One more link, the one below discusses an honors level class that I taught a few years ago before I started posting about each class, but it has an outline of topics and labs that we covered.
I try to do at least one short science class each summer, and this time I decided to do a class on the science of climate change using Blair H. Lee’s book that came out in 2017. Her book, The Science of Climate Change: A Hands-On Course, is available as an ebook or a you can purchase a print version, you can also get it as a kit with the supplies you need for the activities.
I taught this over 4 classes (2 hours each), adding some of my own labs to help the kids understand some basic chemistry and left some of the activities in the book for them to do at home. The first class was about the Greenhouse Effect and we went over atoms and molecules and a little bit about the periodic table and scientific notation. I did the same activity I always do, where I give the students a blank ‘atom’ and have them write in the number of protons and neutrons in the nucleus and then color in the right number of electrons for each atom. Then we discussed how certain atoms prefer to bond with others because they want full shells. I had students do the box activity from the book, where you make a small box and calculate how many air molecules are in the box and then how many different green house gas molecules, such as carbon dioxide, methane and nitrous oxide are in your box. Even though each of the greenhouse gases are a very small percent of the atmosphere there are still a huge number of them in the box. Because we’re talking about BIG numbers we went into scientific notation a bit and did some practice problems using scientific notation.
I also had the students build all the molecules commonly found in air (listed on a table in the book) with the snatoms (shown below) and zometools that I have. This is where I found an error in Lee’s book, the author shows carbon dioxide and nitrous oxide as bent molecules like water and they are linear molecules so I corrected the table on p 14 with the correct shapes and printed out copies for my students. I also had the cards from the zometools which showed how to make the molecules.
I showed the following videos in class on the first day:
The second class started with the greenhouse effect experiment from the text. We took two beakers and put a thermometer in each one and covered one with plastic wrap to simulate a greenhouse. We placed both beakers in the sun and recorded the temperature over 30 minutes and discussed our results.
We then moved on to combustion, observed a candle burning and discussed the different things required for combustion to take place and the products formed. I have a few interactive notebook projects for chemistry that I’ve bought on teacherspayteachers.com so I had the students put together the one on combustion. I also burned a piece of Mg ribbon to show how different things can produce different amounts of light and heat, you can read more about it in a previous post.
The problem with greenhouse gases is they absorb sunlight and then emit infrared radiation (heat) back into the atmosphere. We looked at graphs of the concentration of the different molecules in the
atmosphere over the years and talked about how scientists can look at air bubbles trapped in ice core samples to determine what the atmosphere was like 10,000 years ago! To demonstrate
how different molecules can be identified by looking at the light they emit or absorb, I did the flame test demo where I placed different salts in a flame and students observed the different colors they produced.
We watched the following videos on day 3:
The text has a worksheet where students are to make a feedback loop for methane but instead of having them write in the steps, I grabbed some photos off the internet and had them glue each photo in the right spot. After that we did the activity from the book where you look up the weather for a particular date for that past 30 years and talked about the difference between weather (short term) and climate (long term). I dug out another interactive notebook activity, this one on the scientific method that came with a life science bundle from Getting Nerdy with Mel & Gerdy. I gave examples for the scientific method based on the video we watched on the methane bubbles in the ice. Lastly we did the carbon sink activity from the book where you drop antacid tablets in warm water and cold water and observe the behavior of the carbon dioxide bubbles. I was actually pretty surprised by how dramatic a difference there was. The tablet dissolved very quickly in the warm water so make sure the kids are watching as they drop them in.
On the fourth and last class day we looked at the pH of different household chemicals using red cabbage indicator. To make the indicator chop up a red cabbage and place in a big pot with water, boil 10 minutes and then let it cool. Strain out the leaves and you’re left with purple pH indicator. If its really dark you can dilute with more water. I did this the night before class. Below you can see the tubes filled with a variety of colors indicating acids (red/pink) to neutral (purple) to bases (green/yellow).
We did this lab because one of the other changes happening is that the oceans are becoming more acidic which is harmful to marine life.
Finally we did a few more interactive notebook activities for recycling and renewable energy. These were also from the life science bundle from Getting Nerdy with Mel and Gerdy, in the Ecology lessons.
I didn’t want to leave the class depressed with all the doom and gloom of climate change so I showed the following video on different ideas that some people have come up with to help with the problems.
I ran out of time to show them this one about different things we can do reduce our carbon footprint.
This was a fun class and I think I may do it again next year or offer it during the year as a short course. It makes for a nice way to introduce some basic chemistry, scientific method and scientific notation along with some current events/problems.
