Inspiration from the Twitterverse

I was hoping to write more often in August, but a hand injury has put a crimp in my plans. Typing is slower than normal and a little painful, and so I have been weary of spending too much time on a keyboard. But it is now the middle of the month and my #MTBoSBlaugust posts have been few and far between, so here goes…

For today’s post I am going to share some of my favourite Twitter bookmarks from the last two weeks – the inspiring ideas that I have seen from the creative teachers in the Twitterverse. I won’t get through them all in one post and so I will revisit this another day. There doesn’t seem to be enough time to properly investigate and figure out how to use all of these ideas, but one can dream…..


There is so much to explore on the Transum website. I like the Starter of the Day, Maths on Display, and Fun Maths sections. However you may want to check out Transum’s Twitter post about their Back to School page:


Jake Miller shares so many tech tips, especially related to GoogleEdu. This was my favourite so far this month:


NASA Stem Engagement shares how to make a solar oven. I wanted to do this with my grade 7 students last year but ran out of time.


Gary Rubin shared the new EquatIO Activity Database. I can’t wait to find time to go through the activities!


Paul Andersen (Bozeman Science) shared the Teacher’s Guide to Scientific Inquiry. I really want to explore this site (oh, to find the time).


Everything Sarah Carter. Last week she shared the Mathonyms site, which I proceeded to then explore how different words would look in their math font.


And I think that my new favourite follow is Interesting Engineering. So much fun.


This doesn’t even begin to cover all of the amazing things I have read on Twitter over the last two weeks.

More to come.

Posted by Ilana Cyna, 0 comments

Charged Up with Static Electricity Centres

I know that this idea was not originally mine. I have searched online for the original owner but cannot find the source, so I apologize for not giving credit where it is due. I took the original source and reworked it for my purposes. This resource has seven centres for static electricity. I have an instruction sheet for each centre as well as a student booklet. My first unit in grade 6 was a science skills unit. In that unit we focus a lot on the scientific method, including how to properly write a problem and hypothesis and how to identify independent, dependent, and controlled variables. These centres do not include a section for the variables, but that can easily be added. You can access the documents here.

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And so it begins.

I have not written in over a week as I have been consumed with back to school preparation. Today was the first day of school and I am exhausted, but I wanted to take a few moments to highlight what I did with my classes.

This year I am teaching grades 6, 7, and 8 science (two classes each) and one grade 8 math class. Being the first day we had a modified schedule and I did not teach all of my classes.

After organizing lockers and reviewing essential and emergency routines, I had a few minutes left with my first class, a grade 7 science class. I decided to do Alicia Johal’s personality beakers. Over the weekend I had prepared one of my own to show as a sample. I intend to do this activity with each of my science classes at some point this week.

I did not teach a math lesson as the grade 8 class had an introduction to the MYP Community project during my time with them. I had one grade 8 science class today, and I did a few activities with them. First we did Dogs and Turnips. In this activity there are 23 words in an envelope and those 23 words can be formed into a sentence that describes a scenario. Without looking, students pick out five words and try to determine the scenario from those five words. They then pick five more words and decide if their original idea has changed. If so, they write their idea for the new scenario. They repeat this process with another five words, and then finally with the last 8 words. We compared what different groups had hypothesized and discussed similarities and differences. Next we did the Square Puzzle Challenge. Students were given five puzzle pieces, one of which is a square. First I asked them to show me a square in the easiest possible way. Most students quickly identified the square puzzle piece. Then I asked them to put the square puzzle piece aside and make a square with the remaining pieces. Most students were able to form the square fairly quickly and I allowed the others to “call a friend” for a hint. Finally I asked them to make a new square, this time incorporating the square puzzle piece. This one was much more difficult for them, and many more students needed hints. At the end we discussed the similarities and differences about both activities and we connected it to how ideas change as new information is presented in the science lab.

My last class of the day was a grade 6 science class. After spending some group circle time with them (I had never taught them before and needed to learn their names!) we did an activity called Order Up!. Sometime in the summer I came across three booklets of instant challenges, and this activity comes from Practice Set A. In this activity I prepared number cards from 1 to 6 and a variety of different colour squares that were cut from construction paper. To add more of a challenge, I used different shades of some of the colours (light blue, dark blue, light green, dark green, etc). These were set up behind a screen (I used about six privacy shields to make the screen). I put the students into groups and told them that they would have to find a way to communicate the order of four colours to the rest of the group, but without speaking. I gave them five minutes at the beginning to come up with a communication system for their group. One at a time, each group sent up a person to look at the order of the colours behind the screen. That person then had one minute to communicate the order to their team and have the team guess the colours. I had prepared 10 different colours and so I changed the colours between groups’ turns. Sometimes I changed all of the colours and sometimes I kept a few of the old ones, but in different positions, and mixed in some new ones. During this first round only two of the five groups were able to communicate all four colours in the correct order. Then I gave all groups another few minutes to revise their communication system and we repeated the activity, but this time I had them guess six colours instead of four and I gave all groups an additional twenty seconds. They were much more successful this time and they came up with some interesting and creative communication systems. They had even found a way to communicate light shades vs dark shades. We debriefed the activity and discussed its purpose (team building, problem solving, communication and language) before I dismissed them for the day.

