Environmental Science: Acid Rain, Pollution Prevention, & Conservation Practices

What a joy teaching environmental science has been. Thus far, we’ve learned about the changes in environmental policy and how the Boy Scouts of America have contributed to environmental conservation practices. We have also learned about pollination, environmental changes, and threatened and endangered species.

Today, our focus shifts to acid rain, pollution prevention, and conservation practices we can engage in ourselves.

Each Sunday through the month of September, I will post a description of the activities I coordinated and the resources I used to teach the environmental science merit badge. Today’s post is the third in the series.

Pollution Prevention & Conservation Practices @EvaVarga.netWater Pollution – Oil Spill Activity

The Exxon Valdez oil spill occurred in Prince William Sound, Alaska, March 24, 1989, when an oil tanker bound for Long Beach, California, struck Prince William Sound’s Bligh Reef in the wee hours of ht morning and spilled over 10 million gallons of crude oil into the sea.

As the Scouts learned in the Environmental Science Timeline game we played the day prior, this disaster resulted in the International Maritime Organization introducing comprehensive marine pollution prevention rules through various conventions. We discussed this tragedy as I shared several photos and strategies that were used to clean up the oil.

We then engaged in an Oil Spill Experiment of our own. One Scout shared with us a video of an incredible new material – a foam material coated with oil-attracted silane molecules – that absorbs oil but not water. It was fascinating and extended our discussion.

Pollution Prevention & Conservation Practices @EvaVargaAir Pollution – Acid Rain Activity

Acid rain is a broad term that includes any form of precipitation (rain, snow, fog, hail, or even dust) with acidic components, such as sulfuric or nitric acid that fall to the ground from the atmosphere in wet or dry forms. With the aid of the visual above, we discussed the pathway by which precipitation becomes acidic.

While we didn’t undertake the lab outlined below due to time constraints, I encouraged each of the Scouts to set up the lab portion of the activity is to demonstrate the effects of acid rain on our environment.

Materials

  • Six Petri dishes (3 for the control, 3 for the acidic solution you choose to test)
  • Pipette
  • Large bell jar or similar item
  • Sulfuric acid or an alternative acidic solution (lactic acid – milk or a citric acid – lemon juice)
  • Two 2-liter soft drink containers
  • Four small pieces of marble or limestone
  • Small growing plant
  • Four small pieces of raw meat (fish or chicken)
  • Two green leaves
  • Small amount of soil

Procedure

Several days in advance, prepare Petri dishes with soil & stone, leaf, and raw meat (two dishes each). One set is to be the control to which distilled water is added. Add a solution of 50% sulfuric acid to the other set. Keep these in a location that is secure so they don’t accidentally get spilled.

Display the Petri dishes and show the class how the acid has affected soil/stone, plant, and animal materials compared to the items in plain water.  Together discuss what effects they think acid rain would have on the various aspects of their local ecosystem.

Set up the following long-term experiment:

  1. Place the potted plant under the bell jar and add a Petri dish or other small vessel of 10% sulfuric acid. Maintain plant normally including acid solution.
  2. Put about one inch of 10-15% sulfuric acid solution into one of the soft drink containers. Suspend a marble or limestone chip above the solution. Cap tightly.
  3. Duplicate (a) and (b) with water only as controls.
  4. Put a piece of raw meat in each of two Petri dishes; immerse one in water and cover, immerse the other in weak acid solution and cover. Note: these pieces of meat will
    deteriorate but the effect of the acid solution will become evident over a period of time.
reduce pollutionExcerpted from a slide show created by the Utah National Parks Council of the BSA

Pollution Prevention & Conservation

Lastly, we brainstormed a number of ways we could help to reduce pollution and conserve our natural resources. We filled the whiteboard with their ideas and discussed several in more depth.

Each Scout was then directed to choose two to put them into practice for the next couple of weeks. I asked that they keep track of their progress and to report back to me what they learned from the experience.


Join us next week for the final post in the series, whereupon I focus on an outdoor biodiversity study and an environmental impact statement.

