<![CDATA[Bobcat Laboratories - Sci5 Blog]]>Fri, 29 Jan 2016 10:22:53 -0800Weebly<![CDATA[Lab Safety - It's everyone's responsibility]]>Thu, 06 Oct 2011 13:57:54 GMThttp://bobcat-labs.weebly.com/sci5-blog/lab-safety-its-everyones-responsibilitySince we will be starting our first major lab project on Wednesday, I reviewed the lab safety protocols that were originally identified by the students and the formalized by me.  In order to participate in lab activities a student must have his/her contract signed and on file in the lab (Room 514).  If the student chooses not to sign or abide by these safety guidelines which were created by all of the student scientists in Bobcat Labs, they will be doing other work that will teach them the same concepts without having the hands-on labs.  This would most often entail doing literature research and preparing reports.

I have attached a copy of the lab contract below or it can be accessed in the Science 5 Homework Assignments Page of this website or on the website's Home page. It is essential that students get their contracts completed and submitted before they begin the Mastodon Matrix research on Wednesday, 12 Oct 2011.
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<![CDATA[Mastodon Matrix Project]]>Thu, 06 Oct 2011 13:50:07 GMThttp://bobcat-labs.weebly.com/sci5-blog/mastodon-matrix-project1The Mastodon Matrix has arrived!!!!

“What is the mastodon matrix?” you ask with unrestrained inquisitiveness. “That sounds exciting!”
Well, let me tell you!  ------  Basically, it’s a bunch of dirt.

I know that was very anticlimactic. However, it is dirt that is 10,000 to 15,000 years old, gathered from an area immediately adjacent to mastodon remains…and we have 4 kilos (~8.8 lbs) of the stuff.

Our 5th- and 6th-grade scientists get to use it to learn about “science inquiry” – how and why we do science.  We will be searching through the matrix (the dirt) as part of an ongoing long-term research project to better understand Ice Age ecosystems being conducted by the Paleontological Research Institute (PRI) in Ithaca, New York.  PRI provides the materials and the protocols, BMS provides the enthusiastic curiosity and interest to actually sift through dirt looking for long-dead things and together we all expand our levels of understanding.

I am currently reviewing the protocols outlined by PRI and plan to have the students begin the research next week.  As it stands, this project will likely occupy 3 class periods for each group. That means we will be working through the processes and materials each day during 3rd and 4th periods from next Wednesday (12 Oct) through the following Thursday (20 Oct).

In this project we will be working with each of the DODEA STEM initiatives. We will be doing real-world scientific research, using technology to report our results and learn extra information, using our engineering design skills for creating and using specific lab equipment, and developing our math skills by sorting, counting, measuring, and tabulating data.

You are more than welcome to come down at any time to see what we are doing (or help in some way), if you are interested.  (I do request that no younger children come. I simply don’t have the means to keep my students on track with added distractions and all of the 5th and 6th graders will be taught how to handle this material in ways that minimize breakage and loss.) Please also keep in mind that I will limit the actual paleontological work to my 5th and 6th grade scientists. That will keep them focused on their tasks and help me keep things in order. We are all taking this very serious because PRI is counting on us to be accurate with our data collection, gentle with the materials, and mindful of the protocols that they have set in place – plus, we are required to send everything back to them when we are done.

So, if you are interested in watching or helping us search for real fossils from a real paleontological excavation, please let me know – or just pop on in to Bobcat Labs (BMS Room 514) during 3rd and 4th periods next week.
<![CDATA[Making a Science Notebook]]>Tue, 04 Oct 2011 17:12:51 GMThttp://bobcat-labs.weebly.com/sci5-blog/making-a-science-notebookScientists keep notes and records and ideas of the things that they have done or wonder about.  In most modern science labs these notes are likely kept on computers, hand-held devices, or websites.  However, in Bobcat Labs, we simply don't have the resources to provide that opportunity to our scientists.  Therefore, we do it the old fashioned way - we keep science notebooks.

