Month: September 2017

Newton’s Balloon Rocket Cars

What is it about balloons? It doesn’t matter how old the kid is, you bring out a balloon, just the regular kind that you fill with your own CO2 ,  and the is an excitement in the air. My two-year old loves hitting balloons in the air, trying to keep it up as long as possible. The 7th grade students see a pack of balloons on my counter, and immediately are wanting to know if they will get to blow one up!

Good thing this time the answer was yes!

We have been wrapping up our study on Newton’s Laws. I wanted an activity that would require students to use their knowledge of all three laws in their design. A balloon rocket car fit perfectly. I based my design after what I saw here at kidzworld.com, however there are many variations to this activity using other materials!

Goals of the design:

  • Students were to design and create a “rocket car” that used the balloon to thrust the car forward.
  • Students needed to calculate the momentum of their car, and therefore find the velocity.
  • They measured the distance the car went and the time it took to go that distance.

Here are the materials that you need:

  • Styrofoam
  • Cardboard
  • Straight straws
  • Flexible straws
  • Wooden skewers
  • Bottle caps with a hole in them (used as wheels. You can easily make a hole by hammering a nail lightly through the center of the cap. I also had wooden wheels on hand, so I let the students choose which they wanted to use.)
  • Balloons
  • Tape
  • Scissors

Though the basic design of the car was going to be the same, there were several smaller choices students could make that would affect how well the car worked. For example, they could pick either cardboard or styrofoam to be the base of the car. Either wooden wheels or bottle caps could be used for the wheels. The wheels were attached by the skewers and/or straws underneath the base of the car. On top, a bendy straw was attached. At one end, students needed to secure the balloon. The other end was left open so someone from the group could blow the balloon up and be ready to race!

This car went the farthest. The group cut pieces out of the side to eliminate extra mass.

I allowed students three trials. Some had cars that moved fast, but not far. Others moved slow and steady and still others moved at all. If I had one more day to do this activity, I would have allowed them to change one thing about their designs to see if they could make their cars go farther or faster.

After their testing, recording and calculating of velocity and momentum, we discussed how Newton’s laws were involved.

Newton’s 1st Law

An object in motion stays in motion unless an unbalanced force acts upon it. Students understood this through the slowing down of the car from the friction. They also stated that if the car had more mass, that meant there was more inertia which made it harder for the balloon car to start moving.

Newton’s 2nd Law

F=ma. A more massive car would be harder to accelerate with the same force. Students figured out that more massive balloon rockets required much more balloon air power to get going. To increase acceleration, those balloons needed to be blown pretty big!

Newton’s 3rd Law

For every action there is an equal and opposite reaction. The application of this law was fairly obvious to the students. They immediately realized that the force of the air coming out of the balloon from behind would push the balloon rocket forward with an equal amount of force!

The students love comparing their balloon rocket cars and would have loved a race! Maybe next time I can turn this into a Newton’s Laws tournament!

8 Easy Last Minute Dinner Ideas

So far this school year has been a whirlwind. There has been so much going on. I feel like from the time I wake up until the time I lay down again at night, I’m busy with something! Many families are probably in the same position, especially this time of year. Even in the crazy weeks, I like to sit down as a family for dinner. This has been especially important to me as our kids get older. We don’t often eat breakfast or lunch as a family, so the final meal of the day is where we can come together and spend some time. It’s not even about the food. It is about being together. It’s about sharing your day with people that care about you. As we sit down, we pray, talk, eat and enjoy each other’s company. Don’t get me wrong, it is usually not calm and peaceful at the dinner table with two little ones. However, it’s one of my favorite times of the day because we can be together!

But what do you cook on those crazy nights? Maybe you only have 15 minutes to throw something together. I’ve created a list of 8 last minute dinner ideas that can be put together quickly with little to no prep. My family typically eats at least one or two meals from this list a week. And that’s just fine by me!

1. Tacos

Um… this should be a last minute AND a regular planned dinner. Who doesn’t love taco night? These are so versatile that you can grab anything you have in your pantry, freezer or kitchen to a tortilla, roll it up and you’re done. Make it a taco bar so kids can choose what toppings to put in. Chicken, beef, fish, just veggies… it’s all good. Cheese, lettuce, and salsa with a little dollop of sour cream finishes it off. Put out a bag of tortilla chips and everyone is happy.

