Best Science Sites for Middle Years
|Chemistry||Science of Colors|
|Human Anatomy||Space Mysteries|
|Life on Mars?||Sun Safety|
of Acid Rain
"One of the main causes of acid rain is sulphur dioxide. Natural sources which emit this gas are volcanoes, sea spray , rotting vegetation and plankton. However, the burning of fossil fuels, such as coal and oil, are largely to be blamed for approximately half of the emissions of this gas in the world." The blue rain-drop background does make this student research report a tad hard to read, but the site's authors (from Queens University of Ontario, Canada) gain points for including an extensive bibliography of print sources.
"Acid rain is rain, snow or fog that is polluted by acid in the atmosphere and damages the environment. Two common air pollutants acidify rain: sulphur dioxide (SO2) and nitrogen oxide (NOX). When these substances are released into the atmosphere, they can be carried over long distances by prevailing winds and return to earth as acidic rain, snow, fog or dust.." This official Canada Environment site is my pick of the day for the depth of its coverage and simple yet effective design. Don't miss the do-it-yourself experiments in the Kids' Corner.
BBC Education: Forests' Environmental Problems
"Europe's temperate forests have been under attack from polluted air and acid rain. This was first noticed by the Germans and is known as 'forest death' or ‘Waldsterben.'" This chapter on environmental threats to forests is just one of six that comprise the Forests topic at BBC. With a short illustrative animation, this page serves as a good introduction to the problem of acid rain for upper elementary and middle school students. To view the rest of the site, follow along with the "Continue" button. At the end, you'll be looped back to the table of contents.
"‘Acid rain' is a broad term used to describe several ways that acids fall out of the atmosphere. A more precise term is acid deposition, which has two parts: wet and dry. Wet deposition refers to acidic rain, fog, and snow. Dry deposition refers to acidic gases and particles." In addition to the concise description of the problems caused by acid rain, the best clicks are the glossary, science experiments, learning activities and the Acid Rain Program Progress Report. This Adobe document (which requires the free Adobe reader) details the progress of the Acid Rain Program since it's enactment in 1990.
Asteroids that are on a collision course with Earth are called meteoroids. When a meteoroid strikes our atmosphere at high velocity, friction causes this chunk of space matter to incinerate in a streak of light known as a meteor. If the meteoroid does not burn up completely, what's left strikes Earth's surface and is called a meteorite.
"Quick quiz: How many planets orbit our Sun? If you said nine, you're shy by several thousand. Scientists consider asteroids to be minor planets - some are hundreds of miles wide (and seldom round)." In addition to a great introduction, best clicks here are the explanation of the Torino scale ("Used to categorize the threat of asteroids, the Torino Scale is similar to the familiar ‘Richter Scale' of earthquake measurement.") and the Asteroid News Zone.
In the asteroid belt between Jupiter and Mars, there are twenty-six asteroids larger than 124 miles in diameter, traveling along with hundreds of thousands of smaller asteroids. This page, created by amateur astronomer Bill Arnett, nicely catalogs what is known (and unknown) about these minor planets. Links to great NASA photographs are at the bottom of the page.
"WARNING ! AUTHORIZED PERSONNEL ONLY! DEPARTMENT OF EXTRATERRESTRIAL PHENOMENA. COMPUTER ACCESS RESTRICTED TO DEP AGENTS WITH LEVEL 4 SECURITY CLEARANCE." Are you ready for your assignment as an investigator with the Department of Extraterrestrial Phenomena? In order to solve the four real-life impact incidents in this National Geographic simulation, you'll need to know a bit of asteroid science and history.
Course for Middle/High School Students
"Astronomy is Looking Up" says Jack Troeger, a 9th grade teacher at Ames High School in Ames, Iowa who loves stargazing and Dalmatians. Backyard astronomers will delight in his essays on "Light Pollution", "Observing the Night Sky" and "Finding your Way Around the Sky".
Picture of the Day
This site changes every day, offering a new image and a brief explanation.
Space Telescope: Greatest Hits
This photo gallery of the universe is a collection of Hubble's most spectacular shots. Each is accompanied by a caption and a press release.
Lovell and the Flight of Apollo 13
Come here to learn more about Jim Lovell, the NASA astronaut played by Tom Hanks in Universal Picture's movie "Apollo 13". This biography is written for middle school students, but can be appreciated by all ages. It covers Lovell's life from childhood to through his career at NASA.
Internet Space Warehouse
The Students for Exploration is an independent, international student organization that originated at MIT and Princeton in 1980 to promote the exploration and development of space. This site contains more than 1.47 gigabytes of articles, pictures, sounds, and movies. It is an awesome compendium on every aspect of space exploration. Especially enjoyable is the Express Tour of the Solar System which travels to the author's top ten planets.
Seltzer Tablet Rocket
In 1926 American scientist Robert Goddard launched the first liquid-fueled rocket from his aunt's farm in Massachusetts, and the space age began. All rockets operate on the same basic principles of propulsion. Visit this site to construct a rocket that is fueled by a seltzer tablet.
