High School Biology-Chemistry SMILE Meeting
04 May 2004
Notes Prepared by Porter Johnson
Fall 2004 SMILE Schedule
|14 September ||First class / registration|
|28 September||Second class / late registration|
|12 October||Third class|
|26 October||Hallowe'en week|
|09 November||A week after national elections|
|23 November||Thanksgiving week|
|07 December||and ... just 1 week later ...|
|14 December||Last class|
Christine Scott [Beethoven Elementary School]
- The Summer SMART program
for web page development will be held at IIT; July 26-August 6, 2004, 1-5 pm.
Note that the date has been changed, because of conflicts with other
programs. Sign up now if you want to be included. Admission is limited to high school classroom teachers of mathematics and
science, with priority given to high
school physics teachers.
- The syllabus for SMILE courses, which appears on the SMILE
website at location http://www.iit.edu/~smile/syllabus.htm
has recently been updated. We have prepared a more detailed
description of teacher presentations, which includes the the
"Over half of the lessons have strong visual, auditory or tactile components, which also makes them meaningful to
handicapped students. Furthermore, the content of most of the lessons is readily adaptable to students
at various levels, including students with special educational needs."
Many thanks to Roy Coleman for help in preparing this revised
- Write-ups for academic year SMILE meetings for the
current semester may be found at http://www.iit.edu/~johnsonp/acysmile.html,
and write-ups from previous semesters are permanently located at http://www.iit.edu/~smile/biweekly.htm.
Christine brought in various plant parts containing seeds: squash, orange, apple,
peanut, as well as assorted dried beans. She gave each of us a baggy
containing various types of seeds, as well as a key made up as a grid. We
tried to match each of our seeds with the entries on the grid. Christine
then passed around a template, in which the seeds were taped onto the
appropriate location on the grid. Magnifying glasses were very helpful in
identifying the smaller seeds. This was a fascinating phenomenological
exercise, and we found it challenging to make an identification of a particular
seed. One possible extension might be to obtain 10 seeds of the same type, weigh
each of them and note the range in masses, and discuss why individual seeds vary
considerably in size, strength of integument, etc.
Thanks for the ideas, Chris!
Chris Etapa [Gunsaulus Academy] Force and
Motion Illustrated with Rockets
Chris made a mortar tube about a meter
long from a
piece of poster board, rolled up to a diameter of
about 15 cm -- which was large enough to hold a small inflated
balloon. We divided into groups, each group blowing up a balloon and
holding in the air without tying it. We then taped a Styrofoam®
cup over the end of the balloon, to serve as a nose cone. While still
holding it shut, we put the balloon
into bottom of the tube, and then let it go.
The balloon rocket took off, and went across the room! We discussed how Newton's
3rd Law (action-reaction) was involved.
Chris -- with a little help
from Terri Donatello -- then showed us how to make a straw rocket.
We again blew up a balloon, and taped a soda straw to its side. A long cord,
several meters long, was threaded through the straw and then stretched taut
across the room.. When Chris let go of the balloon, it zipped across the room, the
straw traveling along the string that served as a track for the rocket.
then showed us how to make an Alka Seltzer® rocket. She took a 35 mm film
canister (with its snap-on cap) and taped a paper nose cone onto its
bottom. She put some vinegar (dilute acetic acid in water) into the canister,
added 1/2 of an Alka Seltzer® tablet, put the cap on, and
turned it upside down (nose cone up) on the floor. Carbon dioxide gas, which is produced
by the chemical reaction NaHCO3 + H+ ®
Na+ + H20 + CO2 (gas), causes a pressure increase inside the canister, and the
cap is blown off. The rocket goes straight up, and very fast!
Riley pointed out the importance of the ideal gas laws in explaining the
pressure increase that produces the launch. For more details see Film
Canister Rocket by John Scavo on the SMART home page at
Chris distributed the following questions for discussion:
Force & Motion
- What provides the force that propels the balloon rocket upward?
