Saturday, October 13, 2012
But I have an idea. What if, in addition to the calculation of BTUs per square foot, students could research options for their households: PV, solar hot water, air source heat pumps, pellet stoves, pellet retrofits for oil furnaces, weatherization. They could do the calculations (they're not terribly hard) to figure out approximately how much money their family could save. Students fill out some form that would give parents some easy-to-look-at options and projected savings - specific to their house - and then we hold a parents night, where students present their work generally to their parents.
Part of me feels like this is too nosey and meddling. Part of me feels like if education does not have real-life applications, then why do it?
I think I'm going to do it. It gives students as voice with their parents (or at least an opportunity for them to have a voice). It could save people money. It could save the earth some long-cycle carbon. Those seem like good reasons, even if it is meddling.
Wednesday, September 12, 2012
I told a science-teaching colleague of mine about my summertime endeavor and he replied, "Anne! Are you a closet lecturer? I'm shocked!" I assured him I was as constructivist as I knew how to be in my classes, but these power points serve a rather different purpose.
I will confess that my thinking can sometimes be non-linear, and hopefully this will help me to stay on track and removes the nagging question "What comes next?". When I get brilliant ideas for other units, I have a go-to location for depositing that thought for development at another time. I don't have to worry about creating notes for next week's class, or even next month's class, not to mention the benefits of when a student is out sick or leaves early for field hockey. I'm already more relaxed than this time last year, and I already feel like a better teacher.
Why did it take me so long to get to this point? Frankly, I knew this would be an intense undertaking, and at this point my compilation of files represents at least 80hours worth of work. But my gosh, it has been well-worth it.
Thursday, June 28, 2012
I was working with my advanced physics students building a bicycle generator. We had all the wiring purchased and ready to set up. We were about to hook it all up to the alternator, when...
We got one of the connections switched, and in the process of pulling it out to fix it there were some sparks, and then there was some smoke, and then there was LOTS of smoke.
Long story short, we got to pull the fire alarm, use the fire extinguisher, and evacuate the entire school. That was an exciting day! It really was the best possible situation though. No one got hurt, no property was damaged (except we melted some wires), and some genuine (and I mean genuine) learning occurred as a result. In hind sight there were at least three things we should have done differently:
1. Don't bolt down the wires until you're sure they're where they should be.
2. You can never have too many fuses.
3. Don't forget: the frame is negative.
The best part was we couldn't figure out why it happened until we were outside, and THEN we realized it. Ok - the best part might have been that everyone was SUPER supportive: the superintendent, all the teachers who were outside with me, all the students. It was awesome. And there's no better advertisement for physics!
But there's one more portion of this story to write. The rest of that day we had class outside because my classroom was COVERED in fire extinguisher dust. For anyone who's experienced that stuff, oh man, I commiserate. That stuff gets EVERYWHERE, and it's NOT easy to clean up. The custodial staff at the high school did a _great_ job cleaning things up, but the thing they were not excited to touch: my closet.
Unfortunately, the door to my closet had been open and every surface was covered in white powder.
Truth be told, I have never cleaned out my closet in 8 years of teaching. There are boxes in there that I inherited which were never opened when I arrived, and I have never opened them. There were objects in there for which I have NO CLUE what they're for or how they work. So here was my opportunity. After school was out I got a couple of supplementary custodial workers to help me go through EVERYTHING in my closet and make the decision to either wipe it off or throw it out.
I didn't think to take a "before" picture, but here's the after picture with everything cleaned out:
Monday, March 5, 2012
Dear NSTA authors,
An article you previously published in one of our journals has been chosen for inclusion in a new NSTA Press compendium titled Fuel for Thought. This volume is intended to help high school and upper middle school teachers demonstrate the interdisciplinary nature of energy in their classrooms. If you would like to receive a copy of the book, please send me your name and address. In addition, please don’t hesitate to ask any questions.
Thank you for your continued contributions to science education in general and the mission of NSTA in particular!
Remind me to write more articles! :)
Saturday, February 25, 2012
Thursday, February 9, 2012
- We're still using that tank.
- It can and will fail at some point.
- When it fails it will be expensive
- The heat planned to be delivered to the school through the District Heating project in Montpelier will not replace our oil burners.
