjustment—their centers of mass might be too high or too low.  But this is easily remedied by gently twisting the bird’s body and raising (or lowering) it on its metal clasp.

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Classroom Fun with the Static Electricity Electroscope


Educational Innovations Blogby Nancy Foote

The latest addition to my classroom’s Curiosity Table is a Static Electricity Electroscope.  The fact that it looks a bit odd made it even more intriguing to my students.  Once they began to play with the electroscope, they couldn’t stop. Read the rest of this entry »


Engaging Students with Electrochemistry… and Goldenrod Paper


Educational Innovations Blogby Nancy Foote

I’m in love with goldenrod paper.  I’ve loved it for a long time.  In my never-ending quest to emotionally entangle my students in the content of our science curriculum, Color-Changing Goldenrod Paper provides a long-lasting entanglement.

If you’ve never done the bloody handprint goldenrod paper demo with your students, you are truly missing out—and so are they)!  This is the most engaging “engage” part of the 5 E’s I’ve ever experienced.  I like to do the bloody handprint demo around Halloween, but we don’t do acid/base chemistry until February.  That’s a long time to wonder, ponder and try to figure out exactly what is happening.  But that’s for another blog post.

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