- How is this like a real rocket?
- What provides the force that propels the Alka Seltzer® rocket upward?
- How is this like a real rocket?
- What happens when the vinegar and Alka Seltzer® mix together?
- Explain how Newton's 1st, 2nd, and 3rd
Laws are at work, or if they apply
at all, for each rocket.
This was a blast! Very good, Chris!
Ed Scanlon [Morgan Park HS, biology]
A Comparison of Hominoid Skulls
Ed passed out several pictures of
hominoid skulls (frontal, profile, and basilar views for the skulls of
Australopithecus africanus, Homo habilis, Homo erectus, Neanderthal, and Homo
sapiens). Ed obtained the information, along with explanatory materials,
from Science Kit / Boreal Laboratories: http://sciencekit.com/,
kit number 46973: Hominid Skull Comparison: An Investigation of
Hominid Evolution. He also distributed a data chart for their classification, which
contained the following entries:
- Specimen Number -- Specimen Name -- Geologic Age
- Forehead (Frontal Bone) -- Vertical/Horizontal?
Supraorbital Brow Ridge -- Small/Medium/Large?
Sagittal Crest -- Yes/No?
Maximum Cranial Breadth (mm)
Maximum Braincase Length (mm) -- (not including crest)
Foramen Magnum -- Centered/Toward head /In between?
Nasal bones -- Arched/Flat/In between?
Maximum Breadth of Nasal Opening (mm)
Maximum Height of Nasal Openings (mm)
Length of Maxilla (mm)
Chin -- Yes/No/In between?
Facial Prognathism -- Minor/Pronounced/In between?
Facial Slope (in degrees)
Dental Arcade -- Straight Sided/Diverging?
Incisors -- Slanted out/Vertical/In between?
Canine Length (mm)
Canines Jut -- Yes/No/In between?
Canine Diastema -- Yes/No/In between?
Combined chewing surface (mm2)
Each group got one set of drawings (numbered but not named), on which
measurements with protractors and metric rules could be made. We discussed common features of the skulls, as well as
features most useful in distinguishing the skulls. The goal was to analyze
various features and determine their importance in deciphering evolutionary
relationships, by measuring and describing various hominoid skulls.
Although humans and other primates have many similarities, humans did not evolve
from apes. The evidence seems to point to a common ancestor for
Which of these skulls was human?? Very nice,
Joyce Bordelon [Moos Elementary School] Simple
Joyce passed around some information on simple machines, which
contained patterns for each of the six simple machines --the inclined plane, the
wedge, the lever, the wheel and axle, the pulley, and the screw. These
template patterns could be cut out
and glued or taped together to make each of the machines. The information
packet, Simple Machines, was prepared by Carmen O Pagán and Lily T Reyes,
bilingual teachers at Talcott School. For more information see the Simple
Machines Learning Site: http://www.coe.uh.edu/archive/science/science_lessons/scienceles1/finalhome.htm.We
discussed the simple machines that are found in various mechanical systems in
the human body. Levers are present in the arms and the jaw, the teeth
constitute a wedge, and ball-and-socket joints probably correspond to a wheel
and axle system.
Interesting points, Joyce! Thanks!
Lilla Green [Hartigan Elementary School, retired] A
Lilla fitted three volunteers with blindfolds, and
then gave them a series of items, which they tried to identify only by touching
and feeling The first item, for example, was a clothespin. Other
items were balloons, a small piece of play dough, a rubber band, and various
paper clips. Lilla stated that the Shakers invented the
clothespin. For more details see the Public Broadcasting Service website The
Shakers for Educators: http://www.pbs.org/kenburns/shakers/educators/.
Lilla passed out a lesson plan for using clothespins in a
discovery activity, relating to their properties, their history, the application
of simple machines in the design and construction of clothespins, and other uses for
them. In particular, she described an exercise for using one or more
clothespins, along with other materials, to design a useful tool, such as a bag
closer or a recipe holder. As an extension, she suggested that the anatomy
of a fish's mouth determines their food source. The fish has to catch,
hold, chew, and swallow their food.
