Van de Graaff Pie Cases

There is no need to fear the Van de Graaff generator (although advice from CLEAPSS should  always be followed). However, a fun alternative to charging up students is to stack aluminium pie cases on top of the metal dome and watch them fly off in all directions as the electrostatic charge accumulates.

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Forces Dance Mat

This is a great activity for introducing students to drawing force diagrams and resultant force. I have taken the idea directly from TES (the hugely popular original is available here) but I have made my own version in order to emphasise that the length of the arrow shows the size of the force. Obviously any music can be used to accompany it but I have always found that Gangnam Style works well (some of the students even do the dance moves as they jump about!).

Start the music, start the presentation and then jump in the direction of the resultant force. Have fun!

Motion Obstacle Course

I have just started the topic of Motion with my Year 9 students and used an obstacle course as an active way to introduce speed, distance and time equations.

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The students set up an obstacle course in the sports hall (balance beams, hopscotch, cones, a wall to climb over etc.) Then, working in pairs, one member of each team tackled the course whilst the other timed them and recorded how long it took to complete each section. The students also recorded the length of each section using a measuring tape e.g. balance beam = 3m, hoops = 8m.

Now that the students knew the distance and the time taken, they could work out the speed at which they completed each obstacle. Finally, the students were asked to plot a distance-time graph (which lead nicely onto the follow-up lesson in which we looked at motion graphs using DynaKars).

Canva

Canva is a free online graphic design tool which can be used to make beautiful posters, infographics, presentations and many other things. It is extremely simple to use and features a vast library of templates, fonts and photographs to choose from.

My AS level biology students have recently used Canva to create eyecatching infographics summarising the structure and properties of biological molecules. I think they look great!

Squishy Circuits – Electrical Play Dough

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A wonderful idea from the Playful Learning Lab at the University of St. Thomas in Minnesota.

Play dough is a semisolid which contains salt and is naturally electrically conductive. However, replace the salt with sugar and the play dough becomes an insulator! Both can be made easily and cheaply using flour, vegetable oil, water and salt or sugar. Students can then roll the dough into ‘wires’ or build more elaborate shapes into which they can then connect components. Great fun!

The recipes in metric units are available here.

The Squishy Circuits Classroom Guide contains the recipes as well as basic instructions and sample worksheets. There are also lots of fun ideas for using squishy circuits in electronics education on the Tinkering Studio website.

Allopatric Speciation in the Lower Congo River

Central Africa’s Lower Congo River is home to an extraordinary assortment of fish—many truly bizarre. This  video by Science Bulletins, the American Museum of Natural History’s current-science channel, features Museum scientists on a quest to understand why so many species have evolved there. It provides an excellent case study of allopatric speciation and helps to dispel the myth that populations only ever become isolated on islands. A Google Form worksheet to accompany the video is available here.