Tag Archives: Science

hydrogen and helium: elemental

It’s Sunday morning by the lake. Yesterday was Saturday and tomorrow, is Monday. It’s how the week rolls, it’s elemental.

When I woke Saturday morning, it was cool and overcast. By midday, it had warmed and the sun was out. I had to install a part on the boat lift in the lake. I gathered my tools, my camera, and waded into the lake. Ivy came with me paddling and O followed. The install took only a few minutes, I took photos of the new part, then I took photos of the lake.

earth, water, and air – the ancient elements

I have taken hundreds, maybe thousands, of photos of the lake, but most of the photos I have taken are from shore or from a boat.

I focused on South Bay where a rain cell raced across the lake.

I was able to capture several of the elements of life by the lake – the lake, the hills, and the clouds at once. Of course, there are the sunsets, but that’s for another time. Continue reading hydrogen and helium: elemental

My brain hurts

My brain hurts AND that is a good thing; it’s a very good thing.

School has been out for sixteen days and today is the Day 17. When I first started blogging in 2010, I numbered all of the posts – Day 1, Day 2 and so on. In 2010, Day 17 was in France and the first full day of my trip to Paris and take my dad back home. Looking back to 2010, Day 17 was June 14th and this year it falls on June 26th – the days do not line up because every summer is different. Some summers begin early and others start late, some summers are influenced by the weather and others are not. This summer is no different, we had bitter cold this winter and it cost us three days; it really cost five days when the last day of school was moved from a Thursday to Tuesday and enveloped a weekend –swallowing two additional days of summer break. Sometimes it happens, sometimes it’s too cold to go to school, too snowy, or too wet, or even too hot – we’ve had bad weather days almost every year I’ve been a teacher. It happens. This summer is no different, we’ve been on the rainy end of a wet and stormy weather pattern for almost two weeks and the area has had over 6 inches of rain in June – well over the average of 4.5 inches for the month.

The Pope issued an encyclical on climate change last week, it got a lot of coverage in the press, and then it disappeared off the radar. But, is shouldn’t have, the issue of climate and climate change should be on all of our radars. That’s one reason my brain hurts, I am thinking and wondering, but there are other reasons.

I was in class last week – material science class. It was amazing and I walked away with many ideas of how to incorporate what I learned in science class this coming year. I melted metals, bent glass, made pottery, played with polymers, and all sorts of materials. My brain hurt all week trying to soak up new ideas and meld them with old ideas to form a composite.

This week, I am in class again. This week’s topic has been water. Clean water, storm water, sewage water, stream water, ground water – all kinds of water. The class began with a trip to the Jardine Water Filtration Plant in Chicago where the water I use to drink, cook, clean, and flush begins its journey to my house. The plant processes about 400 million gallons of water a day and provides water for Chicago and several suburbs with a population of almost 4 million people served.

the quarry - not even close to being full
the quarry – not even close to being full

We visiting a large storm water facility that is an old quarry and it can hold a lot of water – something like 2.7 billion gallons of water. Which if you do the math is like letting faucet run from the Jardine plant straight to the quarry for a little less than a week. That is a lot of water and part of why my brain hurts.

Continue reading My brain hurts

Forever in Blue Jeans

It’s Sunday, the day before Memorial Day, and the Indy 500 starts in less than a half hour. The pre-race is on and I wish I could watch it with my science students. It’s speed, physics, material science, and adrenaline all wrapped into 500 miles. I’ve been to the race track many times before, but this year I’ll be watching from the family room with B, W, and O. We’ll be thinking of B’s dad who was our ticket to the track. JD passed away last year after a long life of service to his country, community, and his family. He’s always in our thoughts.

JD Weaver (1926-2014), B, and my nephew - JD's grandson
JD Weaver (1926-2014), B, and my nephew – JD’s grandson

In my last post, I honored my dad, whom also is never far from my thoughts, either.

 There is irony in my last post because my dad’s birthday – 5/20/1933 – is also another birthday, of sorts: blue jeans were born, or rather patented by Levi and Strauss. Irony. I shared this with my classes and reminded them that education was the key to not wearing blue jeans as my dad believed deep in his core. While there is absolutely nothing wrong with hard, physical work – it needs to be done – but, most folks don’t aspire to it. Continue reading Forever in Blue Jeans

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. Continue reading Salt from sand

Challenger

I’ve been teaching science for almost a hundred days now, ninety-two days to be exact.

At the beginning teaching science was a huge shift in thinking and I always felt unprepared. But, lately, I’ve been feeling a bit more on top of things. My advanced science students finished their science fair papers, projects, and presentations this past week and all of the presentations are completed AND graded. Now, I just have to pore over their final reports and grade them. The district science fair was last weekend and several of the student’s projects are very good and have the possibility of advancing to the state science fair in early May. I am excited for them, they did all of the work and they own the credit. I was just a shepherd, of a scientific sort.

I have two levels of science – advanced and regular – which means two curriculums and two separate plans. In regular science we’ve been focusing on matter and atoms; and we’ve finally gotten to the structure of the periodic table and how many electrons are in the outer electron shell. It’s really exciting stuff, trust me. In advanced science we are playing with aliens and looking for patterns. Click here for a web version of the activity. ALIENS.

