I know that you and I were sure that this knitter was done with the chaperoning thing for the year. I certainly was. Positive. Absolutely.
So, yesterday, the sock chaperoned a group of 7th graders to a sort of Science Fair at the University of Illinois. The sock, with me in tow, shared the responsibility for 13 7th graders with their student teacher. We arrived by bus at about 9:00, and were duly welcomed by
A locally famous statue.
We then persuaded all 13 of our charges to walk up four whole flights of stairs to the fourth floor of the student union. There was an amazing amount of complaining. Wimps.
Our first escapade involved learning about reducing the freezing point of liquids, and seeing some fun results. The means by which they demonstrated this? Making ice cream!
Then, they added about 1/4 cup of sugar.
They then pressed out as much air as they could and sealed their ziplocks. Next up, a second, larger ziplock -- into which they put ice and salt.
Working in pairs, they took turns wearing gloves (to protect their hands from freezing) and shaking up their baggies, until they found that the contents of their inner bag was thickening.
Eventually, we stopped this, took the ice's temperature (some got down as low as 15 degrees F!), and enjoyed ice cream!
Made me want to go out to get an ice cream maker (I'd rather make more than one cup of ice cream at a time).
Next, we crossed the hall to play with more cold things: dry ice and liquid nitrogen.
Okay, the UofI student in charge of that chem room played, we watched and learned and surprised ourselves with how much we knew. My kid blew me away. Not only did she know that the transformation from liquid to solid is called freezing, and from solid to liquid is called melting, but also that going from liquid to gas is called evaporating and that going from gas to liquid is called condensing. But more still! She knew that the transformation from solid to gas is called sublimating! (I didn't even know that). That's what the dry ice was doing. (It's called dry ice because it never sees a liquid form.)
We then learned how to tell whether dry ice or liquid nitrogen was colder.... without a thermometer. I love logic. And it's fun to watch what happens when you put a chunk of dry ice into a wee vat of liquid nitrogen. That boiling that is happening at room temperature (yep, that's why all that vapor floats around -- its boiling at room temperature), goes nuts when you add the relatively warmer dry ice (yep, that stuff that will burn your hand and give you frost bite if you grab it without protection because it's so cold). Lots of fun vapor action.
Adding room temperature water to dry ice makes some fun vapor too. And adding soap stuff plus room temperature water to dry ice makes some really fun vapor plus many many bubbles filled with carbon dioxide. Whoosh..... and with liquid nitrogen plus soapies and room temperature water??? WOW! poof! big vapor and huge mat of bubbles in no time!
I thought that was fun. Why didn't we ever do that in MY middle school science classes???
Then we went on to learn about Ph and polymers. Some of the kids made bouncy balls out of some polymer or another... We also learned that low Ph things have an acidic taste and high Ph things have a bitter taste ... and the kids tasted a bunch of things to guess whether they were high or low Ph.... then tested the things w/ Ph indicator strips to see how well they guessed.
Next up... lunch. What a lot of science for one morning!
After lunch -- bugs .....
First up ... Ants.
I've never given ants much thought really, other than to delight in knowing that spraying soapy water (Dawn dishwashing liquid plus water) on them kills 'em as fast as or faster than Raid. We met with a professor of ants in his lab, and saw a colony of leaf cutter ants. They live in here.
and they use a stick sort of thing to fetch leaves from the bin in which the scientists set them up.
Note the ant in the middle carrying a leaf...(sorry about the picture quality here, but I forgot the good camera, and was making do with what my phone could achieve).
In that colony, there was one queen, who will spend her entire THIRTY YEAR life span in the nest (made up of some weird fungus that they live in and eat, and to which they feed leaves). All of the ants in the colony are her daughters. Yes. Daughters. No boy ants in the colony. (Boy ants, btw, come from unfertilized eggs. They live long enough to mate with new queens, and then die. The queens then form their colonies, and hoard the sperm from several males to fertilize the eggs she lays over the next 30 years!).
