## Integrating Sound with Math

Time to rethink my integration of science with math. My attempts to connect proportions of the human body with measurement went down in flames in my entry last year, so I’m focusing on Systems, Order, and Organization related to sound this time.

I know sound, math, and science are all suuuuuuper tight. What I don’t know is how to adequately organize my sound unit so it includes great inquiry-based investigations. My guiding framework is an annnnncient curriculum from the National Science Resources Center (published when I was in junior high) that has such profound extension activities as the one featured below:

Ugh. Not helpful. It’s worth noting that there are a whopping two math extension activities in this entire unit.

The wise and enthusiasticÂ Katie Weichert gave me some great ideas to chew on and think about. I wish I saw her more often. But in her absence, I had to get a move on.

So I started trolling the Internet.

This Aztec music lesson seems compelling.

I’m also interested in harmonics, but I don’t know how to build this into a full lesson. My students already use harmonic series as a procedure to line up from music class, so I wouldn’t need to go over the basic musical idea of third and fifth intervals.

THIS could be useful. It appears to be a sound generator. Could I have kids compose a song using fractions and then convert them to their frequencies? Speaking of composing music…

I imagine I could show snippets fromÂ Donald in Mathmagic LandÂ and have students generate questions from that? Yesssssss, I could totally do that… That way the learning would be authentic and related to the curriculum we already have in place!

My only concern remains starting with a video. I want to make sure I’m looking for an introduction that inspires perplexity, not just engagement. After the 27-minute video was released in 1959, Walt Disney admitted:

“The cartoon is a good medium to stimulate interest. We have recently explained mathematics in a film and in that way excited public interest in this very important subject.”

(emphasis is my own) Now in looking at moving from merely interest to investigation…… I suppose that recording student questions will take care of that fear, right? Then having their questions shape the following lessons?

Hmmmmm. Of course, there are a wealth of videos available on sound and math, but much of the information is so complex that I can’t figure out how to simplify it.

I’m also interested in looking at the materials used in instrument strings and the number of strings included in different instruments. How do the number of notes an instrument is capable of producing related to its system? Can systems be different sizes? Is a larger system necessarily “better” or more “complete?”

Anyway. Let’s see how this goes.

## Collection of Higgs Goodies

I’ve been collecting some Higgs videos and articles since Higgsdependence Day last Wednesday, and I wanted to share them all in one place.

Presenting a crash course in the HIGGS-BOSON, as curated by me!

My new favorite YouTube channel is Minute Physics, which I just discovered. YES. Here’s their Higgs explanation.

Now. I need to be honest with you. I love Vi Hart deeply, but it has come to my attention that her assertion that the Higgs Boson accounts for “missing mass” in critters like us (and pigs) is incorrect. So although I revere her enthusiasm for the discovery, I need to tell you she’s off the mark on this one.

But like I said, her enthusiasm isÂ contagious:

Another piece that isn’t quite accurate, but IS humorous.

You can listen to Ira Flatow talk about the Higgs discovery on Science Friday. I met him at MSU. He was kind of a douche.

I love TED. I love hot scientists. Yesssss.

And here’s another Brian Cox explanation:

This is my favorite analogy of all time, from John Ellis:

You can see the full announcement of the Higgs discovery here. I originally mentioned that I hadn’t seen any women speaking about the announcement, but Chip pointed out that the decidedly female Fabiola Gionatti is in charge of ATLAS, which along with CMS is analyzing all the detrius that the LHC spits out.

I always can appreciate a good rap. Here’s an overview of the Large Hadron Collider at CERN.

And here’s what happens at the LHC. Brought to you by Chip Brock, who as I mentioned yesterday has been a TREMENDOUSLY generous resource.

Chip is also helping me work on my own explanation, as I’ve received feedback from several people that the above explanations aren’t clear/basic enough. Fingers crossed I can create something comprehensible. Although by the time I post it, people probably won’t be excited about the Higgs any more. Which is a shame.

## Perceptions of Science

I’ve been thinking a lot these past few days about science and people who consider themselves to be “not science people” or “not math people” and how that winds up playing out in educators and education. The response to the Higgs Boson discovery has been huge and wonderful, but these New York hipsters show us we still have a long way to go.

In my musings, I owe much gratitude to Chip Brock, who has always been willing to answer my random, rapid-fire e-mail questions. My lifetime favorite question is probably when I sent him a message from my internship at The Gazette in Colorado Springs asking how much pressure it would take to blast off a manhole cover. Yessssss.

I owe a lot in advance to Kendra Snyder, who is a science publicist for the American Museum of Natural History. I say “in advance” because I plan on picking her brain plenty in the future, although before yesterday, I hadn’t seen her since we graduated together from MSU in May 2005. Which is an absolutely tragedy, because she is brilliant and wonderful. We didn’t hang out much outside of SNews functions at MSU and our sweet 2003 study abroad, which is a shame.

