Threshold1n2While we were on vacation I asked the class to make a timeline of their own life, its one of the Big History Project’s activities (Activity 1.4).  So today we talked about the Thresholds of complexity that Big History stresses.  The first one being the Big Bang, we don’t really know what the Universe was like before the Big Bang, but its probably a safe assumption that it was more complex afterwards.  We can’t really talk about the ingredients or goldilocks conditions for the Big Bang either, so we move on to the 2nd Threshold – the first stars.  I asked kids what ingredients were needed to make stars  – H, He & gravity,  and we talked about the goldilocks conditions needed to form the stars – small variations in density which caused clumping, which then caused more clumping, etc.  Then we talked about the 3rd Threshold – Chemistry! the formation of heavier elements when the star started dying.  The students then had to come up with a threshold from their timeline/life – what event caused an increase in complexity in their life?  move to a new city?  stopped going to public school and started homeschooling? new sibling, new pet?  Started learning a musical instrument?  One student said getting their own iPad so we used that as an example.  It definitely increased the complexity of their life: new games to play, more ebooks to read, education apps, can surf the net and learn all kinds of things.  What ingredients were necessary to get the iPad? Money!  Parents willing to buy it, or let them buy it and an Apple Store where you can purchase it.  Goldilocks conditions:  have to be well behaved – parents aren’t buying you an iPad if you just broke the kitchen window, maybe its your birthday, or you finally saved enough.

sunspotsWe also did an activity on sunspots.  We actually looked at the sun during our last class and saw one small sunspot and talked about how they move a little each day because just like the earth, the sun rotates.  So today we looked at 4 pictures of the sun taken on different days and measured the longitude of a clump of sunspots and calculated how much it changed each day.  From that they figured that the sun takes about 26 earth days to rotate once.  This activity, The Sun’s Period of Rotation (G3) is from the Universe at Your Fingertips DVD and can also be found here.

The last activity we did today is also from the Universe at Your Fingertips DVD, How Old Are the Jewels of the Night? Measuring the Ages of Stars (G6), which can also be found here. In this activity the kids looked at a color image of a star cluster and used a legend (seen on the far right of the notebook) to determine clusterthe size and color of each star in a 4cm x 4cm square.  By plotting the size vs color on a graph they were able to determine whether the cluster was young, middle-aged, or old.  We also discussed how some of the stars they included in their plot may not actually be part of the cluster since they might be much closer to, or further away from us then the cluster.

Almost forgot, at the beginning of class we watched the Brainpop on latitude and longitude since we were going to be using those to record the location of the sunspots. We also watched the videos below about sunspots and the sun on youtube.