Tag Archives: middle school

RSC runs massive crystal-growing competition open to all students worldwide!

RSC Global Experiment 2014 Art of Crystallography

Compete with thousands of other students from around the world by taking part in this epic crystal-growing experiment aimed at students aged 7-16, hosted by the Royal Society of Chemistry (RSC).

The aim of the Global Experiemnt is to find the exact conditions that allow you to grow the biggest, most impressive crystals of alum, epsom salts, potassium nitrate, table salt and sucrose. Students do the entire process themselves, then post their pictures and data onto the RSC’s global, interactive results map. Here’s their instructional video:

Through getting your students involved in this year’s Global Experiment, you’ll be teaching them about dissolving, saturation and crystal growth. You’ll be engaging them in a fun, interactive science project they can easily continue at home. The RSC has even provided instruction packs, lesson plans and an instructional video to make the planning process as easy as possible for teachers.

It’s free to take part, and no specialist equipment is required. It can be done entirely using a few cheap things purchased from a local store. It can be done at home, at school or at an after-school science club.

The RSC has teamed up with the International Union of Crystallography to make this year’s Global Experiment officially a part of the International year of crystallography.

The RSC’s Global Experiment has been a great success in recent years. It follows the 2013 Global Experiment: measuring the quantity of vitamin C in fruits and vegetables, and the 2012 Global Experiment: Chemistry in the Olympics.

For more information, or to register, go to http://www.rsc.org/learn-chemistry/collections/online-experimentation/collaborative-chemistry/global-experiment-2014, and check out some existing entries on their Pinterest board.

Book: Science is Golden

Science is Golden
Science is Golden, and so is this book.

Freakonomics for middle-school children.
252 pages, ★★★★

Science is Golden is as informal as its cover suggests. It’s a humorous tour of science from the highly relevant (plane travel) to the highly irrelevant (black holes). Each chapter is clearly illustrated and contains no more than five pages of text.

The author not only contemplates (and subtly mocks) absurd theories about a 2012 apocalypse, and busts dozens of myths with scientific evidence, but also loads his writing with interesting facts that go beyond the original topic of each chapter. We learn about the iridescent keratin structures in peacock feathers; the difference between a meteoroid, a meteor and a meteorite, and the origin of the 40,000 tons per year that the Earth gains in mass. Most memorably, we learn about the structure and function of a spotted hyena’s clitoris. You’ll be amused and surprised.

Everything in this book is presented with calmness, balance, and undertones of fun. It touches on sex (e.g. the spotted hyena chapter), but even those parts are written in a very responsible way. The language level, fonts and cover design of this book are clearly aimed at a young-teenage age group. And I’d have no hesitations in recommending it my own science students.

Where Freakonomics is for high-school students, and Stephen J. Gould is for university students, Science is Golden is for middle school students. Let Dr Karl Kruszelnicki convince them that science is cool★★★★


Book: Over-schooled but Under-educated

Unlike the misleadingly distressed title font, this book isn’t rebellious at all.

Strangely, this book is a moderately flattering history of schools.
310 pages, ★★★

Over-schooled but Under-educated isn’t so much a critique, or even a blueprint, as a history of schooling. It reads like a selection of meandering essays about when schools were built, by whom, and for what purpose—basically, by churches in the 19th century to handle the delinquent poor; and later by the new, self-made middle-class as an attempt to push their children out of skilled labour and into the aristocracy. Over-schooled but Under-educated thus neglects its “schools need reform” thesis for six chapters! In the introduction, the author even writes, “you can skim-read chapters 5 and 6 to read chapter 7 properly, which is the crux of my argument”.

This book’s points are largely obvious. Schools need reform; teachers should let students learn by themselves; standardised tests set precedents more than they measure a student’s existing ability; and the family environment (that’s Pierre Bourdieu’s “Social Capital”) accounts for a greater proportion of a child’s education than does the experience of that child’s teacher. As a teacher, I feel like I knew all this already.

I was expecting something revolutionary from this book. The distressed title font emanates undertones of strength, grunge and rebellion, but none of this was to be found. Instead, it’s written like a collection social sciences essays, and I was thus disappointed.

That said, Over-schooled but Under-educated was worth reading. The most constructive part was the chapter on Finland’s model of education, from which all Western countries, supposedly, can learn.

My own teacher training will take precedent over any other books that I read on education. At this stage, I can agree with the role of a teacher being a “guide on the side”, not a “sage on the stage”, but when my Diploma of Education starts in February, even this view will be up for debate. ★★★