Category Archives: Planning and Carrying Out Investigations

The Science of Fruit Ripening

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Plant Senescence (Aging and Ripening)

Kitchen Counter science

 

Are you looking for an easy-to-do experiment on plant growth regulators?

Check out this experiment on the role of the plant hormone, ethylene, in fruit ripening, that you can conduct right on the kitchen table or lab counter. Very few materials, and the learning can be applied to many other contexts.

Enjoy!

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NEW Amphibian Nature Study — and a Spring Give-away!

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Spring showers have meant the arrival of amphibians in Connecticut. See our sister site, A Child’s Garden, for a blog post on the study of amphibians, emphasizing survey as an ecological study technique, and the use of approximate measures when recording observations of animals in the field.

See “Studying Amphibians in the Field: Using Approximate Measures” for more information, and a spring give-away of two great e-Books with science journaling resources and nature study ideas.

Or enter using the Rafflecopter form, below:

a Rafflecopter giveaway

 

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Winter Nature Walk: Looking for Patterns (Winter Study 1)

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There’s nothing like a nice nature walk to help you gather new ideas for future nature studies. We have had an unusually warm December, and took the opportunity to take a great, long walk with with the dog, to see what is happening in the world around us, to clear the indoor cobwebs from our heads, and to just enjoy the outside air.  Here are the potential nature study topics that our walk generated:

All Kinds of Patterns

[by Kim M. Bennett]

Stone Walls

Here in New England, stone walls are as ubiquitous as sandy beaches are on the seashore. Geologists at the University of Connecticut study the patterns of stone walls in the Northeastern United States, because they teach us about the underlying bedrock upon which are towns and villages are built. Farmers of the early colonies could only move the glacial rubble so far, so the patterns of the rubble they could move tell about the patterns of the glaciers that formed the rubble.

Geology Patterns in Connecticut

$16.95 at Barnes & Noble

A few years back, we read Stone Wall Secrets, by Robert M. Thorson, a fictional account of a young boy, and the stories his father tells him about the natural history of his farm, as they sit upon the stone wall that surrounds it. I bought a teacher’s guide  to accompany a study of the geology of Connecticut several years back.

Connections: Geology, mineral cycle, weathering, Ice Age

An Ecological study of moss and lichens

There is an old belief that moss grows more heavily on the north sides of trees. As we walked, my husband even quoted this little gem. I remember that some of my college companions conducted an ecological study of this, to determine if it was true or not. I can’t recall! But it would be a fun thing to study, and easy for the winter, since moss stays so green all winter, here.

Connections: Ecology, forest biomes, mosses & lichens, population studies

Fractals: the math of natural patterns

Have you ever doodled in your notebook, creating branching patterns that branch again, then branch at the branches, and so on, and so on, until you run out of paper? If so, you are experimenting with fractals.

The science of fractals has turned observation on its end. It was once believed that, the closer you looked at something, the simpler the design, and, if you could look closely enough, you would see the simple geometric building blocks of every design. What we have found, instead, is that closer looks reveal increasing complex designs that often look like miniature versions of the larger design (think about fern fronds, or the branches on the oak tree in the photo, above, to see what I mean).

We might have to visit our post on “The Mathematics of Nature: Fractals,” adding a study of the branching patterns of oaks in our back woods.

Connections: geometry, number series, drawing, botany

The Patterns of exercise and our bodies

It is easy to stay shut in during cold weather where we live. But getting outside and moving is good for body, mind and spirit. Plus, we can count it as physical education and health, when we homeschool!

There are tons of apps for smart phones that let you log in and measure how many footsteps you take when you walk, how far you hike, your heart rate, and other data. Kids love these apps (heck, I love them!), and graphing is an important part of both math and science instruction. (As an adult, I find it helps me keep on an exercise schedule, if I am monitoring these things).

I downloaded My Fitness Pal to my smart phone — many people I know find it to be the most fun and easiest to use. Maybe my son could graph his parents weight as a function of how many miles of hiking we do this winter? Hmmm…

Connections: health, fitness, exercise, anatomy, graphing

Flowering schedules

Garden journal imageI saw this great little gardening journal template in Microsoft Word. It had places for notes, and photos, and lists (ooohhh… I love lists…). And a little section at the beginning of each month, where you record what plants are blooming.