"Leave it to adults to take something as exciting and beautiful as the sky and make it boring! We are going to have a GREAT time exploring the universe we live in. . . . Adults are welcome to join us as long as they behave." Best clicks are Puzzles (for three astronomy-themed word searches) and Sky Maps (for timely advice on what to look for in the sky tonight.) By clicking in the Planets, where you'll find oodles of good stuff for school reports.
Advice for Backyard Stargazers
Tip number three: "Don't rush to buy a telescope . . . Thinking otherwise is the most common beginner's mistake. Half the people who call for help ask, ‘How do I see anything with this telescope?' They assumed that making a big purchase was the essential first step." To get the most out of your backyard stargazing, start by reading these helpful tips from Sky and Telescope magazine.
from Earth & Sky
Ever wish you had an experienced astronomer standing by your side to guide you to tonight's sky? Meet Deborah Byrd — author of this monthly Skywatching column (my don't-miss-it pick of the week.) "Each day's segment is designed to guide your eye to something you can see that night, or the next morning before dawn. It might be a constellation, a star, or a planet. Or it might be a celestial event, such as an eclipse. Or, just for fun, on some days Deborah might take you (in your imagination) on a trip to another planet, to give you the view from there."
Star Journey National Geographic
The Hubble Space Telescope has been our photographer-in-the-sky since 1990. Circling the Earth every ninety-seven minutes, orbiting 370 miles above our atmosphere, the Hubble sees "ten times more clearly into the cosmos than typical Earth-based equipment; it can see objects one-billionth as bright as the human eye can see." National Geographic's Star Journey is a three- pronged look at the stars: the Hubble Space Telescope, Star Attractions (the constellations), and Star Chart (sky maps superimposed with images from Hubble.)
Can I See?
"Actually you can see lots of things by just using your eyes. You just have to know where to look and when." Although this page seems to go on forever, and blue on black is a tad difficult to read, there is lots here worth perusing. Scroll down the page to find great info on the phases of the moon, and when the next major meteor shower will occur. Other valuable clicks are Star Light Star Bright, Fun Facts, and Take the Challenge!
BrainPOP: Cells & Body Basics
"What is the process by which water flows through cells? A: hydrorefusion B: osmosis C: pinocytosis" This fun page explaining cells is just one of dozens that BrainPOP offers on science, technology and health — and I've recommended them frequently over the years. BrainPOP Cells features a Flash movie, followed by a quiz and a few printable activities. As for the answer to the quiz question, you'll just have to log on, watch the movie, and take the self-grading quiz yourself.
The best clicks for students (and adults) are found on the left-hand menu starting with Plant Cells, Animal Cells and Mitosis. Each chapter includes a dozen sub-topics (such as nucleus and cell membrane) that are covered with their own illustrated page. Additional highlights of the site are the amazing photographs found in Cell Cams, Cell Gallery and on free e-postcards to send to friends from your biology class. Think you know your stuff? Try the three tough quizzes on Cell Structure, Microbes and The Immune System.
I Can Do That: Cells
Created specifically to encourage upper elementary and middle-school students to delve into science, I Can Do That explains plant and animal cells with a cartoon-like approach. "I'm Chloe the chloroplast. I'm a part of a plant cell. My job is to turn sunlight into sugar! Isn't that a grand job? Plant cells, and animal cells for that matter, are pretty sophisticated." Additional topics include DNA, synthesis and cloning. Some students might find the comic book approach annoying, while others will love it.
The imaginary Kapili Islands are home to a variety of research labs which produce the wonderfully educational Kapili.com. Their site on cells is my pick of the day! Great illustrations and a breezy writing style make this site a winner for middle and high school students as well as us older learners. After cells, check out the Topic List for more biology (biochemistry and ecology,) physics, chemistry and astronomy.
How big is an atom? Try this experiment to find out for yourself. Cut " . . . a twenty-eight centimeter strip of paper in half as many times as you can. If you can cut the strip of paper in half thirty-one times you will end up with a piece of paper the size of an atom." Wow! Based on an energy exhibit currently running at the Miami Museum of Science, each monster member of the Atoms Family introduces a topic such as Atoms and Matter, Energy Conservation, and Light Waves. Under each topic, you will find a variety of activities and learning pages for grades four through twelve.
"So you're asking, what is chemistry? Well . . . here's our best definition. Chemistry is the study of matter and the changes that take place with that matter." Written in a fun, conversational style, this fabulous site can be navigated in several ways. Jump right to the subject that interests you (is it Elements, Reactions, or Matter?) or navigate through the most important pages of each subject with the Guided Tour. The tour can be found on the Key Topics page, along with a glossary and profiles of famous chemists.
Now class, open your comic books. Today we are studying the periodic table -- and not just Superman and krypton, either. From hydrogen (H) to lawrencium (Lr), clicking on most of the elements in this periodic table will transport you to a comic strip reference. "I know you have no nerves, but my stinger injects a chemical compound of the world's most potent elemental poisons . . . from lead to arsenic, to chlorine, krypton, selenium, and strontium." This very creative approach puts the fun back in chemistry.
