Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Stomp Rocket

The students brainstormed and played with the parts of the stomp rocket that I made for one of my science projects at The Exploratorium Teacher Institute training program in San Francisco. They had to figure out how to assemble it into the rocket stomp. I asked them an open ended question in the beginning to welcome their creative ideas and new designs from the rocket parts. So, I asked “what can you make out of these parts?’’ It was quite interesting to see the students collaborate their ideas and experiment assembling different models. They came up with different shapes of the alphabet (T, F, h), number (4) and other shapes with their own explanations.
After they tried every possible shapes and designs that they could think of, I asked them to come up with a model of a rocket stomp or a launcher. The students started to rush their ideas into remodeling a rocket stomp. After they figured out their rocket launcher, I gave them some guidance to make the launcher stable.
The next assignment was an art project to make a rocket out of paper or transparent little hard plastic cover or chart paper, cello tape and scissors. I demonstrated how to make a rocket using paper, and asked them to come up with their own designs and shapes for their respective rockets.
The students came up with their creative rockets: some are shorter, others are longer with tails attached and some are without a tail. Everyone was happy with their own rocket and assumed that their rocket would travel to the highest point in the sky. I have also seen students teasing each other with their rockets.
Finally, it was time for all of us to launch our rockets. We all went outside, in front of the guesthouse yard at Chokyi Gyatsho Institute and gathered around a rocket stomp. I told my dear boys that we are going to ‘’estimate’’ the distance travelled by each rocket. The word ‘’estimate’’ was introduced in the class with some daily practical examples (we estimate salt to add in the curries, etc.), before we came outside and they have quite a good understanding of this vocabulary. The students presented the launching of their rockets according to the alphabetical order of their names. Other students in the audience surrounded the rocket stomp, counted down from 3 to 0, while a stomper was ready to give a big stomp on the two liter plastic bottle to push the rocket into the sky.
In the process of launching, the students discovered how a rocket works in general and which of their rockets would travel the longest distance. They knew that a rocket with an attached tail travels further. They also said that a rocket with pointed head, slim, long, straight and airproof ones travel further.
After launching each rocket, I have asked them to estimate the distance travelled by that rocket. They came up with different estimations: 20 feet, 30 feet, 40 feet, 50 feet, etc.
Mr. Sangay Nidup’s rocket travelled the highest distance with an estimated height of more than 50 feet, followed by Mr. Dema Gyempo.

Sunday, August 3, 2014

Feel the temperature

When I was at the Exploratorium in San Francisco, I learned a technique for grouping students for activities in a class by shaking hands and feeling the temperatures. The temperature of human hands varies from individual to individual. Human hands can easily sense the temperatures of other hands.
To investigate we can ask our students to shake hands with other students in the class and notice the temperature of the other hands. Most likely, the students will have hotter or colder than their own hands. 
After shaking hands with many people, arrange them in a line from hottest hands at one end to coldest hands at the other. Then have the hottest handed person and the coldest handed person divide the line into two equal groups- Hot handed group and cold handed group. We can also extend this activity by making the hot handed person and the cold handed person go down the line shaking hands with everyone else to find out the differences.
What’s going on?
Human hands have different temperatures. The temperature depends on the metabolic rate and circulatory system of each individual. If a person’s vascular system is dilated (which is what we call vasodilatation), their hands tend to be hotter, if it is constricted (vasoconstriction), their hands tend to be colder.
We can also try this activity with an adult who smokes and drinks alcohol. First do the above activity then allow the smoker to take a break to smoke . When they return have them shake hand and experience the difference. Nicotine in cigarette smoke is a vasoconstrictor and will cause their hands to become cooler. On the other hand alcohol is a vasodilator and will cause their hand to become warmer. 
In addition to using this information for grouping a class, it can be the entry point to a number of lessons, from anatomy to physics even hygiene. Be sure to wash your hands after touching so many people, hands are the number one way to spread germs.