Environmental Science: How Species Respond to Environmental Changes

Last week I shared with you three activities I shared with the Scouts. A timeline activity to introduce them to the historical events that have helped shape environmental policy in the United States, key terms bingo, and a fortune teller illustrating the metamorphosis of honey bees.

Today, my focus is on how organisms respond to changes in the environment and endangered species. These activities were selected to meet the requirements for #3a and 3e of the environmental science merit badge.

 Each Sunday through the month of September, I will post a description of the activities I coordinated and the resources I used to teach the environmental science merit badge. Today’s post is the second in the series.

Environmental Changes & How Species Respond @EvaVarga.netResponding to Environmental Changes

Ecologists do not only study organisms; they also study how organisms interact with other organisms and how they interact with the nonliving parts of their environments, like chemicals, nutrients, habitats, and so on.

The range and type of interactions that organisms can have with each other and with their environments are large and complex. Some ecologists focus on how individual organisms respond to their environment. Other ecologists are more interested in how organisms of the same species interact with each other in populations.

Still others spend their days examining how whole populations interact with other populations in a community. At the highest level, some ecologists focus on the big picture, studying the interactions between all of the living and nonliving elements in a given area, or ecosystem.

Natural Environmental Changes

Our environment is constantly changing. Natural disasters can cause drastic environmental changes and if severe enough, even mass extinctions. By examining previous natural disasters – earthquakes, tsunamis, hurricanes, and volcanoes to name just a few – and their environmental impacts we can learn what to expect in the future.

We opened our lesson with a discussion on the processes of erosion. The Scouts were asked to submit to me photographs of areas where they had observed erosion and to describe what elements contributed to the process. Here are a few of the photos they submitted:

Why Should We Care?

So, why should we care about ecology? For some communities changes to climate are causing longer droughts, more severe floods, and harsher environments. Let’s put it into perspective with just one case study made famous by John Steinbeck’s novel, Cannery Row.

Every year, more than 92 million tons of ocean life (like fish, aquatic plants, and so on) are “harvested” from around the world for human consumption. Billions of people rely on these harvests to sustain life – either for food directly or for their livelihood. A poor understanding of marine ecology can result in disaster.

One of the most well-known of these disasters occurred off of the coast of California in Monterey Bay in the mid-1950s. At the time, this bay was one of the most productive fisheries in the world, particularly sardines. However, before 1960, harvests had plummeted, and, by 1973, the last sardine cannery in Monterey closed its doors forever.

Unfortunately, the fishing industry had not applied common ecological sense in their decisions. Sardines were removed from the bay faster than they could reproduce, resulting in a population crash and the end of an economy.

How Do Caterpillars Respond to Stimuli?

Rainforest CaterpillarsBefore my children were born, I volunteered on an Earthwatch expedition to study Rainforest Caterpillars. It was one of the most memorable experiences of my life – particularly when I consider the impact it had on my classroom teaching strategies. While the focus of our study was on Parasitism in Caterpillars, what stands out to me about this experience was the real-time observations we were able to make in the field – recording how the caterpillars responded to mechanical stimuli.

Essentially, we would gently pet them with a small paint brush and then pinch them carefully with a pair of tweezers (enough to get a reaction but not to harm).  We would then record their behavior or reaction to the stimuli.

We did this to get a general idea of how the different species would defend themselves and observed a wide variety of behaviors including thrashing about, rearing up and attempting to bite the attacker (that would be us), as well as and most amusing, kicking frass at us.

If you have caterpillars in your local area, give this a try. How do your local species respond to the same stimuli described above?

How Do Aquatic Organisms Respond to Stimuli?

Materials

  • Living specimen of planktonic aquatic life
  • Droppers
  • Vinegar
  • Caffeinated and decaffeinated coffee
  • Sugar
  • Specimen pipettes
  • Compound micropscope
  • Salt crystals
  • Microscope slides and coverslips
  • Cotton fibers

Procedure

  1. Using a specimen pipette, remove a drop from the collected specimen.
  2. Place culture on the microscope slide and cover. Focus microscope to locate organism.
  3. After first observing normal activity, introduce artificial stimuli so the the response can be observed. Record behavior observations on a chart in a lab notebook.
  4. Prepare a new culture specimen if necessary; repeat steps 1-3.
  5. Carefully place a small salt crystal near some of the swimming organisms. Observe and record their response.
  6. Continue to add each stimuli, observing and recording the behavior each time.
  7. Observe movement. Are new structures visible on the organism? Has movement increased or decreased?

