Science Milestones: A New Astronomy with Johannes Kepler

Each month, I like to share a post celebrating the accomplishments of a scientist whose discoveries and advancements have made a significant difference in our lives. To honor the work of these amazing people, I provide a little peak into their life and share an unschool-style learning guides or unit study to guide you and your children on a path of discovery.

This month, I chose to honor the Johannes Kepler, who lived in an era when there was no clear distinction between astronomy and astrology. There was, however, a strong division between astronomy (a branch of mathematics within the liberal arts) and physics (a branch of natural philosophy).

Science Milestones: A New Astronomy with Johannes Kepler @EvaVarga.netJohannes Kepler

In 1596, the German astronomer published his first important work on astronomy, Mysterium Cosmographicum (The Cosmographic Mystery). As well as defending the heliocentric model of the universe previously proposed by Copernicus in 1543.

Kepler explained the orbits of the known planets around the Sun in geometric terms in an attempt to unravel “God’s mysterious plan of the universe.” To do this, he dow upon the classical notion of the “harmony of the spheres” which he linked to the five Platonic solids – octahedron, icosahedron, dodecahedron, tetrahedron, and cube.

Science Milestones: A New Astronomy with Johannes Kepler @EvaVarga.net

The Platonic solids, when inscribed in spheres and nested inside one another in order, correspond to the orbits of the planets Mercury, Venus, Earth, Mars, Jupiter, and Saturn.

In 1619, he published Harmonices Mundi (The Harmony of the World) wherein he stated his third law of planetary motion. He described the relationship between a planet’s distance from the Sun and the time taken to orbit around it as well as the speed of the planet at any time in that orbit.

Biography

Science Milestones: Johannes KeplerKepler was born in the small town of Weil der Stadt in the Swabia region of Germany and moved to nearby Leonberg with his parents in 1576. His father was a mercenary soldier and his mother, the daughter of an innkeeper. Johannes was their first child.

When Johannes was just five, his father left home for the last time and is believed to have died in the war in the Netherlands. As a child, Kepler lived with his mother in his grandfather’s inn. He tells us that he used to help by serving in the inn.

Kepler’s early education was in a local school and then at a nearby seminary. Intending to be ordained he went on to enroll at the University of Tübingen, a bastion of Lutheran orthodoxy.

Throughout his life, Kepler was a profoundly religious man. All his writings contain numerous references to God, and he saw his work as a fulfilment of his Christian duty to understand the works of God.

At Tübingen Kepler was taught astronomy by one of the leading astronomers of the day, Michael Mästlin. The curriculum was of course, geocentric astronomy, in which all seven planets – Moon, Mercury, Venus, Sun, Mars, Jupiter and Saturn – moved around the Earth, their positions against the fixed stars being calculated by combining circular motions.

This system was more or less in accord with current Aristotelian notions of physics, though there were certain difficulties. However, it seems that on the whole astronomers were content to carry on calculating positions of planets and leave it to natural philosophers to worry about whether the mathematical models corresponded to physical mechanisms. Kepler did not take this attitude. His earliest published work, Mysterium Cosmographicum, proposed to consider the actual paths of the planets, not the circles used to construct them.

 “I am satisfied…to guard the gates of the temple in which Copernicus makes sacrifices at the high altar.” ~ Johannes Kepler

Kepler was one of the few pupils to whom Mästlin chose to teach more advanced astronomy by introducing them to the new, heliocentric cosmological system of Copernicus. Kepler seems to have accepted almost instantly that the Copernican system was physically true.

Soon after moving to Regensburg in 1630, he became seriously ill with fever and on November 15 he died.

Bring it Home

What are Kepler’s three laws of planetary motion? How were his ideas viewed by his contemporaries?

Learn more about star polyhedra, discovered by Kepler in 1619 and prominently featured in the architecture of European churches.

Build models of the five Platonic solids; consider The Finnish Craft of Himmeli or Paper Models of Polyhedra.

Research the epitaph inscribed on his gravestone (sadly swept away in the Thirty Years War):

I used to measure the heavens,
now I shall measure the shadows of the earth.
Although my soul was from heaven,
the shadow of my body lies here.

 

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.

Interested in learning about others who were born in the month of January? Hop over to Birthday Lessons in December to read posts by other iHomeschool Network bloggers.