2. Quesadillas 

Super similar to taco night, quesadillas are a great anytime meal. My husband is the master quesadilla maker. He has been known to put anything and everything inside. Once, we had leftover Thanksgiving quesadillas, turkey and mashed potatoes included. All you need are some tortillas and cheese. Anything else is a bonus!

3. Grilled Cheese

This is a staple at our house during the week. Often, my husband is gone at least one dinner a week. Rather than cooking a full meal for my two year old and myself, I typically prepare a few grilled cheese sandwiches. Easy and yummy. You can turn a regular grilled cheese into something gourmet by adding a few simple ingredients. Sliced Granny Smith apple with cheddar, adding hummus, or even making it with mozzarella with some pizza sauce! The options are endless. Add some soup (canned or homemade) and it is a delicious meal for a chilly or rainy day.

4. Breakfast for Dinner

I am actually not a huge fan of having breakfast for dinner. I’m not really a huge fan of big breakfasts for breakfast either. But, my family loves it and I know many people love breakfast all day any day. Pancakes, waffles and french toast are classics. There are so many varieties of these that you can do. Add fruit, make it savory, add eggs or sausage to make a complete meal. You can even put your jammies on early and have breakfast for dinner the right way.

5. Salad with Chicken

I try to make a big salad to have with dinner early in the week, that way, it is available for dinners the next few days. However, in a pinch, add more to the salad, throw in some protein like cooked chicken breast (I’ve even thrown in cut up chicken nuggets… don’t judge) and boom! Delicious and healthy! If you have dinner rolls on hand, put them in the oven and have warm, bread ready to go in a few minutes.

6. Pizza

Oh man. Can you ever go wrong with pizza? This is a weekend must. And it doesn’t have to be take out! Our freezer is always stocked with a couple frozen pizzas. I also like to make homemade crusts ahead of time using this recipe from Momsbyheart.  You can freeze these crusts and pull them out whenever you need to whip up a delicious pizza. Sauce, cheese, and whatever toppings you like (and have in the house) make these easy to personalize. If you don’t want to make your own crusts, you can buy pre-made crusts, or use something a little more unconventional. We’ve made the pizzas on tortillas, bagels, English muffins, you could even put it on bread and make pizza grilled cheese!

7. Spaghetti

Always a classic. With meat sauce, without meat sauce, whatever you choose, it is a win. And I’m not talking about making your own sauce from scratch type of spaghetti. Boil the noodles, heat up the sauce from a jar, sprinkle some parmesan cheese on top and there you go. Use some of the salad you made from the previous night to go with it. Butter some slices of bread (anything you have on hand), sprinkle garlic powder on top and put it in the oven for a few minutes on broil, and you also have toasty garlic bread.

8. Baked Potato Bar

This is another recipe that you can work with what you have in the pantry and freezer. Bake the potatoes (or you can microwave them in a pinch) and set out several possible toppings. Butter and mayo, broccoli and cheese, chives, salsa, sour cream, bacon…. Endless options! Add a side salad if you feel the need for more greens.

Slowest Parachute Design

In 7th grade, we started right away with physics concepts. These are some of my favorite areas of science! I love teaching Newton’s laws, investigating forces and computing the simple math equations that come with! My students however, don’t always seem quite as eager!

While discussing friction one day, I decided a design lab was needed to boost their interest level and understanding. Students knew friction slowed things down, but some were having a little trouble thinking about why friction is also helpful! Someone replied with a comment about parachutes, and instantly I had my idea.

After class, I frantically searched every drawer of my classroom for a little bag of these:

I had collected them at a 4th of July parade this summer, just in case I had a brilliant idea.

With just a quick search online, I found several activities that related to what I was thinking: A Slowest Parachute Contest. Teachengineering.org had this lesson plan already created! It was simple to put together, used simple materials and taught the concepts I needed it to. Winning! Although I did make a new, slightly adapted worksheet, I followed this lesson pretty closely!

This took my class two class periods, although both classes were shortened because of other activities going on that week. You could most likely complete it in about an hour if needed. The first day, students were given the challenge and the supplies.

Supplies included:

  • One army man
  • A Plastic Bag
  • Newspaper
  • Construction Paper
  • Tissues
  • String
  • Tape

Day 1

  1. Students were put into groups of three, and each group had to decide which material they wanted as their parachute.
  2. Next, students cut their material into a circle. I was not specific on the size of the circle on purpose. Part of the lab is to see if the area has an affect on the parachute’s performance. Some students used a compass to help draw their circles, which was a great idea. They also put a small hole in the middle of the circle of their parachutes, after some discussion over whether this was actually a good idea or not (it is…and after discussing, most agreed).
  3. Before attaching the parachute, students needed to calculate the area of their circle. Yay for the math connection! We used the formula r2 . Students needed to be reminded to measure in cm so we all had the same units! At the end, we compared our surface area to the times of the parachute drops.