"When writing names of elements, a chemist usually uses abbreviations, since they are quicker to write than the names. The abbreviations that we use are called symbols. None of the symbols contain more than two letters; the first one is always capitalized and the second, if any, is always lowercase." Thus we get O for oxygen, C for carbon and He for helium. This virtual chemistry textbook was created by a team of three high school students for the 1996 annual ThinkQuest competition.
"The numbers on the pH scale run from 0 to 14. Substances with lower pH's have much more hydrogen, or H+, than substances with higher pH's." Written for both elementary/middle school students and teachers, this lesson on acids and bases includes many hands-on activities such as cleaning pennies, making invisible ink and mapping the tongue's taste buds. The seven E sections (Excite, Explore, Explain, Expand, Extend, Exchange, Examine) can be used sequentially, or in random order.
On the subject of electricity, BrainPOP offers not just one of their educational animations, but five. Topics include a general introduction to electricity, static electricity, batteries, energy sources, thunderstorms and atoms. Each topic page (geared toward upper elementary students) features an animated movie, a quiz ("What are the three components of a circuit?"), a printable activity sheet and a try-it-yourself experiment.
"Materials may be classified into one of three categories depending on their electrical conductivity (their ability to conduct a current). Conductors conduct electric charge better than semi-conductors, which in turn conduct better than insulators." This extensive site was created for the ThinkQuest Internet competition by teens from three different countries: India, Netherlands and United States. It is divided into Lessons (several dozen on topics such as circuitry and electrostatics), Applications (including Solar Power and Telecommunications), History and Activities.
An outstanding article for middle and high-school students on energy sources from fossil fuels and hydro-power to solar and nuclear power. Chapter Two (What is Electricity?) and Chapter Eleven (Electricity Transmission System) explain electricity from atoms to volts. Be sure to visit the comprehensive Energy Quest site. You'll find its link at the bottom of any Energy Story page. Built just for kids by the California Energy Commission, Energy Quest includes games, quizzes, and experiments. If life has given you lemons and you are tired of lemonade, try the lemon battery at http://www.energy.ca.gov/education/projects/projects-html/lemon.html .
"During a thunderstorm, clouds become negatively charged relative to the ground (or other clouds.) Since opposite charges attract, a lightning bolt will appear as charges are exchanged between the cloud and the ground." Presented for middle-schoolers in a fun, interactive format, this site was created by a team at Stevens Institute of Technology to "demonstrate that the Internet can be used for science education and participation in ways that are not possible with a text book or a standalone computer."
Anatomy Crossword Puzzles
Anatomy crossword puzzles? Just when I think I've seen it all, the Internet continues to amaze me. These puzzles come from the Gross Anatomy (that's gross meaning general, not disgusting) class at the University of Arkansas.. If you have a Java enabled browser, you can complete them interactively. Otherwise you can print the puzzles out, and fill them in the old fashioned way. These puzzles are not easy
Preview the Heart
Starting with the tiny pumping heart on the first page, I fell in love with this interdisciplinary site. It can be explored in one of two ways. A complete tour begins at the bottom of the first page, starting with a table of contents for the entire collection. Alternatively, you can enter the various activities organized into Do, See, Learn, Go and Hear. However you go, you will learn about the anatomy and function of the heart, and it's role in popular culture.
California Orthopedic Institute
Excellent anatomical descriptions of the knee, shoulder, ankle, spine, hand, elbow, hip and toe, brought to you by a group of doctors that want to fix what ails you!
Dimensional Medical Reconstruction
This dry looking medical site contains an amazing animation experience: three dimension animated flights through various human organs. The animations are constructed from real two-dimension images (or slices) that are connected together to create the third dimension. Have you seen the "Magic School Bus Inside the Human Body" where the school children travel inside Arnold's body? Now you can experience the same trip created from real pictures. You will need an MPEG player configured for your browser.
Mars: Life Signs?
CNN takes a multimedia look at what has been called "biggest discovery in the history of science." Could that ancient meteorite discovered in Antarctica be proof that microscopic life existed on Mars billions of years ago? With movies, sound clips and a look at Mars in the arts, this site is informative and entertaining. I suggest starting with the fun (but challenging) Mars quiz to test your knowledge of the red planet, then moving on to learn more about the secrets discovered within that old rock.
of Primitive Life from Mars
How did the NASA scientists know the meteorite came from Mars? The conclusive evidence was gases trapped in the rock's interior, which matched those found in the Martian atmosphere. Direct from NASA, this site for high school students (and adults, of course) contains the complete text of the original "Science" magazine article announcing the Mars discovery, as well as audio coverage of the original press release.
Microbes on Mars
Another site for written expressly for elementary as well as middle-school kids, with concise explanations of why Mars may (or may not) host life forms. Also summarized are NASA's past Mars explorations and the upcoming 1997 Mars Pathfinder mission.
From the Students for the Exploration of Space, here is a comprehensive overview of Mars, the fourth planet. Underlined words are hyperlinked to definitions in the glossary of terms, allowing all ages to understand the material. If you read this first, you'll do much better on the Mars quiz found at the CNN site!
