Sunday, December 30, 2012

The Far Side (School and Science!).

Gotta love the Far Side by Gary Larson!
Below, find some of my favorite school and science-related Far Sides.



Pin It!

Monday, December 17, 2012

Science FREEBIES - Round 2!

 It's time for some more science FREEBIES!
In addition to freebies from my store, some generous TpT sellers have offered the following FREE science resources!
Download, enjoy, and show them some support!

Featured FREEBIES from the STR store...

And FREE from other sellers!

Flight Workbook - Using the Technology Process from Top Notch Teaching
Topic: Forms of Energy, Energy Transfer

Carnivores, Herbivores, and Omnivores from Chris Pearson
Topic: General Science 

Plate Tectonics Activity: A Synthesis of the Cross Section of the Earth 
from Christina OMalley
Topic: Physical Science/Earth Science/Geology/Plate Tectonics 

Planning an Investigation and Turkey Treasure Hunt from Oddball Science 
Topic: Investigation Skills

The Scientific Method from Susan Cahalane
Topic: General Science

Life Cycle of Plants Anchor Charts from Linda Kamp
Topic:  Plant life cycle

Pin It!

Friday, December 14, 2012

Air Pressure Giveaway and Blog Hop!

Today, I want to take a closer look at air pressure!

Below, you'll find several amazing air pressure demonstrations (and some explanations)  - many of which you can repeat in your classroom!

You'll also find a related product from my TpT store - the Air Pressure Lab Pack. This product includes four experiments students can complete - and one comment on this post will win it FREE! (Comments/giveaway close at the end of the day on Sunday, 12/16/12).
Be sure to stop by on Monday to see if you've won!

Also, we're running a blog hop! Check out the links at the bottom of the post to follow the hop!


Air Pressure is STRONG!
Wish you could do this in your classroom?
Well, you can! (Sort of).
See the next video!

The Amazing Smooshing Can!
I usually use this demo to introduce air pressure.
As students learn, they are able to explain what happens!

Another great air pressure demo for the classroom!
Low air pressure created by the burning oxygen leaves relatively high pressure outside.
This high pressure pushes the liquid into the cup!

Some engaging labs for students from my TpT store!
One lucky commentor on this post will receive a FREE copy of this lab pack!
Be sure to stop by on Monday to see if you've won,
leave your email in your post,
or send it to me at
I promise no spam - I'll just need to contact you if you win!

Another great demo!
(and some more detail on how air pressure works)

Head to the next blog in the hop: Live Teach Create 

Find a broken link?
Want to start at the beginning?  
Pin It!

Monday, December 10, 2012

More AWESOME Science Videos!

Time for some more great science (and related) videos!

 Airport Landings!
An amazing look (overlayed videos) at all of the planes that landed at San Diego
International Airport between 10:30am and 3:00pm on November 23, 2012.

Solar Eclipse of 2012
A great look at the solar eclipse that occurred on May 20, 2012

The Briggs Rauscher Reaction
Want more info? Look here.

How about Sulfur Hexafluoride!

Pin It!

Friday, December 7, 2012

This Time Was Different

Ryan looked up as Ms. Francis called for attention at the front of the room.

"Ok, please pass up the index cards I handed to you a minute or two ago," Ms. Francis said.

At his seat, about halfway back on the left side of the room, Ryan shuffled through the four or five papers on his desk, knocking his pencil to the ground as he searched for the green index card he had been given. It was the first day of class, and Ryan and his classmates had just completed an activity during which they were asked to raise their index cards in the air to indicate responses to certain questions.

Ryan looked under one paper, then another. No index card.
He then picked up all of the papers and shuffled them against his desk to organize them. No index card.
Ryan then pushed his chair back and scanned the ground near his desk. No index card.
Finally, Ryan spun around and looked at his friend John's desk. No index card there either.

A little embarrased, Ryan raised his hand.
"Yes, Peter?" Ms. Francis said softly from the front of the room.

"Umm..I can't find my index card."

Those sitting around Ryan laughed softly, although not in a mean way.

"Oh, that's ok Ryan. I have plenty of extras."


Most middle school (and elementary and high school, for that matter) teachers have their own "Ryans." But this time, it was different.

This time, "Ryan" was 28 years old.
And this wasn't an elementary, middle, or high school class.

This was a teacher training.
And "Ryan" was me.

I didn't so much care that I had lost the index card. (To this day, I have no idea where it went). In fact, I was sort of in awe of the situation. Although I dramatized it a bit above, it was really interesting to be the kid who lost the paper that was distributed two minutes earlier. I had never made a big deal of lost papers, but this experience gave me a little more empahty for the kids that lost them.

Teaching 7th grade, I'll keep making five hundred copies of the Periodic Table for my one hundred Ryans.
Pin It!

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

I Hate You.

Scared LadyThat's what she said.

To be honest, I don't really remember what happened just before that (it was twelve years ago), but I definitely remember what happened afterwards.

Or what didn't happen afterwards.

I didn't sleep more than twenty minutes that night.
I wasn't really upset that she had said she hated me. Believe it or not, I was worried.


