Winter is a perfect time to teach lessons about heating and cooling. Even if your students are just learning basic scientific concepts, heating and cooling lessons are a fun way to make science engaging. Try this lesson activity to teach students about Arctic and Antarctic wildlife and and entropy.
- Teach studens basic concepts of heating and cooling by thinking about how energy is transferred from one object to another. Look at photos of animals in cold conditions, such as a polar bear in the Arctic, penguins in the Antarctic, and whales in frozen water. Ask students how these different animals stay warm. Polar bears have hollow fur that insulates them with air. Penguins create a warm layer with downy feathers and thick feathers. Whales (and most animals living in cold climates) have a thick layer of fat called blubber. All these strategies help them keep warmth around their bodies the way a jacket helps students keep a layer of warm air around their bodies.
- Have students look up the average temperatures for different areas where these three animals live and determine the coldest temperatures each animal might experience.
- Ask students which technique they think is the most effective—hollow fur, layers of feathers, or a layer of fat?
- Next, talk about what humans do to keep warm in cold temperatures and ask students for examples of what humans do. Some human techniques for staying warm are using clothing, using a heat source, or creating a wind-breaking structure.
- Tell students that they are going to travel to the Antarctic and need to prepare for the cold temperatures. Divide the class into teams and tell your students the object of the experiment is to keep one team member’s hand warm in a bucket of ice water. Set out supplies for teams to use, including bubble wrap (to represent hollow fur); feathers; shortening (for whale fat); fabrics like cotton, wool, and fleece; and plastic bags. Tell students that they need to keep the team member’s hand dry and at 50 degrees after two minutes of submersion in the ice water. They can use any and all the materials to create an insulating device for their team.
- Students will prepare their insulating contraptions and prepare the team member’s hand for the test. When all teams are ready, place a thermometer in the contraption with the team member’s hand.
- Place the team member’s hand in a bucket of ice water for two minutes and watch the thermometer. After two minutes, check the thermometer and write down the temperature on the board of each team. The team with the highest temperature wins.
- Have the winning team explain how they built their insulation and why they think it worked best.
Students will learn in this activity that different combinations of trapped air, fat, and fabrics work better than others and that insulation prevents the transfer of heat from the team member’s hand to the cold water. They’ll also get a good chance to practice problem solving and experimental design.
In the Netherlands, Saint Nicolas comes bearing gifts on December 5th, Sinterklaasavond, or Saint Nicolas’s Eve. December 6th is the feast of Saint Nicholas, the patron saint of children. Saint Nicolas arrives by steamboat from Spain with his helper Zwarte Piet. Saint Nicolas rides a white horse and there is a parade from the dock in Amsterdam to the Palace where Saint Nicolas asks the princes and princesses if they have behaved well through the year. If they’ve been good, the children of the royal family receive presents.
Children all over the Netherlands leave their shoes out the night before Saint Nicolas’s Eve and wake to find that he has left treats for them in exchange for hay or carrots for his horses. In addition to the Saint Nicolas traditions, families also give gifts to one another on Sinterklaasavond but the identity of the gift giver is a secret. The giver tries to surprise the receiver by using rhymes and riddles that often poke fun at the receiver. Small gifts can be wrapped in big boxes and clues might be left around the house for children to follow to find a sack of presents left by Saint Nicolas.
The Netherlands is probably the source of our Santa Claus, since Dutch settlers brought Sinterklaas with them to America. As you study Christmas Around the World, create a chart of gift bringers and their helpers. Some of the information you might choose to capture:
- the name of the gift bringer, such as Santa Claus
- the name of any helpers, such as Santa’s elves
- the animals, such as reindeer, that help or travel with the gift bringer
- where the gift bringer comes from — Santa Claus comes from the North Pole
- the method of transportation used
- whether the gift bringer is male or female
- when the gifts are brought
- where the gifts are placed
- what kids leave for the gift bringer — in the U.S., milk and cookies are often left for Santa
Once you’ve completed the chart, sort all the gift bringers into groups: you’ll find that the most common are some version of Saint Nicholas or Father Christmas, but there are many variations.