What a great year-long idea for a child’s nature notebook!

We were very surprised to find the native witchhazel still in bloom (it peaks at the end of October here). At the end of January, some species crocus might bloom, if the weather is right. Then February can bring in some daffodils, plus the chamaecyparis. Before the peak bloom season, it might be a great time to start putting together a monthly bloom-time journal, to see patterns in when different types of plants bloom in your region.

[PS – Our seed catalogs started arriving last week. We’re very excited!]

Connections: gardening, diagrams, notebooking/journaling, botany

weather watching

We have always had an assortment of weather-watching equipment at the ready: an outdoor thermometer that looks beautiful and makes my husband very happy; a little rain gauge/weather vane that we fastened onto the porch support; rain barrels and other assorted rain measuring devices. These were fascinating for all of us. When you plot temperature, air pressure, wind speed or rainfall, you usually see patterns that reflect your region.

One year, my eldest and I used a cloud chart to forecast the weather. It certainly isn’t the long-range forecast we get on the news, but it’s pretty accurate within 24 hours, and fun for kids (and adults). There’s a great cloud chart that can be used to predict the weather available at Weather Forecasting Cloud Chart.

Connections: graphing, prediction, meteorology

Symmetry in nature

In fourth grade geometry, my son is learning about symmetry. This abstract idea is much easier to convey when you use real-life items in the natural world, to demonstrate it.

Take photos of objects and guide your children to draw lines of symmetry on the photos, rather than using 2D line drawings of geometric figures, only.

Connections: geometry, art/drawing

Fibonacci numbers

math wizardry patterns in nature1, 1, 2, 3, 5, 8, 13, 21, 34, 55… can you complete the series? And do you know why these numbers are important?

These numbers are Fibonacci numbers, and the string of numbers is called a Fibonacci series. Natural objects are divided into parts represented by these numbers, and beautiful paintings can be divided into sections that represent this series. The number of needles in a bundle of pine needles, the winding of a vine around a pole, the number of scales on a pine cone … all contain Fibonacci numbers.

Read more about Fibonacci numbers, the Golden Proportion, and fractals in Math Wizardry for Kids (a favorite of my eldest son, a real math whiz).

Connections: mathematics, art, proportions

Rainfall

I was just commenting yesterday that we were in the middle of a huge dry season. I spoke too soon! It absolutely poured today. Even yesterday, our hiking was limited on the nature trail because of exceptionally soggy ground.

The woods behind our house has low-lying spots that are the vernal and autumnal nesting spots of spring peepers. We usually start hearing these little fellows around March, around the time when we start to see skunk cabbage poking through the slush and leaf litter. My eldest now serves on the town conservation commission, so he makes it his business to know all about our vernal pools.

All you need to measure rainfall is a flat pan, like a roasting pan or plastic shoebox, and a ruler. To convert between snow in the winter, and water, take the pan inside, let the frozen precipitation melt, and then measure (some people divide by 10, but this varies with the type of snow you get).

Connections: weather, measurement, observation

So What Will We Study?

Tough choices! Here’s what we decided:

  • the patterns of temperature and precipitation (so we can do some graphing)
  • snowflakes
  • using Fibonacci numbers to draw vines
  • predicting the weather through cloud watching

Here’s to a great (and mathematical) winter!

Happy Holidays!

~Kim

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Here’s the October Edition of the Simple Science Strategies Blog Carnival!

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Welcome to the October 31, 2012 edition of the Simple Science Strategies Blog Carnival!

I delayed publishing for a few days, as I know many of my readers have been struggling with weather-related issues, in the wake of Hurricane Sandy and the Superstorm that followed. I pray that all are safe and sound and back to full power soon, if not today.

Thank you for participating in the October Edition of the Simple Science Strategies Blog Carnival!

 

Changing Seasons

Kim Bennett presents Signs of Autumn: Our Trip to the Orchard posted at A Child’s Garden, saying, “We took the opportunity to enjoy a beautiful autumn day and pick some tasty apples, in the process! We could have filed this under “Fruits and Seeds,” too.”