The Engineering Feats of Alexandre-Gustave Eiffel

 

Each month, I like to share a post celebrating the accomplishments of a scientist whose discoveries and advancements have made a significant difference in our lives. To honor the work of these amazing people, I provide a little peak into their life and share an unschool-style learning guides or unit study to guide you and your children on a path of discovery.

This month, I chose to honor the Alexandre-Gustave Eiffel who is most recognized for creating the Eiffel Tower.

Science Milestones: The Engineering Feats of Alexandre-Gustave Eiffel @EvaVarga.netAlexandre-Gustave Eiffel

When the Statue of Liberty’s initial internal designer, Eugene Viollet-le-Duc, unexpectedly passed away in 1879, the Franco American Union and Auguste Bartholdi (the French sculptor who designed Lady Liberty) hired Alexandre-Gustave Eiffel as his replacement.

While Eiffel praised and retained Viollet-le-Duc’s plans for the sculpting and connection of the copper sheets (he would use Viollet-le-Duc’s repoussé technique and armature bars), he ultimately changed the initial plans for the interior design in favor of a modern approach. The Statue’s new internal structure would not rely on weight to support the copper skin but rather a flexible, skeletal system.

Eiffel designed a tall, central pylon (92 feet, or 28 meters) to be the primary support structure of the Statue’s interior. The pylon serves as the central attachment point for a lightweight truss work of complex asymmetrical girders which forms the Statue’s body. To connect the Statue’s copper skin to the pylon, flat metal bars are bolted at one end to the pylon and to the copper skin at the other end.

While the bars hold the Statue together, they also create flexible suspension (due to their malleability), acting like springs allowing the Statue to adjust and settle into the environment. This elasticity of Eiffel’s design is important because the Statue has to withstand winds from New York Harbor, temperature changes, and various other weather conditions.

Once his plans were approved, Eiffel supervised the Statue’s internal construction until its completion in late 1883. A few years later, Eiffel began his most famous project: the Eiffel Tower, which was completed for the Universal Exposition of 1889 (Exposition Universelle de 1889) in Paris. Eiffel died on December 27, 1923 in Paris, France.

Biography

A prominent French architect and structural engineer, Alexandre-Gustave Eiffel was born on December 15, 1832 in Dijon, France. Interested in construction at an early age, he attended the École Polytechnique and later the École Centrale des Arts et Manufactures (College of Art and Manufacturing) in Paris, graduating in 1855. Setting out on his career, Eiffel specialized in metal construction, most notably bridges. He worked on several over the next fewdecades, letting mathematics find ways to build lighter, stronger structures.

Science Milestones: EiffelIn his early work designing railway bridges, Eiffel relied on sophisticated mathematical designs renowned for their lightness, grace, and strength.

Eiffel is most famous for what would become known as the Eiffel Tower, which was begun in 1887 for the 1889 Universal Exposition in Paris. The tower is composed of 12,000 different components and 2,500,000 rivets, all designed and assembled to handle wind pressure.

The structure is a marvel in material economy, which Eiffel perfected in his years of building bridges—if it were melted down, the tower’s metal would only fill up its base about two and a half inches deep.

In his final years, Eiffel turned his interest to meteorology. He continued to study the subject at length until his death on December 27, 1923.

Bring it Home

There are a variety of ways in which you can expand upon your study of Eiffel. Consider some of the following suggestions to get you started.

🗼Learn more about his earlier engineering projects, including the Eiffel Tower in Paris.

🗽Explore the science behind the Statue of Liberty, Visiting the Statue of Liberty & Chemical Reactions.

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.

Interested in learning about others who were born in the month of January? Hop over to Birthday Lessons in December to read posts by other iHomeschool Network bloggers.

 

Top 10 { FREE } Online Courses to Learn Computer Programming

My son has a growing interest in computer programming and computer science. I have thereby scoured the internet in search of quality materials that are engaging and inexpensive.

free-computer-programming-classesComputer Science Education Week (December 5-11, 2016) is almost here. You’ll find a wealth of resources at Code.org®. Together with the resources listed below, you are guaranteed to have material and inspiration to teach computer science and programming all year-round.

This annual program is dedicated to inspiring K-12 students to take interest in computer science. Originally conceived by the Computing in the Core coalition, Code.org® organizes CSEdWeek as a grassroots campaign supported by 350 partners and 100,000 educators worldwide.

