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 Eclipse

Three Types of Eclipses

Solar eclipses occur during the new moon phase when the Moon moves between the Earth and the Sun and the three celestial bodies form a straight line, Earth-Moon-Sun. There are three kinds of solar eclipses, Annular, Partial, and Total. On even more rare occasions, a hybrid eclipse occurs when there is a combination of two.

Annular Eclipse

An annular eclipse occurs when the Moon covers the Sun’s center, yet the moon’s shadow doesn’t quite reach the Earth. The Sun’s visible outer edges thus form a “ring of fire” or annulus around the Moon. The ring of fire marks the maximum stage of an annular solar eclipse.

We have been fortunate to observe an eclipse in the past. In 2012, we enjoyed an annular eclipse near Red Bluff, California.

Partial Eclipse

A partial eclipse, which are visible to a greater number of people due to its wider path, occurs when the Moon comes between the Sun and the Earth, but they don’t align in a perfectly straight line and thus the Moon only partially covers the Sun’s disc. A Partial Eclipse can be seen on either side of the path of totality where the moon doesn’t completely cover the sun.

Total Eclipse

A total solar eclipse occurs when the Moon comes between the Sun and Earth and completely covers the face of the sun, letting the sun’s magnificent corona burst into view, and casts the darkest part of the shadow (the Umbra) on Earth. In this shadow, the Earth is almost as dark as night.

Check out the 2017 Solar Eclipse explainer video we created with mysimpleshow.

Hybrid Eclipse

A hybrid solar eclipse occurs when the eclipse changes from an annular eclipse to a total eclipse along the path of the moon as it rotates about the Earth.

Solar Eclipse 2017Bring 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.

Explore the Earth’s geometrical relation to the sun by calculating where the sun will be in the sky for any date or time given a particular location on Earth.

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

◉ In 1715, Edmond Halley published a map predicting the time and path of a coming solar eclipse.

◉ 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.

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 Milestones: The Heroine of Lyme Regis, Mary Anning

In my Facebook newsfeed recently, a memory popped up highlighting a field trip we took part in years ago when we first began our homeschool journey. Our visit to Paleo Lands Institute in Eastern Oregon is one of our fondest homeschool experiences. When we visit the Field Museum in Chicago last week, we reflected on this trip as we marveled at the many specimens they had on display – the most impressive, of course, was SUE (pictured below).

The unveiling of her 67-million-year-old skeleton at The Field Museum made global headlines in May of 2000. As the largest, best-preserved, and most complete Tyrannosaurus rex ever found, she is considered to be the most famous fossil ever found. She measures 40.5 feet long from snout to tail and 13 feet tall at the hip.

Interesting fact: While SUE is frequently referred to as a “she,” scientists don’t actually know her sex.

Virtually all parts of SUE’s skeleton are preserved in great detail—even the surface of her bones. Scientists can actually see where muscles, tendons, and ligaments once attached. Not only are most of the bones undistorted from fossilization, but cross-sections of the bones show that even the cellular structure inside remains intact.

w/ Sue at the Field Museum, Chicago

If SUE is the most famous fossil, who then is regarded as the most renowned fossilist the world ever knew?  The answer is Mary Anning.

Despite the fact that Mary Anning’s life has been made the subject of several books and articles, comparatively little is known about her life, and many people were unaware of her contributions to paleontology in its early days as a scientific discipline. How can this be, you ask?

Biography

Mary Anning by B. J. DonneMary Anning was born on the 21st of May 1799 to Richard and Mary Anning in Lyme Regis, Southwest England. Mary grew up in a prime location to lead a life of fossil collecting. The marine fossil beds in the cliffs in this area remain today a huge source of fossils from the Jurassic period.

Her findings contributed to important changes in scientific thinking about prehistoric life and the history of the Earth. At the age of 12, Mary Anning was to become one of the most famous popular palaeontologists, with her discovery of a complete Icthyosaur.

Interesting fact: Though she is now credited with the discovery, her brother had first found the specimen. Mary did find the majority of the remains and contribute significantly to the excavation work. Mary went on to find two more species of Ichtyosaur in her life.