 

Fruits and Seeds

The Bennett family then follows up with Two Easy Apple Experiments posted on Squidoo, saying, “This lens was an extension of our apple orchard field trip (see “A Child’s Garden”), and was fun to do for some “kitchen counter science.””

 

Potpourri

freelee presents “Be a Backyard Scientist” posted at 52 Days to Explore, saying, “Botany, biology and other sciences in the back yard with simple items you may have.”

That concludes this edition. Thank you to all participants! Each submission earns a free copy of “Autumn Leaves: A Plant Study,” a 23-page science journaling e-Book for studying fall leaves.

Submit your blog article to the November edition of Simple Science Strategies using our carnival submission form. Past posts and future hosts can be found on our blog carnival index page.


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Cause and Effect: Using a Multi-Flow Map in a Science Center

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Why Study Cause and Effect?

Scientific investigation and experimentation is all about connecting things. In  order for students to connect two events, or a treatment and its effects, students have to understand that things stay the same, unless acted upon by something else, and that things have the ability to change the behavior of other things.

science strategies cause and effect flow map

Understanding cause and effect is central to scientific thinking and exploration. Photo Credit: Alastros Oistros, 2005, via Creative Commons

Understanding cause and effect is a complex skill, involving many subskills:

  • Direct observation of objects and their attributes
  • Observation of objects through the use of simple tests and tools
  • Connection of two events
  • Making predictions based on facts, observations and past experiences
  • Evaluation of the probability and possibility of past and future events, based on observations, the body of scientific knowledge and past experiences
  • Understanding and communication of scientific ideas in words, diagrams and writing
  • Understanding causality and correlation

In short, the understanding of cause and effect, and communication about it, is at the heart of scientific experimentation and investigation.

Tools for Communication Cause and Effect

David Hyerle has established a system of eight Thinking Maps to organize thinking around distinct cognitive processes. One of these maps, the Multi-Flow Map, is specifically created, by the learner, to demonstrate cause-and-effect relationships. (Please click on the link, below, for resources prepared by Wappinger Central School District, in Fishkill, New York, for teaching about the Multi-Flow Map and using it with students:

The Multi-Flow Map

The Multi-Flow Map: useful for demonstrating an understanding of cause and effect relationships.

Using a Multi-Flow Map in the Classroom

This month, we have been using some typical October events to teach questioning:

  • the formation of fruits and seeds from flowers
  • fall color development
  • bird migration
  • changes in the weather

Here are some ways that you could use a multi-flow map in a science center, to provide independent practice in showing cause and effect. Provide the object identified, blank observations sheets and the directions for making a multi-flow map (see the link, above). Leave “cue cards” with the words “What happened here?” and “What will happen next?” Provide a basket for completed work, or create a class bulletin board for students to combine all their thinking into a classroom display (use different colored cards for causes, the event, and effects, and connect with string — leave a stapler at the bulletin board to facilitate student independence).

Fruit and Seed formation

  • an apple with a poke in the side
  • a cut or bitten apple that has begun to discolor
  • an apple with a bruise or rotten spot
  • a photograph of a chipmunk with full cheek pouches
  • a photograph of a blue jay with an acorn in its beak

Fall color formation

  • a branchlet with leaves in different stages of color development
  • a skeletonized leaf
  • a leaf with scorched leaf margins
  • a leaf with sooty mold, powdery mildew, or leaf spot
  • a leaf with insect galls

Bird migration

  • a photograph of geese in V-formation
  • a photograph of blackbirds congregating near a feeder
  • a photograph of vultures climbing a thermal
  • a photograph of goldfinches or other bird in transition plumage

Weather changes

  • a photograph of flooding after Hurricane Sandy
  • a photograph of a tree on downed power lines
  • a photograph of houses collapsed on a beach after a hurricane
  • a photograph of a person chopping wood
  • a photograph of wood smoke coming from a chimney
  • a photograph of  a pile of student jackets on the playground

A Note About Centers

Whenever possible, use real objects, and any relevant tools, instead of photographs or pictures. When photographs or pictures are used, make them relevant to the students. For example, after our experiences with Hurricane Sandy,  I would photograph downed trees or flooding in my town, or the school’s flooded playground, instead of another location. Always use whatever has the most meaning to your students.

science strategies cause and effect flow map

Use available, familiar items whenever designing independent learning centers. Photo credit: (c) Kim M. Bennett, 2011

 

 

 

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The October Simple Science Strategies Newsletter is Ready!