5 Free Computer Programming Courses for Kids

Microsoft and Mojang are announcing the all-new Minecraft Hour of Code Designer, a tutorial that lets students code their own Minecraft rules. This year, students can use code to control how animals and other Minecraft creatures behave—they can create a totally unique Minecraft experience, and then share it with friends or play it on their phones!

hourcode_minecraftA collaboration between Pixar Animation Studios and Khan Academy, Pixar in a Box is designed especially for students in middle and high school. This free course sponsored by Disney, is a series of video lessons, interactive exercises, and hands-on activities.The course materials enable students to discover how the academic concepts they learn in school enable Pixar filmmakers to create new worlds, animate unique characters, and tell stories through animation.

If you are planning an Hour of Code event, be sure to signup and and look through the variety of tutorials and resources available for your students!

Tickle is easy to learn, fun to use, yet powerful enough for university courses and research projects. Experience the magic of programming drones, robots, smart homes, and Arduino, all wirelessly. You can even create custom robots by adding Arduino-based sensors and motors.

With Scratch, you can create your own interactive games, stories, animations — and share them with your friends. Get started by animating your name, creating a holiday card, or making a pong game.

Codecademy is an interactive, student-guided introduction to the basics of CS through JavaScript that’s used by tens of millions of students around the world. With accompanying quizzes, slides, and a completed project for students at the end, this is a perfect computer programming course for high school students.

piper4Computer Programming Kits & Resources

Computer programming and coding are not the only areas of career opportunity in the field of computer science. Computer science is the study of the theory, experimentation, and engineering that form the basis for the design and use of computers.

Piper is a complete DIY kit that provides kids with the chance to not only build their first computer but also learn about electronics along the way. Best of all, the kit grows with them. Included is the popular Raspberry Pi computer that budding makers can use in a variety of other projects.

Another exciting option is a monthly subscription box from Creation Crate, designed to help youth learn about electronics. Surprisingly, this box isn’t just for kids – it’s suitable for anyone age 12+ who wants to learn or enhance their electronics and coding skills. It’s fun and definitely educational!

Learn to modify the Minecraft game with Youth Digital’s Mod Design 1, a year-long online course that teaches kids programming with Java. Kids learn to code their own Minecraft mod from start to finish and watch as the end result becomes a unique, shareable Minecraft mod that they built from scratch. This course is currently available at a steep discount through Educents

5 More Free Online Computer Programming Courses

TheNewBoston is arguably the single best resource for anyone who wants to become a Programmer. The tutorials in this channel cover a range of different programming topics including developing for android and Web design. Bucky Roberts is the guy who manages the channel and teaches the lessons using a teaching style best described as entertaining and simple. His coding tutorials are very easy for almost anyone of any age to grasp. This channel should be on your list for sure.

Derek Banas is a Youtube content creator who is very famous for his ” Programming language in a single video “series. Just as the title of that playlist implies, Banas explains the core concepts of a programming language in just one video. Among the content, you will find videos like Learn Java script in 30 Minutes and Learn the Ruby Programming Language in One Video. He explains a wide range of programming topics with content that includes thorough guides on PHP, along with MySQL and Java.

Ultimate Guide to Teaching with Minecraft @EvaVarga.net

Pre-teens love Minecraft. Learn how to engage them in multiple subject areas with this Ultimate Guide to Teaching with Minecraft.

Treehouse is a educational resource established with the mission of providing affordable education. Treehouse offers lessons on numerous topics including coding in C# and Python. The videos are delivered in a casual and a easy-to-understand style by a variety of presenters. The channel’s content also includes the Treehouse Show, which is a roundup of web development and programming news along with helpful tips and interviews.

Learncode.academy is a great source for anyone who wishes to learn Web designing. In this channel, you will be walked through topics like jQuery  and JavaScript in Stern’s efficient and thorough style. The channel’s trailer is one of his most popular videos and provides web development career advice. This video outlines the paths that you can take on your way to becoming a professional web developer along with the order in which you have to learn things.

The tutorials at ProgrammingKnowledge are specifically geared for new programmers and range from an Android tutorial for beginners to Python, Java, and C++. Among the resources is a C programming tutorial that is considered the best course in that language that you will find anywhere. The channel (along with ProgrammingKnowledge blog) are owned by Yogesh Patel. The sheer number of videos (over 1,000) that are geared towards beginners makes this one of the first channels that anyone who wants to get into coding should bookmark.

University Courses in Computer Science & Programming

Stanford’s CS 101 class taught by Nick Parlante teaches the essential ideas of computer science for a zero-prior-experience audience. Play and experiment with short bits of code to bring to life to the power and limitations of computers. CS101 also provides a general background on computers today: what is a computer, what is hardware, what is software, what is the internet.