In early 1821, Anning made her next big discovery with the finding of the first Plesiosaurus. She sent a drawing she made to the renowned George Curvier, who at first snubbed it as a fake. Upon further examination, he eventually reversed this statement finally giving Anning the respect she had deserved from the scientific community. This discovery is perhaps her most important find, from a scientific point of view.
Autograph letter concerning the discovery Wellcome L0022370
The majority of Mary’s finds ended up in museums and personal collections without credit being given to her as the discoverer of the fossils. There are many factors contributing to this error: the lack of appropriate documentation of her special skills, her social status, and more importantly, her gender. Many scientists of the day could not believe that a young woman from such a deprived background could posses the knowledge and skills that she seemed to display.

For example, in 1824, Lady Harriet Sivester, the widow of the former Recorder of the City of London, wrote in her diary after visiting Mary Anning:

“. . . the extraordinary thing in this young woman is that she has made herself so thoroughly acquainted with the science that the moment she finds any bones she knows to what tribe they belong. She fixes the bones on a frame with cement and then makes drawings and has them engraved. . . It is certainly a wonderful instance of divine favour – that this poor, ignorant girl should be so blessed, for by reading and application she has arrived to that degree of knowledge as to be in the habit of writing and talking with professors and other clever men on the subject, and they all acknowledge that she understands more of the science than anyone else in this kingdom.”

After her death on the 9th of March 1847, her unusual life story attracted the attention of scholars around the world. Her story was the inspiration for the 1908 tongue-twister “She sells seashells on the seashore” by Terry Sullivan and in 2010, one hundred and sixty-three years after her death, the Royal Society included Anning in a list of the ten British women who have most influenced the history of science.

Bring it Home

➤ For younger students, explore the fun games and activities at BBC’s Primary History Famous People: Mary Anning.

➤ Read the article, “Mary Anning: The Fossilist as Exegete” by Thomas W. Goodhue in Endeavour Magazine, March 2005 issue

➤ Build upon your child’s interest in fossils and geology in an in-depth Earth sciences curriculum study.

Geology Rocks➤ Visit a local geology club in your area and inquire about getting started in collecting.

➤ Discover Ice Age Fossils at La Brea Tar Pits in Los Angeles

 

Science MilestonesVisit 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 March to read posts by other iHomeschool Network bloggers.

Mythological Secrets of Greece: Nea & Palea Kameni

Nea Kameni is the eastern Mediterannean’s youngest volcanic landform, and today it is a protected natural monument and national geological park. Nea Kameni and the neighbouring small island Palea Kameni (the new and old burnt islands) have formed over the past two millennia by repeated eruptions of dacite lava and ash. The most recent eruption occurred in January 1950 when the volcano dropped lava within a range of 850 meters, and explosions lasted for three weeks.

“This year a small islet, hitherto unknown, made an appearance close to the island of Thera.” ~ Roman historian, Cassius Dio, 47 AD

Volcanic Nea Kameni @EvaVarga.netNea Kameni is visited daily by dozens of tourist boats. We were amongst them – enjoying an late afternoon cruise in a kaiki (traditionally, a small wooden trading vessel, brightly painted and rigged for sail) to the volcanic island within the flooded Santorini caldera.

This excursion can be bought in any hotel in Santorini, as it is very popular. Boats leave from the new harbor, Fira, and it takes about 20 minutes to travel to the volcano in the middle of the caldera.

Nea Kameni

Upon arrival, we hiked a gravel path to reach the top of the 130-meter-high volcanic crater. There is a small entrance fee to help pay for the upkeep and the monitoring systems.

The ascent to the rim of Nea Kameni requires walking up some unstable terrain, under Santorini’s trademark blazing sun. We were glad we wore comfortable sandals and protective gear to shield us from the hot rays. From here we had a magnificent view of Thira (Santorini) before returning to the kaiki along the same path.

Magma exists at depths of a few kilometers; it’s visible through hot springs and hot gases, giving Nea Kameni its trademark sulfuric aroma. The kids got a kick out of the fact that we hiked the rim of a volcano inside another volcano! 