Christmas itself is a more quiet holiday in the Netherlands, and is known as Kerstfeest. Christmas in the Netherlands mainly revolves around food and family. On Christmas Eve families go to church and return home to a large feast in the early hours of the day, eating traditional Dutch Christmas foods, like kerststol. On Christmas morning, families might go to church again. On Christmas day, families enjoy sitting around the Christmas tree and telling stories to each other or catch up on missed sleep from the night before. December 26th is known as Second Christmas and many families dine out on this day and enjoy large, lavish meals together.
Some traditional Dutch foods include these:
- Kerststol, or Christmas fruit stolen
- Kerstkransjes, or Christmas wreath cookies
- Jan Hagel cookies
- Banketstaaf or banketletters, or almond paste filled pastry logs
- Speculaas, or spice cookies
- Oliebollen, or donuts
- Appelflappen, or apple fritters
Banketletter or letterbanket is the name for a special cookie made in the shape of letters. You can easily find recipes for this treat online, or you can make this simple version:
- Give students small amounts of refrigerated pie crust (the rolled type, not the type in pans) and marzipan (also available in rolls in grocery stores at Christmastime).
- Each student can roll the marzipan into a snake, wrap the pie crust around it, and form the first letter of his or her name. Get help from the kitchen to bake the letterbankets.
- Alternatively, use the Dutch tradition as inspiration for using clay to form letters. If you choose to use Model magic or another self-hardening clay, you can hang the letters on your class Christmas tree.
Twente, a region in east Holland, has another unique tradition for Christmas. Midwinter horns and ox horns are blown at different times, usually on Christmas Eve or every night as a call for residents to attend church after dusk during Advent until the Epiphany in early January. The horns have different sounds created by blowing the horns into wells or by blowing them into the air. Students can learn about how water changes instruments with our Water Drum Lesson Plan. Students can hear the midwinter horn being played here.
Fractals are fun — and they team up perfectly with a study of snow. To do this activity with your students, you first need to explain what a fractal is:
A fractal is a a curve or geometric figure, each part of which has the same statistical character as the whole. Fractals are useful in modeling structures (such as eroded coastlines or snowflakes) in which similar patterns recur at progressively smaller scales, and in describing partly random or chaotic phenomena such as crystal growth, fluid turbulence, and galaxy formation. – From Oxford Dictionaries
You can explain this definition to your students by asking them to look at a nearby body of water on a map. It probably looks pretty smooth. Ask them to imagine what the map of the body of water might look like if you only could measure with a yard stick. The edges would not be so smooth.What about a 12-inch ruler? The smaller the measuring tools, the more jagged the map would look. Since all the sides are the same length, this is a fractal.
Ask your students to draw an equilateral triangle on a piece of paper in pencil. Then ask them to divide each side of the triangle in to three equal parts and erase the middle section. Then ask them to draw two lines that are the same distance as the parts removed to create open triangles in the part that was removed. Ask them to do the same thing again. This is called a Koch snowflake.
Ask students what the shape is starting to look like. When they say it looks like a snowflake, share pictures of different snowflakes. You can use this Java applet to show students without asking them to draw the shapes themselves. Ask students to identify snowflakes as fractals or not so they understand what different fractal snowflakes might look like.
Show students different types of snowflakes and discuss whether they are fractals or not. Ask students whether the snowflakes are radially symmetrical or not and whether you can have a non-fractal be symmetrical. Are all fractals symmetrical?
Try these other fun, nerdy winter themed activities:
- Mystery of Christmas Cookies Science Experiment
- “Disaccharide J Tubes” or Candy Cane Experiment
- Chemistry of Cookies video
- Peanut Brittle Science
- Crystal Christmas Tree
- Microscopic Christmas Tree
- “Lather” printing wrapping paper and activity
- Silvered Ornaments Experiment
- Crystal Windows
Have you ever put a full bottle of your favorite beverage into the freezer just to cool it off — and then forgotten it there? If so, you’ve probably ended up with a broken bottle, and maybe a mess. It’s all about the hydrogen bonds. Your elementary students aren’t ready to contemplate hydrogen bonds, but they’ll be interested to learn about the behavior of ice. Activity 1 is good for young students, who can just be amazed. Go on to Activity 2 if your students are ready to think about the behavior of molecules.