Harvard College’s CS50x offers an introduction to the intellectual enterprises of computer science and the art of programming for majors and non-majors alike, with or without prior programming experience. Topics include abstraction, algorithms, data structures, encapsulation, resource management, security, software engineering, and web development. Languages include C, PHP, and JavaScript plus SQL, CSS, and HTML.

Setting the Mood for Programming with Creation Crate

My son has a growing interest in computers and programming. It was thereby no surprise when he recently shared that he wanted to hear the Boy Scout Programming Merit Badge, which debuted in 2013. We thereby reached out to the computer science teacher at the local high school and inquired if she would be willing to serve as his merit badge counselor.

There are several activities required of the scout to earn the Programming Merit Badge. Requirement number 5 requires scouts to choose three different programming languages and development environments. Then, write, debug, and demonstrate a functioning program in each to their counselor.

This post contains affiliate links.

creation-crate-programming

Programming with Creation Crate

The first project Jeffrey chose to undertake was coding in C++ with Creation Crate, a monthly subscription kit a monthly subscription box to help you learn about electronics.

Creation Crate is hosting a giveaway for a 1 year subscription to Creation Crate this month. The contest will run until the end of November 24. Enter to win!

The Creation Crate kit includes both the hardware of electronics and the programming aspect. Each monthly delivery comes in a sturdy box with all of the components wrapped carefully in bubble wrap. Because of the programming required, you will also need a computer or laptop to download and use the Arduino software. The intended age range is accurate, I would say, especially if kids have electronics-building experience (or a parent nearby). The projects start relatively simple and get harder as you go through the boxes.

creation-crate-bread-board

When the Creation Crate kit arrived, Geneva was also very intrigued. They thereby agreed to collaborate, dividing the work between themselves. Geneva carefully assembled the hardware, whereby Jeffrey focused on the coding. This was his first time programming any sort of electronics with actual software code, as opposed to just circuits, so it was both challenging and fun.

It wasn’t always easy, however. When Jeffrey ran into trouble with the code, it took several adults to overlook everything before we caught the errors in the code. He enjoyed the process so much he is interested in trying additional Arduino projects on his own.

creation-crate-arduino

This was a fantastic box and perfect for anyone who wants to tinker with Arduino projects but isn’t sure where to start. This box isn’t just for kids – it’s suitable for anyone age 12+ who wants to learn or enhance their electronics and coding skills.

With a longer term subscription the price lowers and shipping is free worldwide. EVERY BOX comes with an Uno R3, which is a $25 board. EVERY BOX. This is great as it means that you will not have to disassemble the projects you’ve previously completed.

Don’t forget, Creation Crate is hosting a giveaway for a 1 year subscription to Creation Crate this month. The contest will run until the end of November 24. Enter to win!

 

Piper is the Best STEM Kit Available: A Perfect Gift for Budding Programmers

Piper is one of the most exciting tech toys we have had the pleasure to experience. It combines everything my kids love about science, technology, engineering, and mathematics. Best of all, it also incorporates MINECRAFT!! As you know, my son loves this video game. It has spurred his interest in computer science and programming.

I gifted the kids with Piper for Christmas last year and highly recommend it for youth interested in gaming, electronics, and programming. My kiddos collaborated together through the entire process of building and coding. It has been a joy to watch.

PIPER: The Best STEM Kit Available @EvaVarga.net

This post contains affiliate links. Please read my disclosure for more information. 

The Piper Computer Kit teaches kids engineering and programming through Minecraft gameplay and physical building. Piper’s mission is to empower the inventors of tomorrow by giving them the tools to build creatively today.

What I love most about Piper is that the kids are involved in the construction at every level. The computer components are NOT assembled and thus the kit includes a large poster-size blue print outlining the step-by-step process by which to put the wooden box and hardware together.

My daughter loves to build things so the kids eagerly divided the tasks. She built the box and plugged in all the component pieces. My son got to do the coding.

PIPER: The Best STEM Kit Available @EvaVarga.net

Now, Piper has developed a Stanford endorsed curriculum which you can use to help your child fully understand the basics of electronics, programming, and computing. It is available as a free download.

Best of all, the Piper Computer Kit comes with a Raspberry Pi, a credit card-sized computer that plugs into your TV and a keyboard. This capable little computer can be used in electronics projects, and for many of the things that your desktop PC does, like spreadsheets, word processing, browsing the internet, and playing games.

