Anticipating the 2017 Solar Eclipse: Activities & Lessons for Middle School

On August 21, 2017, Oregon will be the first to see the total eclipse of the Sun. This much anticipated solar eclipse will be visible across much of the United States. I first learned of this rare occurrence a year ago and quickly made plans to be sure we would be in the path.

Solar Eclipse 2017We purchased tickets to attend OMSI’s Eclipse Party at the Salem Fairgrounds and attempted to make hotel reservations in the area to no avail. We have thereby fallen back on a backup plan – staying with family in Eugene and driving up. I fear, however, that the road will be so congested we won’t reach our destination.

Anticipating the 2017 solar eclipse, I am delighted to share with you a number of lessons and activities with which you can engage your middle school students.

About the Solar Eclipse

A total solar eclipse is when the moon moves right in front of the sun, covering it completely for a very short time. It darkens the whole sky, lets you look right at the sun, and shows you the beautiful corona that surrounds the sun. Stars come out, the horizon glows with a 360-degree sunset, the temperature drops, and day turns into night.

Only look at the sun when it is 100% covered. You must use special solar viewing glasses whenever the sun isn’t completely eclipsed or it may cause irreparable eye damage.

The umbra (fully shaded inner region of a shadow) will hit the shores of Oregon at 10:15:53 am PDT near the small town of Otter Rock. From the time the shadow first touches land, it will take only two minutes for the shadow to race eastward. As the eclipse passes over the state, cities will experience various lengths of totality based on their varying distances from the centerline. At the Oregon State Fairgrounds, we will be treated to one minute and 53 seconds of shadow at just after 10:17am.

The eclipse will continue across the United States where Illinois will experience the longest eclipse duration at two minutes and 41 seconds. South Carolina will be the last state to witness the eclipse and the final shadow will be over the Atlantic Ocean near the west coast of Africa. See a map of the full eclipse path.

Solar EclipseBring it Home – Solar Eclipse Resources

◉ NASA’s Eclipse 2017 guide and information by NOAA Portland 2017 Solar Eclipse

Solar Eclipse for Beginners: General information on the science of a solar eclipse

◉ NASA’s Scientific Visualization Studio Eclipse Gallery: Scientifically accurate visualizations of solar eclipses including position of the Earth, Moon, and Sun, and path of the Moon’s shadow from different perspectives.

Shadow and Substance: A simulation for Oregon showing where totality and partial phases can be viewed.

NASA Eclipse Simulation: Students discover relative relationships between the Sun, Earth, and Moon, and how the Moon can eclipse the Sun.

NASA Wavelength: A full spectrum of NASA resources for Earth and space science education.

Eclipse in a Different Light: A Sun-Earth Day page for educators presented by NASA.

◉ If you are a Scout, you won’t want to miss the opportunity to earn the BSA 2017 Solar Eclipse patch.

  • Cub Scouts: Discuss what a solar eclipse is with your leaders.
  • Boy Scouts and Varsity Scouts: Draw a diagram of the positions of the moon, earth, and sun to show how the solar eclipse occurs.
  • Venturers: Research Sir Arthur Stanley Eddington’s 1919 experiment and discuss how it confirmed Einstein’s theory of general relativity.

Past Eclipse Experiences

We have been fortunate to observe an eclipse in the past. In 2012, we enjoyed an eclipse near Red Bluff, California. An annular solar eclipse happens when the Moon covers the Sun’s center, leaving the Sun’s visible outer edges to form a “ring of fire” or annulus around the Moon. The characteristic ring of fire. The ring of fire marks the maximum stage of an annular solar eclipse.

There won’t be another total solar eclipse over the United States until 2024. After that, you must wait until 2045.

Nettie Stevens: The Genetics Pioneer Who Discovered Sex Chromosomes

At a time when women mostly married and stayed home, or were teachers or nurses if they wanted to work, Nettie Stevens became a research scientist and her discoveries changed genetics forever.

NettieStevensGeneticsPioneerOnce she graduated with her PhD in 1903, she and a colleague (Thomas Morgan) began a collaboration on the controversial and unresolved question of how sex is determined in the developing egg. Did external factors, like food and temperature, set the sex of an egg? Or was it something inherent to the egg itself? Or was sex inherited as a Mendelian trait?

She examined the yellow mealworm, Tenebrio melitor, and made a striking observation. She had observed that this species produced two classes of sperm: a type that carried ten large chromosomes, and a type that carried nine large and one small chromosome. Body cells in the females contained 20 large chromosomes while males carried 19 large and one small chromosome.