All in all it was a great first day. I hope yours was, as well.


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Videos for Learning

Today I would like to share my favourite go-to sites for educational videos:


ASAP Science – Go here for the Periodic Table Song

Bozeman Science – Mainly science, one section on statistics and graphing

Crash Course – Science, engineering, history, and literature, also visit Crash Course Kids

Khan Academy – Anything and everything

Minute Physics – Great source of physics videos

Numberphile – Fun math based videos

PatrickJMT – Great compilation of math videos

Veritasium – Videos from many other sources on a range of topics



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Exploring Virtual Labs


As I prepare for the upcoming school year I have been searching for good virtual lab websites. Here is the best of what I have found:

PhET – Range of physics, biology, chemistry, earth science, and math simulations, search by content or by grade level, teacher notes and activities also available

Glencoe Virtual Labs – Range of life science, physical science, and earth science

ChemCollective – Virtual labs and scenario based learning

Learn Genetics – Small selection of virtual labs

hhmi Biointeractive – Small selection of virtual labs, many other resources on website

Molecular Workbench – Must download each lab

The Physics Classroom – Some good interactives

Earthquake Simulator

Prepmagic – Still trying to figure this one out…unsure if there is pricing involved

Go-Lab – Range of physics, chemistry, life Science, earth science, and math


The following sites have resources beyond virtual labs:

Annenberg Learner

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If You Build It…

Today I would like to share two online games that I love.

The first game is called Fantastic Contraption. It is an online physics building game with 47 levels. The aim is to build a contraption that will move a pink wheel into a goal area. In order to achieve your goal you can use various wheels, sticks, and water rods to build a contraption that will maneuver around the obstacles given.

The second game is called Launchball. This is another physics game with the aim of getting a ball to the goal zone. However, in this game you use fans, heat, water, and electromagnetic forces to move the ball around the obstacles.

Have fun playing!

Posted by Ilana Cyna in General Science, 0 comments

Power for One and All

I am always searching for good real world project ideas to incorporate into my science curriculum. One of the units I taught last year was electricity, and part of that unit involved teaching about the sources for generation of electricity. I wanted to create an assignment where the students had to analyze a city’s needs in order to determine the best renewable or non-renewable source to generate electricity. It was for grade 6, and so I did not want the city descriptions to be too complex. I began writing my ideas, and as I was researching I came across a website that had already done exactly what I wanted. The project is called “The Energy Sources Project”, and you can find the link to it here. Click on the project descriptions to read about five cities and their various needs.

I put my students into groups of 3-4 students and presented them with the city scenarios. I had put each scenario into a separate Google Drive folder and then shared the folder with all group members. On the original website there are specific questions provided for the students to answer, but I modified them for my own needs. The questions on the site gave environmental and economic questions, but I needed to adapt them to meet the requirements of the International Baccalaureate rubrics that we use at our school. In the Real World rubric the students need to discuss either environmental, political, social, cultural, moral, or ethical factors and so I wanted to expand the question set to allow for this. I left off moral and ethical questions as I thought they might be more difficult for this assignment, and they are not required to choose those factors. I gave guiding questions as this was the first unit in grade 6 and students were just beginning to use this rubric, and thus needed a place to start their research. Below you can see how I modified the assignment.



As members of the Harrisburg/Wallen/Oxford/Mayberry/Jasper Power Company, you must develop a plan to present to city members at the upcoming town meeting.  Read your assigned scenario, and then together with your group members decide which type of energy source would be best for the town. Things to consider when planning your presentation include:

Power Plant Selection

-What are possible energy sources that your power plant could utilize?

-Which is the best energy source for your power plant to utilize and why?

-How does the selected energy source work? How will it generate the power needed to provide electricity to your residents?

– What will be the location of the power plant within the city?



-Is your energy source renewable or nonrenewable?

-How will the power plant and its location affect the environment positively and/or negatively?

– Are there waste products produced? How will these affect the environment?

– Are there any benefits to using this form of energy?  Any risks?

-Are there other environmental issues to be considered?



-How much would it cost to construct a power plant that would supply enough energy for the city of your size?

