Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Winter Break Bordem - Science Videos

This summer I had the wonderful joy of watching many talented YouTube artists make videos on our favorite topic: SCIENCE! Sure, we're a little late for the beginning of the year but just in time for Winter Break!

Here are a few of my favorite videos from this summer. If you find yourself wanting to learn some science this Winter Break but don't want to read those dusty textbooks check out some of these Youtuber's other videos.

1.) Paul G. Hewitt teaches the "Conservation of Momentum"
This video isn't new (2008) but it does show an entertaining way to teach a physics concept that can be difficult for students to grasp. Hewitt is a physics teacher, among other things, who is well known in the  science education world for writing a physics textbook that helped teach through analogies. His analogies and demonstrations not only make science more interesting and easy to understand but they are fun too!

2.) NPR (National Public Radio) is absolutely wonderful. They have a website and YouTube channel and their content ranges from politics to music and even science! This video here from NPR answers the question "How heavy is a hurricane?" Can you guess the weight of a hurricane in whales? The answer may surprise you.

3.)Vsauce- Michael Stevens is a science writer and the host of Vsauce. This channel has many interesting videos; some on video games, science news, fun things to-do online and nifty things people have created. Vsauce has a few side channels as well, including vsauce2, (new) vsauce3, and vsaucegaming. This video explains why people are ticklish and why some people think it is actually painful.

4.)Veritasium- America is definitely not the only country with scientists. This vlogger is from Australia and did his Ph.d on teaching science through videos. This video explains common misconceptions about temperature by interviewing people on the streets in Australia. Go ahead, watch this video and learn why some materials feel colder than others.

5.) Crashcourse is a new Youtube channel created by two brothers. Each brother tackles an AP subject. The first two subjects were World History and Biology. This is the first video in the Biology segment. (Just now starting is a segment on Ecology.) If biology is your thing you should watch these videos that are done by Hank Green, who got his Ph.D in environmental biology.

6.)ASAPscience - I recently came upon this science channel. Their tagline is "Got a burning question?" They have about 50 videos on many different topics in science. Ever wonder why people get hangovers? Want to know know about the age of earth? Or maybe you just wondered how Spiderman's powers work, this is the channel to keep an eye on.

7.) Is astronomy more your thing? SpaceLab is a youtube channel that has playlists of astronomy related things. They also have connections with the International Space Station. Neil DeGrasse Tyson has been interviewed a few times on their channel and their normal host is... Bill Nye the Science guy!

8.)SciShow is the place to go for science news. This channel is written and hosted by Hank Green (of CrashCourse) and mainly focuses on science news. There are some videos of explanation and even a few on labs you can do at home.

9.) MelodySheep - Lastly, this channel takes clips from movies, documentaries and speeches about different topics and turns them into a catchy auto-tune song of science! 

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Guest Blog: Google Earth in the Classroom

Hi, I am Geoblogger Brian Schrock, author of the blog Google Earth Time Machine and I'm here doing a guest blog for my lovely friends Caroll and Rachel.  As my blog indicates, I'm a frequent user of Google Earth and after years of enjoying the program, I've learned a few tricks that I think could really add to the science classroom.  While Google Earth has revolutionized cartography (being our most complete map of the planet), it also has many additional features and applications that merge geography with the realms of geology, biology, oceanography, environmental science, meteorology, and other disciplines.  I plan on introducing a few of these features and applications to y'all today.


After downloading the most recent version of Google Earth (which is a free download for those who didn't know) one of the features that comes with the program is a layer titled Ocean.  When this layer is selected many different contributions by groups like National Geographic have content for the user to explore.  Articles, images, videos, and links to webpages are georeferenced to areas all over the world's oceans:

Notice the ocean layer at the bottom left.  These are just some of the materials included.

The amount of material available to teachers here is astounding.  While elementary students might struggle with comprehending some of the material on their own, middle school and especially high school students would be able to browse these articles in an environmental science, oceanography, or biology class.  Never underestimate the amount of free resources provided here!


