"One can never consent to creep when one feels the impulse to soar." ---Helen Keller

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

When the lab doesn't go as planned...

When your lab doesn't go as it planned, it is not always a failed teaching event.

Here is a wonderful example:
Mrs. Fendrick brought her 3rd grade class in to do a lesson on condensation right before our incredible ICE storm last week. The lab did not call for using heat (as many labs do) other than the air temperature to generate the condensation, hence, we had a minor problem....it was getting colder by the minute. As the children were walking in, we were noticing that the rain hitting the walkway roof sounded a little heavier than regular raindrops. The students were excited and maybe even hoping for a bit of the white stuff that is not seen in our area!!!

Materials all set up and ready to pass out for groups of two to work with.

The experiment we had planned that day is an AIMS experiment called "Kool Kups." The premise of the lesson was to have flavored drink mix with ice in one cup and drink mix without ice in another cup with a thermometer attached to record the air temperature surrounding the cup.

The flavored drink mix would illustrate that the condensation formed on the outside of the cup with the ice in it came from the air around the cup and not inside the cup. As the student would wipe the outside of the cup it would be clear wetness rather than red.

The science behind the experiment is that the air around contains water vapor (a gas). We need energy transfer to cause a phase change of gas to liquid. When water vapor is cooled it moves from gas to liquid. The air surrounding the cup should have been able to cool the air surrounding the cup from gas to liquid. However, the classroom temperature kept dropping that day.  I should have known we were in trouble, because I had some Sprite in a paper cup with ice and no condensation was forming. When I finally took note just before the class came in - I picked up the cup and not a ring of water left. SIGH!!!

IF that had been a warmer day, a paper cup would have left a puddle of water around it. Now fortunately, since we are from the south, the kids knew what should have happened to my cup of Sprite which was used to help them understand why our experiment failed.

All is not lost, we did start the lesson, recording our temperatures every 3 minutes. We talked as we went about the temperature needed and an experiment that some had seen in the Climate and Weather Pitsco Mission that eventually all students will do when that station comes up for them in the rotation.

The point is.... making the failure or the things that we can not control work for you. Mrs. Fendrick will be able to tie this back in on the first day she has a glass of water in her room that has condensation everywhere. It can lead to a host of ideas to be discussed from the botched experiment to why they now see condensation on her water cup or to why a Tervis tumbler or insulated cup would keep condensation from forming.

Teachable moments are everywhere, even in the mess ups. Might even be better because now they see both sides of the condensation puzzle.

Wish I had more photos to share, but as you can imagine, sleet and cold weather excited the students a bit, and we were busy keeping them on track for which they did well, but it left no time for pictures. Just keeping it real:)

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