Thursday, June 30, 2016

Applying Good Lab Practices for Safety in the Science Classroom

The science classroom can be a magical place for students.  They will uncover the world around them with hands-on science laboratories.  Things may bubble, change colors, or move in amazing ways.
The science classroom can also be an overwhelming place for teachers and students.  Teachers need to get the supplies for the activities.  They need to organize it so the students achieve the correct results.  Budgets are tight and supplies are limited.  Each student needs to work in a group to save on supplies.  This means group cooperation.  Students need to follow safety precautions as well.  If you are a science teacher you have had that lab that just didn't go right or that one group that argued the whole time.  Several groups may have gotten the wrong results and now you are re-teaching the concept.  It happens, it is science.  We have to go with the flow and look at it as a learning experience for students.

How can we create a better experience?

My husband is a toxicologist.  Yes, two science geeks in the house.  He works in clinical labs testing the safety of materials.  Consistent data is a must and procedures must be followed.  Most experiments are for approval from the FDA or EPA. He would always talk about how a lab was a GLP lab.  He would mention that he was taking on as study director or that the QA was coming over to check on things.  I started wondering what are these group roles and would they work in the science classroom.  What exactly is GLP? 

Assigning group roles really helps experiments go more smoothly.  I use to use
roles like Recorder, Gopher( goes for this and goes for that), Measurer, etc.  I thought may be things would go smoother if I had GLP in my class.  It would be more like a true lab.  GLP stands for Good Lab Practices.  That would make a lot of sense to my students.  So I integrated Good Lab Practices in with science safety and cooperative groups.  Now I don't say. "Follow the safety rules." I say to students "Are you using Good Lab Practices?" 

Students take on the roles of Study Director, Quality Assurance, etc.  The labs go more smoothly, data is more consistent, and clean-up is better.  The terms help them learn about a true lab.  This is a great way to integrate with STEM lessons.  Students take the labs more seriously and it is lots of fun.

Everything you need to teach your students is available in the download.  It is easy prep.  You can also get more creative with your bulletin board and role cards by adding colorful paper and laminating. 

It is available on my store.

Tuesday, June 21, 2016

Inexpensive Science Equipment for STEM Classrooms

Classroom budgets are tight. Science activities require supplies and that can be hard on a tight budget.  I jumped right in as the elementary science lab teacher, but had very little supplies.  The district bought me two science carts and gave me a budget of $500.  That money went fast. I was teaching in two different buildings and had over 600 students.   I had to be creative.  I looked at every lesson to see how I could modify the supplies.  Not everything needed to be the fancy lab tools.  Now I teach independently and that is a tight budget too.  Here are some of my favorite tools to keep on hand.  I try as much as I can to have things I can reuse.  Easy to wash is a must too.  I also keep an eye out at garage sales for vases, baby spoons, glasses, measuring tools, and anything I think has potential.  It is also good to ask for donations.

I always keep mason jars of various sizes.  Easy to wash and can handle different temperatures.  I also like them for measuring.  The clear glass is easy to see through.  They are heavy and don't tip over easily.

Here are some other items I always keep stocked up.

Baby Spoons
Wax Paper
Eye Droppers
Puppy Pads (for spills)
Laundry Detergent Scoops
Medicine Cups
Petri Dishes
Paint Trays
Plastic Containers ( lunch meat, butter, yogurt)
Baby Soda Bottle Test Tubes

Science Show and Tell: A Growing Collection of Science Dem

Friday, June 10, 2016

How to Avoid Science Misconceptions in the Elementary Classroom.

Recently, I was researching some milk and candy experiments for upcoming classes.  As I was reading other blogs I saw errors in their reasoning.  I think this happens a lot.  It is difficult to always explain things correctly, but it is important that we try.  Elementary teachers are expected to teach every subject.  We have to be experts on the topics.  That is not always possible.  Sometimes we are learning right along with are students. 

When choosing experiments to do with your students make sure:

1.  You chose them from a reputable site., Discover Channel, NSTA, a book in the library.

2.  If it is not from a reputable site make sure you research it further to see how many other people have tried the experiment. 

3.  Research the science behind the experiment.  You may have an explanation in the student's textbook, but look a little deeper.  You never know what questions your students may ask.  When I write experiments for teachers I always include a background page because the why is just as important as what happens.

4.  Do the experiment first.  Many things on-line don't work the way you want them to for your students.  Some are Urban Legends.  Check to make sure it truly teaches what you want.

5.  Don't overwhelm yourself choosing new activities to do with students.  Start out with one new investigation at a time.  You don't want to burn yourself out.

I know this may sound like a lot of work, but it will pay off in the end.  You have an activity that is well thought out and something you can use year after year.  Your students will benefit from expert research.

Here are some misconceptions I find often.  This would be a great activity with students.  Show them the two explanations and have them guess which is true and which is false.

When do I see the moon?  Many children's books only show the moon out at night.  It is a commonly missed question on standardized tests. 

True:  The moon can be out during the day and at night.  It depends on where the moon is in the moon cycle.
False:  The moon is only out at night.

Is Diet Coke and Mentos Geysers a Chemical Reaction?

No, A Mentos and Diet Coke geyser is actually a physical reaction from the bumps (nucleation sites) on the Mentos with the carbon dioxide in the soda pop. 
False:  Many think Mentos chemically react with the diet coke producing an explosion of soda.
Here is a link for a great explanation: 

When fire burns does it use up Oxygen?

I researched this recently and couldn't believe how many explained it as being used up.  I was working on the classic candle in a jar experiment.  Sites kept explaining it as using up the oxygen and making space for the water.  I think I was even taught that long ago.  That is not the case at all. Remember matter can neither be created nor destroyed.  That oxygen is still there, but in a different form. I have attached two videos that explain the  truth to what is happening.  Take the time to research even further with your students.

What common misconceptions have you found?  Leave them in the comments to help us all get the science right.