Like the Ocean layer that comes with Google Earth, there is also a Weather layer that provides frequently updated radar, satellite, and temperature details for the world.  The same kind of information can be found online but with the right tools, this information can be enhanced.  There is a website that gives free downloads of Hurricane Hunter data.  This data is updated real-time (even while they are in flight!) and show's the track of the Hurricane Hunter plane as it flies into tropical systems.  It even provides wind speed and barometric data as it goes.  You can know if a storm has become a hurricane before the National Hurricane Center even officially announces it!

(photo from

During the Atlantic hurricane season, this kind of information can really expose a science classroom to meteorology as it is occurring!

Environmental Science:

Google Earth comes with an entire set of layers dedicated to global awareness.  These range from issues with pollution and famines, to the activities of World Wildlife Fund and Greenpeace.  One of the issues that I found most intriguing as a geology student was mountain-top removal.  Google Earth has a layer dedicated to raising awareness about the removal of mountaintops for coal mining.  In addition to this layer, they have another technical feature called a time-slider. The time slider allows the user to view historical imagery as far back as they have records.  So for one of these mountains in particular, I created a blog of how the mountain was removed overtime.  This time slider is one of my favorite features on Google Earth and the main source of my blog material!

The above picture shows deforestation in the Amazon Rainforest.  Using the map scale bar at the bottom left of the satellite image, students can measure the area of deforestation and get an idea of how expansive this problem is.


I got my bachelor's degree in geology so I've done quite a bit of exploring using Google Earth in this subject area.  ...In other words, please excuse me for making this section of my blog post much longer than the others.  I teach what I know!

Google Earth opens up a whole new realm of geologic study.  While many people use it for it's satellite features, it is easy to forget about the structural features it can show.  For instance, if I zoom into the sky above Mt. St. Helens, I see this:

However, if I tilt my angle of view towards the horizon, I now see a structural, 3D view of the mountain:

I can go even further by downloading a free topographic map overlay for Google Earth and applying it like so:

This kind of view can give the classroom an interactive view of large features like mountains, volcanoes, and meteor craters.

Another great interactive feature is the elevation profile tool.  Google Earth has a measuring tool located near the top of the screen that looks like a ruler.  It can be drawn across the map as a line or a path and then saved.  When right-clicked, an option for Show Elevation Profile becomes available.  Selecting this will show something like this:

This image shows students the shape of the Mississippi River Floodplain across 13 miles at the Iowa-Illinois border.  After introducing this tool to students, a potential project could be to give them various locations and have them use this tool to describe landforms that can't easily be seen on the small scale.  The applications are pretty enormous!


I would encourage any future teacher, especially in science, to become familiar with this program.  It is user friendly and completely free.  The sheer amount of material available allows for all kinds of exploration, study, and activity that I have barely even skimmed the surface on.  Students, particularly in America, are missing out on geographical perspectives and relating science to geography can really help broaden their knowledge in both areas.  If you have any further questions regarding classroom activity ideas, using the program, or general clarification, please contact me on Google+ or through email, or leave a comment on this blog post!


All image screenshots from Google Earth are copyright Google.

This blog and its author are not affiliated with Google that produces and owns Google Earth

Google and Google Earth are trademarks of Google Inc.

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Positively pH Explained

The last experiment we did was on testing the pH of common household items. First off, we hope you had fun. This lab is a wonderful learning experience and it captures your attention with the many different colors. With that, lets get started on understanding this lab!

pH is considered a chemical property. If you haven't learned about those, there are two properties: Chemical and Physical. Physical properties are things such as color, taste, and smell. Chemical properties are ones like pH, boiling point and melting point.

Physical Properties do not change the chemical make up of something.
Chemical Properties do change the chemical make up.

pH is a way to measure how acidic or basic a chemical, compound or material is. Acids have a lower number on the pH scale while bases have higher numbers. The number seven is neutral. A common neurtal substance is... water!

Something to remember, the pH scale is logorithmic. This means that the values are 10 time different than each other. For example: A pH of 2 is 10 times more acidic than a pH of 3. However it is 100 times more acidic than a pH of 4. Why? Because between 2 and 3 is an amount of 10 and between 3 and 4 is another amount of 10. To find how much more acidic 2 is than 4 you multiply the two sets of ten.