Every teacher has taught a student (probably many students) like her. Let's call her Bridget. Bridget had an unstable home life, fairly significant anger issues, low academic performance and self worth, and was overall an unhappy kid. I'm not saying it was her fault (much of it probably wasn't), but it was what it was.

Although I don't remember the details, I know that Bridget had been extremely disruptive that day. My attempts to refocus her concluded with the bell, as a spitting-mad Bridget walked out of class, and directed at me a pointed, "I hate you!" on her way out.

That kept awake. And worried.

Looking back, I attribute this to my then lack of experience with middle school kids. This was the first marking period - there were eight months left. How I would manage my class after this? What would happen tomorrow? That was it - any hopes for a successful year were over.


The next day, I dragged myself into school, and cringed as the bell rang to end third period. My stomach was twisted in knots as I saw Bridget headed to my class. As she walked towards me, she didn't make eye contact. A bad sign.

As Bridget approached, she finally looked up at me. Her demeanor was calm - it even looked like she almost had a smile on her face.

"Hi, Mr. Levine," she said cheerily, as she walked in, sat down and started her warm-up.

I exhaled. Welcome to middle school.

Pin It!

Saturday, December 1, 2012

I nevur Make misteaks.

My third year, my tenth year, and my eleventh year.

The third year was by far the worst incident of the three. About 20 minutes before the kids arrived, I turned on all nine sinks and sat down to get some work done. (Science teachers in my school had to do this every couple of weeks to keep some foul smell from making its way out of the drains). The sound of nine running sinks filled the room - loud, although somewhat relaxing. After about 7 or 8 minutes, I got up from my desk to shut them off...

My tenth and eleventh years involved incidents nearly identical to each other. A new project-based curriculum involved 7th grade science students growing basil hydroponically - without soil. (Pretty cool - learn more here). Plants were to be suspended in nutrient solution, which would flow from tank to tank via pumps. Anyway, I helped one of our 7th grade teachers set up her pumps just in time for her first class of the day...

Those were the three times I flooded classrooms.

The tenth and eleventh years were minor, as far as floods are concerned. They were cleaned up in a matter of minutes, although there were kids in the room both times. My third year was a very different story. Unbeknownst to me, a couple of the sinks had paper towels left in them, which clogged the drains. That year, I didn't flood one classroom - I flooded two. Mine was cleaned up and ready to use that day. The one below me was out of commission for about a week. (Did you know that ceiling tiles fall down, one by one, when soaked with water?).

I like to tell stories like these at the start of the school year.
"Hey kids, don't worry if you make a mistake in here. Listen to this."
Pin It!

Thursday, November 29, 2012

More Awesome Science! (videos and resources)

Time for some more awesome science -
With some student friendly, ready to use teaching materials to match!

Time Lapse Erosion
Two amazing looks at erosion - aided by time lapse! Above,
Collaroy-Narrabeen Beach (Sydney, Australia) in June 2007. During 3 days,
almost 300 000 cubic meters of sand was removed from the beach.
Below, the erosion of a soccer ball over time.

Both work well with one of my freebie resources:

The Egg in the Bottle
Whoa! The fire consumes the oxygen - around 21% of the air inside the bottle.
This leaves relatively low pressure inside the bottle (as compared to
the relatively high pressure outside the bottle). This higher pressure outside
air pushes the egg in!

This demo is a great match with

The Ultimate Zoom-In Shot
 One of my (and student) favorites! 
A simulated zoom from the outskirts of the universe to the inside of an atom!
This is great for looking at relative sizes, and can easily be paired with my  
Cells vs. Atoms Worksheet.

The Blubber Glove

I have a friend who participated in a pain study at the National Institutes of Health.
She had to keep her hand in ice water as long as she could stand it - too bad
she didn't have blubber! Blubber is an incredible insulator, allowing very little heat to
transfer from the hand to the water!

This demo makes for some great lessons when paired with my Conduction Lab, 
Or get them all (and more) with the Heat Transfer Teacher Pack!
Pin It!

Monday, November 26, 2012

Planning for Learning: A How-To

Bored Woman Studying
Middle school teachers have a special job.

I've discussed some of this in earlier posts. We have to wade through all of the middle school stuff and somehow facilitate 30 twelve year-olds in learning a new and specific concept or idea every day. In my 12 years teaching and observing (formally and informally) middle school teachers, here are four things I've learned.

1. Start with an OBJECTIVE!
I can't stress this one enough. While I like to allow for differences in style, objective-based planning is the only way to plan. You start with an objective - a measurable learning outcome that students need to know or be able to do by the end of the class. For newer teachers, this changes what can sometimes feel like the need to fill time into the need to have students learn within a limited time

Let's take as an example:
Students will be able to describe motion of particles in three phases of matter.

   -Specific? Yes.
   -Kid friendly? Yup.
   -Measureable? Sure.

Ok, we're ready to get to work.

2. Plan for Mastery
Now, the challenge is set. You, the teacher, have 45 (or 47, 50, 60, etc.) minutes to have every student meet your objective. In our example, this means you have 45 minutes for your students to learn and demonstrate a mastery of particle motion in three phases of matter. 