Alternatively, you might consider the Goldfish Lab I shared sometime ago.

Environmental Science Endangered SpeciesEnvironmental Changes & Endangered Species

In addition to the activities and discussion described above, Scouts were expected to write a 100 word (minimum) report an an endangered species of their choice. They were then asked to present what they had learned with the group. In this way, we would have a broader perspective and learn how environmental changes have effected a variety of species.


Join me next week as we explore topics related to pollution and acid rain.

Keeping Teens Challenged and Engaged with Video Presentations

Many teens dread giving a speech in front of their peers. They have difficulty capturing – and keeping – the attention of their audience. They struggle to structure and communicate their ideas successfully.

Integrating a variety of technology into your courses – whether it’s history, science, language arts, or a foreign language – will provide teens with a range of  multimedia and design tools. In doing so, teens are more engaged and thereby develop a range of skills related to production and video presentations. Best of all, they learn to communicate more clearly and more compellingly with their audience.

mysimpleshow video presentations

I was compensated for my time writing this review. All opinions expressed are true and completely our own. Please see my disclosure policy for more information.

Tips For Keeping Teens Engaged

Teens get bored easily – especially when instruction is delivered the same way or when asked to give yet another speech to demonstrate what they have learned. Keep teens engaged by designing lessons that include novelty, variety, and fun.

When teens use short and friendly video, they can awake interest for almost any topic. Creating explainer videos with mysimpleshow, for example, is easy and exciting, and it also trains users regarding the application of creative technology resources.

Focus student attention by incorporating demonstrations, role playing, hands-on activities, storytelling, and multimedia presentations to enhance instruction. Requesting students create explainer videos with mysimpleshow is a great means to structure content, provide guidance, and give an overview.

Did you know?

The great Roman orator, Cicero, recommended the use of images as part of memory training. He also used visuals, in the form of props, in his speeches. For this reason, he is considered one of Rome’s greatest orators and prose stylists.

Many teens love to socialize and do projects with their peers. Cooperative learning opportunities are highly effective in keeping students engaged and participating in lessons. With mysimpleshow, students can work in teams (either in small groups or with a partner) on video scripts and visualizations to aid in their collaboration skills.

Our Favorite Resource for Video Presentations

While there are many interactive presentation and slide show apps, mysimpleshow is our favorite resource for video presentations. It is the perfect medium your students need to make their project fun, engaging, and interesting.

mysimpleshow is an online tool that enables anyone to create concise and engaging explainer videos in just a few minutes. It is also a great option for teachers to create lessons and presentations with multimedia and interactive elements such as video, audio, and embedded assessments.

Writing the video script native to the mysimpleshow platform, enhances writing skills, as students need to use transition phrases and must only include the most relevant information to align with the storyline template’s character limits.

mysimpleshow video presentations

The screenshot visible above is excerpted from a video I put together for our Scout troop detailing the 2017 Total Solar Eclipse. On the left side, you can see two highlighted words – these are the words that are illustrated with graphics from the available gallery or images the user can upload.

I love that the user has the freedom to select the words to animate. As the slideshow plays, the selected image will appear as the narrator reads the highlighted word. The user will thereby need to make small adjustments to their script to assure the graphics appear in a timely manner – a great problem solving opportunity.

My daughter used mysimpleshow to create a fabulous explainer video for Ranger requirement #2g, “Make a presentation for your crew on communications equipment used in the outdoors with emphasis on how this equipment would help in a wilderness survival situation.”

 

She loved the flexibility of the program and looks forward to making another video to teach her Venturing Crew about Leave No Trace principles.