Activity 1: Ice Expands
Fill a jar halfway with water and secure a lid on it. Mark the level of the water and ask students if they think it will go up, go down, or stay the same when it’s frozen. Put the jar in the freezer and check it the next day. The line will be lower than the level of ice. Ask students why they think that the level of water went up. Tell students you didn’t add anything to the jar. Nothing changed in the amount of water that was inside the jar so how come the level is higher?
Take another empty jar and put it into a tray. Add water to the jar until the jar overflows. Add a few ice cubes and show students that more water has come out of the jar so the level of the water is at the very top of the jar. As the ice melts, ask your students to look at the level of water in the jar—did it go down? Ask students what this means and why they think it changed.
Activity 2: Molecular Structure
Tell students that water is made up of one oxygen atom and two hydrogen atoms — that’s why H2O is another name for water.
Explain that molecules have positive or negative charges, just like magnets. Use classroom magnets with north and south poles marked to demonstrate how the sides which are the same repel one another, but the sides which are different attract.
Call on three students, one big student and two smaller students who are about the same size, and ask them to help you with the demonstration. Explain to students that the larger student is oxygen and has a double negative charge. Give the larger student a hat with a minus sign written on it and ask the student to wear the hat. Explain that the two smaller students have positive charges and give them each a hat with a positive sign on it.
Ask the oxygen student to hold hands with one hydrogen student and explain that the other hydrogen wants to join oxygen too but doesn’t want to hang out with the hydrogen because they’re alike in charge. Explain that because the hydrogens are small, they’re also similar to a double negative charge. Ask students how they can arrange the three atoms so that all three are as far apart as possible while still holding hands. Students should arrange the three example students into a V-shape. Explain that no matter what form water is in, liquid, solid, or gas, one water molecule will always stay in this shape.
Invite three more students to join in the example and give them each corresponding hats. Next, take the students through the different states of matter, starting with liquid. Tell the molecule students that they are a liquid and are able to move around each other’s groups, getting close to each other but slowly moving around. Remind students they must keep their V-shape. Now tell students you are turning up the heat and they now have more energy because it is warmer. Tell the molecule students that they need to move faster. They might bump into each other, even, because they are moving so quickly. Now tell students you are turning the heat down so it is getting very cold.
Ask the class how the two molecules must now arrange around each other, reminding them that opposite charges attract. Position the molecule students so one hydrogen is close to the other oxygen. Explain that now they are frozen and can only shake in place. Show students that the molecule students now take up a lot of space because of how they need to stand compared to the other temperatures.
Ask molecule students to go back to their seats and ask the group what they learned and compare it to what they saw happen in the first activity. Finish by letting all the students be molecules heating up and then cooling down. Crank up the music and shake off the cobwebs!
- Why Does Water Expand When It Freezes? video
- Why Does Ice Float? TedEd video and lesson (middle school or teacher background)
With Thanksgiving around the corner, it can be hard to keep your students’ attention. Kids are excited about visiting relatives, eating turkey, and having a long weekend with their families. Thanksgiving themed activities are a great way to keep up with the holiday excitement and still keep students’ attention on learning activities. This activity is appropriate for students who are learning basic subtraction and addition and who are working on fine motor skills.
Print out the Turkey MathWorksheet and cut out the turkeys and feathers. If students are able to cut out the shapes on their own, this is a good exercise in fine motor skills. Mix up the feathers for each worksheet and then ask students to match the corresponding equation to the right turkey. For instance, the feather that says “=1-0″ corresponds to the turkey numbered “1.” After matching the feathers to the right turkey, students can glue them to the back of the turkeys to give each turkey feathers.
Sequoyah, a Cherokee silversmith who was also known as George Gist (or perhaps Guist or Guess), developed the Cherokee syllabary and has become a hero not only to the Cherokee, but for all Americans. His image is on one of the doors of the Library of Congress, in the National Statuary Hall in the nation’s capitol, his name was proposed as the name of a state, and his likeness has been on a stamp.