Stevens reasoned that when an egg is fertilized by a sperm that carries the small chromosome, the result is a male offspring. The presence of the small chromosome might be what decided the individual’s “maleness.”

She published her research in 1905 and it eventually evolved into the XY sex-determination system we know today: The father’s sperm, which can carry either X or Y chromosomes, determines the sex of the offspring. Before Stevens’ work, scientists thought that the mother or the environment determined if a child was born male or female.

Biography

Nettie StevensNettie Maria Stevens was one of the first American women to be recognized for her contribution to science. Yet she didn’t begin her career in genetics until later in life.

Stevens was born on July 7, 1861, in Cavendish, Vermont, to Ephraim and Julia Stevens. After the death of her mother, her father remarried and the family moved to Westford, Massachusetts.

Initially, Stevens taught high school and was a librarian for more than a decade. Her teaching duties included courses in physiology and zoology, as well as mathematics, Latin, and English. Her first career allowed her to save up for college; at the age of 35, she resigned from a high school teaching job in Massachusetts and traveled across the country to enroll at Stanford University in California.

At Stanford, she received her B.A. in 1899 and her M.A. in 1900. She also completed one year of graduate work in physiology under Professor Jenkins and histology and cytology under Professor McFarland.

Stevens continued her studies in cytology at Bryn Mawr College, where she obtained her Ph.D. Here, she was influenced by the work of Edmund Beecher Wilson and by that of his successor, Thomas Hunt Morgan. Her work documented processes that were not researched by Wilson and she used subjects that he later would adopt along with the results of her work.

At age 50 years, only 9 years after completing her Ph.D., Nettie Stevens died of breast cancer on May 4, 1912 in Baltimore, Maryland.

Bring it Home

▶︎ Dive into Genetics with a fun unit study

▶︎ Enjoy a slide show presentation on genetics

▶︎ Learn about the Father of Genetics: Gregor Mendel

▶︎ Try this Gummy Bear Genetics lab from The Science Teacher (a NSTA publication)

▶︎ Use pipecleaners and beads to show how genes and chromosomes are inherited in this Pipecleaner Babies lab.

▶︎ Use pennies to do this How Well Does a Punnet Square Predict the Actual Ratios? lab.

Science Milestones

Visit my Science Milestones page to learn more about scientists whose discoveries and advancements have made a significant difference in our lives or who have advanced our understanding of the world around us.

The bloggers of the iHomeschool Network have teamed up to create fun and original unit studies on fascinating people who were born in July.

 

Mandarin Resources for On-the-Go: “Miao Mi” App Now Available

My daughter is preparing to take the AP exam in Chinese Culture and Language in May. My son will follow her example a couple years later. I am thereby always searching for quality Mandarin resources that provide practice in her second language as well as keep her interest.

A few months ago, I shared a delightful Mandarin resource for families learning Chinese, Miao Mi Educational Programs, a subscription service available through Amazon Prime Video. It has provided a fun way to integrate Mandarin language into our home – even for my teens!

miao miI am happy to announce that Celestial Tiger Entertainment has also launched a Miao Mi app. Now parents can easily immerse their young children in Mandarin language-learning just by using their tablets – perfect for an on-the-go lifestyle like ours.

The Miao Mi app features award-winning shows and games that reinforce language learning. It provides access to more than 500 videos including “Star Babies” and “Pleasant Goat” – popular children’s programs in Asia.

Children and parents with no prior exposure to Mandarin can easily pick up the unique sounds of Chinese just as well as those from Chinese-speaking backgrounds. The programs on the Miao Mi app offer an immersive experience for children at different stages of Mandarin language learning.

“We created ‘Miao Mi’ to give parents a wide range of entertaining and educational programs and games to help give their pre-schoolers a head start learning this increasingly vital global language.” ~ Todd Miller, CEO of Celestial Tiger Entertainment

Available on the App Store and Google Play, the Miao Mi app is free to download, and $5.99 per month to subscribe. A 7-day free trial is available.

To download the “Miao Mi” app, visit the App Store for iOS.  “Miao Mi” is also available in the United States through Amazon Prime Video on Amazon Channels for $5.99 per month. A 7-day free trial is available. For more information, visit www.miaomi-tv.com.