So 2 is 10x more acidic than 3.
2 is 100x more acidic (10 times 10) than 4.
2 is 1000x more acidic (10 times 10 times 10) than 5.
Scale for Litmus Paper
There are different ways the pH level of something can be measured. The most common way in a science lab is to use litmus paper.

Litmus paper changes color based on the acidity or alkalinity of a substance.
Acidity: How acidic a substance is, the more acidic the lower the number.
Alkalinity: How basic a substance is, the more basic the higher the number.

Normally there are two colors of litmus paper, red and blue. Each color tests for something different. Red litmus paper checks for basic solutions and blue litmus paper checks for acidic.
A handy way to remember which paper to use:

Red turns Blue if it is Basic.
Blue turns Red it is it Acidic.

For this experiment we used a solution made from red cabbage, so the colors for the ranges of pH are different than litmus.
Basic is Yellow.
Acidic is Pink.
Neutral is Blue.
(Neutral is blue because the cabbage juice is a blue color. )

So how does cabbage juice work to determine whether something is acidic or basic?
Ideal Red Cabbage Colors
Cabbage juice is a neutral substance so it is good for testing the pH of a substance. The reason a red cabbage is the purple color is because of something called a flavin, this is a water soluble pigment. This pigment changes colors in different pH levels. The reason for this change is because of hydrogen.

The indicator changes colors because it detects the ratio of hydroxide to hydronium ions.
Hydroxide: Negatively charged, anion made of one hydrogen and one oxygen. OH-
Hydronium: Positively charged, cation made of three hydrogen and one oxygen. H30+

When something is acidic there are more hydronium ions than hydroxide.
When something is basic there are more hydroxide ions than hydronium.
When something is neutral (like water or red cabbage juice) the amounts are equal.

Simple things like lemons are acidic and we know this because of their sour and sharp taste. Things that are basic are often used as cleaning supplies because they take away protons, or make things negatively charged. Basic substances have a soapy feel when on your hands, common laundry soap is basic.
Lemon, and citrus is the iconic 'fresh scent'
WARNING: When working in the lab it is dangerous to touch acids and bases (especially strong ones) these are dangerous.

Some Lovely Links: These links also tell how to do this experiment. It's common, simple and great!

Please Note: Red Cabbage can have a very strong odor, one that some do not enjoy. Thankfully science can help with this. Over at Spangler Science (lots of supplies!) they have Jiffy Juice, this stuff is great! It is a condensed, power version of Red Cabbage and is odorless! So if you plan on doing this experiment more than once or need a lot of it (especially for schools) this stuff is great.

Friday, April 27, 2012

Positively pH

In this experiment we are going to show you a very simple and colorful way to learn the difference between the acids and bases in your home!

- 1 Head Red Cabbage
- Lemon Juice
- Aspirin
- Vinegar
- Baking Soda
- Epsom Salt
- Tums

1.) Boil the red cabbage until the water turns a blue-ish. (This takes all of the color out of the cabbage)

2.) Let the cabbage juice cool. (This juice is best used fresh, after about 3 days the juice doesn't work as well for this experiment.)

3.) Pour a little bit of cabbage juice into 7 test tubes.

4.) In each test tube add a little of each item. (So in one tube add some aspirin and baking soda in another.)
Leave the last test tube empty as a control.

5.) Compare the colors in each tube. The tube with lemon juice should be a distinct pink color while the baking soda is a blue-green color.

The acids in this experiment will turn a pink or light purple color while the bases will be blue-green.
You can use the red cabbage juice to find out if other things in your house are acidic or basic too! Go try some soap, apple juice, or even a little of that soup you had for dinner!