-How is the city going to pay for the power plant (tax options, grants, etc.)?

-What other costs might be involved with the creation and upkeep of the power plant?

-Are there other cost issues to be considered?



-What government officials need to be consulted about the chosen energy source/power plant and its location?

-What government officials might be involved with ensuring the power plant is operating in a safe manner?

-Are there other political issues to be considered?



-How might the power plant and its location affect the residents of the city and their daily life?

-How might the power plant and its location affect visitors to the city?

-Are there any potential health issues related to the power plant and its operation?

-Are there any education issues for the residents related to the power plant and its operation?

-Are there other social or cultural issues to be considered?

Posted by Ilana Cyna in General Science, Grade 6 Science, 0 comments

Ready, Set, Laugh

I am getting lost on the internet.

As I prepare my lessons for next year I am constantly searching for new ideas and resources. Today’s search somehow led me to a term that I had not yet heard, Cartoon Science. My first exploration of that term took me to a website by the same name. The owner of this site, Matteo Farinella, believes that cartoons can provide visual narratives that can communicate scientific information and bridge gaps between the public and academic worlds. Visit his Visualization page to find a source of authors and publishers who are sharing comics, videos, animations, and other similar type resources.

I already had a few of my own favourite comic and cartoon creators bookmarked, but I was intrigued to discover what else was easily available. Below you will find my updated list of math and science cartoons and comic resources, aside from the one mentioned above. Most sites have search features to allow you to find the topic of your choice.

Sydney Harris Math and Science Cartoons (he has been one of my favourites for years)

Randy Glasbergen and the Glasbergen Cartoon Service


Foxtrot (search Comics by Tag)

Frank & Ernest

Chris Madden

Science and Ink

I also love Calvin and Hobbes, but Bill Watterson’s website does not contain all of his comic strips. However, you can find his work on Go Comics. Alternately you could search Go Comics for specific comics, cartoons, and themes.

How can you incorporate these in the classroom? It is important to recognize that most of these cartoons and comics are bound by copyright rules, and so you or your students cannot just download them for personal use. However, here are a few ideas of how to incorporate comics and cartoons in the classroom:

  • Have a website link prepared before class to show a comic or cartoon (perhaps it would already be open as students enter the room) and have students explain what they see, how it relates to their learning, and why it is funny
  • Have students look through samples and then generate their own comic or cartoon based on curriculum content – these student generated creations could then be displayed on class websites with the permission of the creator
  • Show the cartoon or comic without the tagline or script and have students generate their own
  • Only show the tagline and have students draw a cartoon that represents that tagline, then compare to the original cartoon

Finally, I came across an interesting journal article titled Use of Cartoons and Comics to Teach Algebra in Mathematics Classrooms by Tim Lam Toh that shows how cartoons and comics can be used with students.

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All About Weather….and then some…

I have been searching for some weather related videos, and I came across The Met Office, the UK’s national weather service. They have a whole section on their website devoted to learning about the weather. Here you can find information and videos on how weather works, weather phenomena, seasons, wind, precipitation, temperature, oceanic processes, clouds, and much more.

This inspired me to search for weather websites hosted by other governments. The US National Weather Service, known as the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) has a large website, but the Education Resource Collection seems the most relevant for what I need. There are a series of articles about various weather topics.

I then searched for Government of Canada resources. Unfortunately, I could not find anything comparable on weather as I found on the other sites. However, in my search I was led to Ingenium, formerly known as the Canada Science and Technology Museum. I immediately went to the educational programs section on the website, and found two areas of interest. The first was the Virtual Programs section. Here you can find 5 downloadable education guides (The Science of Sports, Weather Wise, Cycle-ology, Astronomy, and Driving the Future). The second was the Edukits section. Here you can find 5 kits that can be “rented” for a month (the $129 fee includes outbound shipping costs) and the topics include space, light, and energy.

Happy learning!

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Summer Learning – Part 3

I want my science classes to be hands-on, and so I am always looking for new ideas that enable students to build and use critical thinking skills. I came across Engineering is Elementary from the Museum of Science in Boston. There are many downloadable free units, but you have to provide some basic information (name, organization, contact information). There are three main areas to explore, The EiE Curriculum (grades 1-5), Engineering Adventures (grades 3-5), and Engineering Everywhere (grades 6-8). Clicking on any one of the banner titles will take you to its related page. The free downloadable units are not visible on each of the three main pages, but clicking on “Curriculum Units” on the top banner will lead you to the unit downloads. Each unit comes with an educator’s guide, a student notebook, and a related video. There are 40 units to explore throughout these three areas of the website, and it looks as if they are developing preschool materials, as well.

Enjoy the last few weeks of the summer.

Posted by admin in General Science, 0 comments