Diffusion is a topic that is covered in biology (when we introduce cell membranes) and chemistry (particle movement and kinetic theory). I came across this "smelly balloons" activity on Flinn's website and thought it was such a fun way to introduce diffusion. In this activity, students will smell balloons that have different flavor extracts inside. Their task is to guess the scent and explain particle movement. How is the smell passing through the latex barrier? (Note: Prior to this activity you will need to make sure none of your students have latex allergies. Bust out those lab safety contracts they signed at the beginning of the year!)
For this activity you will need:
- Balloons (an assortment of colors is ideal)
- Eyedroppers or pipettes
- A variety Flavor extracts* or different odor substances
- String and tape (optional)
*Flinn's directions say to use a variety of flavor extracts. Flavor extracts can be pricey, so if you don't have very many at home you have some other options. You can use essential oils, perfume, or cooking spices. I used vanilla extract, lemon extract, eucalyptus oil, and cinnamon (mixed with a little bit of water to make a slurry).
Viewing stomata is a fun one-day lab during your photosynthesis or plant unit. The first time I had students do this lab, I got out razor blades (I know) and tried to have students cut off thin slices of the leaf. Needless to say it didn't work out terribly well. Here is a much easier (and safer!) method to view stomata.
You will need:
I generally show students up on the board what stomata look like because they are often confused as to what they are looking at. Since the slide is tape and not a wet mount, there will be air bubbles students need to ignore. I tell them to look for round mouth-like structures (see the image below).
It would be a fun extension activity to have students look at different leaf types and compare the size of the stomata.
If you would like a free powerpoint I created for this lesson, click here to download it. Enjoy!
Who doesn't love watching people get pranked? Now add science to the pranks and you have a great way to keep your students engaged. SciJinks is a new show on the Science Channel that uses science to perform practical jokes on people. Following the pranks they explain the science behind it, so it is great for your science classroom. You can see episodes by clicking here.
I made a worksheet to go along with the show if you choose to show it in your class! Click on the PDF below to download.
I had the pleasure of meeting Tamara Robertson, one of the hosts of the show, at a NASA social event (you can read about the NASA launch here). Her resume is impressive- ranging from chemical engineering to TV host. I was able to get her to answer some interview questions, so keep reading to learn more about her!
What is your scientific background and what made you interested in science?
I am a chemical & biomolecular engineer. I spent a little under a decade working in facility startup and designs as well as additive technology development for packaging.
I’ve always been good at math and science in school and liked machinery and building things but honestly never thought to pursue science. I had a teacher in college that took me aside and talked to me about engineering - at the time I thought only boys did that because I had only known one male engineer and that was Scottie from Star Trek. She helped broaden my view of the world and potential majors and that’s how I ended up in Engineering :)
Tell me a little bit about your job history- How did you end up with Mythbusters and Scijinks? Was TV something you always had an interest in?
Growing up in North Carolina I didn’t have cable as a kid but always enjoyed watching shows and movies on VHS with friends.
In college I got recruited to do commercial print modeling with a local agency and as someone that really enjoyed sci-fi and fantasy type books the idea of playing make believe sounded fun so I started pursuing acting. Doing commercials and acting in independent films helped me to overset the cost of living for college so it became a hobby of sorts while I was in school and an engineer. In engineering I was lucky that my degree allowed flexibility in career fields and industries so I got to take some really cool jobs. Some of the highlights were:
Why do you think SciJinks would be a great addition to the secondary science classroom?
Scijinks was a really fun program to be a part of because we got to utilize new emerging technology as well as some really cool old school tech to blow people’s minds with science! People often assume that science is just what is done in a lab or from a cubicle but really Science is all around us and there is such a vast number of specialties and career opportunities which I think Scijinks helps to elevate.
We also had a live audience of actual STEM students in the studio with us reviewing our field experiments which helped showcase the diversity and inclusion in these fields.
What is your favorite memory from filming the first season?
My favorite memory from the first season was probably when we utilized Hydrophobic coatings to create a “stain proof” jacket. I remember thinking - people are going to know what this is, it’s in so many materials - but in reality no one had ever seen it up close before so they all thought it was this type of magical formula! Getting to showcase to them close up how the technology enables fluids to bead up and repels them from the fabrics was really fun! Adding that to convincing them to throw an entire vat of spaghetti sauce at our “chef” and things just get hilarious!
Do you have a past teacher who was influential in your passion for science?
I had some really awesome teachers in school- especially in science!
In high school I still remember one professor Chip Howe. He dropped a piece of sulfuric acid on his shoe but didn’t realize where it had fallen so he continued demonstrating how the compound could burn through materials. About the time the sample on the table was breaking through the piece on his shoe had as well and he had quite a surprise!
In college at NC state I honestly had some of the most inspiring professors! Dr. Bullard was instrumental in keeping me driven and pushing through all the hard moments in school as well as graduating and trying to get work during a recession. Since she had been an engineer in life before teaching she was an amazing resource with regards to navigating the job market, building a portfolio and experience based resume while in college and was an amazing example of someone who had a career in STEM and a family and made it work.
What advice would you give to teen girls interested in STEM careers?
There’s so many pieces of advice I would give here - here are a few of many:
If people want to find you on social media, where can they look?
I can be found on all social media platforms under the handle @tlynnr85.
If you are like me, you love finding free, engaging lesson plans you can implement right away in your classroom. I want to introduce you to FoodSpan- 17 free lessons from the Johns Hopkins Center for a Livable Future that teach everything you need to know about the food system.
Why teach food curriculum?
Food is an integral part of our lives, yet the food system is hardly talked about in schools. Do your students ever take the time to think about where their food is coming from before they put it in their mouths? Do they consider the quality of life for animals within the system? Have they considered how marketing and advertising influences their food choices? Once you get your students thinking and talking about food, you will have them hooked.
I know what you are thinking... you have no time to squeeze more curriculum into your tight schedule. I get it. But take a minute to think about where you could weave in some food curriculum into your units. Are you already teaching any of the following topics?
Overview of Units
This free curriculum is broken down into 3 units consisting of 17 lesson plans. The lessons include multiple options and are easy to modify to fit your grade level and classroom needs. Unit 1 covers an introduction to the food system, unit 2 explores farmers, factories, and food chains, and unit 3 explores the human component- why we eat what we eat, global hunger, and food policy. Unit two is my personal favorite- I enjoy teaching about the farm to table process and letting students explore the food journey. There is an optional food citizen action project at the end of the units, great if you are implementing any PBL into your classroom this year.
Pros of the Curriculum
There are multiple reasons I like this curriculum. First, not only are there multiple activity options within each lesson, but they also include great extension activities such as watching documentaries. It is truly flexible curriculum. Second, the lessons also incorporate writing components- which is something that I know my students really need practice with. Lastly, there are points within the curriculum for students to share and discuss their ideas on social media. Our students live on social media already, so why not encourage them to share information they are learning about in the classroom?
Ready to dive in? Head to www.foodspanlearning.org and explore. I’d love to hear how you are weaving this into your current curriculum! Share in the comments, or use the hashtag #foodspan on social media!
(This is a sponsored blog post)