Sunday, March 25, 2012

Dynamic DNA Explained

Deoxyribonucleic Acid
What is it? 
We're sure you've heard of this term; Deoxyribonucleic Acid. No? How about DNA? Well good news, they are the same! DNA is the shortened way of saying the long molecule's name. DNA is known for its double helix shape.
DNA is made up of chemical bases, four to be precise, A, T, C, and G.
A: Adenine
T: Thymine
G: Guanine
C: Cytosine
These chemical compounds match up to one another; A to T and C to G.  This connection is called a base pair. There is another compound, Uracil, that can attach to Adenine, but this is a result of RNA, not DNA.
Double Helix / A-T and G-C pairing
So what is RNA?
We are glad you asked! RNA (Ribonucleic acid) is similar to DNA. They are both nucleic acids but they do different things. DNA is complex and holds secret messages in its makeup. (It's like a chemical spy holding all the secrets about you!) RNA is the only one who can understand these secrets. RNA, in a sense, translates these messages for proteins and other things; it transcribes the message DNA has.

DNA and RNA are also different in shape. Like we said, DNA has a double helix shape; this shape is like a spiral staircase. RNA however is single stranded. RNA has a a couple different shapes, depending on how its base pairs match up.
Shape of RNA/ C-G and A-U pairing
Where is DNA found?
DNA is found inside the nucleus of the cell. The nucleus is a great place for a nucleic acid! The nucleus is inside the cellular membrane of the cell though. How do we break open the microscopic cell membrane and the nucleus? Dish soap! The dish soap breaks apart the molecules of the cell. Both dish soap and the cell membrane have hydrophobic (scared of water) and hydrophilic (loves water) sides.

Why add contact solution, pineapple juice or meat tenderizer?
DNA is folded and cushioned by protein in the cell. The contact solution is acidic and separates the DNA from the protein.

How come the white stuff is DNA?
The DNA is the white, stringy stuff you see in the top layer of alcohol. Alcohol forms a layer on top of the water because it is less dense. Adding salt to the mixture (at the beginning) helps DNA stick together.  But when in water DNA is dissolved. Adding the alcohol brings the DNA 'out of solution', making it undissolved. This is called precipitation.

Further Information:

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Dynamic DNA

This week we're doing an experiment with DNA! Now doesn't that sound exciting? In this lab you will be able to see the very small DNA from a cheek cell or from inside a pea. The procedures for cheek cells and peas are a little different, so make sure you read the instructions.

If you have access to a microscope we suggest you take a look at the cells in your mouth.
1.) Place a drop of iodine on a microscope slide.
2.) Take a toothpick and gently scrape the inside of your cheek.
3.) Place the toothpick in the iodine and swirl.
4.) Start with low power (4x) and look at your cheek cells!
Now that you have a general idea of what your cheek cells look like try this experiment.

- Spilt Peas, Strawberries or any other DNA source (if not using cheek cells)
- Blender
- Salt
- Water
- Measuring cups
- Test tubes
- Dish soap
- Contact Solution (meat tenderizer or pineapple juice)
- Rubbing alcohol (isopropyl or ethanol)
- Glass stirring rod (wood skewer or Q-tip)

Cheek Cells
1.) Swish salt water in your mouth for 30 seconds. (This is a long time, but you can do it!)
2.) Spit the water into a cup, then pour it into a large test tube.
3.) Add 1 teaspoon of dish soap to the large test tube.
4.) Gently shake the test tube. (If you do this in a beaker or cup, gently stir the cup)
5.) Pour about 1 teaspoon of alcohol into the tube.
The best way to do this is by tilting the test tube and slowing pouring the alcohol.
Ideally there will be a small layer of alcohol above the soapy mixture.
6.) Using the glass stirring rod - twirl in one direction to collect the DNA

Split Peas & Other Foods:
1.) In a blender add and blend on high for 15 seconds:
- 1/2 cup split peas
- 1/8 teaspoon table salt
- 1 cup water
2.) Pour the pea mixture through a strainer (you want the liquid) and let sit for 5-10 minutes
3.) Pour some of the liquid into a test tube
4.) Add 1 teaspoon dish soap to the large test tube
5.) Add some contact solution to the test tube 
(you don't need a lot, a small squirt or a pinch for tenderizer)
6.) Add about 1 teaspoon of alcohol to the test tube
Just like the cheek cells you want a layer of alcohol above the soapy pea mixture
7.) Using the glass stirring rod - twirl in one direction to collect the DNA

You can save this DNA or look at it on a wet slide under a microscope.
To save: Put the DNA in a small test tube or container with some alcohol.