Palea Kameni @EvaVarga.netPalea Kameni

After the hike, we sailed to the volcanic islet of Palea Kameni where we could enjoy a short swim to a protected bay along the shore. The water went from green to orange-brown and we all giggled when we began to feel the temperature change, the hot and cold perfectly showing the effect of the waters coming up from below within the volcano.

You could just feel the tension melt away after a unique afternoon swim in the heated waters of the thermal springs. Although it wasn’t hot enough to be dubbed a ‘hot spring’ we found the water temperature to be refreshing after our hike on nearby Nea Kameni. Yes, our clothes did get stained a little but we had been forewarned.

We closed the evening with a wonderful buffet dinner aboard the kaiki as we watched the sunset over the islands. It was spectacular conclusion to our holiday in Greece.

This is the first in a five-day hopscotch exploring the Mythological Secrets of Greece:

The Acropolis & Ancient Athens 

The Island of Mykonos

The Island of Delos

The Lost City and Paradise in Santorini

Nea & Palea Kameni  (this post)

Hopscotch-2017-67808

Find more homeschool related topics to explore at the iHomeschool Network’s Homeschool Hopscotch

Agriculture in the Classroom: Free Teaching Resources

As we become for technologically advanced and our urban cities grow, I believe it is increasingly important for our youth to have an understanding of where our food comes from – both historically and today.

Whether you live in Atlanta or rural Nebraska, in the mountains or along the coast, engaging students in real world experiences and developing an awareness of agricultural practices is not difficult. There are many free teaching resources available for educators of all ages.

By encouraging teachers to integrate agriculture into their classroom via authentic, core curriculum concepts, Agriculture in the Classroom partners have collaborated to cultivate an understanding and appreciation of the food and fiber system that we all rely on every day.

classroomagriculture

An agriculturally literate person is defined as “one who understands and can communicate the source and value of agriculture as it affects our quality of life.”

Take some time to explore the variety of resources available – I share a few of my favorites below. You can put together an entire semester course or pick and choose a few lessons to augment your current studies.

 

Plant & Animal Science

Agriculture has traditionally been defined by the production of plants and animals. Today, science and technology have added new areas of research, and investigation to the agriculture field.

agricultureExtension 4-H professionals have developed a wealth of curriculum materials and a variety of hands-on agriculturally based activities to promote agricultural literacy among young people. Much is available for free but some curriculum modules are available for purchase.

Soil Science

To help educate students about the important role soil nutrients play in feeding our world, the Nutrients for Life Foundation sends out a monthly newsletter that will provide you with new ideas and tips for teaching plant and soil science while providing creative activities to bring into your classroom. They have also developed numerous modules for elementary, middle and high school classrooms to provide STEM activities and lessons.

soilscienceSoil Science Reader :: A digital science journal specifically designed for grades 7-8 (graphics and photographs capture interest) introduces soil formation and soil horizons with a fun edible soil activity. Other topics include the nitrogen cycle, plant nutrition, and fertilizer basics featuring the 4R Nutrient Stewardship.

Soil Reader :: Written specifically 5th & 6th grade students, this 18-page digital journal features an interview with an agriculture engineer and features puzzles, quizzes, and visuals to enhance a teacher’s soil unit.

For complete curriculum, posters, games, flashcards, and much more – visit the Nutrients For Life webstore. Everything is FREE!!

Invasive Species

Hundreds of invasive plants and animals have become established across the country and are rapidly spreading each year. These invaders are negatively impacting our waters, our native plants and animals, our agriculture, our health, our economy, and our favorite recreational places.

Prevention is the most effective strategy in managing invasive species. To increase public awareness of invasive species issues and promote public participation in the fight against invasive species and their impacts on our natural resources, the California Department of Fish & Wildlife have developed curriculum and materials available free to schools and educators.invasivespecies

Stop the Invasion :: Students will learn about six different invasive species, the damage they cause, and how to stop their spread.

If you reside in California, you may also be interested in the community action week with events across the state and a youth art contest. Similar programs may exist in your state. Contact your local department of fish and wildlife or county extension agency to learn more.