And those sisters? they grow up to be suited for the different roles in the colony, and can look so different that I thought a stranger ant had gotten into the colony. The smallest of them is about 1 mm. The largest, can be 16 mm with a 7mm wide head (the soldiers). They even have undertakers who gather the dead and move them all to a pile.
Among the nifty things you can learn from studying these ants and their amazingly complex social structure is how to best set up traffic patterns. Given a new path or set of paths to the leaves they need, the ants will work out the most efficient and shortest such path in a matter of hours. (I can think of a number of cities that clearly did not study ant models of their highways before building).
We also saw some Trap-Jaw Ants . That link will get you to a picture, and some really nifty videos (we saw some there too). These babies snap their jaws shut so quickly and with so much force that engineers are studying them to see just how they do it.
After the ants, we went on to the insectorium.
There we met some Madagascar Hissing Cockroaches (which, unlike most cockroaches, do not have wings). We "got to" pet one, and one of the students even held one. We learned how to identify the males and females...
We also saw a death's head cockroach, so named for the interesting markings on the back of its head.
(Image from the University of Nebraska Department of Entomology)
The one we saw had red dots in that black square that looked almost like a smiley face. My phone was so not up to taking its picture.
We also saw a praying mantis and a lovely gray tarantula -- and learned about them, but neither came out of its cage. We also saw a bunch of neat bugs in a display case, including this very lovely weevil.
They say that these pretty moths are native of Illinois... they are quite large too.
That giant wasp that you can see just below the right-hand moth is a Tarantula Hawk. The females dive in and lay their eggs in the poor tarantula -- the babies eat the tarantula. Ew.
After we made it through insect land... we headed back down two flights of stairs and back to the union where the teacher took pity on the class and took the elevator back up to the fourth floor. We then did some game theory.
The kids learned about cooperative prediction games: you vote with one of seven colors, and then those people who guessed the most popular color get one point. The kids quickly mastered the cooperation point and we soon had everyone "voting" for the same color. Then, we saw what happens when the goal was to pick the LEAST popular color. Non-cooperative prediction. I would have liked the fellow leading this one to give the kids some clues as to where we use these types of predictions in daily life, but we didn't get there.
Finally, we headed back outside to learn about Perception. Most of the kids took the elevator, but the sock, C, and I took the stairs.
I really liked our fellow who dealt with perception. He told the kids that he was going to "change [their] brains". They wondered how... so he lined them all up in two lines, facing each other, about four feet apart with a set of concentric rings laid out on the ground at one end, and a pile of good stuff at the other end.
First, he had someone toss five bean bags toward a set of concentric rings (the outer ring earned one point, the middle 2, and the inner 3). He had her wear "safety goggles" to do it -- after all, beanbags are dangerous things. We then asked, if nothing changes, how many points would we expect that person to get if she does it again. The kids all assumed that she'd learn... but that is something changing. So the fellow pointed out that a scientist wouldn't assume something had changed... and thus we'd predict the same score. Naturally, the student did better -- because her brain had changed... she'd learned.
He had the next student wear goggles, and toss five bags. We asked again, "What do we predict she'll do next time." The kids then articulated that she'd learned, and thus we expected to her to get a score somewhere between one more than she'd gotten and fifteen (the maximum you can get with five beanbags). He "borrowed" her goggles to "clean them" and had her close her eyes. He told her to keep her eyes closed until he told her to open them, and to then toss the beanbags as quickly as she could. Of course, what he did was slip on goggles that were identical but for some prisms on the lenses -- these prisms made it look like things were about two feet to the right of where they actually were. She tossed the bags at the kids to the right of the tossing field.
We did that again with goggles that made things look higher than they were, and then put three sets of prismed goggles onto three students, and had them try to play toss the bean bags with each other and the rest of the class.
It was great fun. I asked how much the goggles were -- $40.00 a lens. Ouch.
After a long day of good science, we headed back.
Here's the sock, keeping up the rear to be sure no students got lost.
It was very hard -- we walked right past a yarn store, and I could do nothing about it.
which saw lots of personal progress during the course of the day, was very generous. During times when I didn't need to watch anyone like a hawk, it even let me work on Sock de la Mer II a bit.
Whew. We're tired now......