I was trying to figure out yesterday morning, as I was brain barfing to Kendra, why my passionate interest in lay-person’s science advocacy has been on the sidelines for so long. Maybe it’s because I’ve found science-loving friends in Toby’s coworkers at Cheezburger who made me think that the rest of the world was more into science these days. Maybe I was lulled into a false sense that science was becoming more widely recognized because of popular shows like Mythbusters and Alton Brown’s Good Eats.

But I’m probably really thinking about how most people respond to science because of the reaction most people have when I tell them I’m writing a children’s book about Buckminster Fuller. There are three main forms these reactions take. I am including photos for ease of interpretation.

Â

1) Delight. “OMG Awesome! The geodesic dome! Buckyballs! What are you writing about him?”

2) Dismissiveness. “Oh, SHANNON, you’re such an overachiever. Don’t even tell me, I know I wouldn’t understand.”

3) That Look. “That Look” also goes along with “That Voice,” the tone that people use when they talk about science being beyond their grasp. You’ve heard every single TV and radio personality using “That Voice” when they lead into a story about the Higgs discovery. It’s oftentimes meant as a compliment, I’m sure, like “Now we’ll hear from a brilliant person who understands the mysteries of the universe,” but I actually take it as an insult. When you use That Voice and give me That Look, here’s what I actually think: If I am failing to communicate in a lucid way how certain processes work, you are actually calling me an incomprehensible jerk incapable of communicating clearly.

I don’t want you to tell me I’m smart; I want you to ask me questions so I can help you understand too! I want you to be able to see the beauty and majesty and wonder in how science shows us how the world is put together.

How can we get people to be more comfortable and interested in science, especially in a time when NASA funding is nonexistent, education is floundering, and there’s a grossÂ permeatingÂ feeling of anti-intellectual sentiment that I can only seem to shake when I’m with the brilliant educators they keep tucked away in the district office?

Well, I can tell you one strategy that probably WON’T work:

I’ll be continuing to ponder this further. But for now, I’ll leave you with inspiring words from Neil DeGrasse Tyson, who actually works out of the American Natural History Museum and might have been in THE EXACT SAME BUILDING AS I WAS yesterday.

## Woodland Park Zoo!

Today, we had the opportunity to go to the Woodland Park Zoo! I’ll admit, I heard quite a few of my students say beforehand, “Uhhhhh, we go to the zoo evvvvvery yearrrrr.” But I’m pleased to say we had quite a fabulous time. We prefer the Woodland Park Zoo to the Point Defiance Zoo, and we also noticed that this zoo has a bunch of new exhibits that weren’t there a few years ago when some of us came as kindergarteners or first graders.

In addition to seeing all the fabulous animals, we also met up with Greg from the education department, who taught us about plant and animals and how they survive with each other. Here we are on our way to visit the komodo dragon.

He also showed us the tapir, the orangutan, the lion-tail macaque, and the siamang.

My group observed the jaguar walking like it was modeling on a catwalk!

My group of eight students (so well-behaved! Wheeee!) went to one of the aviaries where we saw birds less than three feet away from us.

The weather was ABSOLUTELY FABULOUS, and whenever we got cold we were able to go to an indoor exhibit.

Not all the animals were exotic. In fact, we all enjoyed hanging out with the enormous chubby squirrels.

## UW Atmospheric Sciences Trip!

Our class had an amazing trip to the University of Washington Atmospheric Sciences center this Thursday!

“They taught us a lot of things — like how to make a cloud. They were good scientists, they were smart but they didn’t act like they know everything.” L said.

“We were able to sit in college seats rather than regular seats, I felt like I was in college,” T.E. said.

“I wanted to say thank you for letting us sit in their classrooms because they taught us what they were learning about and they took us on the roof and that was really fun and kind,” T.S. said.

“I liked it when we were on the roof and they showed us the rain collector and the instrument that measured how much light there was,” K.A. said.

“When were on the roof, it was nice of them to show us how the instruments worked, and the rain catcher, and the satellite dish,” J.C. said.

Several of us thought the roof was going to be flat or go right upto the edge like in the old silent movie “Safety Last.”

“I thought the exploding cloud was really cool and it was nice of them to show it to us and having a volunteer was nice — it was kind of nice to have X help us,” A.B. said.

On our way out, we saw Cliff Mass and two of his TA’s coming out of Weather 101. We recognized Dr. Mass from his YouTube videos and from his NPR podcasts. Many students noted that he seemed older in real life than in the videos, although it was mentioned to them that that might not be the most tactful thing to say.

“My favorite part was when we were on the roof and Chris told us about the little thing that spins and told us about which way the wind was blowing — the wind vane. My second favorite part was when we took the picture and made funny faces,” A.G. said.

