16th Symposium on Education

P1.7

The sea & sky connection in a high school physical science class

Ann Kelly, AMS/AERA, St. Louis, MO

You might think that just because you're teaching physical science to ninth graders, there's no place to incorporate anything about the topics of meteorology and oceanography. As I learned after twenty-eight years in elementary education, and in my first time teaching high school, this couldn't be further from the truth. The natural world of water has a perfect fit in the curriculum of a high school physical science class.

During our work with the states of matter we used water many times because of its ability to exist in all three forms: liquid, solid, and gas/vapor. Many of my students had never really done any kind of labwork in elementary school with water, so I had the perfect opportunity to let them explore this marvelous treasure. One of the labs I designed for them was called "When is a drop not a drop? When it turns into a puddle!" We used waxed paper for our work surface, then using an eye dropper each student placed one drop of water onto the waxed paper. Everyone then recorded in their data table a drawing and description to go along with what they observed. The lab continued with data for 5, 10, 20, 30, 40, and 50 drops. Even then they weren't finished because they had to keep counting and making observations until it puddled/flattened out. They kept checking the sideways view of their blobs of water and noticing that it still had that roundness to the edge. Eventually after about twenty minutes of adding drops and playing with the water blob(lifting one edge and carefully rolling the water around the wax paper, blowing on the water's surface to separate the blob, or then blowing against one blob until it rejoined with another), I let them stop, and we talked about their observations. Then we did the experiment again, but with skim milk. My students were quite surprised that it didn't act the way the water had. In fact, one of them even asked, "I wonder if it would be different if we used whole milk?" This activity became our introduction into the vocabulary terms of surface tension and cohesion.