It also plays high-definition video. Thus, after your kids have moved away from Minecraft, the hardware can be repurposed for more elaborate projects. The designers want to see it being used by kids all over the world to learn programming. With Piper and Minecraft – this is only the beginning. 

Piper Computer Kit

There are several purchasing options available. A single Piper Computer Kit is just $299, perfect for a homeschool setting (1-3 students) or as a station in your STEM workshop.

Alternatively, you can Rent-to-Own or try it out for just $49 per Piper, per month. It’s a low risk way of trying Piper because 100% of your rental cost may be applied to purchase.

Connect with Piper

Facebook
Twitter 
YouTube 

 

Develop Your Student’s Science Inquiry Skills with BirdSleuth

When we lived in California we had a tropical bird-of-paradise in our yard. While it was not a native flower, we could agree that it was extravagant. When we traveled to Peru, we enjoyed a nature walk at the Inkaterra Hotel in Machu Picchu where we observed over 100 different native orchid species in their natural habitat.

Tropical species provide an interesting point of discussion in the classroom, sparking questions such as: “Why are our local flowers different?” or “What characteristics do the wildflowers we find here in North America share with tropical species?” These questions offer a perfect springboard into science inquiry.

inquiry-skills-birdsleuthWhat is Science Inquiry?

When most people think of science class, they picture classrooms of students all engaged in the same canned activity, following a scripted set of procedures that lead to a predictable outcome. Inquiry based science education is much more. Inquiry science engages kids in inquiry-based science lessons provides them with a way to explore on their own. It removes the teacher as somebody who is providing them with information that they need to memorize. Instead, the kids are experiencing, discovering, and developing their inquiry skills as they go. That is what real scientists do.

Although inquiry based instruction has been written about for decades, it is not widely used in science classrooms. Open inquiry, in particular, is often thought to be difficult to use in the classroom. Perhaps one explanation for this is the perceived difficulty in moving students toward the development of experimental questions.

Scientific inquiry also refers to the activities through which students develop knowledge and understanding of scientific ideas, as well as an understanding of how scientists study the natural world.

Many home educators have experience in leading their children through guided nature studies and observations. Keeping a nature journal is a popular pastime amongst many.  When we take a group of kids outside, however, you will quickly observe that the majority of their questions are reference questions. Questions they can answer relatively easily with experience identifying and using reliable sources.

If your goal is for students to generate questions that inspire investigations, then you need to be able to guide learners into reframing their questions. The Integrating Inquiry for Educators: Developing Student Science Practices online course is a wonderful guide designed to help you – the educator – do just that.

integrating-science-inquiryScience Inquiry Skills for Educators

If you wish to go further with inquiry and citizen science, I strongly recommend Cornell University’s BirdSleuth online course Integrating Inquiry for Educators. They have designed this self-paced course to help educators explore the process of science inquiry and investigation, especially as inspired by outdoor observations and citizen-science participation.

I was provided free access to this course in exchange for an honest review. Having completed the course, I would gladly have paid three times the course fee of just $49. I was very happy with the design of the course as well as how the material was delivered. The course text (eBook option is FREE), videos, assigned NSTA reading materials, case studies, interactive quizzes, and the application assignments were all nicely balanced.

The online course both challenged and piqued my interest in science inquiry. I am now – more than before – looking forward to engaging my kids in a inquiry based science explorations in the years to come.

You can also elect to earn two optional Continuing Education Units (CEUs) if you successfully complete the course. All online materials will be available to you for six months following your enrollment.

Whether you choose to enroll or not, you can support student inquiry by taking the opportunity to download their free Investigating Evidence lessons which will guide you towards supporting scientific questions through citizen science. To accompany these lessons, they have also compiled an extensive list of resources including power points and videos.

Enroll Today

Publish Student Work

In addition to the course materials and other online resources, their annual publication BirdSleuth Investigator provides students with an opportunity to share their research. You will find rich pieces of work done by students in grades K-12 throughout the country. Written by and for students, is also beautifully illustrated by youth.

The goal with BirdSleuth Investigator is to encourage students to pursue their scientific interests through inquiry and investigation by showing them that their hard work can get published. They accept bird-related submissions from all students. Submissions can take the form of artwork, poetry, or scientific reports; anything that a student has truly put effort into has the potential to get published.

To share your students’ projects with us, submit them here. Students certainly feel rewarded for their hard work when they find their work in a published journal! Read the submission guidelines for more details.