- If we did want to replace the oil burners with something above ground, the maximum size allowable is 250 gallons, which means a delivery once a week, and that's where all the danger comes from: the transport of oil.
- The tank below ground now has a capacity of 12,000 gallons.
- The tank at the elementary school has already had a leak within the last few years.
Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire.
Monday, January 16, 2012
I'm teaching my kids in freshman bio about spectrophotometry tomorrow. To really understand it well you need to know how light wavelengths and filters work. I understand it well enough to teach it, but looking into color theory led me to some questions I am utterly confused about - we thought maybe you could help. Ok, here we go:
1. Supposed facts:
- White light is actually a combination of all light wavelengths from ~400nm to ~800nm
- White light can be made by shining blue light (450-475nm), green light (495nm-570nm) and red light (620-750nm)
Problem I have:
- If I make white light from red, blue and green light, how can I then derive yellow light (570-590nm) or cyan light (476-495nm) from it? How can white light be BOTH a combination of all wavelengths AND be successfully formed from three specific wavelength bands? If I use only three bands there are several holes in the spectrum.
2. Red light (620-750nm) plus yellow light (570-590nm) makes orange light (590-620nm).
- Does this mean that we perceive the light as orange as an average of the red and yellow - OR do the wavelenghts in the range 590-620 ACTUALLY exist - if so, from where did they origniate? Did the red wavelenths somehow shorten and did the yellow lengthen? If so how? Did the red wavelentghs somehow cause the yellow to lengthen? Likewise did the yellow cause the red to lengthen?
3. Similar to problem 2 - if I mix blue light (450-475nm) and red light (620-750nm) I get violet (magenta) light (380-450nm).
- How can mixing these two lights result in a wavelenth BELOW the lowest wavelength of origin?
Clearly I don't know much about light theory and it seems to me that it isn't a simple matter of adding and subtracting.
Anytime I do an internet search about "how to make magenta light" all I get is information telling me to mix red and blue - yes, but that doesn't tell me HOW the light (i.e. the wavelength range) is formed.
Any insight you have would be very welcomed!!!
Thanks so much!
Wow. Those are _really_ good questions, and I had to do some poking around to fill in my own gaps... ok, big gaps in my understanding. Here is what I've got for you, not total answers, but I hope it helps:
1. Since "white" is not really a color, you could say that the color white is just a construct in our minds. I wouldn't even say it's always made up of "all the colors". It's just the "color" we see when each of the 3 kinds of cones in our eyes are stimulated with an equivalent amount of red, green, and blue light. Though you could also get white from simply mixing cyan, magenta, and yellow monochromatic lights. So... yes! There can be holes. In fact, I'm pretty sure that most "white" light is full of imperceptible holes anyway, known as absorption and/or emission lines. They're not the same thing, but basically amount to the same idea: white light is not necessarily always made of "all the colors".
Here's more info on absorption/emission spectra:
2. I think it's good here to keep in mind that light is just the superposition (or overlapping) of many frequencies, so while I think orange can exist on its own (say as it's emitted from some glowing element), if you had orange light, composed of a red source and a yellow source, you could break it down through a prism, into those components. The yellow is not longer and the red is not shorter. It's a question of these two being superimposed and perceived as one color in this case - similar to white light that's composed of some set of other colors (red, green, blue, or magenta, cyan, yellow). This is governed by something called chromaticity, which is, as you suggested, a weighted average of the wavelengths of the ingredient wavelengths.
More here: http://www.handprint.com/HP/WCL/color5.html
3. Ok, so here's where things get super weird. I don't think it's really fair to say that magenta has a wavelength. Magenta: not specifically included in the electromagnetic spectrum. You _can't_ get magenta without mixing two colors. I know. That's weird. Magenta on the color wheel is that special place where the two ends of the spectrum meet. I would think that our brains would just take an average like every other superposition, but no, in this case, we mix and get something entirely new. But then, why should I be surprised? When we mixed red, blue, and green we got white - also not in the spectrum.
I hope this has been helpful. I certainly had fun digging into this stuff a little deeper.
*** not included in the email: I suspect that all the non-spectral colors (including magenta, brown, grey, white) are physical examples of emergence. Emergence is one of my favorite concepts in the universe.