Properties of Mixtures vs. Solutions: Mix It Up! Elementary School Lesson
Students are introduced to the distinctive properties of mixtures and solutions. A class demonstration led by the teachers gives students the opportunity to compare and contrast the physical characteristics of a few simple mixtures and solutions. They discuss the separation of mixtures and solutions back into their original components as well as different engineering applications of mixtures and solutions.
Engineering: Simple Machines Elementary School Lesson
Simple machines are devices with few or no moving parts that make work easier. Students are introduced to the six types of simple machines — the wedge, wheel and axle, lever, inclined plane, screw, and pulley — in the context of the construction of a pyramid, gaining high-level insights into tools that have been used since ancient times and are still in use today. In two hands-on activities, students begin their own pyramid design by performing materials calculations, and evaluating and selecting a construction site. The six simple machines are examined in more depth in subsequent lessons in this unit.
Bubbling Plants Experiment to Quantify Photosynthesis Middle School Activity
Students learn a simple technique for quantifying the amount of photosynthesis that occurs in a given period of time, using a common water plant (Elodea). They use this technique to compare the amounts of photosynthesis that occur under conditions of low and high light levels. Before they begin the experiment, however, students must come up with a well-worded hypothesis to be tested. After running the experiment, students pool their data to get a large sample size, determine the measures of central tendency of the class data, and then graph and interpret the results.
Designing Bridges Middle School Lesson
Students learn about the types of possible loads, how to calculate ultimate load combinations, and investigate the different sizes for the beams (girders) and columns (piers) of simple bridge design. They learn the steps that engineers use to design bridges by conducting their own hands on associated activity to prototype their own structure. Students will begin to understand the problem, and learn how to determine the potential bridge loads, calculate the highest possible load, and calculate the amount of material needed to resist the loads.
Completing the Circuit Elementary School Activity
In the everyday electrical devices we use — calculators, remote controls and cell phones — a voltage source such as a battery is required to close the circuit and operate the device. In this hands-on activity, students use batteries, wires, small light bulbs and light bulb holders to learn the difference between an open circuit and a closed circuit, and understand that electric current only occurs in a closed circuit.
Saltwater Circuit Middle School Activity
Students build a saltwater circuit, which is an electrical circuit that uses saltwater as part of the circuit. Students investigate the conductivity of saltwater, and develop an understanding of how the amount of salt in a solution impacts how much electrical current flows through the circuit. They learn about one real-world application of a saltwater circuit — as a desalination plant tool to test for the removal of salt from ocean water.
Curb the Epidemic! High School Activity
Using a website simulation tool, students build on their understanding of random processes on networks to interact with the graph of a social network of individuals and simulate the spread of a disease. They decide certain variables which impact the spread of the disease with the goal to "curb the epidemic." Since the results are random, they run multiple simulations and compute the average number of infected individuals before analyzing the results and assessing the effectiveness of their vaccination strategies. This engineering curriculum meets Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS).
Red Cabbage Chemistry Middle School Activity
Students take advantage of the natural ability of red cabbage juice to perform as a pH indicator to test the pH of seven common household liquids. Then they evaluate the accuracy of the red cabbage indicator, by testing the pH of the liquids using an engineer-designed tool, pH indicator strips. Like environmental engineers working on water remediation or water treatment projects, understanding the chemical properties (including pH) of contaminants is important for safeguarding the health of environmental water sources and systems.
Creating Model Working Lungs: Just Breathe Elementary School Activity
Students explore the inhalation/exhalation process that occurs in the lungs during respiration. Using everyday materials, each student team creates a model pair of lungs.
Design and Build a Rube Goldberg Middle School Activity
In this two-part activity, students design and build Rube Goldberg machines. This open-ended challenge employs the engineering design process and may have a pre-determined purpose, such as rolling a marble into a cup from a distance, or let students decide the purposes.
Spaghetti Soapbox Derby Middle School Activity
Student pairs design, build, and test model vehicles capable of rolling down a ramp and then coasting freely as far as possible. The challenge is to make the vehicles entirely out of dry pasta using only adhesive (such as hot glue) to hold the components together. Creativity is encouraged and different types of pasta are provided to support different functions such as round pasta for wheels and sheet pasta for the chassis. Students become familiar with the concepts of gravitational potential energy, kinetic energy and rolling resistance. Teams follow the steps of the engineering design process as they design, test and redesign their small-sized vehicles, working within the project's material constraints. The winner of the competitive final event is the pasta car that travels the longest distance beyond the bottom of the ramp.
DNA Build Middle School Activity
Students reinforce their knowledge that DNA is the genetic material for all living things by modeling it using toothpicks and gumdrops that represent the four biochemicals (adenine, thiamine, guanine, and cytosine) that pair with each other in a specific pattern, making a double helix. They investigate specific DNA sequences that code for certain physical characteristics such as eye and hair color. Student teams trade DNA "strands" and de-code the genetic sequences to determine the physical characteristics (phenotype) displayed by the strands (genotype) from other groups. Students extend their knowledge to learn about DNA fingerprinting and recognizing DNA alterations that may result in genetic disorders.
Bees: The Invaluable Master Pollinators High School Activity
The study of biomimicry and sustainable design promises great benefits in design applications, offering cost-effective, resourceful, non-polluting avenues for new enterprise. An important final caveat for students to understand is that once copied, species are not expendable. Biomimicry is intended to help people by identifying natural functions from which to pattern human-driven services. Biomimicry was never intended to replace species. Ecosystems remain in critical need of ongoing protection and biodiversity must be preserved for the overall health of the planet. This activity addresses the negative ramifications of species decline. For example, pollinators such as bees are a vital work force in agriculture. They perform an irreplaceable task in ensuring the harvest of most fruit and vegetable crops. In the face of the unexplained colony collapse disorder, we are only now beginning to understand how invaluable these insects are in keeping food costs down and even making the existence of these foods possible for humans.
Nidy-Gridy: Using Grids and Coordinates Middle School Activity
Normally we find things using landmark navigation. When you move to a new place, it may take you awhile to explore the new streets and buildings, but eventually you recognize enough landmarks and remember where they are in relation to each other. However, another accurate method for locating places and things is using grids and coordinates. In this activity, students will come up with their own system of a grid and coordinates for their classroom and understand why it is important to have one common method of map-making.
What Is Newton's Third Law? Middle School Lesson
Students are introduced to Newton's third law of motion: For every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction. They practice identifying action-reaction force pairs for a variety of real-world examples, and draw and explain simplified free-body diagram vectors (arrows) of force, velocity and acceleration for them. They also learn that engineers apply Newton's third law and an understanding of reaction forces when designing a wide range of creations, from rockets and aircraft to door knobs, rifles and medicine delivery systems. This lesson is the third in a series of three lessons intended to be taught prior to a culminating associated activity to complete the unit.
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