The photo A is talking about can’t be posted to this website because this is a non-district website, BUT families, if you e-mail me I will send you a copy. I CAN show you this picture of us walking up the staircase to the

“I was afraid it was going to be flat and we were going to slip, but instead it had a large square around it so we couldn’t fall,” A. V-G. said.

## Penguin Sweaters

I saw this post in my Google Reader feed tonight and thought of a recent read aloud.

Call for Knitted Sweaters for Penguins Affected by Oil Spill

This reminded me, of course, of Pierre the Penguin, which we read earlier this week in our journey to read all the books nominated for the 2012 Washington Children’s Choice Picture Book Awards. Wonder what the folks at the California Academy of Sciences think of this fashionable take on their wetsuit?

## Wildwood Park: The Autumn Edition

We made it today. And what a day it was! Huzzah!

Our scheduled October 12 field trip to Wildwood Park was initially postponed a week because weÂ struggledÂ with appropriate in-class behavior and we were slow to follow directions, but our practice paid off because we had, frankly, a flawless trip this afternoon!

The weather was wonderful, and students worked hard to accomplish everything we needed to in the morning to ensure we could set out for the park on time. A field trip to Wildwood Park is really more of a “field trip” with air quotes because it’s RIGHT next door to our school. But the fact that it’s off campus and requires OFFICIAL field trip paperwork gives it an air of greater importance.

The science gave it an air of greater importance too. Students trekked to the park armed with their clipboards, pencils (there was NO pencil drama â€” everyone was responsible and made a plan in case their pencils broke/got lost/were stolen by a squirrel), and super-neat FIELD GUIDES.

Once there, students had the option of exploring independently, or perambulating with me in a leisurely manner to ensure they didn’t miss any of the sights. They mapped out deciduous trees, evergreen trees, and ferns. As I’m typing this, I am JUST NOW reminded of The Definitive Central Park Map. I TOTALLY wish I would have thought of that this morning to show students before we left.

No matter. We had a blast. I was thoroughly impressed at my students’ ability to let go and have a great time, yet still take care of the Official Science Business they needed to attend to. The sketched and described trees, moss, and ferns, and they were careful to stay in my line of sight (noÂ chaperonesÂ today, sadly).

After Official Science Business was attended to, we used the remaining time to play on the Wildwood Park Big Toy. As someone whose elementary school park boasted a strictly wood-and-bolts play structure, the crazy spider-y rope climbing portion and the see-saw swing things kind of blew my mind.

Then, it was time to head back to school. The entire trip, including the walk to and from the park (which, granted, was right next door), including the “tour” and time to fill out Field Guides, including the play time on the Big Toy, was less than one hour. Students declared the trip a success, and I’d agree.

One of our PTA parents (who doesn’t have a student in my class) asked why more teachers don’t plan trips like I did. Here’s an expanded look at the answer I gave her.

The first reason, the one I imagine is most pressing to our teachers, is because most classrooms at our school have greater than half their class reading a year or two (or more) behind grade level, so it can be difficult to get field trips approved. You’ll notice I was careful to say “it can be difficult,” not “you can’t do it,” because I believe that if your field trip doesn’t align to more than one core subject area, frankly, you’re not planning the trip to maximize its learning potential.

The second reason is that paperwork’s a pain. It’s decidedly less painful to me because I’ve filled out many field trip forms in the past few years (every math team contest counts as a field trip, which means 5-6 permission slips during the competition season), so I can fill out the paperwork pretty quickly. But in addition to filing everything properly, the teacher then needs to collect permission slips, which often aren’t returned. Even on a free field trip somewhere nearby, teachers need chaperones. If we were going anywhere other than next door, I would have needed at least two people to step up and join us. We have a trip to the UW planned for Thursday, and I’m not quite sure what we’ll do because I only have one available parent with Washington Patrol approval.

Speaking of which, want to join us at the UW Department of Atmospheric Sciences on Thursday??? You’d be home by noon. CONTACT ME, because we’d love to have you there. I’ve been listening to Cliff Mass’ KPLU podcasts lately to improve my weather knowledge.

Tracking down more interesting goodies for our weather unit!

Information on how to become aÂ meteorologistÂ from the TV weather pros.

The NOAA folks are amazing. All sorts of information from their education program is available here.

This is incredibleÂ — I’d LOVE to be part of this program. Researching at sea?! No way!

I’m also interested in attending a Skywarn Weather Spotter training. My dad went through it a billion years ago, and I was always jealous that he knew what was going on before a storm.

## Weather Site AND Potential Field Trip!!!

Hey there!

I’ve been continuing to plan our first science unit, and I’m uncovering some neat stuff!

Take a look at this website! In addition to great information on weather, it actually tells you how you can improve your skills at predicting the weather!

I’ve also discovered there’s an atmospheric research department at the University of Washington, and I’ve contacted them for information on perhaps visiting them this October! Ahhh, so exciting! The trip should be about \$5 to cover the cost of the bus. Start saving!

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