The Puzzling Impact of Ernő Rubik

For the past eight months there has been a constant click heard in my home. At the dinner table, while driving in the car, and even late at night when I am beginning to drift off to sleep, I can hear the subtle sounds of my son cubing. Cubing has become one of his passion projects and he spends every waking moment with a puzzle in his hands.

The Puzzling Impact of Erno Rubik @EvaVarga.netI had given him a traditional Rubik’s Cube a few years ago for Christmas but once it was scrambled, it sat in the corner of his bookshelf collecting dust. That was until he stumbled upon a recommended video on his YouTube feed of Collin Burns’ 5.25 world record solve. That was all it took. He was hooked.

As it is always in his hand, he gains a lot of attention and notoriety. He is now recognized around our community as the fastest cuber. Kids and adults alike bring him cubes that they “messed up” for him to solve.

His best solve time for the 3×3 is presently 7.22 seconds. He averages 13.09. Yet the 3×3 is not the only puzzle he enjoys. He also competes in 2×2, 4×4, 5×5, Megaminx, Pyraminx, and Skewb.

The Puzzling Impact of Erno Rubik @EvaVarga.netBiography

Ernő Rubik was born during World War II in Budapest, Hungary on the 13th of July 1944. His father, Ernő Rubik Sr., was a flight engineer at the Esztergom aircraft factory and a highly respected engineer of gliders. His mother, Magdolna Szántó, was a poet.

While Rubik has stated in almost every interview that he got his inspiration from his father, he also considers university and the education it afforded him as the decisive event which shaped his life. From 1958 to 1962, Rubik specialised in sculpture at the Secondary School of Fine and Applied Arts and later attended the Budapest University of Technology where he became a member of the faculty upon graduation.

“Schools offered me the opportunity to acquire knowledge of subjects or rather crafts that need a lot of practice, persistence and diligence with the direction of a mentor.”

In the 1970s, Rubik was a professor of architecture at the Budapest College of Applied Arts. It was during this time that he invented the Rubik’s Cube. The cube was originally designed to help Mr. Rubik explain spatial relationship to a class that he taught at the time. He soon realized the potential of the cube and began to get the cube mass produced, applying for a patent in 1975.

It was quickly a huge success. The cube was originally called ‘Magic Cube’ but after some discussion the name was changed to what it is known for today, Rubik’s Cube. In an interview with CNN, Rubik stated;

Space always intrigued me, with its incredibly rich possibilities, space alteration by (architectural) objects, objects’ transformation in space (sculpture, design), movement in space and in time, their correlation, their repercussion on mankind, the relation between man and space, the object and time. I think the CUBE arose from this interest, from this search for expression and for this always more increased acuteness of these thoughts…

In the nearly forty years the cube has been around, over three hundred and fifty million copies have been produced. Yet, only about 1.25% of the people who have purchased the cube can actually solve it.

The Puzzling Impact of Erno Rubik @EvaVarga.netErnő Rubik witnessed his creation blow up around the world. The cube became the Toy of the Year twice in a row, and the first world championship for The Rubik’s Cube was in 1982. At this competition the first world record was set at 22.95 seconds. Nowadays that is what most cubers average.

Today, there are a variety of speed cubes available on the market. Each is designed to turn faster and more efficiently without the lockups or pops that speed cubers abhor. The current 3×3 record is 4.737 seconds held by a 19 year old from Australia, Feliks Zemdegs.

Bring it Home

Learn to solve the original 3×3 puzzle using online tutorials; there are many to choose from.

Challenge yourself to get faster or learn to solve another puzzle type.

Visit the World Cube Association and find a competition near you to see what it is all about.

Science Milestones

Visit my Science Milestones page to learn more about scientists whose discoveries and advancements have made a significant difference in our lives or who have advanced our understanding of the world around us.

The bloggers of the iHomeschool Network have teamed up to create fun and original unit studies on fascinating people who were born in July.

Science with Harry Potter: Alchemy, Astronomy, & Divination (Geology)

Science with Harry Potter: Alchemy @EvaVarga.net Alchemy 

Alchemy is an elective taught at Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry concerning the study of the four basic elements, as well as the study of the transmutation of substances. It is intimately connected with potion-making and chemistry but for purposes of clarity, this post will focus on transformation of rocks and minerals.

I’m particularly interested in Transfiguration, you know, turning something into something else, of course, it’s supposed to be very difficult.” —Hermione Granger regarding transformation

There are many myths and legends about the formation of the rocks of the Earth or about the rocks themselves. Every culture has its own beliefs about specific stones and those beliefs are often tied to that culture’s history, geography, and spiritual practices.

