Elementary Mathematics-Science SMILE Meeting
31 October 2000
Notes Prepared by Earl Zwicker

Note: The academic year write-ups for the current semester (and several previous semesters) appear at the web location http://www.iit.edu/~johnsonp/acysmile.html. At the end of the semester they will also appear on the SMILE website, http://www.iit.edu/~smile/.


Barbara Lorde (Attucks School) & Wanda Pitts (Douglas School)
had a wonderfully colorful display to capture our attention; a five foot tall skeleton made of brightly colored paper, and taped to the board; various colors of construction paper, metal fasteners, tape, scissors lain out on the table; a small white skeleton (made of cotton swabs for the bones, glued to black construction paper); and books standing up and open as references for their students:

Barbara & Wanda passed out a folder to each of us with a description of their presentation, Discovering the Human Body, for primary grade level. All the details were there, including the following:
Materials Needed
Three pages illustrating how skeleton models should look
Detailed drawing of the human skeleton with its parts named.
They soon had us busy doing as their students do: making a skeleton to show our body parts. Lyvonia Hearns measured Earl Zwicker to get various body measurements such as head circumference, shoulders, arms, etc. - all the way down to feet. The skeleton on display served as a model for putting the parts together with metal fasteners. On the board were listed vocabulary words:
head, arms, chest, etc.
The skeleton was described: The framework of bones that supports the body of an animal with a backbone. Before long the team had completed the skeleton they named "Earl." A photo was made of the team, triumphant with their creation! Others of us were busy at our desks, making the cotton swab skeletons. Applause expressed our appreciation to Barbara & Wanda; a great mini-teach!

Margia Artis (Wentworth School)
displayed on the table the makings of a science project: Rainbow Cheese. (Handout - IF2546 Middle School Science Fair Projects) There were four identical containers, each with a different color (red, blue, green, white) of cheese dip. We received a Rainbow Cheese Questionnaire, with directions for tasting and evaluating the four cheese dips, and crackers and water to clear our palates before tasting the next dip. Then we had to indicate the one cheese dip we preferred most. A graph on the reverse side enabled us to plot the number of people who preferred each of the four dips, so we could see which was most preferred.

Margia gave us an additional page informing us that we were participating in a project to determine if the color of cream cheese affects people's perception of taste! Each of the dips were made from the same cream cheese, but each colored with a different vegetable dye. Food companies do such tests to see what people prefer. Complete directions for setting this up were included. Could be set up as a science fair project booth. Thanks, Margia, for a tasty idea!

Tracy Walker (Elverson), Andrea Runaas and Janet Haug (The Shoesmith School Trio! - same school as Pearline Scott, a colleague who introduced them to us this fall...)
gave each of us three pages:

Preschool Pocket Math,
First Grade Pocket Activity
Second Grade Pocket Activity.
These reference books were displayed: They described to us the various activities, and showed us colorful displays of pockets, and soon had us involved counting the number of pockets each of us was wearing, reporting the number (which was recorded), and then calculating (after getting estimates): total number of pockets, average number of pockets per person, highest and lowest estimates, highest and lowest actual number, most common and least common number of pockets, etc. -- suitable to the grade level. A most dynamic and colorfully done set of ideas! Thanks to Andrea, Janet & Tracy! (and Pearline!)

Shirley Cesair (Henderson School, Science Resource person)
passed out resealable plastic bags to each of us, containing three pages dedicated to

Finding Out About Shapes  [BSCS, Science for Life and Living, 1992]
along with 19 paper fasteners, 14 strips cut from 5 inch file cards, about 3/4 inch wide. Teams of us joined the strips together to form the shapes illustrated on one of the pages, and then tested them to see which shape most successfully would resist forces to change them. We saw a similarity of one of the shapes to the John Hancock Building downtown (a square with crossed diagonals). We were asked to predict which shapes would be strongest and weakest, and then to determine which in fact actually were strongest and weakest. And then to try to figure out why? - or perhaps, what is it the shapes had in common?

What a beautiful way for kids to experience ideas that - until recent times - they probably would not learn about until college! Thanks, Shirley!