Lunar Eclipse Computer
Want to know exactly when a total lunar eclipse is coming to your town? Simply enter your location and select a date from the drop-down list of recent and upcoming lunar events. For international locations, use Form B to enter your location using longitude and latitude coordinates.
"Photographing an eclipse of the Moon is fun and easy. You don't even have to worry about special filters to protect your eyes or your camera. Unlike eclipses of the Sun, eclipses of the Moon are perfectly safe to watch with the naked eye." Mr. Eclipse offers his expert photo advice ("Perhaps the simplest way to photograph an eclipse is to use the star trail method.") and a collection of his photos (scroll down the page to the Photo Gallery link.)
Prospector and the Eclipse
Although the Lunar Prospector mission is now complete (it ended on July 30, 1999 with a controlled crash into the Moon), this site has an excellent animation explaining lunar phases and eclipses. Click on Launch to view it. During the Prospector's eighteen-month mission, it faced two perilous lunar eclipses. What made them risky? The Lunar Prospector relied on sunlight to recharge its batteries, and scientists were concerned that during the eclipses, the Prospector's batteries would drain completely.
Sky & Telescope: Lunar Eclipse
"Just 20 days into this millennial year, a spectacular total eclipse of the Moon will occur over the Americas and Western Europe. Weather permitting, observers will see all stages of the event unfold -- something not possible from most of these regions since 1996 or earlier. Totality will be particularly dramatic in North America, where the red Moon will burn high overhead in a dark and crisp winter sky." Sky and Telescope is soliciting input from observers on how bright the moon is during the eclipse. Learn the five-point Danjon Scale (zero is darkest and four is brightest) and submit your report via email. Experts, by the way, are predicting a very bright eclipse of three or four on the Danjon Scale.
"Microbes are the oldest form of life on Earth. Some types have existed for billions of years. These single-cell organisms are invisible to the eye, but they can be seen with microscopes. Microbes live in the water you drink, the food you eat, and the air you breathe. Right now, billions of microbes are swimming in your belly and crawling on your skin. Don't worry, over 95% of microbes are harmless." This entire exhibit (from the American Museum of Natural History) is fabulous, but the best clicks are the Shockwave games with names like Bacteria in the Cafeteria and Infection!
Invisible Invaders, Amazing Allies
"On one square-inch of our bodies, there are as many as 10,000 bacteria." Everything on this fun, graphically-exciting site from Pfizer squirms. Based on a traveling museum exhibit, the best clicks are Microbe Dictionary ("flagellum: A whip-like structure on some cells that helps them swim."); the incredible colorful photographs in Meet a Microbe; and Microbe Quiz (True or False: "Without microbes there would be no farms to grow food.")
Here's one zoo I'm certain you've never visited before: it's the Microbe Zoo. "Microbial ecology is a rapidly developing scientific discipline. The reasons for this include the realization that microbes are essential for a healthy environment; they are important in helping us understand the mechanics of evolution; and they are important in biotechnology." The zoo is divided into sections that include DirtLand (who knows what evil lurks in that dirt pile?), Snack Bar, and Space Adventure (microbes on Mars?).
in Action: Microbes
Who first discovered microbes? "It turns out to be a Microscopist called Antony van Leeuwenhoek (Born in Delft, Netherlands, 24 October 1632, died 26 August 1723). He had no formal training in science and from the age of sixteen worked as a draper. This seems a bit of an unlikely background for the person who discovered microbes. What's even more interesting is that Antony van Leeuwenhoek's research followed no particular plan and was carried out, largely, with microscopes constructed by himself."
Design Your Own Robot
"Robots come in all shapes and sizes. But what does it take to design one?" You are about to learn. First, you'll be assigned a mission for your robot. Will it be to search a sunken ship for gold? Or to explore the surface of Mars? Design your robot by choosing elements for six basic functions: sensing, movement, manipulation, energy, intelligence and looks. When finished, you'll view your robot and your design will be critiqued. This totally awesome exercise requires the free Shockwave plug-in. Get it now.
a Grip on Robotics
This exhibit explores the jointed-arm robot which "looks similar to a certain part of your body." Each direction a joint can move gives the robot one degree of freedom. So, a robot arm with three degrees of freedom can move in three ways: up/down, left/right, and forward/backward. Although some robots have six, eight or even twelve degrees of freedom, six is enough for most basic tasks, and therefore most working robot arms have six degrees of freedom. The human arm, however, has seven. Find out which movement you have that most robotic arms do not.
In 1989, Dr. Robert Ballard used a remotely-operated vehicle (ROV) called Jason to explore the wreck of the Titanic. Now, over the Internet, you can use the St. John Fisher College ROV to explore mock ocean depths and find answers to the mystery questions. Fisher's ROV is actually a remote-controlled toy truck with headlights and a digital camera mounted on top. It travels along a glass platform which has clues hidden below it. To play (and control the ROV over the Internet), you will need to organize and register a team of schoolmates, family members or friends.