Today was a special day. Continue reading Challenger

Death of a Tree – the FINAL CHAPTER

I did not feel well yesterday, and when a teacher does not feel well, that’s not good. I came home and went to bed. I took two Motrin, crawled under the covers, and fell fast asleep. I could have slept much longer had it not been for the stump grinder coming to finish off the tree. We lost that tree this past June, a week after the arborists came for that tree, B’s dad passed away. He was a sturdy as a tree and he’s been on my mind ever since. The stump grinder coming to finish it off was just another step in the circle of life.

the remains of our tree..
the remains of our tree..

I have been thinking about that tree and all of the trees we’ve lost to Emerald Ash Borer. But, I’ve had more on my mind that just trees, I’ve been thinking of the poem, “Trees,” and its poet – Joyce Kilmer. Sgt. Kilmer was killed in the Second Battle of the Marne on July 30, 1918 and is buried at Oise-Aisne American Cemetery in northern France. Continue reading Death of a Tree – the FINAL CHAPTER

Big Rocks

Big Rock, Illinois – it is not far from my here. It’s a small town just west of Wheaton, a tiny farming community on US 30 West. If you blink, you could miss it. And, even though it’s a small town, I notice it every time I drive west. A smile comes across my face when I see the sign for the Big Rock Schools and their buses.

Big Rocks. I’ve been busy – it’s been more than two weeks since my last post. Fall began a couple of days ago and where I live – 42 N we’ve lost eight minutes of daylight since Tuesday and our daylight will be a hair under 12 hours – 11H 59M. I forget what I wore for my school pictures but I’ll know soon enough when I get my new school ID next week. I think it was a blue shirt, but I am not certain about the tie. It’s not important it’s a pebble.

Lately, I’ve been overwhelmed by Big Rocks. I filled my jar of life full of smaller rocks and have had a difficult time fitting all of what I need to do, have to do, and want to do into the jar. So, a couple of weeks ago I started all over, hence my absence. Continue reading Big Rocks

Weekly Photo Challenge – Containers

the Standard Model
the Standard Model

I blinked this week, and I missed it. On Tuesday, my summer reached its halfway point. I’ve been busy and distracted and I’ve been working to make the days count – helping my wife, running errands, gardening, driving my kids to activities, or driving to and from Michigan, Ohio, and Wisconsin. I’ve had some time to rest, relax, and rejuvenate, but I wish I had a container to bottle up summer and hold it for a time when I really could use it, but I don’t.

I’ve been busy this past week at Beauty and Charm and I’ve been busy all day. It’s made my brain hurt and that’s been a good thing – it’s made me think about what I’ll be teaching next year and ways I can teach it so that kids get it, understand it, and enjoy it because next year is going to be a challenge for me. I am switching content areas and grade levels. Since I began teaching fifteen years ago, I’ve taught Language Arts or Geography as my concentration and all but one of those years has been spent teaching seventh grade. It’s tricky to explain, but at the middle school level social studies is typically a shared subject. Teachers are organized into teams of three or four teachers; each teacher teaches one subject – math, science, reading, and English and each teacher teaches one class period of social studies. It’s not a perfect system but it works because at the middle level, education is more focused on developing the student’s skills in reading, writing, math, thinking, and organization. So much is developing between sixth and eighth grade socially, emotionally, and physically that academic or intellectual development is miniscule in comparison. Next year I’ll be teaching science to eighth graders. I am excited, but at the same time, it’ll be my first time to teach science. Ever. So, I know it’ll be fun, but it’s also going to be a challenge.

bubblechamber
this 15 foot tall bubble chamber contained 8,000 gallons of liquid helium – it was designed to help Fermilab physicists see the bubble trails of sub-atomic particles

That is how I ended up at Beauty and Charm. Continue reading Weekly Photo Challenge – Containers

CH4 and the last weekend in April

IMG_0678
looking closely you can read it – OBJECTS ARE CLOSER THAN THEY APPEAR

I looked at my calendar last week and was stupefied that May was so close. It felt like the wording on the passenger-side side-view mirror: OBJECTS IN MIRROR ARE CLOSER THAN THEY APPEAR. I suppose it is a lesson, which I need to heed more often. I have a habit of letting things creep up on me; it is along the same lines as not reading the fine print or asking for directions. I asked myself how it happened, but I already knew the answer. Ferris Beuller said it best, “Life moves pretty fast. If you don’t stop look around once in a while you could miss it.” Life does move fast and sometimes the only thing you can do is look around.

I’ve been looking around a lot lately. My seventh grade ELA students finished their Mask and Identity unit and we are now on The Road to Perseverance unit to finish the year. There are four units – one for each quarter. The bad weather days in January messed up the schedule and we finished the third unit in the fourth quarter and started the final unit a few days late, hence my ‘closer than they appear’ observation. It has been a good year. The students have been great and I will miss them, but I won’t miss all of them because I found out after Easter that I’ll be moving with them to eighth grade. After fourteen years in seventh grade, I finally was promoted!

The move to eighth grade is not the only change,

Continue reading CH4 and the last weekend in April