    Cutting out a circle
  4. Students could then tape or tie their army man to their parachutes using string. It was interesting to see the various ways students did this-some army men ended up falling upside down!

Day 2 – Testing!

At the beginning of our second day, we had about 5 minutes to make last minute adjustments to their parachutes. Then, student groups sent one “dropper” at a time to drop their army man while I timed the drop.

Each group was given three drops. There were a few “do-overs” when the parachutes hit a desk or chair on the way down. The times were then averaged. Unfortunately, I didn’t get any pictures of this, since I was using my phone to time the parachutes!

After each group had completed their drops, we had a discussion. It seemed to us that a larger parachute did help, but it was not necessarily the most important thing. Also, it seemed like the plastic bag material worked the best, but newspaper also worked well. I’m sure if we did this again, those results may vary.

Overall, the lab did seem to help students understand friction, especially air resistance. This activity was such an easy one to add last minute. Students were engaged, asking good questions about their designs and most importantly, gaining understanding of friction!

Triumph and Tragedy

Love for Logan

Have you heard about this story? This dear two year old, Logan, had a tragic accident with a car window. During his time in the hospital, his mother, Lisa, would post on Facebook any updates that occurred with her son while demonstrating her and her husband’s solid faith in Christ. Thousands of people began following their story and felt encouraged through Drew and Lisa’s courage and faith. Sadly, after a week without much progress, on August 24, 2017, Logan passed away.

I knew Logan quite well. In fact, my family is close friends with his parents and several members of the extended family. Because of this,it has taken me awhile to know what to post. In some ways, I just wanted to ignore it and keep posting about regular lessons. I could continue with another classroom activity or a recipe for the family. No one would really know the difference- not many people read this anyway. However, dealing with grief is a difficult thing. Ignoring the sadness won’t help. Even though this post won’t change the past, it can help honor sweet Logan and his family.

Our boys when they were about 6 months old.

My son is only a few weeks younger than Logan. The plan was for our boys to go through life together. We had imagined teachers comment about their mischievous ways. The two were going to play basketball together, already passing the balls around in the gym after church. We had assumed they would be performing in many more Christmas pageants as little stable animals like they did the Christmas before.

It hurts when things don’t go according to your plan. It’s painful to watch dear friends go through their (and your) worst nightmare. Yet, my family’s daily life has not changed dramatically. Even through the grief, we still wake, go to work, and put both our children to bed at night.  Earlier, I was chopping a watermelon up so my son would be able to eat it for the next week. It occurred to me for the one-thousandth time that these small things will always be different for Logan’s family.

My biggest question for God has been “Why them?” I feel panic moments when I think about how easily that could have been our family. Throughout the last few weeks I’ve looked at my son and tried to imagine what they might be going through. I can’t do it. It hurts too much.

We may never fully know why God took Logan away so young. However, God has been revealing Himself in small ways throughout this process. I have already seen certain broken relationships start to be restored. Others, who had seemingly drifted away from their faith, were seen in church the last few Sundays. Thousands of people followed this story and in doing so, shared hope with each other and glimpses of Christ’s love. God has been triumphant through Logan and this tragedy and will continue to work through it. Logan’s death may very well bring life to hundreds of others.

Even with that knowledge, it is not easy. After a death, especially that of a child, people often feel helpless. Nothing you do or say will bring the person back, yet, you want to do anything and everything you can to help. Someone posted this article called What You Can Do to Help a Grieving Family. It was written from a mother who also lost her son and contains ideas of what people can (and shouldn’t) do for a family who has experienced tragedy. 

Logan’s parents have seen an outpouring of people’s love in many ways mentioned in the article. They continue to receive gifts, donations and prayers from people in the community as well as hundreds of miles away. Yet even with the abundance of support, I think they will always have pain – the feeling of something missing. Nothing anyone can do will fix that. However, there is still hope. Because of Christ, they have the hope of eternity. Though the time on Earth will be difficult, it will be just a blink compared to the eternity they will have with Logan in the presence of Christ.

That is the triumph within the tragedy.