Notes by Earl Zwicker


Roy Coleman (Morgan Park HS)
showed us the Flying Witch - in the foyer. He stood within a cubical wooden frame wearing his witch hat and straddling a broom. We saw him lift both feet off the ground and float above the floor! He did this several times, and then others of us were invited to participate, and we did the same! Incriminating photos were taken by Roy and distributed to participants. You had to be there! Look at photos and instructions for assembly on the SMILE website at (http://www.iit.edu/~smile/photos/photos97.html) to see what it looked like, and to learn how it was done. Perfect timing for Halloween! Thanks, Roy, a Bunch!!

Estellvenia Sanders (Chicago Vocational Academy)
showed us Science in Sign, Part XIX She first gave us our signing vocabulary:

bottle, vinegar, baking soda (bs), water,
tissue (nose wipe sign), acid (fs), cork (fs),
expel (hand flexes out), energy (rub hands),
careful (KK sign: babysitter care)
A set of pages included a set of diagrams showing how to sign various words, taken from the book
Signs for Science & Mathematics http://www.rit.edu/~comets/pages/lexicon/
Frank Caccamise & Harry G. Lang
National Technical Institute for the Deaf 
Rochester Institute of Technology
was passed out, and a page to Investigate Newton's Third Law of Motion. Each of four groups received these items
a soda pop bottle
cork or rubber stopper
tissue paper
baking soda
petroleum jelly
round pencils or dowel rods.

Some vinegar was placed in the bottle, baking soda was wrapped securely within the tissue and and placed within the bottle but kept out of contact with the vinegar. Petroleum jelly made it easier to place the cork in the bottle tightly. The bottle was then tipped so vinegar and tissue were in contact, and then it was quickly placed horizontally on the wooden rollers (pencils). Bang! The cork popped out going in one direction, and the bottle moved in the opposite direction (like a cannon on wheels)! Cautions: Don't use too much vinegar. Get the cork in quickly, before "fizzing" starts. Be prepared for a "mess."

How could the Third Law be used to explain what was observed?
Same for Second Law?
Estellvenia passed out a Cross Number Puzzle and Scrambled Words puzzle for us to solve, as well. Thanks for expanding our horizons, Estellvenia!

Ed Scanlon (Morgan Park HS)
(handout: Hydroponics & the Bean) showed us how to do this. Take a 2 liter bottle. Cut it in half horizontally. Invert the top half and place it in the bottom half. Put bean seeds inside on a paper towel with a little water inside.

Q: How do you avoid getting mold?
A: Mold is "good."
Tips: Bean seeds are pinto beans from this year. Kept dry, they will last for years. The paper towel acts as a wick to bring water to the top of the towel, where the beans are. It helps to cover the beans with a wet paper cover, until they begin to germinate; then take the cover off. Don't add water until you get home. Seeds germinate without light; move into light after germination.

Hydroponics: no soil! To get real growth, you should put minerals in the water. Roots grow down, in the direction of gravity (even in outer space). You can plant a seed - outside the bottle - upside down. Complaints of My plant died mean - too much water; grew too fast; too much heat; stem too weak. In a room or greenhouse they need colder weather to grow; it's often too warm for plants. For example, you can't grow tomatoes in Sarasota FL, because the nights aren't cool enough!

Ed, thanks for a wonderful way to interest students in growing things, and for your insights into what does work!

Chris Etapa (Gunsaulus Academy)
gave us a two page handout titled It's a Real Corker. [The Sky's the Limit! 1987 AIMS Foundation.] Each group of 4 received: a cork, a stopwatch, a pin, a protractor and 5 or 6 feathers. Using these materials, we constructed a "helicopter."

Make a pilot hole in the cork with the pin.
Stick feathers into the holes at a specified angle.
Vary the angle and number of holes & feathers from one trial to another.
Drop the assembly from 1 meter and measure the time of flight (fall).

There were fluffy purple feathers, and firm flat yellow  feathers. Example: 7 yellow feathers averaged 0.56 seconds to fall 1 meter.

Conclusions? Which works best? We seemed to discover that  firm feathers, more feathers, and a slight (upward) angle give the longest flight times.

What a happy way to learn about the factors that affect free fall time! And to sharpen out observational, writing and thinking skills! Thanks, Chris!

Notes by Porter Johnson.