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Download the October Newsletter today!

As promised, here is the next edition of the Simple Science Strategies Newsletter for 2012.

In this edition, we explore Stability and Change through nature studies of fruit and seed development, migration, fall color change and the arrival of autumn weather. In the process, we will learn more about the role of questioning in scientific thinking, and learn ways to help students explore cause and effect. Right click on the text or photo link, below, and save on your computer wherever you choose. Print out or view online (note: the document contains hyperlinks to important resources).

October 2012 Edition of

The Simple Science Strategies Newsletter

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From Apple Flower to Apple Fruit

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On Stability and Change: The Apple

This month, we are studying the concepts of stability and change. The first of our nature-based studies involves a favorite autumn topic in New England: apples.

science strategies apple tree flower botany

The apple: a great opportunity for year-round botany study. (c) Kim M. Bennett, 2012.

Apples present an excellent opportunity to study stability and change, in both spring and fall, where we can study the transformation of the bare tree to one with leaves, the emergence of leaves and flowers from buds, the growth of apple fruits from the spent blossoms, the gradual ripening of the fruit, and the ultimate dropping of fruits and leaves as the fall winds down to winter.

This is also a nice opportunity to begin to talk about the structures of flowers and fruits, using the familiar, and accessible, apple, even during the winter months. Use the Apple a Day” notebooking pages, for these, and other, activities.

science strategies apple tree flower botany

An Apple a Day” – September Botany Journaling, 2012
20 pages, $1.95

 

A Year of Studies, by Season

An apple tree, all year round

Using the “Adopt-a-Plant” strategy, choose an apple tree (or, if you do not live near one, a crabapple tree will do), and observe it very early in the spring, before the leaves emerge (March or so, here in New England). Sketch the tree, or one branch on the tree in one frame, and provide a narrative to accompany each drawing. Add additional pages, as necessary. Here are some questions you might use as prompts for sketching and writing:

Winter (March)

science strategies apple tree flower botany

Sample page. This frame and lines journaling page is useful for multiple sketches over time, or multiple views.

  1. Sketch a bud on a twig. How are the buds protected in the winter? Carefully dissect a bud. What do you see inside?
  2. As the bud opens, what parts of the bud remain? What happens to the other parts? Why do you think this happens?
  3. Notice the markings and scars near the buds. What do you think cause them? Explain.
  4. Count the number of nodes from the tip of a branch to the trunk. How old is the branch? Explain how you figured this out.

Spring (May)

science strategies apple tree flower botany

Sample page. Botanical drawings and content vocabulary for journaling, word study, vocabulary building, or penmanship.

  1. Sketch an opening bud. What parts do you see first, the flowers or the leaves? Do they come out at the same time? Do all buds produce leaves and flowers? Describe what you see.
  2. Draw an opening apple blossom. Label these parts: stem, stipules, calyx, sepals.
  3. Sketch an open apple blossom. How many petals do you see? Draw the calyx behind the petals. What shape is the apple blossom? Color your drawing. Are the petals the same color on the inside as the outside? Why do buds and the blossoms appear different colors?
  4. Draw an open apple blossom. Label these parts: petals, stamens, filament, anther, pistil, stigma.
  5. Have an adult help you cut open the base of the apple blossom. What do you see inside? What do you think these become? Use what you know about apples to help you answer.
  6. Carefully sketch the arrangement of the new leaves as they grow around the blossom. What color are they? Do they stay this color?

Summer (June)

science strategies apple tree flower botany

Sample page. Diagrams with labels, or boxes for labeling. Pages with and without word banks as a scaffold for labeling.

  1. Sketch a twig or blossom after the petals fall. What parts remain? What parts are missing? Why do you think some parts fall off? What part do you think becomes the apple fruit that you eat? What becomes the seeds?
  2. Use a piece of colorful tape to mark one twig with developing apples. Return to sketch one developing apple, once a week. Identify any parts of the original blossom that remain.
  3. How many apples grow from one winter bud? How many leaves? Draw a branch and show the arrangement of apples and leaves.
  4. Does the apple branch keep on growing? What part grows after the fruit forms?

