Elementary Mathematics-Science SMILE Meeting
03 October 2000
Notes Prepared by Porter Johnson

Glenda Ellis (Williams School)
How to Understand the Solar System (6th grade)
One person was chosen to be the sun, and nine others were called by name to be each of the nine planets. A substantial amount of string was initially wrapped around a bottle. As the string is unwound the planet role players take their stations around the sun. Here is a list of planetary distances, in Astronomical Units.


Joyce McCoy (Spencer School)
How to Make Windmills (Kindergarten)
She passed out a sample of a windmill, which can be made out of constructional paper (optional).

The string will wind up and then unwind. Cool!

Dena Hall (Brunson @ ST Peter)
Displacement (3rd grade)
Dena began with Aesop's Fable of the Crow and the Pitcher. http://www.storyarts.org/library/aesops/stories/pitcher.html
She took a baggie filled these materials that were needed for the experiment: Graduated Cylinder

We added about 30 ml of water to the cylinder, and recorded the height of the column as we slid the marbles in one by one. Data were recorded and graphed.

Cynthia Southern (Spencer School)
Geometric Shapes (Kindergarten)
Cynthia passed out laminated copies of various shapes. Each person took plastic shapes to try to reproduce the shapes of the pattern

Imara Abdullah (Douglas School)
had an Oatmeal Box with a hole in the top lid.  She held it close to a lit candle, with the open hole near the candle, and hit the bottom of the box.  The candle went out. Why?
Next she blew up a balloon and put it between her lips and made a noise. What happened? Then she put her fingers on her throat and made a noise again. What happened? She put salt on the balloon and then blew into it. We could then see the vibration of the balloon (sound).

Beverly Merchant (Soujourne of Truth School)
Popping Popcorn (Child Parent Center)
How do popcorn kernels feel to you? Does there seem to be moisture trapped inside?
She gave everybody either a popcorn seed (yellow) or a raisin (black). She put Mazola Oil in a test tube that she held with a clothespin.  She held the test tube over a small burner flame.  The oil began to bubble.  She then put in either a popcorn or raisin.  Some popcorn kernels slowly began to pop, and one actually "burned".  Either it was too old, or else it was put into the oil too soon, or else the flame was not hot enough. The raisins increased in size, but did not pop, unfortunately!
Would the experiment have worked better with Canola Oil?

Barbara Hill (Fernwood School)
My Favorite Dinosaur (K-4 special ed)
Barbara showed a video that said that dinosaurs and man did not live at the same time.  She had several books on dinosaurs and many dinosaur models, large and small.  We were asked to select our favorite dinosaur and find it in a book.  There was much activity and fun.  The mysteries of dinosaurs are appreciated by people of all ages!

Notes Taken by Lyvonia Hearns.

SECTION B [4-8]:

Bob Foote (Disney School)
He brought bags of pennies, nickels, dimes, and quarters, for the purpose of measuring the thickness of the coin, and then estimating the number of coins required to fill a given container. Several volunteers were chosen to stack the coins as high as possible, and then to measure the heights of the stack in centimeters. By dividing the total height by the number of coins, we obtained the thickness of each coin.  These data were obtained

(cm)of CoinsThickness (cm)Thickness (cm)
The standard thickness for each coin (listed for reference) differs significantly from the measured value, because of wear, warp, or distortion of the coins, as well as measurement error.

Next he had groups to use their measured thickness to estimate how many coins would fit inside cylindrical containers. Here are the data:

Estimated NumberMeasured Number
Some of the estimates would be somewhat closer if we had used the "standard thickness", rather than measured value.

Trivia Question (Extension of Lesson): How tall is $1000 worth of dimes? Answer:

0.135 mm per coin * 10,000 coins = 1,350 mm = 1.35 meters

Christine Etapa (Gunsaulus Academy)
Toothpick Biochemistry: http://www.usask.ca/education/coursework/mcvittiej/bio30unit1/handouts/toothpickase.htm
Part A: Rate of Product Formation
We were divided into 5 groups, each of which got the following equipment

We put 90 toothpicks into the pan, and one person [the enzyme] snapped toothpicks in half by reaching into the pan blindfolded. The number of toothpicks snapped was timed at 20 second intervals. Numbers such as the following were obtained:
Time (sec)Number Broken
We then drew a graph of Number Broken versus time. Most groups notice that the graph "turned down" at the end.
The Moral: Enzymes will slow down in a medium when it becomes harder for them to find molecules on which to act.

Part B: Reaction Rate versus Substrate Concentration:
We put both paper clips and toothpicks into the pan, while our hapless blindfolded enzyme-persons found and broke toothpicks. In every case there were 100 paperclips in the pan, whereas the number of toothpicks in the pan was varied. Here are typical data of number broken in 20 seconds:

Number Toothpicks in PanNumber Toothpicks broken
It becomes easier to find the toothpicks when there is a higher concentration of them present, in relation to the substrate paperclips, which our enzyme-persons were unable to snap in two. This enzyme effect increases with concentration, but then "maxes out" at some saturation level.

Additional information on this and other projects can be found from

Ken Schug (IIT) pointed out that enzymes are biological catalysts that exist inside living organisms to break big up molecules into smaller ones. They play an essential role in digestion and manufacture of specialized biological materials, and without them life as we know it would be impossible. Most enzymes are protein molecules that have a reactive site which induces certain chemical reactions, such as the combustion of sugar to produce energy. The enzymes, which must act on one molecule at a time, are not destroyed in the process. Catalysts may be inactivated by the presence of other molecules, such as heavy metals, which inhibit their function. The action of enzymes is generally very sensitive to temperature.

Barbara Pawela (retired)
Properties of Gases
She passed out plastic bags, and asked everybody to fill the bag with air by scooping it in, and then to close the bag. Evidently, there was something (air) which was invisible, but which took up space.

Next, she opened a bottle of perfume, and asked us to raise our hands when we smelled it. Those in the front smelled it right away, but it took some time before the odor was detected at the back of the room. The diffusion of perfume is thus illustrated. PJ Comment: the distance D traveled by the perfume from its source is proportional to the square root of the time t. Thus, it takes four times as long for the perfume to diffuse twice as far. By measuring the times, you can verify this dependence approximately.

She next swung one end of a flexible hose over her head, while holding the other end with her other hand. There was a whistling noise, caused by the motion of the hose.

She next anchored a candle on a tray, lit the candle, and put a little water into the tray. Then she put an inverted glass over the candle, with clay at points on the bottom, so that water could move into or out of the glass. The flame gradually died out, and the level of water rose in the glass. Why? The advertised reason is usually that the oxygen in the class has been depleted by the burning candle. However, Porter Johnson pointed out that the water level inside the container does not rise simply because oxygen is consumed in the process of combustion, since water vapor and carbon dioxide are produced. The gas around the flame is hot when the bottle is put over the candle, and after combustion has depleted most of the oxygen the flame goes out and the gas rapidly cools. Even if the amount of gas does not change, the water level will rise as the gas is cooled. One could hold the bottle above the burning candle to fill it with hot gas, and then place the inverted bottle directly into the water, but NOT over the candle. The water level should gradually rise as the air cools.

She then put baking soda inside several bottles that she gave to participants. She poured vinegar into the bottles, and small balloons were fitted over the lips of the bottles. The bottles filled with Carbon Dioxide gas, CO2. In this case the balloon is filled because CO2 is created, and the air in the bottle is not consumed.