(Pictures for the steps to come)

Further information:

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Rock Cycle Song

Applied Arts is one of my method classes.  This class had a music portion and we were required to take a song that students can use to learn or remember things.  Using a music program Audacity, I clipped and trimmed portions of  In the Jungle by The Tokens.  Then, I incorporated lyrics that pertained to the Rock Cycle.

So I combined them into a video.  No clips were added due to minor difficulty.


Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Introverted Inertia Explained

We tried something a little different with this experiment. Most of the posts we have done so far have had an environmental emphasis; this experiment is a physics based lab. Now because of that we had to do a little more research. Neither Rachel, nor I, are physics experts but we recognize the importance of physics in everyday life.

In order to talk about Inertia we need to go over a little bit of basic physics, this means Newton and his laws of motion. Physics is the study of movement. Everything moves but not everything moves to the same degree. Newton described three laws of motion. Inertia deals with the first law; which is sometimes called the Law of Inertia.

Our 'artistic' showing of Newton's First Law
The law is a bit more important than just "Objects at rest like to stay at rest and objects in motion like to stay in motion." If we didn't explain a little further you'd think moving objects never stopped! Can you imagine running forever and not stopping?

To amend our statement: Objects at rest will stay at rest and and object in motion will stay in motion unless acted upon by another force. So you will keep running in your straight little line until something makes you stop; like a wall.

Oh No!
So Inertia is what makes it so hard to get out of bed in the morning. It is easier to stay lying in bed than to exert the energy to move. It's also the same reason exercising can feel good. Once you get going it can be hard to stop!

Inertia can also be explained mathematically (we know, something you'd don't usually want to hear). Don't worry though, the formula for inertia is actually quite easy and you've probably heard of it before.
F = ma
"Force equals mass times acceleration." Mass isn't actually the weight of something even though many use the word mass interchangeably with weight. On Earth our weight is an example of Newton's first law and in our case acceleration would be gravity. (It's okay if you don't understand this at first, it is a hard concept.) In physics we show this in kilograms.

Acceleration can be thought of as the speed of something, we show this in meters per second^2 (second squared). So what are the units for force? Kilogram meters per second squared, or otherwise: kg m/s^2. In physics we like to simplify this as a Newton, N, after Isaac Newton of course.

This means that something with a larger mass takes more force to get it moving. You can blow on a feather and get it floating but can you blow on a rock and make it move? This is something that people think about everyday without even noticing. Can we lift that object changing its inertia? If it isn't too heavy we can.

It's amazing how simple things like moving a rock or getting out of bed can boil down to such a simple idea as inertia.

If you want to watch a clip on Inertia here is one we found on YouTube that is helpful.

Monday, February 6, 2012

Introverted Intertia

This experiment is not specifically for those who do not want to venture out of the house or are shy, but it is a great lesson for a rainy day! There are four parts to this experiment. Each one demonstrates inertia and is very simple. Go ahead, test out those physics skills of yours!
Video at the end showing demonstrations of each activity.

Part One:
-Index Card
1.) Place the note card on the cup with the coin in the center. 
2.) Flick the card.
3.) The coin will drop in the cup. (Beware, cards can fly far.)