From Konstanz University in Germany, Net-Robot plays a game called Tower of Hanoi. Invented by a French mathematician in 1883, Tower of Hanoi is played by moving discs between towers. There are only two rules: never place a larger disc over a smaller one, and only move one disc at a time. If you have a Java-enabled browser, you can choose a destination tower and watch as Net- Robot makes the seven moves needed to move the discs according to the rules. See the clock with the sweeping second hand in the background of the Web cam image? That's the time in Germany.
Girl Scouts Blastoff
Women have played an important role in space exploration. In 1963, Valentina Tereshkova of the Soviet Union became the first woman to travel in space, orbiting the Earth for over 70 hours. Twenty years later, the American physicist Sally Ride became the first American woman to travel in space. She performed experiments while orbiting the earth in the Space Shuttle Challenger. Written for Girl Scouts, this site adds a women's perspective to the history of rocketry. In addition to the history lesson and rocket science basics, this site describes how to launch a hobby- store model rocket with your troop or family.
NASA Rocket Activities
This is the place for knock-your-socks-off homemade rockets. Make a soda can engine, a pencil and rubber band rocket, or a balloon and Styrofoam cup rocket. You'll find eleven do-it-yourself rocket experiments here, as well as an excellent tutorial on the principles of rocketry and the history of rockets. Educators will like the teacher's guide that contains a cross-reference of subject areas (chemistry, physics, math, history) covered in each activity.
Family Rocketry Page
The Irving family of San Jose, California loves rockets and has built a web site to prove it. These pages are an excellent introduction to the world of model rockets and group launches. If you are considering buying a model rocket kit, be sure to tour the Irving's arsenal of fifteen rockets for their photographs and comments on the performance of each model.
Rocket Safety Code
"1. Material: My model rocket will be made of lightweight materials such as paper, wood, rubber, and plastic suitable for the power used and the performance of my model rocket. I will not use any metal for the nose cone, body, or fins of a model rocket." No discussion of model rockets would be complete without an understanding of the safety guidelines. Here are fourteen rules for model rocket safety written by the National Association of Rocketry.
Paul and Patricia Dauphinee, of Cape Cod, Massachusetts, have photographed, labeled and alphabetized their personal rock collection. And these are not your usual museum photos. Most are taken on the beach, with the Atlantic ocean as a backdrop. Doing a school report? The Dauphinee's allow students to use their mineral photographs. What's missing is a bit more annotation about each specimen.
Gallery of Mineral Photographs
These awesome mineral photos literally jump off the screen with clarity and color. The rocks are placed on black glass, lit with two fifty-watt flood halogen bulbs, photographed with a Sony digital camera and then edited to give them a colorful halo. "All specimens in this gallery sold and no longer available. Many customers request to see what they have missed, so the best are presented here for your review."
"A natural gemstone is a mineral, stone, or organic matter that can be cut and polished or otherwise treated for use as jewelry or other ornament. A precious gemstone has beauty, durability, and rarity, whereas a semiprecious gemstone has only one or two of these qualities." The resource site from the U.S. Geological Survey contains definitions and reference material such as the Chemical Formulas of Gemstones and the hardness of gemstones. "Hardness of a gemstone is its resistance to scratching and may be described relative to a standard scale of 10 minerals known as the Mohs scale."
Your Rock Collection
"Photographers and artists have a secret. Don't show your less-than-best pieces. And even then, you don't have to show them all at once. Sure, we have a zillion rocks and minerals at our house, but most of them are in drawers or packed in boxes and labeled on the outside of the box. Only the most special and showy pieces are in the glass display cabinets." Great advice for anyone who wants to be a "collector and not just an accumulator."
EUVE Satellite Dataflow Demonstration
NASA's Extreme Ultraviolet Explorer (EUVE) Satellite revolves around the Earth every ninety-six minutes in a circular orbit at an altitude of 330 miles. It was launched in 1992 to study extreme ultraviolet sources in space. How does it transmit its findings to scientists back on Earth? By sending its data to a Tracking and Data Relay Satellite System (TDRSS) which circles above the Earth in a 24-hour rotation. If you have eight friends in a room, you can simulate these rotations and revolutions by each taking a role as a satellite or a planet. To help you visualize the problem, be sure to view the Java animation first.
Start your exploration by clicking on the large title image How Satellites Work. "Man-made satellites circle the Earth in many ways including polar and geostationary orbits." A satellite in a polar orbit travels over the North and South Poles at a height ranging from several hundred miles to several thousand miles above Earth. A satellite in a high-altitude, geostationary orbit (also known as geosynchronous) circles the earth once every twenty-four hours, the same amount of time it takes for the Earth to spin on its axis. To maintain this rotation, a geostationary satellite must travel exactly 22,237 miles above the Earth's equator.
Impact Technology Facility
Not only is your room filled with it, but space is also crowded with junk. "The problem is that the near-earth space environment - where most satellites, the Shuttle, Mir, and the coming International Space Station orbit the earth - is cluttered with man-made debris and naturally occurring meteoroids." These NASA scientists study space junk and analyze high-speed space collisions. They perform crash tests in their laboratory and develop shields to protect our expensive spacecraft.
