with Kim Rodgers
Exploring the Meaning of Chemistry
It was so good to be back in the swing of things! We started off our Chemistry class discussing the meaning of Chemistry. We read the first chapter from the Real Science 4 Kids Chemistry book, which talked about the smallest particles that make up matter, atoms, and how they are attracted to one another. We moved on to experiments involving water to show how atoms, which make up molecules, are attracted to one another. Using droppers we tried to make the biggest drop we could before it fell off the end of the dropper. It was almost as if the water droplet were saying, “Noooo...I want to stay with my friends!” as it finally fell. The kids made a drop of water on an index card covered with wax paper. We observed how the whole drop moved when we tilted the index card, not leaving a trace behind. The students took popsicle sticks and tried cutting the drop into two pieces. After a few tries they realized that they had to exert force on the droplet in order to break it into pieces. The droplet did not want to be separated! Once the drops were separated the students used the popsicle stick to bring one of the drops back to its original drop. They combined immediately. There was an attraction there.
After recording our observations we took a cup of water in a clear glass and added a couple of drops of red food coloring to observe the fact that molecules in water are continuously moving. We didn’t stir the color in, but the water eventually became almost entirely red! We watched an animation of molecules in motion and drew our own picture to show this motion.
And finally, to drive the point home, we watched a slow motion video of a water balloon popping. For several frames after the balloon is popped the water stays in the shape of a balloon, proving that the molecules have an attraction until the forces around it are more powerful than their attraction, in which case they fall apart.
At the end of class we played a couple of games, which the students took home to play as well, which emphasized this idea of attraction. Ask them to show you how to play!
For homework I gave the students a notebooking page labeled “Chemistry." I always think it’s helpful to have students reflect on what went on in class to encourage retention of what we learned. Each week they can write what they remembered from class, what stood out to them. At the beginning of the next class the students share what they wrote as we head into the next lesson. By the end of the semester they’ll have a nice compilation of pages describing their learning.
Back to the Middle Ages!
In our Middle Ages class we started off reading about the first kings of England. We learned that the Vikings were pretty brutal and very feared! Britain was at a disadvantage because it was broken up into seven kingdoms at the time. They didn’t have a united army in order to fight the Vikings. For ten years the Vikings raided English farms, capturing kingdoms left and right, with no end in sight. They headed south. The kingdom of Wessex had heard of the Vikings and awaited their arrival with gold ready to hand them in order to keep their kingdom to themselves. The Vikings took their gold and left, but the people of Wessex knew that might not last long. They appointed Alfred, a nobleman, to be their leader. He began training the farmers to be warriors, but in the process, the Vikings mounted a surprise attack! The people fled, many of them to France, while Alfred hid in the countryside pretending not to be the king. He stopped at a peasant’s hut. The couple who lived there took pity on him and allowed him to stay with them in exchange for labor. One day the woman made some cakes. As they were cooking over the fire she went to collect firewood, asking Alfred to keep watch over the cakes. “Don’t allow them to burn!” she admonished. Alfred began worrying so much about how he was going to overthrow the Vikings that he forgot to pay attention. When the woman returned she scolded Alfred! Little did she know that she was scolding a king.
Soon, Alfred thought of a plan. He waited until spring when he knew the farmers would have time to plant their crops. Then he sent out secret messages to meet him at his headquarters so they could gather an army to fight the Vikings. In the meantime the Viking army had shrunk. The warriors had become bored, or farmers themselves, and didn’t have time for fighting! By the time the two armies met, the English army was as strong as the Vikings, and they engaged in battle at a place called Salisbury Plain. The English drove the Vikings into a nearby castle and kept food or water from going in. Eventually the Vikings surrendered and moved north to settle down and farm their land.
The surprising fact is that when King Alfred died his bones were buried under a cathedral in Wessex, and later moved to Hyde Abbey. When Hyde Abbey was destroyed, a prison was built over the top of Alfred’s grave. The prison was then destroyed as well. People forgot where Alfred’s bones were laid to rest. In 1999 archaeologists figured out that his grave lay beneath a parking lot! When they dug up his grave they found bits of his coffin, but no bones. No one knows what happened to them.
In honor of Alfred burning the cakes (because his mind was busy with more important matters), we made our own Alfred cakes. The students paired up in the kitchen, sharing the responsibilities of measuring and stirring. Once the dough was assembled they each made cakes with their allotment of dough. Ten minutes later they popped out of the oven and after cooling were enjoyed warm and gently crisp.
For homework the students have a notebooking page (which is to be used just as described above for Chemistry) and a map with mapping instructions. Feel free to help them with the writing, as the point of notebooking is to get their thoughts out, regardless of who actually writes it down.
Next week we begin an embroidery project. Let me know if any of you have small embroidery hoops as I’ll be going to Michaels this weekend to pick up some more.