How in the world will you do it? If you're asking yourself this question, you're off to a great start. You've successfully changed your focus from filling time to using time. Answering this question is the reason you get a paycheck - this is your job. You are an expert in getting kids to learn. Not only that, but you need to continue to get better at it.

This step involves...
  • Planning Activities
  • Preparing Materials
  • Preplanning Questions (yes, preplanning) 

    and synthesizing everything into a smooth, focused lesson!

This is not to say that you need to do it alone! Hopefully, you have a strong, collaborative staff to help you. Discussing lessons with peers, asking others for feedback, and reflection (alone and in groups) are powerful tools that will foster improved teaching and learning.

3. Frame the Learning
The importance of framing is never better demonstrated than when seen from the student perspective. (Newer teachers, I urge you to seek out peers who excel at this and watch them in action)! This is an extremely powerful learning tool. Framing of learning involves explicitly communicating to students what they need to know or be able to do by the end of class.
In addition, it may involve...
-Explaining how you're going to help them get there. 
-Activating prior knowledge.
-Asking a question to help students begin to explore the topic.

In our example, this could be as simple as saying, "Please take a look at your objective. Today, by the end of class, you need to be able to describe how particles move in three different phases of matter. Are there any questions of what is expected of you by the end of class today?"

To me, this is so important that I use anywhere from 1-5 of my 45 minutes covering it each day. It may not sound like much, but 5 minutes is 11% of the time students have in class.
It's worth it - every day.

4. Summarize the Learning
Ok, you've set an objective, framed learning for students, and planned and implemented a lesson for mastery. 
DO NOT let the lesson simply end with the bell - end the lesson purposefully by summarizing the learning with which students should be walking away!

Like framing, the power and importance of a good summary is most easily visible from the student perspective. Opening and closing the learning both work to focus students on the objective, and are well worth the time they require.


This blog post is by no means  meant to be comprehensive. The art of teaching takes years to develop, but I am a strong believer in the four ideas presented above. After observing them in action and consistently utilizing them myself, I feel safe telling you that they  
improve student learning.
Pin It!

Saturday, November 24, 2012

Middle School FREEBIES Linky Party!


How about some FREE Middle School products!

Add your link below, and scroll through and find your favorite freebies to download! 
(These should be links directly to free products).

Pin It!

Geeks vs. Nerds: A Guide

Hello, geeks and nerds!
(You clicked to get here, didn't you)!?

I figured this would be fitting - for both science and middle school. I'm pretty sure I'm closer to geek than nerd, but that's just me. Thanks to for sharing!


Geeks vs Nerds

Pin It!

Thursday, November 22, 2012

Seven Years.

"Would anyone like more time on the quiz?"

"Ok. Please circle the first letter of your first name and pass up your quiz."
"Why do you always make us circle the first letter of our first name?"
"To make sure there's a name."

Seven years.

That little gem took me seven years to figure out.

Once in a while, just to keep things fresh, I'll switch to the second letter. Or the last letter. When I'm feeling really zany, I'll switch the circle to a box. Or even an underline.
That's right - an underline

Watch out, kids. Today's a crazy day.

Now, every class has asked me (multiple times) why I have them do that. I always give the same response, word for word: 

"To make sure there's a name."

The class then gives me the sterotypical, "Oooooooohhhhhhh."
Then one student raises his or her hand, and in a concerned voice says, "I accidentally circled the second letter. Is that ok?"

I love middle school.

 Happy Thanksgiving to you and your family!

Pin It!

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Correct Horse Battery Staple (awesome science websites)

My brother showed this one to me. Awesome.

It's from
A very cool (and addictive) math/science web-comic.
I especially like the What If section, self described as "Answering Your Hypothetical Questions With Physics, Every Tuesday." 
Disclaimer: I've browsed the site, but can't vouch for 100% kid-friendliness.

Cool and amazing videos, experiments, and a special section for parents and teachers!

Ok, so you may have heard of this one, but I had to include it.
It's too awesome not to.Wonder how anything (real or imagined) works?
You can probably find out here.


Some of the most amazing pictures on the web. 
For a longer chain of cool images, check out their Year's Most Amazing Scientific Images.
Pin It!

Monday, November 19, 2012

The Best of YouTube Science!

(Or at least some of my favorites).

The Melting Gallium Spoon
The gallium spoon appears as any normal spoon would - until dipped in warm tap water!
Gallium, a metal with a melting point of 85.59° F (29.77° C), is a consistent student favorite!
Elephant Toothpaste
 What do you get when you mix hydrogen peroxide, sodium (or potassium) iodide, and  liquid soap? Well, not elephant toothpaste. But it sure looks like it. 

Potassium Chlorate and Gummy Bear
A science poem:
Guess what gummy bears hate. 
Yup - potassium chlorate.

Sodium in Water
Sodium - Making water more fun for millions of years!
Sodium acts to lose an electron, creating hydrogen gas (and heat!) when mixed with water.

Dr. Quantum and the Double Slit Experiment
An engaging, entertaining, and understandable explanation of the double slit experiment - One of the most unbelievable and unexplainable experiments ever performed!
Pin It!