The Satellite Site
Would anyone mind if I gave this site six stars? From The Tech Museum of Innovation, comes this beyond-wow introduction to satellites, suitable for all ages. After you've learned the what, why and how of man-made satellites, the don't-miss-it click is the Java-based Satellite Construction Set. First, choose a mission for your satellite. Will it be direct broadcast television, remote sensing or scientific research? Then correctly install each of five subsystems (from a list of eight) by clicking and dragging them into place.
Nye Demo of the Day
This page from media science guru, Bill Nye, offers a random experiment with each mouse click. After reviewing the experiment, use your browser's back button to return to the Demo of the Day site. Click again and you'll be served another experiment. If you are going to want to return to a particular experiment, be sure to either bookmark it or print it out. Otherwise you will have to take your chances going through a random series of experiments to find it again.
Exploratorium Hands On Science
"Make a portable cloud in a bottle. Now you see it, now you don't!" These science snacks from the San Francisco Exploratorium can be accessed in two ways. Click on one of the four science books at the top of the page, and follow the links from the book's Table of Contents. Alternatively, you'll find a handful of these snacks listed on the main page. Enjoy!
City Super Crew
From the weekly science radio show of the same name, this web site archives experiments from six months of shows. To participate in the current experiment, follow the Home Crew link found in This Week's introductory paragraph. You can either email your results or phone them into their 800 number. Be sure to visit the Home Crew archives. For each topic, you'll find an audio clip (you'll need the Real Audio plug-in) and a written description of the activity. Recent subjects have included Sleep, Memory, Fire and Whales.
"Fill a dish with water. Sprinkle pepper all over the top of the water. Put several drops of dish detergent into the center of the dish. What happens?" This is a Science Try It from Newton's Apple. Designed for teachers as an accompaniment to the PBS television show, these hands-on experiments are terrific. You'll find links to five Try Its pages, one for each of the show's seasons. Each Try It page has six illustrated experiments, followed by an explanation of the science of each activity.
Before you begin your project, you'll need a good understanding of the scientific method. And this fun Brain Pop animation is the perfect place to start for an example of how the four steps of the scientific method (observation, hypothesis, prediction, experiment) are used to solve real-life mysteries. ("Who's been eating my peanut butter?") After the movie, try your hand at the quiz.
Guide to Science Projects
"So, you've been assigned a science project and you don't know where to begin. Well, a science experiment is nothing more than a way to solve a problem. These pages have been created to give you some ideas and resources, show you how to start, and take you step by step through the scientific process." Joan Tindell, a middle-school science teacher from Arizona, explains it all – very well.
Although there's lots of fun science stuff to peruse here, you'll find the meat of the matter in the Handbook section written by Janice VanCleve, author of more than forty books on science and science fairs. "A science project is like a mystery in which you are the detective searching for answers. Science projects let you practice and exhibit your detective skills. You not only get to select which mystery to solve, but you can creatively design methods for uncovering clues that will lead to the final revelation of who, what, when, where, how, and why."
Science Hunt is produced by Hunt, the company that makes those cool stand-all-by-themselves project display boards. So in addition to sections on picking and planning a science project, it has a good chapter on how to display your finished work including design tips and lots of examples from other kids. You can even send in a photo of your own science project (using a Hunt display board) for posting on the site.
"What is it called when white light spreads out into many different colors? A: diffraction B: reflection C: rejection" This fun page explaining rainbows is just one of dozens that BrainPOP offers on science, technology and health. It features a Flash movie, followed by a quiz and printable activities. As for the answer to the quiz question, you'll just have to log on, watch the movie, and take the self-grading quiz for yourself!
"Color plays a vitally important role in the world in which we live. Color can sway thinking, change actions, and cause reactions. It can irritate or soothe your eyes, raise your blood pressure or suppress your appetite." This incredibly extensive site is my pick of the day for high school students and adults. It includes sections on the science, sociology and art of color with titles such as Color & Vision, Color & The Brain, Color & Design and Color & The World.
Colors of Light
"The color of an object depends on what happens as light hits it. Objects absorb some colors and reflect others. The colors you see are the colors reflected by the object. A green leaf absorbs all colors except green. It reflects green, so green is the color you see." This McGraw-Hill site addresses the difference between the primary colors of light (red, blue and green) and the primary pigment colors used when painting (magenta, cyan, and yellow). It concludes with a multiple-choice quiz appropriate for mid to upper elementary grades.
Make a Splash with Color
"The eye is a very complicated machine with lots of special parts. Light enters and travels through our eyes, and then messages go out the back of the eye to the brain. These messages create colors in our mind." This color tutorial from The Tech Museum of Innovation is my pick of the day for middle school students. My favorite click is the Talking About Color chapter on hue (the color of a color), saturation (the pureness of a color) and brightness (the strength of a color.) Still confused? Try the interactive experiments and discover hue, saturation and brightness for yourself.
"Eclipses appear often in the mythology and literature of different cultures and different ages, most often as symbols of obliteration, fear, and the overthrow of the natural order of things. The word eclipse comes from a Greek word meaning ‘abandonment.' Quite literally, an eclipse was seen as the sun abandoning the earth." This fabulous Exploratorium site is my pick of the day. Come here for the live Webcast on August 11, for eclipse mythology, for an illustrated scientific explanation of solar eclipses, and for important safety information.