Part Two:
-Index Card
1.) Pour sand or cotton in bottom of the cup.
2.) Place the note card on the cup with the marble in the center of the card.
3.) Flick the card.
4.) Marble will fall into cup.
Video: starts around 28 seconds

Part Three:
1.) Place note card on the rim of the cup with coin balancing.
2.) 'Karate chop' the paper.
3.) Coin should fall into the cup.
(Caroll tried this multiple times before getting it, Rachel got it on her first shot!)
Video: starts around 10 seconds

Part Four:
-Heavyweight Paper
1.) Cut paper 3cm wide 30 cm long. (1 in wide, 12 inches long)
2.) Fold paper in a circle and tape.
3.) Place the ring on the cup and balance coin on top.
4.) Flick pencil inside the ring to make the coin fall in the cup.
Video: starts around 17 seconds


Monday, January 30, 2012

Pop-able Pollutants Explained

It is best to say that people around the world are finding ways to go green.  We are noticing that most products we consume affects our Earth.  Through observations and experiences we've seen how our future generations are also affected.  One of the common environmental problems is water pollution.  Many water sources are being filled with toxins.  Our lakes, oceans, rivers, streams, and ground water are being contaminated with a toxin known as phosphate (pronounced fos-fate).  This white powdery (in)organic nutrient can be dissolved in water.  Similar to nitrogen, it is commonly found in fertilizers and detergents.  When too much phosphate is being drained into the water, it becomes hazardous.

Courtesy of
When phosphate finds its way into water sources, it begins to feed many organisms.  It fertilizes many of the plants causing an exponential growth of algae, known as algal bloom.

China algae out break.  Courtesy of
 Algae's function in the water system is to collect and provide oxygen in the water. When there is too much algae, two things can happen. 
One:  An excessive amount of oxygen is produced and suffocates aquatic creatures.  
Two:  Sunlight will not reach certain algae to produce energy or nutrients which causes them to die.  As the algae decompose (or die) at the bottom of the water bed, it releases toxins which eliminates the oxygen in the water.  No oxygen means no life for any of the water plants or creatures. 

Can you imagine all the areas affected by algal blooms?

Photo of phosphate.  Retrieved from

Algae Alternative Inc.  (2005).  Laundry detergent ingredients. Retrieved from

City of London. (2012).  Understanding phosphorus, the need for reduction and the effect of too much phosphorus on the environment. [24 January 2012]  Retrieved from

The Associated Press.  (2010).  Big algae bloom expanding off China's east coast.  Retrieved from

Additional Websites:
National Geographic (2010).  World's largest dead zone

Making an algal bloom.

Sunday, January 29, 2012

Pop-able Pollutants

Before consumers knew that their products affected the environment, many laundry detergents contained an ingredient called phosphate. Phosphate minerals remove hard water minerals, prevent dirt from clinging back to clothes, and create suds; but phosphate is bad for the environment. This experiment helps us observe the amount of phosphate that could be in the detergent by the suds buildup in the container.

*Phosphates is no longer found in laundry detergent, but there are other detergents that might still contain phosphate in their ingredients.*

(1) Three clear containers of the same size with a lid 
(jars or water bottle)
(2) Three detergents (with various percentage of phosphate)  
(3) Water
(4) Scissors, ruler, permanent marker, teaspoon, and paper
[Step 1] 
Take a blank piece of paper and a ruler.  Draw points in 1 centimeter increments. 

[Step 2]
Cut out a strip to use as a bendable ruler.

[Step 3]
Place the marked paper against the bottle.  Make sure  0 centimeters is aligned with the bottom of the bottle or jar.

[Step 4]
Mark the centimeter increments on the the bottle or jar using the permanent marker.

[Step 5]
Fill the bottles with water to the halfway mark. 

[Step 6]
Fill each bottle with a teaspoon or proportionate amount of  specific detergent.
For these 14 oz. bottles we added half a teaspoon or less of detergent. For 16 oz. bottles it is suggested to use a teaspoon of detergent.

[Step 7]
Seal the bottle and shake the solution. 
For the experiment there should be 3 trials.
Trial 1:  Shake for 1 minute.
Trial 2:  Shake for 5 minutes.
Trial 3:  Shake for 10 minutes.

[Step 8]
After mixing the solutions, observe the amount of bubbles that have been created.

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Stream Table

At our school we recently purchased a wonderful tool for experiments. Just a few weeks ago we started it up for the first time. The only camera I had with me was a low quality phone camera, but this shows our first trial. One of many uses this table will get.

This is exciting for us. We now have a new medium on which to study and teach! Imagine the possibilities!