Sequoyah’s childhood, birth year, and birthplace are difficult to pinpoint because of so many conflicting reports. Some say Sequoyah was born in a village in Tuskegee, Tennessee, but others claim Georgia or Alabama. While his birthplace isn’t known for sure, all historians agree that it was in that area of the country. Historians are also unsure about Sequoyah’s father. Some say he was a German trader named Nathaniel Gist (or some variation on that name), but there is general agreement that Sequoyah was a member of the Paint Clan in the Cherokee community. The most conclusive thing historians can say about Sequoyah is that he was born somewhere in the lower Appalachian region, between the years 1755 and 1775, and that his mother was Cherokee.
Historians also know that Sequoyah’s mother traded goods and that after her death, Sequoyah moved to Willis Valley in Alabama, where he married and became a silversmith. There are no known examples of his work identified today.
It is not known how Sequoyah first encountered the concept of writing. Some say he wanted to sign his work as other silversmiths did, and others say that he had seen other soldiers writing letters home when he served in the Civil War. Either way, Sequoyah recognized the power of the written word and was convinced that he could create written Cherokee himself.
Some say that the Cherokee community thought that writing was a form of witchcraft or that it was something imposed on the Cherokee by other cultures. Others claim that Cherokee had previously had a written form and that Sequoyah rediscovered it. Neither of these stories is supported by historical evidence.
Sequoyah spent a lot of time and effort working out how to write Cherokee and originally used logograms to represent whole words, but found they were too numerous and difficult to remember. Instead, he developed the Cherokee syllabary, which is based on syllable sounds.
Sequoyah taught his daughter Ah-yo-ka to read and write using his Cherokee syllabary. He convinced others that it worked by showing that he and his daughter could communicate without being near one another, through the writing. In 1821, the Cherokee government accepted the syllabary and it soon was used for newspapers and books. Some claim that by 1830, 90% of the Cherokee were literate. The General Council of the Eastern Cherokees voted to give Sequoyah a large silver medal as a mark of distinction and he is often depicted wearing the medal of honor. Sequoyah became a trusted leader in the Cherokee community and was sent to negotiate with other members of a Cherokee delegation for land for the Cherokee people. In 1839, Sequoyah was elected President of the Western Cherokees.
Sequoyah continued his work and began attempts to develop one universal written language for all Native American tribes to use. He started travels across the country to learn about other tribes. Accounts of the end of his life claim that all his works were washed away while camping out in a cave, waiting for others in his traveling party to return with horses after theirs were stolen. Sequoyah died in July or August of 1843.
Lesson Plan Activity
- Share the story of Sequoyah with students in your own words, acknowledging the varying stories and the uncertainty about the facts.
- Ask students why they think that the biography of Sequoyah is so filled with uncertainties. Elicit the idea that, since the Cherokee did not have a written language, information about people’s birth, parentage, and early life was not written down. Instead, it was shared as oral history.
- Ask students to retell the story of Sequoyah to one another in pairs.
- Ask students to then write down the story in their own words once they finish retelling the story.
- Choose a few students to read their biographies of Sequoyah and ask students how they are different. What parts do the stories include? Are there parts of the story left out? Has anyone added to the story?
- As a class, create sentence strips with sentences that describe events in the life of Sequoyah.
- Mix up the strips and place them on a table or other work space. Ask the students to put the story sentences in order chronologically.
- Discuss with students how writing down the story helped clarify it and made it easier to remember.
- Add the events to the class timeline.
Discuss any remaining questions and finish up with an individual writing assignment. Students can either copy out or begin with the sentence strips. Older students can research Sequoyah’s life, noting how many versions of the story can be found and how little evidence there is. You might like to complete the study with a brief video from Georgia Stories.
- Photos of Cherokee people during Sequoyah’s lifetime
- Why Sequoyah’s biographical information difficult to pinpoint from Oklahoma State University
- This lesson pairs well with a lesson about the Cherokee syllabary.
- Cherokee Heritage Center and FreshPlans Visits a Cherokee Village
- Cherokee Water Drums
- Sequoyah: The Cherokee Man Who Gave His People Writing
- Cherokee Voices: Early Accounts of Cherokee Life in the East (Real Voices, Real History Series)
- Cherokee Language and Dictionary
- Signs of Cherokee Culture: Sequoyah’s Syllabary in Eastern Cherokee Life
- Sequoyah and the Cherokee Alphabet