I went through my list of labs and made a list of all the things we used and thought about what a family could do if they were just doing physics on their own and didn’t want to spend a lot of money. My first thought is that everyone should buy the Optics Discovery kit, its the best $25 I ever spent. I’ve used the materials in that kit over and over and over again. It also comes with nice instructions for quick experiments. If you buy this kit you’l have optics well covered. A Snap Circuits or other electronics kit could be used for electricity, but if you’re kid isn’t that interested in electronics you can make do with a few batteries and flashlight bulbs for some simple circuits or use some apps/websites for virtual circuit labs. For mechanics you can do a lot with just an iPad and the Video Physics app, along with a ruler/meterstick and a ball, toy car or marble runs. Here’s a list of equipment that’s useful for a year of physics labs. I left off the more expensive items like the air track and Go Direct sensors that I use with my classes that aren’t necessary. I also left off some of the equipment for labs that I didn’t feel worked all that well or could be left out. Items that are bold are things that I feel are required for a minimum physics lab experience. I probably missed a few things but this list should at least give you an idea about what you need to do the physics labs discussed in my blog.
- iPad ($) & Video Physics App ($5) – Velocity, Falling Objects, Energy
- Spring scale $5 – Forces/ramps lab
- Slotted hooked weight set $14 or at HST, Energy , Friction, Pendulum
- meterstick $10
- pulley with table clamp $9 (if you have legos you might be able to build your own) – Friction
- string, ball, toy car (lego vehicle) or marble run
- board for a ramp – wood, white board, even a cookie sheet would do – Friction lab, Forces/ramp lab
- wooden blocks & sandpaper – Friction lab
- 60cc plastic syringe with cap $2.30 + mini marshmallows for Pressure demo
- empty soda cans – for crushing cans with air pressure.
- Hot Ice kit $30 – I got multiple uses out of this kit, 3 or 4 perhaps. Hot Ice demo.
- windbags $4 (for 4), Solar bag $17, or classroom kit for $50 – fun for a park day.
- extra long slinky $7 – Waves lab
- tuning fork $9 or at HST – and some kind of plastic tube for Resonance lab
- Optics Discovery Kit by OSA $25 – Color lab, Lenses
- laser pointer $15, LEDs & Laser lab, Light Lab
- acrylic lens & prism set $20 – Optics Lab, Light Lab
- flat mirror $2 – Optics Lab w/ruler, protractor, pin, small bit of clay/playdoh
- Snap Circuits Light kit (other any other snap circuits) $60
- magnet wire 28AWG $10 Electromagnetism Lab
- Neodymium disc magnets 0.5″, 2 pack $6.50 – Electromagnetism Lab
- fun fly stick $14 Electric fields lab (lettuce seeds, mineral oil and metal hanger)
- iron filings $7 or a smaller quantity at HST $2.40 – Magnet lab
- iron nail (hardward store if you don’t have one in garage) – Magnet Lab
- wire – Magnet Lab
- alligator clips , paper clips and batteries- Magnet Lab
- Static Electricity Study kit $12 HST – this is looks like a nice little kit with fur and rods if you don’t want to find the stuff yourself – though a balloon and your head would probably suffice.
- M&Ms or pennies for radioactive decay activity
- Spectroscope analysis kit $26 (this is a very cool kit and has enough chemicals that you can use it many times, like when studying Chemistry, or share with fellow homeschoolers). You can use a candle for your fire source if you don’t have a burner. – can be done as part of Seeing Color lab or when talking about atoms.
This class was taught in 2017-2018, most of the students were freshmen and we used How Things Work: The Physics of Everyday Life by Bloomfield. In the end I wasn’t that happy with the book but you could easily use another text with these lessons.
I made a rough list of items needed if you were to do these labs at home – it doesn’t include all the labs but covers the majority of them.
This is my 2nd time teaching a high school physics class for homeschoolers, many of the labs will be the same but I will continue to post after each class this year, even if its just to point to a previous post. We’re using “How Things Work: The Physics of Everyday Life” by Louis A. Bloomfield, which is an algebra based physics text. The majority of the students are freshmen.
Before class I recommended students watch the following videos (and observe the eclipse that occurred the day before class).
The Map of Physics which gives a nice overview of Physics.
A clever way to estimate enormous numbers by Michael Mitchell – which describes Fermi estimates.
And a Crash Course Chemistry video on Unit Conversion & Significant Figures.
I gave the students a handout on lab notebooks and lab reports and had them label the first page of their lab notebook as Table of Contents. Lab notebooks are the student’s proof of doing real scientific labs which is especially important for homeschool students.
The lab today was pretty much the same thing I did last time, estimating the length of a hallway, measuring it with their feet (not a ruler, but their actual feet) and then with a meter stick. Last time I had them use hand spans but this was a longer distance so I had them use their feet, heal to toe. We talked about the sources of error, out lying points (1 measurement was off by almost exactly a meter so they probably mis-counted), calculated the average of everyone’s measurements and made a histogram of the feet measurements. You can check out a more detailed description on the original post on metric units and measurements.
I also had them do some worksheets in class on scientific notation and significant figures. Next week we’l look at speed, velocity and acceleration, Chapter 1.1 in How Things Work.