The Universe and More Super Ultimate Graphing Challenge

Position versus time, velocity versus time, acceleration versus time… these graphs confuse physics students!  Fortunately there’s the Super Ultimate Graphing Challenge from The Universe and More.

Screen Shot 2013-03-28 at 8.25.32 PMAs you can see, there are sliders to control initial position and initial velocity.  The goal is to set them so that the graph is created in the blue area.

It gets a little tougher when you have to use keyboard control!

Screen Shot 2013-03-28 at 8.35.10 PMAnd then changes in velocity!!

Screen Shot 2013-03-28 at 8.36.28 PMFound this too late to use this school year, but can’t wait to use it next year.  I think students will really enjoy it and it will help them relate the 1D motion to the 2D graph.


PhET Physics Simulations

From the University of Colorado at Boulder comes PhET Physics Simulations.

Here’s a screen shot from the Gravity Force Lab, which demonstrates the universal law of gravitation:

Screen Shot 2013-03-28 at 8.16.29 PMBy increases or decreasing the mass of the two objects or by changing the distance between them, the force on each object is updated.  My students struggled with recording the correct force.  Some would write 396 N and ignore the decimal places, so I’m careful to address that.

Each simulation has lesson plans and work sheets associated with it created by other teachers.  These are a mixed bag.  While some of the files provide a quick lesson or a good starting point, others are too advanced or upper level to be useful with my students.

Genetic Engineering #5: Genetically Modified Organisms (GMOs)

I thought genetically modified organisms (GMOs) would be engaging for my students since it has been in the news lately and I teach in a very rural area. Harvest of Fear from PBS and Nova has some great articles explaining what genetically modified foods are and explaining several viewpoints on the subject.

The video of “Harvest of Fear” is available on YouTube currently in 12 approximately 9 min segments if you wish to show parts.  The actual video on DVD isn’t available unfortunately.

Genetic Engineering #3: Gel Electrophoresis Virtual Lab

Thank goodness for Learn.Genetics!  It would be great to demonstrate gel electrophoresis for my students, but there are just so many variables that can go wrong, as well as time and money for materials and set up.  I use their Virtual Gel Electrophoresis instead.

Screen Shot 2013-03-28 at 1.32.44 PMAfter reading an overview, students go through the steps to create a DNA blue print.  After going through the virtual lab, students might find the article Can DNA Demand a Verdict? interesting to see how gel electrophoresis is used in forensics.

Genetic Engineering #2: GloFish

When I finally get an aquarium for my classroom, I hope to fill it with these nifty genetically engineered fish:

glofishThey’re called GloFish.  From the GloFish website:

GloFish® fluorescent fish were originally bred to help detect environmental pollutants. By adding a natural fluorescence gene to the fish, scientists hope to one day quickly and easily determine when a waterway is contaminated. The first step in developing a pollution-detecting fish was to create fish that would be fluorescent all the time. Scientists soon realized the public’s interest in sharing the benefits of this research, a process which lead to GloFish® fluorescent fish.

It would be pretty neat to have genetically modified organisms in the classroom during a unit on genetic engineering.  The GloFish website has lots of a great information on the science and ethics behind the fish, as well as where to buy them.

The website also has tons of lesson plans for every grade level that explore many different science concepts, which would make having these fish useful for several units.

Genetic Engineering #1: Mouse Cloning Activity

The University of Utah’s Learn.Genetics provides a great activity on the process of cloning that can be done online or hard copy.  I have done it both ways.  The hard copy version worked well with higher level students while lower level students struggled and took a lot of time.

The online “Click and Clone” version saves paper and walks students through the steps:

Screen Shot 2013-03-28 at 1.07.58 PMScreen Shot 2013-03-28 at 1.12.01 PMHere’s the PDF file of the hard copy.  The question sheet (page 16) could be adapted to accompany the online version: Lets Clone a Mouse