Salt from sand

Legend has it that when the Romans defeated the Carthaginians in the Third Punic War in 146 BC, the victorious Romans sacked Carthage plowing under the crops and sowing salt into the soil, rendering the land ruined. Probably by pouring seawater into the farmer’s fields because salt was valuable at the time. I learned this in middle school history in Mr. Burn’s class. It was a harsh punishment and the lessons of history are full of harsh penalties and punishments, of people acting with vengeance instead of reaching out and pulling up. Sadly, history repeats itself – repeatedly.

the sidewalk outside the school - it's dry but crusted with salt
the sidewalk outside the school – it’s dry but crusted with salt

Last week I was in Mississippi to visit my step-mom and I had to leave a day early because of Octavia. Octavia was the winter storm that wreaked havoc across America’s midsection at the beginning of last week. I decided I couldn’t risk being stranded in Oxford or at the Memphis airport on Monday and flew out Sunday evening. It was a good decision because all of Monday’s flights from Memphis to Chicago and the first two flights Tuesday were cancelled. I got home and it was bitter cold here but the roads were dry, in part to large doses of salt when it has snowed. The roads are coated with a white salt brine that seems to leach from the road and sidewalks until the spring rains wash it all away.

Enough of the history and the weather lesson and on to science. Last week I handed my science students a paper cup filled with a mixture of salt and sand and challenged them to separate the salt from sand. I gave them parameters – they had to design a procedure and carry out. I provided a list of materials they could use and let them work. My classes are 45 minutes long from the time the bell rings to start until the bell rings to end class and that leaves about 40 minutes to work; so it took several days before all of the groups had reached a conclusion. It was a challenge for them to think on their own and come up with a method to separate the sand from the salt. One group was able to separate the materials right away. I was mildly surprised other groups did not spy on the others and learn from each other. In the end, the students discovered if they placed a sample of the salt and sand mixture in a paper filter and ran water through it they would have a salt-water solution. Then they placed the salt water on a hot plate an evaporated the water, leaving behind salt. To finish the lesson, I pulled out a microscope and we looked at table salt under the microscope and the salt they were able to produce. They had to compare the two samples in their final report.

the cups mixed and ready to distribute....
the cups mixed and ready to distribute….

It was a good lesson in basic chemistry,  and life. Often it is challenging finding solutions to new problems, or even old problems,  and new ways of thinking. It’s always good to push oneself, to stretch, and to grow. It reminds me of how difficult it can be to separate fact from fiction or in my student’s case salt from sand.

Last Monday, I began writing a post and it remains unfinished and at this point irrelevant. I have moments like that I suppose we all do. Why try to change me now…..I’ve been busy making the days count in every possible way. Today was a great day and tomorrow promises to be a million and six times better. That’s something to look forward to – Making the Days Count, one day at a time, separating the bits from the pieces, fact from fiction, and moving forward – always.

What do you have a difficult time separating?

12 thoughts on “Salt from sand

  1. So true about pushing ourselves. I’ve been learning lots more about website maintenance and design, but have to say at first I was so overwhelmed. But now I’m glad that I’ve got a little bit more information to tuck away.
    Hope you and yours have a great weekend!

    1. Your site looks great – and I love your photos and doodles. Keeping things separate is hard to do….. the weekend has been a good one. I’ve gotten few things off my list and I have a few more to carve out. Take care and stay warm, spring is on its way!

    1. It was a fun project and the kids learned a few lessons about science, too. I love sneaking learning in when they are not expecting it! It was good to see my step-mom and feel the late winter warmth – it was 63 and sunny Saturday afternoon. It was lovely! Take care and enjoy the week – thanks for stopping by.

    1. Last year was the first year for winter storms being named – the Weather Channel started it and a high school science class came up with the names – they’ve gotten bashed for it, too. As for getting used to it, I’ve actually gotten used to the cold, though by this time in winter I’ve had it. It was good to see my step-mom and I think it helped both of us. I’ve have more visits in my future – I am just trying to head off problems before they happen. Stay warm and enjoy the sunsets and sunrises.

    1. Margaret – I saw you’d been to Turkey, I am jealous. That sounds warm and comfortable. I shoveled the driveway this morning and was thinking warm thoughts – no salt. The shift in science at the middle levels is on the idea of inquiry – they why and then discovering the how. It was a fun experiment. I have a few more up my sleeve,stay tuned.

  2. I have difficulty separating the new requirement that writers market themselves before they publish, from writing itself. What was the topic of your unfinished post?

    Very cool science experiment. Sounds like there was plenty of time for everyone to get over performance anxiety and figure out the answer.

    1. it was fun, I had a couple of kids in for a lunch detention yesterday and we talked about the lessons they learned – it was more about thinking and science skills than the science behind it. We are balancing chemical equations now and they are slowly learning how it all works – conservation of matter – nothing is ever destroyed or lost. I share your lament – unfortunately, it’s all about brand, marketing, and awareness – it’s the society we are part of…and if you don’t join your lost or left behind… hang in there and keep moving forward!

Thanks for visiting MtDC. How are YOU Making YOUR Days Count?