Environmental Science: Timeline, Key Terms, & Pollination

Have I told you how much I love Boy Scouts? My son first joined in February of 2016 and has since earned 21 merit badges – the most recent of which is Environmental Science.

As science – specifically environmental education and stewardship – is my passion, I offered to serve as the merit badge counselor and lead our troop through the merit badge requirements.

My goal was to complete everything in just a few days. We thereby met from 9am to noon for three consecutive days and it turned out to be just the right amount of time.

Over the course of this month, I will share with you the highlights of our exploration. Each Sunday through the month of September, I will post a description of the activities I coordinated and the resources I used to teach the environmental science conservation merit badge.

Timeline of Environmental Policy

There are affiliate links below which means I may receive a commission when products are purchased. See my disclosure policy for more details. 

Timeline of Environmental Science

I devised a game similar to Timeline – one of our favorite family games – to introduce the Scouts to the historical events and initiatives that have shaped environmental policy in the United States.

One of the best things I like about the original game is that cards can be combined with the decks of multiple Timeline games (Discoveries, Music & Cinema, Inventions, Historical Events, etc.)

How to Play

While the original game has 110 cards, my simplified version has just 28. Six boys attended the class so I distributed four cards to each. The remaining four cards I held out, using a couple to demonstrate how to play the game.

Each card depicts an image of a historical event related to environmental science and a short summary text. The year in which that event occurred is shown on the reverse side. Players take turns placing a card from their hand in a row on the table.

After placing the card, the player reveals the date on it. If the card was placed correctly with the date in chronological order with all other cards on the table, the card stays in place. Otherwise, the card is moved to the appropriate place on the timeline.

In the original game, the first player to get rid of all his cards by placing them correctly wins. However, since there are not many cards to begin with, emphasis is on familiarizing oneself with the material not on winning.

Download Your Own Copy

If you are interested in playing the version I created, you can download it here, Environmental Science Timeline. There are two cards on each sheet of paper. You will first need to cut the two cards apart. Then simply fold each card in half to conceal the date and begin play.

Environmental Science Timeline ActivityKey Terms in Environmental Science

To familiarize ourselves with environmental science vocabulary, I used a slide show to first introduce the terms. We then played a game of bingo whereupon I called out the definition and they had to find the matching term.

Creating the bingo cards was quick and easy. I simply entered the terms into the widget at myfreebingocards and followed the prompts.

Download Your Own Copy

If you are interested in playing the version I created, you can download and print your own set for Environmental Science Bingo here.

Environmental SciencePollination

The last topic we covered on the first day was pollination. As the boys are entering 7th and 8th grade, they already had a good understanding of the process of pollination before we began. I thereby didn’t spend much time on reviewing this. Instead, we first watched a video, The Lifecycle of a Queen Honey Bee.

With the information we had learned from the video, I guided the boys through the process of creating a fortune teller to illustrate the life-cycle of the honeybee (complete metamorphosis). As they worked on their illustrations, I read aloud from the Handbook of Nature Study in more depth as well as to share the differences between the queen, the workers, and the drones.


As they departed at the end of day one, the boys exclaimed that the activities I had planned were enjoyable and that the also learned something. I call that a success.

Join me again next week when I share the activities I devised to cover environmental science requirements #3a-f.

In the Path of Totality: The 2017 Eclipse

We had been planning to be in the path of totality for over a year, purchasing tickets to OMSI’s eclipse party at the state fairgrounds in Salem, Oregon in July of 2016. As the date approached, the media was inundated with warnings about traffic congestion, fuel shortages, and other issues related to the eclipse.

path of totality - solar eclipse Preparing for Totality

As we prepared for the event and stressed about logistics – wondering if we should change plans and camp in the Cascades [we would need to pick Geneva up on Friday evening after National Youth Leadership Training – (NYLT)], crash at my brother’s in Eugene, or return home and then drive up to Salem the morning of – we spent time learning more about eclipses.

We had previously seen an annular eclipse and the kids were curious how they differed. Best of all, their interest tied into the requirements necessary to earn the coveted BSA Eclipse patch:

  • Boy 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.

