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]         Seeds
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
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.

Chris 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!  Pat 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 location http://www.iit.edu/~smart/scavjoh1/lesson2.htm

Chris distributed the following questions for discussion:

    Force & Motion
  1. What provides the force that propels the balloon rocket upward?
  2. How is this like a real rocket?
  3. What provides the force that propels the Alka Seltzer® rocket upward?
  4. How is this like a real rocket?
  5. What happens when the vinegar and Alka Seltzer® mix together?
  6. 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
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 Laboratorieshttp://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:

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 primates.

Which of these skulls was human??  Very nice, Ed!

Joyce Bordelon [Moos Elementary School]         Simple Machines
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://atlantis.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 Discovery Activity
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, Lilla!

Ron Tuinstra [Illiana Christian HS, chemistry]         Environmental Science Activities
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 Footprint Calculator: [http://www.earthday.net/footprint/index.html]  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) of biologically productive land per person on earth.  How did you do on this survey?  Editorial Comment by PJ1 hectare = 100 meters ´ 100 meters = 10,000 square meters,  is the standard international measure of land area.  If you advocate using the English System of units, you should be able to define the acre? [http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Acre] Can you?

Great stuff! Thanks, Ron.

Notes taken by Benjamin Stark.