"Sometimes during their orbits, the moon and the Earth form a line with the Sun. When this happens, an eclipse occurs. A lunar eclipse happens when the Earth moves between the Sun and the moon, blocking part of the Sun's light from reaching the moon. During a lunar eclipse, you will see the Earth's shadow on the moon. In a solar eclipse, the moon moves between the Earth and the Sun. When this happens, part of the Sun's light is blocked. The sky slowly gets dark as the moon moves in front of the Sun. When the moon and Sun are in a perfect line, it is called a total eclipse. These are very rare. Most people only see one in their lifetime." This is another awesome site with live Webcam coverage, a great photo gallery and lesson plans for teachers.
Total Solar Eclipse Page
Meet Dan McGlaun: "I am a total, complete eclipse junkie. I go to every total solar eclipse I can, which after the turn of the century won't be too many, unfortunately. But I've had a pretty good decade in the 1990s, and I thought I'd write a sort of memoir-type book of my experiences." Although he's not a professional astronomer, Dan has a way of conveying his enthusiasm for the subject. Read the stories from his seven eclipse treks, and stay tuned for his dispatches from Turkey, where he will be celebrating both the total solar eclipse and his thirty-sixth birthday!
"The last flash of light from the surface of the Sun as it disappears from view behind the Moon gives the appearance of a diamond ring and is called, appropriately, the diamond ring effect. As totality begins, the solar corona (extended outer atmosphere of the Sun) blazes into view. The corona is a million times fainter than the surface of the Sun; thus only when the eclipse is total can it be seen; if even a tiny fraction of the solar surface is still visible it drowns out the light of the corona." Best clicks are the solar eclipse animations that illustrate how the moon blocks the light of the sun.
"Small space rocks enter the earth's atmosphere on a daily basis. Most burn up but some make it to the surface. In either case they make little impact and are certainly not life threatening unless you are unlucky enough to have one fall on your head. Of concern are the larger interplanetary bodies - asteroids and comets - which we now know have collided with the earth in the past and which pose a real threat to human life." Be sure to read about "massive pale blue fireball" that exploded above the Tunguska River valley in Siberia in 1908.
"Perhaps the best way to search for life on the trillions of planets circling other suns is through communication... if there are intelligent beings out there who want to communicate with us. Today we have the means to broadcast messages to the planets and stars... but is anybody out there listening?" Which brings us to the next question. If you knew an alien was listening, what would you say? Click on "Write to an Alien" to pen your own message or read those of selected experts.
of Space: Stars
This Thinkquest entry created by two middle school students is simply marvelous! It is divided into two tours: one for twelve and under, the other for older students. "You may have seen the picture of the Galaxy M16 before, but not known what it was. It is an embryonic star cloud. Embryonic star clouds are huge cocoons of dust grains, gas, and molecules, and are the birthplace of stars. These star clouds can be so huge that some of them are measured in light years."
Stephen Hawking's Universe: Strange Stuff Explained
"For decades, black holes were the darlings of science fiction writers but treated with perhaps a little less respect by physicists. Although general relativity predicted that black holes could exist, many scientists thought they were too bizarre to exist in the real universe. That's all changed." British physicist and best-selling author Stephen Hawking explains black holes (objects with infinite density), quasars (the brightest objects in the universe), wormholes (a short cut through space time) and other mysteries of space.
About fifteen miles above the Earth is a "giant umbrella made of a layer of ozone gas." This protective ozone layer (usually about twelve miles thick) blocks us from much of the sun's harmful radiation. Unfortunately during the last fifty years, parts of the ozone layer have thinned, leaving us more exposed to the sun's UV rays than we were years ago. This Canadian site explains what the ozone layer is, how it was damaged, and what is being done about it.
under the Sun
This marvelous site has separate tracks for teachers and families. In either section you'll find a Glossary, a Sun Safety Quiz and Twelve Sun Safety Tips ("Pucker up! Use a lip balm with sunscreen for your lips.") For families, there is also a science activity page, titled At Home Fun, that is equally valuable for classroom or youth group use. And just for teachers, there are elementary lesson plans, a printable poster, and ideas for creating a Sun Safety newsletter.
Sun Protection, from the research department of L'Oréal cosmetics, is my pick of the day. Divided into five sections, Sun Protection starts with an excellent explanation of the short- and long-term effects of sun exposure. Next it delves into our body's natural defenses (the production of melanin, the tanning pigment,) skin types, and sun solutions. This site is so good, every page is a best click! If any of the scientific words stump you, you'll find a glossary link at the bottom of every page.
Skin cancer caused primarily caused by sun exposure is the most common type of cancer in the United. "Someone dies of melanoma every hour in the United States. In 1930, an American's lifetime risk of developing melanoma was 1 in 1500. Today, it is 1 in 75." But skin cancer is largely preventable, and you and your school can do something about it. Download the free twenty-page Sun Safe School Guide that outlines how your school can become sun safe. You'll also find a single page handout for elementary students filled with tips and puzzles. Both are found under Fun Free Sun Safety Downloads. American Sun also sells a Sun Safety CD-ROM game and K-5 curriculum.