Fall (September)

science strategies apple tree flower botany

Sample page. Woodcuts from botanical texts: useful for rendering accurate colors when observing.

  1. Sketch three apples of different varieties, making sure to render the shape accurately. Describe the differences and similarities in these areas: shape, stem, color.
  2. Observe a ripe apple on a tree. Notice the color. Is it the same color everywhere? Develop a hypothesis about the role of air temperature and sunlight in the development of apple fruit color.
  3. Carefully draw and color one apple. Is it the same color everywhere? Are they spots or streaks? Is it the same color on both sides?
  4. Draw a ripe apple (outside and inside views). Identify the flower parts that created the structures you see.
  5. Use words to describe the texture of the apple skin. What function does the skin serve? (See Experiment 1)
  6. Cut up apples of five varieties. Create a data table to compare and rate them from 1-5 based on these factors: color (1=greenest skin, 5=reddest skin), texture (1=coarsest pulp, 5=finest pulp); crispness (1=crispiest, 5=softest), juiciness (1=juiciest, 5=driest), taste (1=most sour, 5=sweetest), aroma (1=no aroma, 5=strongest aroma).
  7. Cut apples of several varieties from stem to flower end. Draw and compare the core area.

Winter (December)

science strategies apple flower botany

Sample page. A variety of lined pages, in both regular rule and primary rule, for copywork, handwriting practice, observations or thematic writing.

  1. Gather an apple, a pear, a peach, a plum and a cherry. Carefully cut each in half, starting at the stem end. Sketch what you see. What is the same about all these fruits? What is different?
  2. Cut an apple from end to end, along the core. Sketch what you see. Note the core line. Can you connect the stem to the flower end through the core? Why?
  3. Cut another apple across the core. Sketch what you see in this view. Identify the flower parts that formed what you see. Draw the seed cells. Can you see faint dots between the cells? What do you think these are? How many seeds do you find in each cell (carpel)?
  4. List all the apple varieties you know. Use other resources to find more names. Sort them by use, color, country of origin.

Want a Report Cover or Fun Word Wall?

science strategies apple flower botany

Download it here

Two Experiments

These experiments are adapted from The Handbook of Nature Study (Anna Botsford Comstock), where you can get many other ideas for prompts for botany journaling or classroom discussion, as well as great background information for you, the teacher.

science strategies apple flower botany

Handbook of Nature Study, $23.67, Barnes & Noble (click on image for ordering information).

Experiment 1. The role of the apple peel

Take three apples of similar size, shape, and soundness. Peel one. Place the peeled apple on a desk or shelf. Place one of the unpeeled apples so that it is touching the peeled apple. Place the remaining unpeeled apple on the other side of the peeled apple, but at a distance, so it does not touch.

Which one would you predict would rot first? Which one would you predict would rot next? Where would the rot start? Why do you think this?

Develop a hypothesis to explain your thinking. Explain what you think the role  the skin serves in the life cycle of the apple tree.

Observe the apples for rot over the next several days. Evaluate your hypothesis.

science strategies apple flower botany

(c) Kim M. Bennett, 2012

Experiment 2: More on the role of the apple peel

Take the rotten apple from the first experiment. Use a safety pin or a needle to prick the flesh of the rotten fruit, then use the juice-covered pin to prick a healthy fruit. Go back and forth, pricking the rotten fruit once, then pricking the good fruit, making your initials in the good fruit. Put the inoculated apple on a desk or table. Throw away the rotten fruit or compost it.

Develop a hypothesis about where rot will begin on the inoculated fruit.

Observe the inoculated fruit over the next several days. Note where rot begins. Explain why you think this is so. Also relate your findings to how apples should be handled at the orchard, in shipping, and in the grocery store, to ensure long shelf life.

science strategies apple flower botany

See “Favorite Photo Friday” for more about this photo! (c) Kim M. Bennett, 2012

Share Your Work!

Make sure that you share your October apple work on the Simple Science Strategies Blog Carnival. Entries are due on October 26, for posting by November 1.

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