High School Biology-Chemistry SMILE Meeting
22 October 2002
Notes Prepared by Porter Johnson

Gary Guzdziol [Rosenwald School]      Handout:  Why do Candles Burn?
Gary put a bunch of candles and other items on the desk, and then passed out the handout.  He lit a candle and asked us what substances were present.  Our list included wax, tallow, scent, wick, and dye.  He then showed us that the wick alone burns completely and very rapidly when lit -- much more so than the wax by itself, which melts and drips but doesn't continue to burn on its own.  How come? We next observed a burning candle, and observed that the wax was melted at the top end, by the flame.  We decided that the candle burned because liquid wax moves up the wick by capillary action, and vapor is rising from the pool of liquid wax.  To test the idea, Gary blew out the candle, and quickly held a tube vertically with its bottom end at the wick, and then held  another lighted candle at the top end.  We saw an occasional spurt of flame move fairly quickly down the tube and re-light the candle.  For additional information on candles, wax, wicks, and flames, see the General Wax and Candle Company website: http://www.generalwax.com/misc--candle-making/s___24.html. Thanks, Gary!

Christine Scott [Beethoven Elementary School]  and Lilla Green [Hartigan Elementary School, retired]       Handout:  A Twig's Story
Christine and Lilla distributed the handout, showed and discussed twigs, and passed out twigs for examination.   We studied the twigs to identify scars from which leaves grow in the spring.  The number of terminal bud scars shows the age of the branch, in years.  Terminal buds are located where new growth will occur, and lateral buds for sideways growth. This growth can yield new branches or new roots, depending on the environment of the bud.  Features of twigs, such as the shape of the leaf scars and the number of terminal buds at the tip of the twig (for twigs that come from the end of a branch) can be used to identify the species from which the twig came.

The twig article is found in the book The budding botanist: investigations with plants, AIMS activities. [http://www.aimsedu.org AIMS Education Foundation 1993] ISBN 1-881431-40-1:

Abstract: "Activities Integrating Mathematics and Science (AIMS) books primarily integrate mathematics and science but also provide coordinating activities related to other curriculum areas including language arts, social studies, physical education, art, and music from grades K to 9. This activity book is designed for students in grades 3 to 6. The book's objective is to foster students' interest in plants by teaching introductory knowledge of seed plants, their structures, and their economic importance. Particular attention is given to seeds (their structure, how they grow, their properties, and how they are dispersed); plants (their structure, how plant parts work, photosynthesis, and development of seed and fruit); and a short look at the structure of the plant cells. The activities generally include an introductory statement, math skills, science processes, materials, key questions, classroom management suggestions, procedures, discussion questions, extensions, curriculum correlations with other disciplines, and illustrated student worksheets. The book includes a table of contents, a glossary, and a list of the intended mathematics and science process skills."
Contents: Conceptual overview; Letter to parents; Why are plants important?; Enviroscape; Seed facts; Seed search; Dissect a seed; Seed scavenger hunt; Germination study; Test a seed; Exploring germination; Comparing germination; Seed plants; Cones and needles; History of a tree; Observe a tree; A flower study; Seeds from fruits; Plant structure facts; Down under; Herb and woody; A twig's story; Leaf facts; Leaves; Leaf printing; Photosynthesis; Transpiration; Cactus; New plant discovery; Cell facts; Model of a cell; Focus on cells; Cell your fruits and vegetables; Glossary; Literature list. 

Great Lesson, Christine and Lilla!

Erma Lee [Williams School]    Animals or Whatever?
passed around a zoo book to groups of four teachers.  We each picked an animal (or whatever), and wrote down 3 facts about it gleaned from the book, which we shared with the class.  For example, elephants are the largest land animal, apes have arms that are longer than legs, skunks can spray 15 feet, and lions 12 feet in length became extinct in North America in 8000 BC, etc.  We will continue this exercise later in the term to learn and discuss interesting facts about animals as diverse as whales and butterflies.  Comment by Porter Johnson:  You can learn a lot at the zoo, as evidenced by these lyrics excerpted from the song At the Zoo by Simon & Garfunkel  http://www.stlyrics.com/lyrics/raisinghelen/atthezoo.htm.

"The monkeys stand for honesty, Giraffes are insincere, and the elephants are kindly but they're dumb.
Orangutans are skeptical of changes in their cages, And the zookeeper is very fond of rum.
Zebras are reactionaries, antelopes are missionaries, pigeons plot in secrecy,
and hamsters turn on frequently. What a gas! You gotta come and see at the zoo."

Interesting, Erma!

Chris Etapa [Gunsaulus Academy]     Observations and Categorization.
showed three jars of sunflower seeds and described a class activity of "observations".  The idea was to describe the different, individual sunflower seeds as objects. One might use such phrases as oval shaped, black and white, color, pattern, size, shape, texture, and number and arrangement of stripes.  We decided that "stripes" provided the best method of categorization of our seeds.  One could use the descriptions given in one class to see if another class could pick out the individual seeds from the description.  Results are often inconclusive because descriptions are not sufficiently different.  Such an activity is a convenient way, at the beginning of the school year, to hone observational skills and focus on the need for precision and attention to detail in recording data of all kinds.  Good idea, Chris.  See you next time!

SCHEDULE (All Tuesdays)

November 5: Frana Allen Tyrethis Penrice     Carol Giles
November 19:    Barbara Lorde
Brenda Daniel
Wanda Pitts
Erma Lee

Winfred Malvin

December 3: Carl Martikean      P. Bahl Ann Parham

[ ... ... Note ONE week gap ... ... ]

December 10 J. Desai

Notes taken by Ken Schug.