There is no doubt in my mind that notebooks for science should be personalized to reflect the interests and abilities of each scientist.  However, in terms of correcting work that had been completed, I need to set some guidelines for what is expected to be included in a science notebook.  This post will help outline that information.

For the most part, a science notebook should have a scientists questions, ideas, drawings, and data for work that they do.  In Bobcat Labs, the scientists are encouraged to include all these aspects of a science notebook.  However, the format for some of the parts of a science notebook should follow the format outline provided in our most recent homework assignment.  Any of the formal experiments and activities that we do will be completed with the elements described in those examples. ]]>
<![CDATA[Mastodons and Elephants]]>Fri, 30 Sep 2011 13:27:10 GMThttp://bobcat-labs.weebly.com/sci5-blog/mastodons-and-elephantsIn preparation for our science inquiry activity involving the Mastodon Matrix Project, I have started working with the students in developing their understanding of Mastodons, the Pleistocene epoch in history, and some of the overall goals of the Mastodon Matrix Project.  One of those areas of understanding is trying to understand how mastodons existed and given their environment, how they might have behaved.  In class today, we reviewed the process of hypothesis building and what things go into a hypothesis (an "idea" and "the experience or previous information we have to support that idea").

Since elephants and mastodons are similar to one another, we hypothesized that some of their behaviors might be the same, also.  To help us possibly understand those behaviors a little better we watched a National Geographic video entitled: Reflections on Elephants.

I think it opened a few of our eyes to not only how mastodons existed but also to how modern elephants exist, as well  ]]>
<![CDATA[Mastodon Matrix Project]]>Fri, 30 Sep 2011 13:15:18 GMThttp://bobcat-labs.weebly.com/sci5-blog/mastodon-matrix-projectThe Mastodon Matrix will be here soon - or - at least, it will be here as soon as the Military Postal Service gets it to us.  When it arrives, I will be scheduling a series of days when we will be conducting our paleological dig. For those days, I will be sending out an invitation for parents to come in and watch, if they are interested and able to do so.  More information to come! ]]><![CDATA[Evidence vs. Data]]>Wed, 21 Sep 2011 06:02:55 GMThttp://bobcat-labs.weebly.com/sci5-blog/evidence-vs-data1<![CDATA[Evidence vs. Data]]>Wed, 21 Sep 2011 06:02:51 GMThttp://bobcat-labs.weebly.com/sci5-blog/evidence-vs-dataIn today's society of fast-paced crime series on television and high-tech action-filled mystery movies, people are exposed to a broad range of media where the words data and evidence are used interchangeably.  It is, therefore, not surprising to say that this could be confusing due to the misconception that data automatically tells us something important about an investigation. Today we spent our time learning the difference between data and evidence.

To sum up, all data is information. However, evidence is data that can support a claim made by a scientist. Put in another way, all evidence is data but not all data is evidence.

To facilitate this concept, we all participated in an activity called Murder Mystery (created by James Rudd - a former chemical education graduate student from Iowa State University.  I provided a scenario to the students entitled, Who Killed Mr. Xavier, and they were then to develop a solution to the crime. The scenario purposefully does not provide enough data for students to be able to support any claims that they make with evidence. However, the superb imagination and strong opinions of 5th graders did not let such a detail stop them from making claims.  Instead of using scientific data and reasoning, the students used their own imaginations to "create" evidence - which, as any good judge woudl tell you, really is not evidence.

We all had a good time listening to the creative explanations of what had happened to Mr. Xavier. However, due to the lack of information, we will never really know what happened. We can only speculate. ]]>
<![CDATA[Hypothesis, Theory, and the Scientific Method]]>Fri, 16 Sep 2011 17:02:11 GMThttp://bobcat-labs.weebly.com/sci5-blog/hypothesis-theory-and-the-scientific-methodToday was an interesting day in class.  We discussed our ideas of what the terms hypothesis, theory, and law mean in regards to how they are used in science.  We started with the word "theory." In everyday usage, it tends to mean an untested idea or opinion.  However, this can be very confusing in science because the word means exactly the opposite.  In science, a theory (e.g., Theory of Plate Tectonics, Atomic Theory, the General Theory of Relativity, or Heliocentrism) refers to a concept that is well supported through extensive and repeated study and testing.  Needless to say, we spent a great deal of our time discussing different scientific theories and how they have been supported by enough evidence to actually be categorized as a scientific theory.