For this class students are required to become familiar with the many magical properties of common stones. Begin by writing the definitions for igneous, metamorphic, and sedimentary rock in a notebook. Include a detailed sketch of the rock cycle.

Additionally, create a two-page spread for each stone studied. Include the following information for each:

  1. photo or sketch
  2. list any historical or literary references to the gemstone
  3. describe the process by which it is formed
  4. list its magical properties

Some stones to consider are:

  • Agate
  • Quartz
  • Ruby
  • Opal
  • Flint
  • Moonstone
  • Jade
  • Obsidian

Put together a collection of rocks and minerals. Identify and label each as igneous, metamorphic, or sedimentary.

Take it Further

Learn to play Marbles, generally a Muggle game. Wizards play a variant known as Gobstones, where the enchanted marbles spit a putrid fluid into the face of the loser.

Science with Harry Potter: Potions @EvaVarga.net Astronomy & Divination

At Hogwart’s, Divination is an elective course that teaches methods of divining the future, or gathering insights into future events, through various rituals and tools. For the purposes of this course, we will focus on the ancient tools used by early navigators particularly in regards to the study of astronomy.

Generally out-of-bounds except for classes, the Astronomy Tower is the tallest tower at Hogwarts Castle. It is where students study the stars and planets through their telescopes with Professor Aurora Sinistra.

A Star chart is a written document used to represent the positions and movements of the stars, much like a map. Astronomers usually use these for research or study. An O.W.L. level wizard should be able of fill in a blank star chart based on some hours of sky gazing.

Similarly, a Moon chart is used to represent the position, movement and phases of the Moon. However, it is difficult to interpret and thus a Lunascope is often preferred.

Begin by researching the constellations common in your hemisphere and/or those referenced in the books.

Illustrate each cluster of stars in your notebook and make note of when the constellation was first discovered and how it was named. Include the names of the distinct stars (if possible).  Constellations to consider include:

  • Orion
  • Bartholomeus
  • Lupus
  • Leo
  • Ophiuchus
  • Canis Major
  • Scorpius

Create personal chart (also referred to as a birth chart) showing the relative positions of the planets at the time of an individual’s birth.

If possible, obtain a telescope with which you can observe the planets and distant stars.

Take it Further

Create a model of our solar system. Include the moons of Jupiter, Saturn, and other major planets.

Make an illustrated wall timeline of geologic time.

Draw maps of the earth at various times in history, showing movements of the tectonic plates. Include time periods that show Pangaea, Laurasia and Gondwanaland, and the modern arrangement of continents.

Illustrate the layers of the atmosphere in a poster. Label and describe each layer.

This post is part of a five-day hopscotch. Join me each day this week as we dive into each course.

Herbology (Botany)

Care of Magical Creatures (Zoology)

Potions (Chemistry)

Alchemy & Divination (Geology) – this post

Magical Motion (Physics)

Science with Harry Potter: Potions (Chemistry)

Potions have always been essential in magic. Stories of witches tell of brewing magical drinks that turn men into mindless animals, restore youth, and make the drinker invisible. Other potions caused false emotion to be created such as when Ron Weasley declares his Love Potion-induced feelings for Romilda Vane.

I don’t expect many of you to appreciate the subtle science and exact art that is potion-making… I can teach you how to bewitch the mind and ensnare the senses. I can tell you how to bottle fame, brew glory, and even put a stopper in death.” ~ Professor Severus Snape

First year students will learn many skills that will be important for potion making. Advanced students will apply these skills to the development of a Marauder’s map and wizard wands.

Science with Harry Potter: Potions @EvaVarga.netA wizard or witch who specializes in potion brewing is known as a potioneer or a potions master.

In this course, students are expected to keep a journal to record what has been done (including ingredients, procedures, spells, chants, etc) and reflect upon what was learned.

Print a periodic table of the elements and put it into your notebook. On the facing page sketch out elements 1-10, use color-coding for protons, neutrons, and electrons.

Potions

Knowledge of potions and charms is a powerful weapon against dark forces. Learn about ions, ionic and covalent bonds, and compounds. Write the definitions in your notebook.

Prepare each of the potions described below and record your observations. Illustrate as desired.

