Elementary Mathematics-Science SMILE Meeting
30 November 1999
Notes Prepared by Earl Zwicker

Section A:

Virginia O'Brien (Higgins School)
had us form groups of 3 to make and test Rocket Balloons (handout). We chose from a variety of strings and drinking straws. With one person at each end of the string (about 6-7 m long) to hold it taut, and with the straw threaded onto the string, an inflated balloon (held shut with a twist tie) was taped onto the straw from below. The twist tie was then removed, air shot out of the balloon, and it moved along the string. How far did it go? How do you make it go farther? What makes it go? Observation, hypothesis, testing. A great activity to motivate thinking and learning!

Wanda Pitts (Douglas School 3rd grade)
got us involved with fractions by passing out worksheets. There were 22 different numbered diagrams. Each diagram showed a figure divided into sections, labeled with a word (quarters; sixths, halves, etc) under it. Wanda asked us about each in turn, eg: Is diagram 3 correctly labeled "quarters"? - and we responded with a yes or no. The correct response was not always obvious - which would lead to discussion and explanation. In many cases the sections were not equal (in area), so even though there might be 4 sections, they could not be correctly labeled quarters. Next, Wanda asked us to find three ways to divide diagrams (another worksheet) into four equal sections, etc. Many interesting answers here! It made us think, as her students must!

Mamie Hill (Woods School, 1st grade)
gave us scissors, a paper clip and handout, and soon we were making Happy Helicopters. We explored different ways to make them work better, and it was fun to see them spin their way down. And next, Mamie had us gather supplies from the table and make Dr Zed's Phewy Putty. Mix Elmers Glue "... and cornstarch until you can pick up the mixture." It tends to stick (adhesion) to your fingers until you achieve the correct proportions, and then it sticks better to itself (cohesion), so you can shape it, etc. Why is it called "Phewy?". Try it and see! Much learning here.

RaeLynn Schneider (Williams School)
handed out a set of pages titled Wave & Kick Puppets, We each received scissors, two 12 inch lengths of string, and heavy paper with an "Arm waver" puppet on it. RaeLynn had a completed and colorful example posted up front, and showed us how pulling the string would make the arms wave. We all worked to make ours, and drew a face on it, and make it wave. She also had a colorful Santa Claus that moved, and a Crazy Crocodile included in the handout. Besides development of hand skills, students would learn that force can be redirected - a downward pull on the string can make a puppet's arms move up! Neat!

Section B:

John Scavo (Richards KS)
showed us how to make paper model rockets. Roll a sheet of paper into a cylinder and place a film canister cap within its bottom end. Cut out a circle 3 - 4 inches in diameter and make a radial slit. Shape it into a cone for top. Make 3 or 4 fins from remaining paper. Use Scotch tape to attach and make everything tight. For propellant use 1/4 Alka Seltzer tablet. With cap removed and rocket pointing down, add some water. Add about 1/4 Alka Seltzer tablet to cap, fit cap snugly into bottom. Stand on floor. Gas is released and after 15 - 20 seconds the cap blows off and the rocket goes up. May go 20 - 30 ft high! One must maintain tight seals. Amazing!

Edgar Boyd (Gillespie School)
explained that teachers are always looking for ways to make their classrooms more interesting, and he had picked up something - Natural Wonders (about $18, an Orland Park Mall store) - some S-shaped figures attached to a rotating platform. Edgar started with one figure, then added another (looked like snakes), then another (appeared to switch directions of rotation - an illusion), and adding a fourth figure things looked like collapsing Figure 8's. A challenge to describe this motion!

Al Tobecksen (Richards Career Academy)
showed us it was relatively easy to hold a spinning wheel by its axle. But try to change the direction of its axle and it gets hard to do; it resists that change. It Is a gyroscope. When attached to a rope and not spinning, it behaves like an ordinary pendulum when given a push. But when spinning, it responds to a push with an erratic motion. When placed on the floor while spinning, it behave like an ordinary top. Suspend it from its horizontal axle when it in spinning, and it moves in a horizontal circle (precession). And placed (spinning) on the table, it maintains its balance, like the top that it really amounts to. What marvelous things to behold! And to make your students curious to learn more!

Valvasti Williams (Perkins Bass School, band director)
showed us what looked like a small, portable piano keyboard. He showed us its circuitry: voltage regulator, oscillator, keyboard, pre-amplifier, audio amplifier. Val explained that music and science go hand-in-hand. One can explore science through music. The keyboard works through electricity (batteries). The voltage regulator converts house current to 12 volts. The oscillator produces voltages of various frequencies. The pre-amp filters out the bad and leaves the good. And the audio amp produces power to drive the speakers. The keyboard drives the oscillator. Having explained all this, Val ended by playing What a Wonderful World!" A Grande Finale!