We had recently discovered mysimpleshow and it seemed like the perfect tool for this project. We thereby collaborated (learning how to use the program together) on an explainer video for the 2017 Total Solar Eclipse.

As

As this was our first multimedia presentation with mysimpleshow, we struggled with a few things (I can’t figure out why a few of the images appear in blue hues) but otherwise we LOVE it! We will definitely be using it again – I’ll be posting a complete review in September so check back. :)

Experiencing Totality

After learning more about the location of Geneva’s NYLT camp, we opted to return home Friday evening – we didn’t get home until nearly 1 a.m. She needed the time to decompress after camp however, so it was a wise decision.

We decided to drive up Sunday afternoon and thereby made arrangements to pitch our tent in a friend’s backyard (Thank you, Hannah!). Traffic was not bad on the way up and we arrived rested and excited for the next day.

path of totality - solar eclipse We grabbed a quick breakfast and made our way over the fairgrounds where the vibe was picking up as our morning coffees began to work their magic. We met up with friends who drove down from Portland and the festivities began.

We meandered the vendor booths and enjoyed the speakers in the amphitheater. The best part of the morning was simply catching up with our friends and taking in each moment – Geneva sketching and Jeffrey cubing.

I loved watching the crowd as the moon eclipsed the sun. Taiko drummers beat out a rhythm as totality approached and were silent during the 1 minute 53 seconds of duration. The crowd was awed and everyone mesmerized by the beauty of the natural event.

path of totality - solar eclipse

It was so fun to experience it with a large crowd – to stop even ever so briefly and not worry about politics or personal strife. Though many people began to depart after totality, we opted to stay.

We enjoyed a leisurely lunch at a nearby Chinese restaurant as we contemplated which route to take to return home. As I5 south was already congested with traffic (our GPS map showed it red for the entire length of the state), we chose to drive slightly westward and then proceed south on highway 99 through Monmouth and Corvallis. This turned out to be a wise choice. Though traffic was heavier than usual, we encountered congestion for only a short stretch between Corvallis and Monroe.

It has been several days now since the eclipse and we are still in awe. It was really incredible and we are so thankful we had the opportunity to experience a total solar eclipse in totality. The next eclipse visible in the United States will be 2024. We may consider making plans for this one as well.

 

 

Science and Technology Resources from the Homeschool Buyers Co-op

When it comes to high school, science is the one subject that puts fear into most homeschool parents. And technology progresses so fast, it’s hard to keep up. What’s a homeschool parent to do?

Dissections?! Balancing scientific equations?! Yikes!! 

Have no fear! Finding affordable, award winning, science and technology curriculum that aligns with your teaching style and comfort level need NOT be difficult.

science & technology resources

In fact, the Homeschool Buyers Co-op has an award-winning selection of excellent science and technology products, including core science curriculum and supplements, coding and programming courses, hands-on experiments, and much more.

I am being compensated for my time to write this advertorial post. There are affiliate links below which means I may receive a commission when products are purchased. The information being shared is provided for informational purposes.

Science & Technology Resources from Homeschool Buyers Co-op

Homeschool Buyers Co-op has an award-winning selection of science and technology products including core curriculum, supplemental and practice programs, and online streaming of quality documentaries. With the advantage of GroupBuys and special offers for homeschool curriculum, you’ll discover science and technology curriculum with a savings of up to 67% off.

I spent some time searching through the science and technology programs available at Homeschool Buyers Co-op and found five I wanted to highlight that you can use to teach high school science as well as a  favorite tech tool for you, the homeschool parent.

Science Resources

Discovery Education Techbook

discoveryedtextbookWith engaging videos, audio, numerous interactive activities, Discovery Education Techbook is an all-in-one resource designed to encourage to students to think like scientists.

Discovery Education Techbook is exclusive to Co-op members; a 1 year subscription for 1 student is just $55.

The award winning science techbook provides access to content for ALL subjects (Biology, Earth & Space, Chemistry, and Physics) taught in high school science. It utilizes the 5E model of instruction: engage, explore, explain, elaborate and evaluate.