Geology Rocks! Activities and resources to enhance your geology lessons

Geology is an earth science comprising the study of solid Earth, the rocks of which it is composed, and the processes by which they change. Often, it can also refer to the study of the solid features of any celestial body (such as the geology of our Moon or Jupiter).

The study of geology is not always easy. Admittedly, I have a hard time identifying rocks. I can generally determine to which of the three rock types the specimen my son finds on the shoreline belongs, but that is about the extent of my identification skill. It is a skill that certainly takes practice.

When teaching geology concepts, I generally focus on the processes of change like plate tectonics and erosion. I know I’m not alone so today, I share a variety of geology activities and resources that you can incorporate into your science curriculum.

Geology Rocks

Three types of rock:

Igneous rocks are formed when hot magma (melted rock) is rapidly cooled, either by hitting underground air pockets or by flowing from the mouth of a volcano as lava. Granite, obsidian, and pumice are all common examples of igneous rocks. Pumice is a very porous rock, because when the lava cooled, pockets of air were trapped inside. Because of all those air pockets, pumice can actually float!

Sedimentary rocks are formed by layers of sediment (dirt, rock particles, etc.) being mixed and compressed together for extended periods of time. Common examples of these rocks are limestone, sandstone, and shale. Sedimentary rocks often have lots of fossils in them because plants and animals get buried in the layers of sediment and turned into stone.

Metamorphic rocks are a combination of rock types, compressed together by high pressure and high heat. They usually have a more hard, grainy texture than the other two types. Schist, slate, and gneiss (pronounced like ‘nice’) are metamorphic rocks.

geology activities

Geology Activities

Science Milestones

My kids love history. I thereby incorporate history of science lessons throughout our science curriculum. Through biographies and non-fiction materials, students can learn about the work of geologists and the impact they have had on our world.

For example, Alfred Wegener is best known for his theory of continental drift. Yet his impact on our understanding of geology is so much more. He was he was also the first to describe the process by which most raindrops form.

Science Careers

Learning about careers in science is another avenue by which students can learn about the work of geologists. My kids recently visited a hydrogeology office and talked with the engineers, water resource specialists, and geologists.

Orienteering

Orienteering is a family of sports that requires navigational skills using a topographical map and compass to navigate from point to point in diverse and usually unfamiliar terrain.

Field Trips & Site Visits

One of the best ways to learn about geology is through field excursions, especially when accompanied by resource specialists. Often national parks provide ranger talks on the geology of the park.

North-Star-GeographyDuring our week in the Galapagos, our guides interpreted the geology of the archipelago on a daily basis. Seeing evidence of the geological processes we had read about in North Star Geography solidified our understanding volcanic change, erosion, succession, and plate tectonics.

Reach out to the resource specialists at local agencies like the Forest Service and National Association of Conservation Districts to see if they might be willing to guide you on a field experience.

geology resourcesGeology Resources

Local Clubs

Many local communities have geology clubs that provide an opportunity to connect people who love to share what they know with others. Often local clubs will have an annual show or display – perhaps at a community center or public library.

Our local club collaborates with the community college and interpretive center to offer a monthly lecture series. Topics in the past have included The Tortoise and the Hare: Slow vs. Fast Earthquakes and Parks and Plates: How Earth’s Dynamic Forces Shape our National Parks.

Their passion for mineralogy and geology is contagious. I highly recommend you take advantage of their expertise for your homeschool co-op.

If rock collecting is a hobby you enjoy, consider joining a local rock club. It is a great way to increase your knowledge and get more enjoyment from your hobby.

Curriculum

There is a wide variety of geology curriculum available, some specifically written with homeschoolers in mind. 2015 was the Year of Soils and the USDA provided a wealth of activities and lesson plans to engage students in soil ecology.

The Kansas 4-H Geology Leader Notebook is a comprehensive set of lesson plans for 4-H geology project leaders.

Our Dynamic Earth

For hands-on geology lessons, check out Our Dynamic Earth is a 10 week hands-on earth science curriculum unit study on the geology of our Earth incorporating scientific inquiry and language arts applications. Available today!