Monday, May 12, 2014

Science Saves the Day!

We are at the point in the school year where we just want to be done. T is at a spot in just about every subject that he is at a good stopping point for the year. I'm not saying that he is finished because he is in the middle of the 3 year cycle (6-9) so there is plenty left for him to learn in lower elementary. He just happens to have finished several specific areas that I feel are a good stopping point. We only have three more weeks of school and two of those will be educational travel, not classroom work. Right now we are doing lots of reviewing, spelling, reading and fun projects.

Today, I was browsing pinterest for a fun project and came upon this fun chemistry activity called the Penny Battery. This particular activity is from Khan Academy (if you haven't heard of them, they offer lots of free online instruction in many different areas). The way it works, you look at the activity guide to determine what materials you need and the basics, then you watch videos showing you how to do it and what it means. I was very happy to find that we had everything we needed at home and it could be gathered in just a few minutes. That may not be the case for your home if you don't have family members who are into electronics.

For this activity, we collected 5 pennies (4 that were newer than 1982), a piece of cardboard cut into 4 small squares, water, salt, vinegar, sand paper, electrical tape and an LED.

We followed the instructions by sanding one side of the 4 post-1982 pennies so that the zinc core was completely exposed on one side. This allowed us to access the zinc on one side and the copper on the other side of each of the 4 pennies. The pre-1982 penny does not have a zinc core so it was only copper. The sanding took the most time, about 5 mins per penny (T did 3 of them while I was collecting the other materials).

Then we added salt to the water to make a saturated solution. To this we added a splash of vinegar to make it acidic. Then we soaked the cardboard squares while we finished sanding.

Once everything was ready, we stacked the pennies and the salt water soaked cardboard to make the battery. Each sanded penny was placed with zinc (silver color) facing up, then a soaked square was placed on top of it. Next, we placed one set on top of the other ending in the copper only penny. Each cell is made of zinc, salt water cardboard and copper in that order and there are 4 cells in this battery.

Once the battery was made, we added the LED, placing the longer wire on the top, copper penny. The light lit up. This was extra exciting for us because we didn't know which color LED we had. In the video they suggested red because it requires just under 2 volts (which is what this battery produces). We borrowed our LED from my husband's electronics stash while he was out of the house and nothing was labeled. It turned out that we had a yellow LED. When we looked it up, we found that yellow requires just slightly over 2 volts (which might be why it wasn't as bright as it could have been).

T was very excited about his LED lighting up and after we wrapped it with electrical tape, he proceeded to walk around the house using it as a flashlight in dark rooms.

The Khan Academy also has a video explaining how this reaction works. It was clear enough for my nearly 8 year old to understand. I drew a small diagram while I was explaining it to him. Please ignore my horrible handwriting, I am a scientist and we aren't known for our handwriting.

There is also a challenge in this activity to determine how to alter the battery to make a blue LED light up. A blue LED requires more voltage so that means more pennies. T quickly said that you would need 7 pennies, and then we watched the video. He was right, seven pennies lit up the blue LED. We didn't have a blue LED to test it out with but seeing it the video was good enough for him to cheer that he knew he was right LOL.

There is just something about Science that will peek interest and keep things going when we are just running out of steam. Thanks Khan Academy! (I am in no way affiliated with Khan Academy, I just really enjoyed using this site and thought Id pass it on. Also, you don't have to sign up for anything to use the site, it only asks you to create an account if you want to track your progress)

Wednesday, May 7, 2014

Cursive, Spelling, Fractions....Oh My!

We are in the school home stretch now that it is May. There are a few areas that T needs to work on before we stop for the summer.

Last year, T really struggled with his penmanship. It took him so long to write anything down and it was really hurting his ability to express himself in writing. In Montessori, we allow for phonetic spelling to give the child the ability to write down their thoughts without worry of spelling. I have allowed this phonetic spelling until now because it really helped him to grow in his writing ability and also his penmanship. Now that he is finishing his second year of elementary, I feel that he needs to start focusing on proper spelling an sentence structure in his writing. His penmanship has improved greatly, and we have decided to start cursive as well.

In his work with cursive, he has become interested in Calligraphy. He checked out a few books at the local library and we picked up a simple cartridge style Calligraphy pen for him at an office supply store. 1, 2, 3 Calligraphy by Eleanor Winters

Our classroom Language shelf got a small makeover to accommodate his new works. I removed the metal insets, which he doesn't need anymore. B hasn't started using them yet, and when she does, I'll need to put them on a lower shelf anyway. The grammar, sentence analysis box and cursive sandpaper letters on the left have been out for a while.

On the right, Montessori blue lined paper, on top of that is a sample of the cursive alphabet for him to use as a reference. On the left, a spelling workbook that we picked up at a used book store (used as a supplement) and under that, a Choose your Cursive Challenge worksheet.

On the left, I left out the metal inset paper and pencils because we are still using these for fraction work. Below them, Dictionary Research cards  , a Children's Dictionary and a Dictionary workbook.

Fractions are something T has worked with before, but we are working on advancing through addition and subtraction of fractions right now. He has been enjoying using his Wrap-Ups when he doesn't want to do a full lesson.

If you haven't used Wrap-ups before, you should give them a try. They have 10 plastic cards that you wrap a string around as you answer the problem. For fractions, it starts with the picture on the left and the corresponding fraction written on the right. They are self correcting too! Once the child finishes his work, he flips it over and there are lines on the back that show where the string should be when it is done correctly. As long as no lines show, they got all the answers correct.

T has also been using his Multiplication Wrap-Ups to get faster with his multiplication tables.

Today we had a little fun with fractions and graphing using M&Ms candy. We just took a regular size bag of M&Ms and poured them into a bowl. T sorted them by color and counted how many of each there were. He used graph paper to make a bar graph.

We then determined what fraction of the whole bag each color was. There were 23 pieces so we concluded that 23/23 = 1 whole.

T added all of the fractions together to determine that they do, in fact, equal 23/23. Then I gave him a few addition problems which he could do because they had a common denominator. After he did a few addition problems, he tried a subtraction problem. Then he wanted to eat some M&Ms so we took 23/23 - 2/23 and found it to equal 21/23. Once we got to think point, he "needed" to eat that candy so we talked about reducing until they were gone.