There is a term for an untested idea or opinion, as well, that we spent a large portion of time learning.  That term is "hypothesis." A hypothesis needs has four important parts:
  1. A declarative statement must be made. (i.e., I think it will rain tomorrow...)
  2. Supporting evidence or prior knowledge/understanding. (i.e., ...because it rained today and yesterday.)
  3. Number 1 and Number 2 need to relate to one another. (e.g., it would sound ridiculous to say "I think it will rain tomorrow because I just clipped my dogs's toenails.)
  4. The hypothesis must be a statement with supporting evidence that can be tested through experimentation.

If a hypothesis is not false after being tested over and over and over again, then we as scientists come to accept it as being factual...it can become a "theory."

Finally, we spent a brief amount of time on Scientific Laws.  A scientific law is an attempt to describe the basic nature of the Universe. Some examples include Newton's Laws of Motion, Kepler's Laws of Planetary Motion, and the Laws of Thermodynamics. Although a hypothesis can become a theory, theories do not become laws. 

I realize that this may seem like some really heavy stuff for our 5th grade scientists.  However, they were all evry interested and following the concepts quite well.

A homework assignment was given for the weekend. It can be found here. ]]>
<![CDATA[Science and Science Inquiry]]>Wed, 14 Sep 2011 19:28:05 GMThttp://bobcat-labs.weebly.com/sci5-blog/science-and-science-inquiryToday we began the process of understanding science and science inquiry. Of course, I first needed to begin with discussing what an "inquiry" is.  I always think it is interesting that when a person asks what an inquiry is - the answer is what they are doing ((asking a question)). To help us understand science and science inquiry, we used a couple of videos from BMS's account with Discovery Education. In the videos, examples of some basic inquiries in science were shown. There was one where a girl tested if contact with air might be the cause of rapidly ripening of bananas. In the other video, four different types of scientists (a psychologist, a geneticist, a wildlife biologist, and a seismologist) were shown talking about and doing their work. What was most interesting, though was that even though their fields of specialization were very different from one another, they still all followed the same pattern for doing science:

  1. Ask a question.
  2. Form a hypothesis based on what is already known.
  3. Develop a way to investigate the hypothesis.
  4. Conduct the investigation.
  5. Collect data
  6. Analyze the data
  7. Form a conclusion based on the evidence.
  8. Communicate the findings.

The only thing that I personally would add to all of that is one more step: #10. Ask more questions.

Last year They Might Be Giants released a new album (Here Comes Science) filled with songs about science. Here is a video of Science is Real:
<![CDATA[Who is a Scientist?]]>Tue, 13 Sep 2011 13:39:45 GMThttp://bobcat-labs.weebly.com/sci5-blog/who-is-a-scientistWe spent the day discussing our ideas of who scientists are and what scientists do.  Every year I become a little more hopeful about how science is viewed by the 5th grade students.  Although the majority of students still imagine a scientist as being a middle-age white male who works in a chemistry lab, the proportion of students that come to school with drawings of women scientists, scientists of diverse heritages, and scientists who are working outside seems to increase each year.  Here are a few of the pictures from the classes. You will notice that in addition to chemists, there is a forensic anthropologist (a person who studies bodies to solve crimes), a viticulturalist (a person who studies grapes and wine), an entomologist (a person who studies insects), and a microbiological geneticist (a person who studies DNA and bacterial species genetics).  After our discussion, I am sure that each of the 5th-graders now envision a wide array of scientist possibilities.

Most importantly, I think that they all will now see themselves as scientists - which is true becasue the ask questions, seek answers, have discoveries, and formulate ideas about how the world works every single day. ]]>