Cascades Volcano Observatory Pictograms
These annotated photo stories combine photography with illustration and explanatory text to deliver their message. Choose from nineteen pictograms, mostly starring Mount Saint Helens before, during and after her big eruption in 1980.
Door of Volcano World
Every so often I come across a site that delivers more than it promises. This is one of those sites. Don't be fooled by the simple text menu with it's nondescript choices. Behind each selection is an array of interesting material. Be sure to visit Volcano Fun. What makes this site great? It's educational (you'll learn all about volcanos). It's animated (watch volcanos erupt). It's interactive (build your own volcano, and watch its pattern of eruption, or submit your own volcano artwork and stories). It doesn't take too long to download (it uses Java instead of slow loading graphics). And it's written for kids. If you're hankering for more, visit the "grownup" Volcano World .
A Virtual Climb
Stromboli is a continuously active strato volcano, one of the volcanic Aeolian Islands off the southern coast of Italy. There are two settlements on the island: Stromboli in the Northeast and the tiny village of Ginostra in the Southwest. The total permanent population of the island is 361, with seasonal tourism increasing that number in the summer. I wonder if they count virtual tourists. Join guide Pamela Alean on a climb to the top, with a view of the smoking summit all along the way.
"Forget Java, we've got lava" proclaims Volcano Cam from New Zealand. What is an Internet cam? Here's the scoop. Someone focuses their video camera on a fish tank, an ant farm, the San Francisco skyline, or the door to the men's room and invites you to watch via a live Internet feed. In this case, you'll be watching the Ruapehu volcano. Since nothing much usually happens, you can sign up to be notified by email as soon as she starts to erupt.
A gentle breeze floats a kite above our heads, but a hurricane can destroy whole communities. Is the wind our ally or foe? Explore the many faces of the wind in this gallery of windy images, videos, and windy words. The best click is the Windy Things to Make section, for instructions on making a wind vane (also known as a weather vane) from cardboard and an empty soda bottle, or a wind direction indicator from a plastic straw and pencil. For teachers, I recommend The Wind: Our Fierce Friend for complete lesson plans and even more Web activities.
From Windmills to Whirligigs
Meet Vollis Simpson, who exploits the power of the wind to make art. His whimsical windmill- powered whirligigs stand guard over his yard, twirling in the wind like giant robotic pinwheels. This virtual tour, created by the Science Museum of Minnesota, showcases a "unique science and art connection to wind." After you've visited the yard (you'll need Quick Time VR to view the movies) don't miss the Try These activities for instructions on making a soda-can whirler or parachuting pinwheel.
To convert wind to electricity, the blades of a wind turbine (a modern windmill) turn a shaft that is attached to a gear transmission box. This transmission box increases the turning speed of the shaft that connects to the generator that creates electricity. California produces more electricity from wind than any other state. And even though California's wind turbines do not operate year round (winds must be blowing at least twelve miles per hour to generate electricity), California's wind turbines generate enough electricity to power a city the size of San Francisco for a year.
"Uneven heating of the Earth's surface causes the wind to blow. Many societies have long taken advantage of this energy to travel great distances and perform diverse tasks such as grinding, sawing and pumping water. Modern wind turbines using advanced technologies are able to produce electricity for homes, businesses, and even utilities." For middle- and high-school students, this overview of wind power presents the history, theory and application of wind power today. Windmills
How Your Heart Works
"About a hundred times a minute, 100,000 times a day, 36.5 million times a year, your heart keeps the beat . . . the beat of life. That familiar thump, thump, thump tells you that your heart is doing its job pumping blood from the veins to the heart and lungs, where it is replenished with oxygen and then distributed back to the body through the arteries. How does the heart work? Read on." This single-page illustrated introduction to the heart includes links to advice on how to keep your heart healthy.
Start your cardiovascular adventure by clicking on the heart. From here, you can navigate two ways. First, as you move your mouse over the human body image, clickable hot spots will appear. Clicking will display explanatory text in the right-hand frame. Second, you can change the main image by choosing any of the related subjects listed below the current illustration. Want to wander beyond the heart? You'll find a search tool near the bottom of the page.
Preview the Heart
Starting with the tiny pumping heart on the first page, I fell in love with this interdisciplinary site. The tour (with a complete table of contents) begins at the bottom of the first page or you can enter the various activities organized into Do, See, Learn, Go and Hear. However you go, you will learn about the anatomy and function of the heart. For a fun look at the heart's role in popular culture, don't miss The Heart Goes Pop.
is the Heart?
"To work, to play, to do anything at all, the human body needs energy. This energy is provided by blood, which runs within tubes called arteries and veins. The body draws fuel in the form of chemicals and oxygen from the blood, and turns it into energy for work. At the same time, the waste materials produced in the body are dumped in the blood to be carried away and destroyed in other areas." Learn all about the heart from Dr. Mani.