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Earth and Space Science

Phenomena to track through year?

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Cathy Cech Cathy Cech 810 Points

Hi. I'm looking for some ideas of phenomena to "track" as the year progresses. For example, during the first week of school I'm going to have a world map on which students will keep track of hurricanes, another where they'll track earthquakes, a bulletin board (or binder or something...) to keep track of "Earth Science in the news" articles. In other words, I'm attempting to help answer the question "Why do we learn this stuff", and I'm trying to improve both data collection and interpretation skills. Anyone have any other suggestions?

Nancy Stephenson Nancy Stephenson 2085 Points

Polar ice cap melting

Cris DeWolf Cris DeWolf 11965 Points

This site posts current monthly CO2 levels in our atmosphere. This changes seasonally, peaking in the late spring and then falling again through late fall. http://co2now.org/ It may be interesting to track.

Cris DeWolf Cris DeWolf 11965 Points

Also, is there a river nearby? Stream discharge data can be found here: http://waterdata.usgs.gov/usa/nwis/rt

Betty Paulsell Betty Paulsell 48560 Points

The GLOBE website at globe.gov has all kinds of environmental data that is collected by students all over the world. You will find all kinds of interesting things there.

Monica Holloway Monica Holloway 2990 Points

What grade do you teach? Perhaps your students could research on a site such as http://www.sciencenewsforkids.org/ for some areas of high interest to them. I bet having a voice would be quite an inspiration!

Tina Harris Tina Harris 65805 Points

I agree with Betty's comment - there are all kinds of interesting things that they can participate in (bud watch, first snow, butterflies, etc.) on the GLOBE site.

You could also have them track the height of the sun at noon, phases of the moon, if you are tracking earthquakes, why not active volcanoes as well? And weather is always fun - and there are weather prediction competitions that middle level students can participate in when they get good with the weather.

Adah Stock Adah Stock 101510 Points

Hi: You didn't mention the grade level you were interested in but why not track the seasons around the school yard with plants, weather, and such having the kids take photos to insert in a nature journal of their own. They could record leaves as they change colors while recording the date leaves were picked up on the ground and placed in their journal. They can record moon cycles as they appear in the newspaper. How about recording the length of each daylight hours which can usually be found in the newspaper as well. There are lots to look at around the school as the seasons change. Adah

Dorothy Ginnett Dorothy Ginnett 28235 Points

Phenology Wheels may be a good choice to use as art projects to track seasonal phenomena.
For samples, try the Wheels of Time and Place website at http://www.partnersinplace.com/

There are several projects where your students collaborate with students from other countries. One involves observing the moon. Their website is down right now but if you email walter.smith@ttu.edu and tell him you are interested in the World Moon Project he can send you additional information.

Nicole White Nicole White 640 Points

I am a pre-service teacher and I found all of these ideas very inspiring! I have copied and pasted them to my “future teaching ideas” folder and I look forward to implementing them in my own future teaching career. Would anyone have any recommendations on the most efficient way to have students track this data over the course of the year (science journals, digitally)?

Sue Garcia Sue Garcia 42675 Points

This may be something that does not interest you and it may take too much time. A few years ago, there was new highway construction near our school. The hillsides were cut into to allow additional lanes to be put in. This lead to fairly steep banks next to the road. Temporary green mesh was put over these slopes in an attempt to prevent mass erosion when it rained. It did not last very long. I went and took before and after pictures of the construction. I also took pictures of the slope before and after the green mesh was placed and when it washed away. I continued to take pictures of this one site over the course of the year (now 4 years have passed and I am still taking pictures). I pin up each picture after I take it next to the previous picture and we have discussions of what the pictures are telling us. This long term tracking of the erosion (also discuss where does the eroded soil and rock go) at this one local site is wonderful. Kids actually bring their parents to this roadside spot and tell them what they have learned. I also do hurricane tracking, but the students don't relate to a hurricane like they do with a local long term observation. This is just a FYI that might give you a different direction to think about.

Tina Harris Tina Harris 65805 Points

Nicole > The answer to your question is it depends on a number of things. Having students keep their own log of changing phenomena in a paper journal, while old-fashioned, is sometimes the only means a teacher has in a low-tech school. It provides students not only with paper or a page to record data, but it also provides them with additional pages to draw diagrams, write down ideas concerning patterns they have identified, and to just "doodle" about what they are seeing. For example, some students might use the spare space to draw images or ideas about cycles, to write a poem, story or rap, or to write down ideas for additional investigations. And it is a place for students to continue to take notes after the project is over, if the student is truly interested in the topic. If your class has technology, that provides additional possibilities for recording information and ways to identify patterns, but you also lose things. For example, students might use cell phones (since many have them) or digital cameras to document changes like moon phases, erosion (like Susan suggests), plant growth, whatever and insert them in a digital book format or spreadsheet. For people who have limited drawing ability (like me!) that would open up visual images as a record of growth. But you also lose the potential for "doodling" as people tend to log onto computers with specific goals and then move onto other things - I think computers tend to encourage the ADD in all of us. :-\ If you have tablets, the use of cameras to integrate visuals becomes even easier and, so do the potential to link those images into an animation or slideshow to illustrate changes. Class data sheets provide group support and comparisons of information and the students in the group tend to talk about the data more and the talking and discussing gives the students a sense of stewardship and ownership of the data, but you sacrifice individual responsibility to some extent. So you choose the format that fits what you want students to take away from that particular lesson. What works for one teacher, group of students, or one topic may not work as well for others so in each instance you need to think about the lesson goals, the abilities of your students, and the materials you have available. Just because you have computers does not mean they are the best way to keep all data. Just because students can collect data alone, does not mean they have to. But it would be difficult during the school day to document phases of the moon for a month as a class - so that data set obviously would need to be student generated. On the other hand, documenting where the sun is located in the sky at "high noon" could be done together as a class or by individual students during the class, using photos of shadow sticks or simply writing down the length and direction of the shadow in a journal. Soooo, what do you want students to learn?

Peggy Taylor Peggy Taylor 565 Points

This might sound boring, but my classes really enjoy doing this...we track relative humidity. On campus we have various places that we go to and use an instrument that measures temperature, a psychrometer. They are easy to make or to purchase. This provides an interesting way to see how the humidity changes from morning to afternoon...how moisture affects humidity...we compile the data to make a whole class then all class graph and usually the results are dramatic and easy to see. We measure on grass, on asphalt, on dirt, under bridges, in valleys. This gives students a way to do something scientific outside and be able to take data and do something with it.

Adah Stock Adah Stock 101510 Points

Hi Again: They can track Earthquake activity around the world. http://earthquaketrack.com/ At the end of the year they can then report where the activity has been the greatest or where the activity has been most violent.

Yelena Hughes Yelena Brachman 995 Points

If you have time (haha) you might have kids do a quick forecast on local weather. http://www.wunderground.com is a great resource that uses local weather stations (citizen science!). Students could also just doe "Weather Wednesdays" and chart it on the map you have up with red and blue sting for fronts and H and L for high and Low pressure systems.

Rodney Olson Rodney Olson 385 Points

You can find daily images of the sun at http://www.spaceweather.com/. The students can observe how the number, size, and positions of sunspots change on a daily basis. They could even estimate the sun's rotation rate (even at different solar latitudes) by using the images.

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