Wandering and Wondering

Exploring the wonders of Science in everyday life!

More iPad Lessons…

Well, after 8 weeks of maternity leave, 43 hours of labor, and one 8 pound baby girl later….I’m back! When I came back to school, all of my 8th graders received their iPads so we can now start using them in the classroom!

My first project is one I am doing this week that I actually got from a website for 4th grade iPad lessons (http://list.ly/list/1OT-4th-grade-ipad-lesson-ideas). This project ties in with our ‘Energy Flow in an Ecosystem” unit that we are currently in, but it also helps the students get to know their iPads.

We will be using an app called IdeaSketch which is a graphic organizer that allows students to draw different “thought bubbles” and change the color, move them around, connect them with arrows, all sorts of options. While this is a great tool to use in the classroom for concept maps and food webs, it could also be very beneficial to a student who may have difficulty relating different concepts within a unit.

For a free app, it is an outstanding learning tool. I’m very excited to see how it works, watch my Twitter feed for some pictures later this week! @WonderLeadSarah

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Is it a solid?

One of my students came in to my room after school yesterday, and gave me a small cube of Aerogel, one of the world’s lightest solid materials. It is amazing stuff! Even though it is called “gel”, it is actually a dry, translucent solid…feels sort of like styrofoam. http://www.aerogel.org/

The way they make this is by replacing the liquid in gels with gas. It is an ultra-porous, ultra-lightweight solid that can support up to 1000 times its mass, and is also a great insulator! Check out the video below, where a piece of Aerogel protects a Hershey’s kiss from a blowtorch:

You can buy a little bit of this amazing material from Amazon and play around with it: http://www.amazon.com/Educational-Innovations-Aerogel/dp/B008MB1R0Q/ref=sr_1_3?ie=UTF8&qid=1347998261&sr=8-3&keywords=aerogel

What are some other amazing solids you have heard of? What are some properties of solid matter than you know of?

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It’s Party Time!

Political parties, that is…with all this hubbub about the Presidential nominations and party conventions, I started wondering: How did this whole tradition of having huge conventions get started?

The party conventions started in 1831 when the Anti-Masonic party held a national convention, and it seemed like such a great idea that the other political parties began holding their own. The reason it seemed like such a great idea was because when you have everyone in the same room it is much easier to debate who the nominee should be rather than trying to get everyone on the same page from across the nation (remember, this was in the early 1800’s…no long distance phone calls!).

When the conventions first started out, the delegates from each state genuinely did not know who was going to come out as the presidential nominee! It took 49 ballots to elect Franklin Pierce in 1852! These days, we pretty much know who is going to be nominated way before the convention actually happens but it is still exciting to watch all the speeches in support of your nominee.

Learn more about becoming President (and order a GREAT poster for your Social Studies classroom!) here: http://kids.usa.gov/president/index.shtml

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Curious about Curiosity? Me too!

Curiosity. By far one of my favorite traits in any one is curiosity. Curiosity is at the root of all learning…if you are curious about something, you will investigate that something until your curiosity is satisfied.

Beginning this week, however, the word curiosity has taken on a different meeting. Curiosity is the rover that just landed on Mars for an extended mission collecting data to research the existence of life on the Red Planet. Did you watch the landing? When the scientists at NASA received confirmation of a safe landing, there was such an eruption of emotion I could feel myself getting choked up! Of course, I’m 7 1/2 months pregnant so pretty much anything gets me choked up…but it was still an amazing moment!

This project has been in the works for nearly 10 years, and many of the scientists shown in this video have been working on the project for at least that long. So, you can imagine the emotions that go along with seeing your hard work truly pay off.
What are you hoping they discover on Mars? Would you live on Mars if you could?

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Say what?

In 1798, a French emperor named Napoleon Bonaparte invaded Egypt with grand dreams of conquering the world. Napoleon had a great appreciation for arts and culture, so when he invaded Egypt, he took along a group of soldiers and told them to seize any cultural artifacts for France.

On July 19, 1799, one of these soldiers (Pierre Bouchard) stumbled across a large black basalt slab inscribed with an ancient passage written in three different scripts: Greek, Egyptian hieroglyphics, and Egyptian demotics. When the British defeated Napoleon in 1801, they took possession of the Rosetta Stone and worked for years to decipher the passage.

French egyptologist Jean-Francois Champollion ultimately cracked the code to translate the hieroglyphics, an ancient form of picture writing used in ancient Egypt. Once the Rosetta Stone inscriptions were translated, the language and culture of ancient Egypt was suddenly open to scientists as never before.

Since 1802, the Rosetta Stone has been kept in the British Museum, along with many other artifacts from ancient Egypt. Find out more: http://www.britishmuseum.org/explore/highlights/highlight_objects/aes/t/the_rosetta_stone.aspx


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Are you my mummy?

I read an article this morning about “Frankenstein” bog mummies that were discovered in Scotland (http://bit.ly/Nfa7KD) , and I started thinking about mummies. When I was growing up, my mom was a 6th grade teacher and when she taught history she was sure to do a unit on ancient Egypt, including a lesson on mummification.

How does it work? What are the different ways that something can become mummified?