Potion 1: Goblin Slobber

Goblin slobber is a potion which is particularly effective against being followed through woods and caves. Just drip some goblin slobber on the path behind you and anything that is chasing you will be driven away.

  • One flask of water
  • ¼ measure instant goblin slobber(dehydrated)
  • 1 full measure Manticore milk
  • 1 full measure water
  • 3 drops goblin blood

Cauldron (mixing bowl will do if you have not yet received your cauldron)

1. Rehydrate the goblin slobber:Pour the instant goblin slobber into the flask of water. Stir briskly with wand to dissolve while chanting “soluloso aqualitem.” Repeat until fully dissolved.

2. Into the manticore milk pour the measure of water and the goblin blood and stir, repeating incantation.

3. The final step is to pour the two solutions into the cauldron and stir well chanting “goblinatum sloberosum.” You may need to adjust the quantities, so add them slowly.

Muggles will know these ingredients as: Instant goblin slobber= Borax. Manticore milk= Elmer’s glue. Goblin blood= green food coloring. flask=quart, measure=cup

Potion 2: Muggle Paper

This bright yellow potion gives you the ability to detect whether someone is muggle or magic.

  • 1 vial nettle nectar
  • 1/4 vial (approx) ground dragon scale
  • filter paper
  • Veritaserum

1. Put your filter paper into the cauldron.

2. Dissolve the ground dragon scale into the nettle nectar, shaking well to dissolve.

3. Pour over top of paper, allowing it to soak in well.

4. Remove paper from cauldron and hang to dry. Dust off any left over dragon scale.

5. Once paper is dry, dip right hand into Veritaserum (pour it into a bowl) and place directly onto paper with a slap.

6. Your true bloodline will be revealed!

Muggles will know these ingredients as: Nettle nectar= rubbing alcohol, ground dragon scale= turmeric, and veritaserum= baking soda and water solution.

Potion 3: Instant Ocean

This potion is very useful for creating a peaceful seaside vacation atmosphere in a small space. If made properly you can see the tiny waves and sea-foam inside the flask. This potion should be done in a place where messes are not a problem in case of sloppy magic by first year students. A calming charm may be needed in case of storms at sea.

  • Narrow-necked flask
  • 2 vials Midsummer Dewdrops
  • 1/2 dribble Kraken slime
  • 3-4 drops of Squeaking-Squid ink
  • 1 teaspoon Pulverized Narwhal Horn dissolved in ~2 tablespoons very warm water
  • Funnel
  • Large Cauldron

1. Stand flask in cauldron with funnel in top

2. Add 3-4 drops of squid ink to the Midsummer dew, shake well to mix

3. pour through the funnel into the flask

4. Add the Kraken slime to the mixture in the flask.

5. Pour the narwhal horn mixture into the bottle and remove the funnel.

Muggles will know these ingredients by their common names: hydrogen peroxide, dawn detergent (preferably green), blue food coloring, and yeast.

Marauder’s Map

In the film Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban, what first appears to be a blank piece of parchment becomes a magical Marauder’s Map. In this lesson, students create their own invisible inks, they learn what acids, bases and indicators are and how they can be used.

Begin by drawing a pH scale in your notebook. Use your “muggle” paper (created with Potion 2) to test a variety of substances around the house (vinegar, wine, lemon juice, baking soda, cola, bleach, ammonia, milk, etc). Make a table in your notebook showing your results. If you have litmus papers you can use them as well.

With your knowledge of acids and bases, create a map of your own using an ink you have devised.

Wizard Wands

Wands have been mentioned throughout time. Popular fantasy stories from a variety of origins have featured characters using wands. It could thereby be reasoned that Ollivander’s (makers of fine wands since 382 B.C.) had provided them.

To begin, learn about molecules and sketch several in your notebook (water, carbon dioxide, methane, glucose, etc.) Consider making models with gum drops or balls of clay and toothpicks.

There will be no foolish wand-waving or silly incantations in this class. ” ~ Professor Snape on Potions class

Explosive Enterprises is a line of fireworks sold at Weasleys’ Wizard Wheezes. This group of fireworks included the original Weasleys’ Wildfire Whiz-Bangs as well as a variety of new and creative pyrotechnic products created by Fred Weasley and his twin brother George.

This post is part of a five-day hopscotch. Join me each day this week as we dive into each course.

Herbology (Botany)

Care of Magical Creatures (Zoology)

Potions (Chemistry) – this post

Alchemy & Divination (Geology)

Magical Motion (Physics)