Very interesting ideas,
Ron Tuinstra [Illiana Christian HS, chemistry]
Environmental Science Activities
Ron distributed these four activities
that he had personally developed and used in class as Soil Laboratory
exercises, which can be performed with soil samples brought to class by students:
Ron also passed around the Earthday Ecological
a survey to estimate the amount of land required to maintain your
lifestyle. The average ecological footprint in the United States is 10
hectares (25 acres) per person, whereas there are only 1.8 hectares (4.5 acres)
biologically productive land per person on earth. How did you do on this
survey? Editorial Comment by PJ: 1 hectare = 100 meters ´ 100
meters = 10,000 square meters, is the standard international measure
area. If you advocate using the English System of units, you should
be able to define the acre? [http://www.wordiq.com/definition/Acre]
- Activity A: Infiltration
Obtain ring stand, filter paper, and beaker. Place filter paper in funnel.
Fill funnel about 1/2 full with dirt. Level the dirt in the filter
paper. Be sure to keep the dirt below the top of the filter paper
by 3 cm.
Place empty beaker under lower end of funnel.
Measure 20 ml of water with a graduated cylinder. Slowly and carefully
pour all the water into the dirt in the funnel, taking care not to let the water
rise above the top of the filter paper.
Start timing for 5 minutes. Measure and record the amount of water in the
beaker under the funnel at the end of 5 minutes.
Compare your results with other groups in the class.
- Activity B: Water holding capacity
Obtain clean dry beaker; 150 ml or 250 ml capacity. Weigh and record mass
of your empty beaker.
Measure out two teaspoons of your dirt into the beaker. Weigh and record the
mass of the dirt and beaker. Subtract the mass of the empty beaker to determine
the mass of dirt in the beaker.
Place the beaker and dirt on a hot plate for 10 minutes. Remove the beaker
from the hot plate, let it cool to touch, and record mass of beaker and
dirt. Subtract the mass of the empty beaker to determine the mass of dry
The difference of the original mass of the dirt minus the dry mass is the mass
of water driven out of the dirt.
Divide the mass of the water by the original weight of the dirt. Multiply
that number by 100 to calculate the percent water in your dirt.
Record all numbers on your lab sheet.
- Activity C: Soil structures
Obtain a dissecting microscope, a glass petri dish, and a dissecting needle.
Place a spoon full of your dirt onto the petri dish. Place it on the dissecting
scope and observe the dirt. Using the dissecting needle, try to identify
insects, humus, sand, silt, and clay in your dirt.
Record all your observations on your worksheet. Be sure to list any
organisms you observe in your dirt?
What particles could you identify? What insects or organisms, if any, did you
observe? What color is your soil?
- Activity D: Soil particles
Obtain a clean dry beaker, 500 ml or 1000 ml capacity. Place 2 teaspoons
of dirt into the beaker.
Add water until your beaker is about 1/2 full. Mix well with a plastic
spoon. Let settle for a minute or two.
How much material is floating on top the water? What do you think it is?
Observe the color and cloudiness of the water in the beaker. On a scale of
1-4, with 1 being clear and 4 opaque, rate the cloudiness of your water.
Record this observation on your worksheet.
Note the presence of sediment at the bottom of the beaker. Carefully pour
out the water from the beaker, using care not to lose the sediment.
What does the sediment look like? What material was removed when you
poured the water and left the sediment? How is this like soil
- Additional Questions
- Based upon the soil types you learned in class (loam, sandy, silty, clay type), how would you classify your soil sample?
- What would you estimate the percentages are in your sample for sand, silt,
and clay? Compare this with loam: (40 % sand; 40% silt; 20% clay).
- How many different organisms, if any, did you find in your soil?
- What would you add to your soil, if anything, to make it a better soil?
Great stuff! Thanks, Ron.
Notes taken by Benjamin Stark.