Mummification is the process of preserving the remains (bone, skin, and organs) of an animal or human either intentionally or accidentally in certain conditions. The most well-known mummies are those from ancient Egyptians, who mummified many important people to preserve their remains for the afterlife using various chemicals and wrapping the bodies in layers upon layers of gauze and clay. While the exact process of the Egyptian mummification remains a mystery, mummies are found throughout the world in many different cultures and made through many different processes that we know of.

What are “bog mummies”?

Remains can be preserved through extreme cold (ice mummies), very low humidity (in a cave), or when they are no longer exposed to any air like the bog mummies in Scotland. A bog is a type of wetland made of layers upon layers of dead plant material (peat) that becomes very thick and saturated with low-oxygen acidic water from rainfall. Because of the acidity in the water, the skin and soft tissues of bog mummies are usually remarkably well-preserved, but the bones are dissolved away by the acid.

One of the most famous “bog people” is the Tollund Man, a naturally mummified corpse of a man who lived in the 4th century BC. That’s over 2,200 years ago! He was so well-preserved that when they discovered the body they actually thought he may have died in the bog very recently. They were even able to look in his stomach to find his last meal of a porridge made from vegetables and seeds.

Have you ever had the opportunity to see a mummy? Next time you go to a museum, be sure to check out any exhibits they have on mummies or ancient Egypt. You can see how these ancient peoples preserved their nobility (and pets, too!) for a successful eternity in the afterlife.

Some fun websites to explore:




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Happy Independence Day!

What is Independence Day? Like Memorial Day, we all know it as a day for barbecues, pool parties, and getting together with friends and family. However, what are we celebrating?

On July 4, 1776, the United States Congress formally adopted the Declaration of Independence, a document stating the Colonies’ intentions to become a separate entity from England’s power. After the Revolutionary War, people across the newly formed country celebrated this date with festivities including concerts, bonfires, parades and the firing of cannons and muskets.

The date was made a federal holiday in 1870, and in 1941 the date became a paid holiday for all federal employees. This date has become an American tradition that helps promote patriotism as well as develop a sense of unity amongst Americans. So, when you are waving your flag, watching the fireworks, and eating your hot dogs…remember what you are celebrating!

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Levitating Slinky!

My husband sent me this crazy video earlier this morning that I just had to share! When you hang a Slinky by one end and let go of the top, the bottom will not move until the top catches up to it! Check it out!

Why does this work? Here’s the complicated explanation: http://large.stanford.edu/courses/2007/ph210/kolkowitz1/

Here’s my (simple) explanation: A Slinky is just a big, floppy spring.  Springs like to compress to a relaxed state, and will “rebound” to their relaxed state when they are stretched out and then released. Think about stretching a Slinky out on a table and letting both sides go at the same time…they’ll meet in the middle, right? Right.

Now stretch that Slinky out by holding one end and letting the other one dangle down so it is being stretched out by gravity. When you let go of the top, gravity is still holding the bottom end in place so it looks like the Slinky is levitating. Watch the video again…Pretty cool, huh?

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Living in Los Angeles, we are surrounded by cinematic culture. Movie theaters, movie studios, movie stars…everything that seems to  keep this industry going is located within a 10 mile radius of our apartment! One of the most iconic Hollywood features is the Hollywood sign. But what is the history behind this icon?

The sign was dedicated on July 13, 1923, and actually read “HOLLYWOODLAND”, to advertise a new housing development that was going in the hills above the Hollywood area of Los Angeles (that’s right, Hollywood is actually NOT its own city! Crazy!). The sign has gone through quite a few changes since then, because it was not put up with the intention of being permanent.

By 1978, the sign was in REALLY bad shape, so nine of Hollywood’s most influential people (including Alice Cooper and Hugh Hefner) gave money to completely refurbish the sign.

The Hollywood sign remains a classic cultural icon, and I have to say, even after living in LA for as long as I have…I still get excited to see it!

Find out more and see pictures of imitators all over the world: http://bit.ly/Mrr58U

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I’ve posted before about my aunt who lives up on a farm in Oregon (see here: http://wp.me/s26Zer-llamas) and raises her own  sheep and alpacas for their wonderful fiber. Today’s Wonder is about knitting and crocheting, and that got me thinking of my aunt Kip (http://wonderopolis.org/wonder/how-are-knitting-and-crocheting-different/).

My aunt Kip is an amazing lady, and her farm is one of the greatest places on earth (second only to my mom’s farm which is about 4 miles away from Kip’s!). Amazing views of Smith Rock make this an idyllic setting for a farm with sheep, goats, chickens, 2 cats, 2 alpacas, and one feisty llama.

Kip has her sheep and alpacas sheared and then takes the fibers and prepares them for dying herself. In the back of her farm she has a whole studio dedicated to dying and preparing these fibers for turning into yarn. Once the fibers are ready, she is able to spin them into yarn using her spinning wheel. With this yarn she makes gloves, socks, sweaters, beanies, anything you can think of! She even knit us this adorable little pumpkin hat for our October baby girl!

Kip has even started her Facebook page showing some of her handiwork, along with pictures of the farm and the sheep that give her the fibers! If you are interested in knitting, check out her Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/smithrockhandwork

I’ve never been much a knitter, but maybe I will start…with a scarf. Or a potholder. That seems easy enough.

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