Day 65: Comet ISON

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Comet ISON (Astronomy.com article) will be at perihelion on Thanksgiving Day and pass within one solar diameter of the sun’s surface. Traveling at over 800,000 mph, it may not survive to then begin its trip out of our solar system. Unlike Halley’s Comet, ISON’s path is hyperbolic so this is a once and done deal. Again Stellarium rises to the occasion and allowed me to see if ISON is visible now. Unfortunately, it rise just ahead of the sun in our eastern sky and it is not dark enough to see it. If it does survive its close encounter, by mid to late-December it is circumpolar (great for locating¬† and viewing it). Its magnitude will be around +5. Binoculars will help, but I am holding out hope that it will be visible with the naked eye!

64: Sixth Grade Planetarium Visit

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This was the last of the SIX groups of sixth graders that visited the planetarium today. I managed to do SIX one hour presentations in a row. As one group departed, another arrived. They were fun. Typical 11 and 12 year olds. Full of questions and comments. They even laughed at my jokes! The sixth graders come to the HS as part of their unit on the solar system. We had fun trying to line up the planets in order using models and emphasized the real distances! We looked at the Summer Triangle and the Winter Triangle, a number of constellations and stars, the Milky Way, and even the Pleiades/Suburu.

Day 63: Molecular Whiteboarding

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Great activity that had students taking apart reactant molecules and putting them back together as products to reinforce the Law of Conservation of Mass. This is our stepping stone to balancing chemical reactions. I wanted it to be more than symbols on a piece of paper and I liked what I saw yesterday and decided to invent a new activity. Our principal encourages this and says once in a six day cycle he’d like to see us stretch a little (with the understanding that we may fall flat on our faces but with no risk comes no reward). Part of students’ grade was the photo I took of their work.

Day 62: Molecular Models

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IS II students worked with covalent bonds and the molecular models. It works well to have something to hold and talk about. Though not a perfect representation of covalent bonding, it does help them understand the geometry of some molecules. They also did Lewis dot diagrams of all of the molecules that they built. Tomorrow they’ll try to build models to show the combustion of methane and start to understand a balanced chemical reaction.

Day 59: Hunting the Elements

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Students in IS II are really enjoying the NOVA production. “Hunting the Elements” with David Pogue. It is long (nearly 2 hours) so we watch it in 25-30 minute segments every few days. We were streaming it from the PBS website but our school’s broadband was having issues so we bought it via Amazon for $1.99. Best purchase ever. The video captures their attention, and aids in their understanding of basic bonding and chemical reactions. I follow David Pogue on Twitter (@Pogue ) and he has been gracious enough to respond to a few of my inquiries. When he is ready for a group of teachers to help him with any of his ideas or productions, I’m in!

Day 58: Conservation of Mass

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IS I students placed Alka-Seltzer tablets in water and massed the reactants and then the products. They got to see production of a gas and feel the heat content change as well as evidence of a chemical reaction. Of course there was no a difference and I spent time helping them understand why there may have been a slight loss of mass (capping the bottle, placing the balloon on top). They got great results and wanted to try it with more water and more tablet to see if the balloon would inflate more. Love that.