Growing Spheres Help Students Absorb Scientific Principles

John Fedorsby:  John Fedors

Hydrophilic spheres from Educational Innovations offer a variety of interesting applications and opportunities for scientific inquiry. They come in a variety of sizes: regular, jumbo, & gigantic. For the following examples, I prefer the regular or #710 size. However, whichever size you choose, they will expand to about 300 times their original dehydrated size. Growing SpheresAs they absorb the water, they become almost invisible, due to having the same refractive index as water. When placed in de-mineralized or distilled water and kept away from sunlight, they will dehydrate to their original size and can be re-used. Dehydration time will depend on air humidity.

Once enlarged, these clear spheres can be used to demonstrate:

* The lens of an eye (such as those of a shark, calf or sheep) that has the ability to magnify the print on a page. A thin slice may be used to mimic a cornea transplant.

* The suspension of small items such as a coin.

* Roots of a germinating seed.

Enlarged growing spheres can also help to observe the relationship of Surface Area (A=4pr2) to Volume (V=4/3pr3) mass in grams. They can be used to graph relationships. Read the rest of this entry »

What Is That Stuff? An Instant Snow Polymer Lab

Elaine Kotlerby: Elaine Kotler

I created a lab using the Instant Snow Polymer (Sodium Polyacrylate) from Educational Innovations that I use in my 8th grade Physical Science Class as well as Summer School Programs that I teach for grades 4-9.  This lesson incorporates concepts of Conservation of Mass, Properties of Matter, Metric Measurement and Conversion, and Observation Skills.  The lab, as I give it to the students, is listed below.

Each student receives an empty baggie to be used for comparison, a baggie containing 12 grams of Instant Snow Polymer, use of a balance and a graduated cylinder.

I have already explained the Law of Conservation of Mass, and Density (they need to remember that the density of water is 1 g/ml, or look it up) prior to introducing this lab activity.  However, they do not know the terms exothermic, endothermic, hydrophobic or hydrophilic.  My students are allowed to look them up, but unless they make careful observations as they are conducting the experiment, they won’t be able to answer the questions later.

The final question “What is That Stuff?” garners some interesting answers. Some recognize a use for it as snow for ski slopes; others have suggested material for ice packs.  One suggestion was to use the powder to help clean up and absorb spills. Read the rest of this entry »