The interactive curriculum integrates exclusive video, interactive text, digital explorations, and STEM resources.

science & technology resourcesHolt McDougal High School Science Textbooks

If digital is not your style, then be sure to check out Holt McDougal’s High School Science textbooks. Focused on making science relevant for students grades 9 thru 12, Holt McDougal engages students through intriguing questions and extensive examples showing science in action.

As a member of the Co-op, the high school science texts are available for just $89.14 each — a 25% discount!

In addition to the printed student textbook, you will also receive access to the online resources which include:

  • Interactive Online Student Edition and Teacher Edition
  • Reading, Vocabulary, and Concept Mapping Worksheets
  • Animated Biology, Virtual Investigations, Video-Based Inquiry, Smart Grapher, and Review Games
  • Interactive Reader
  • Open-Inquiry Labs, STEM Labs, Virtual Labs, and Video Labs
  • Printable Assessments
  • Teacher Resources

Discovery Education Streaming Plus

A subscription to Discovery Education Streaming Plus is the perfect complement to any science curriculum. It is like having the entire DVD selection of your local public library available to you from the convenience of your home – accessible at any time!

As a Co-op member you can get this award-winning service for 1 year for only $150 — a 60% savings!

With Discovery Education Streaming, you can take your students beyond the classroom walls and into some of the world’s most iconic locations for rich and immersive learning experiences. You’ll also receive membership to the Discovery Educator Network where you can connect with other passionate educators.

The subscription package includes exclusive Discovery programming such as Young Scientist ChallengeFrozen Planet, Into the Universe, and Mythbusters. You will also have access to hundreds of lesson plans, games, skill builders, and online interactive activities.

Ultimate Guide to Teaching with Minecraft @EvaVarga.netTechnology Resources

Programing with Youth Digital

Ultimate Guide to Teaching with Minecraft @EvaVarga.netIf your child is as passionate about Minecraft as my son, you won’t want to miss the GroupBuy savings from Youth Digital. These online programming courses for grades 3-8 gives students everything they need to create their own computer games, apps, animations, and more from start to finish.

As a Co-op member, a 1 year subscription to your choice of courses is currently just $149 — a savings of 40%.

Youth Digital provides several courses to choose from, here are just a few that were of interest to my son:

  • Mod Design 1: Create your own Mods for Minecraft while learning the fundamentals of Java
  • Server Design 1: Create your own custom Minecraft server and play with friends.
  • 3D Game Development 1: Learn the fundamentals of coding in C#.
  • 3D Animation 1: Make your own 3D animated movie.

JASON Learning Curriculum

JasonLearningAnother favorite science and technology resource available through the Homeschool Co-op is JASON Learning, a non-profit that connects students in grades K-12 to real science and exploration through innovative Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM) curricula.

As a Co-op member, enjoy a 1-year subscription to ALL of JASON’s curricular units for $79.99 — a 36% savings.

They offer an incredible array of teaching resources – including a LIVE interactive webcast series where students can pose questions to scientists and researchers engaged in science around the world!

Finding Our Groove with Homeschool Planet @EvaVarga.netHomeschool Planet Online Planner

Tech is not just for kids. Lesson planning, calculating grades, and oh – the transcripts! If you struggle to stay organized, you won’t want to miss the digital homeschool planner offered exclusively at Homeschool Buyer’s Co-op, The Homeschool Planet. It is the best digital planner available and sure to help keep everything together in one place.

Homeschool Planet costs $65 for a 1 year subscription or just $6.95/month.

New to Homeschool Buyers Co-op?  

Homeschool Buyers Co-op is the worlds’ largest buyers club for homeschooling families. That means that their purchasing power allows co-op members the ability to find the most affordable deals anywhere for homeschool curriculum.

  • It’s FREE to join, and you instantly get access to amazing homeschool curriculum deals.
  • They offer lots of free services and resources for homeschooling families. Even a homeschool ID card – how cool is that?!
  • The best deals on the best homeschool curriculum. I’ve purchased Cover Story, Mapping the World by Heart, and so much more through the co-op.