Sunday, September 21, 2008

The Return of T.E.S.L.A.

Here are my Evil Scientist Plans for our kids' science club, T.E.S.L.A. (Totally Educational Science Learning Activities).

October doesn't really have a discernible theme; the experiments for this month are mostly scheduled according to how fast I can get supplies ordered in.

October 7: Wings
We will study the Bernoulli effect and learn how airplanes fly.

October 14: pHerfect!
We will learn about pH and litmus-test many different substances. We will also learn a bit about other substances besides litmus paper that change color in the presence of acid or base, and learn why the soil hydrangeas are planted in affects their color.

October 21: The Light Waved At Me
We will learn about how light is a wave, and how polarized sunglasses work. (Light is also a particle, but we won't be exploring that on the 21st.) We will experiment with flashlights and polarized film. Each child should bring a flashlight with him or her (no flashlights will be harmed in the making of this experiment).

Special Saturday session, October 25: Potato Lights! We will be learning about electric circuits by making potatoes light up an LED. Use a safe, cool potato light inside your jack-o-lantern instead of a hot waxy candle. My husband suggests you might be able to use the jack-o-lantern itself in lieu of the potato to power the LED... try an experiment!

October 28: no lesson (we have a doctor appointment)

November is Optics Month. Since we will be moving the class inside and getting toward the solstice, this is the perfect time to do some experiments with light.

November 4, Election Day: Two-Faced, Three-Faced, Four-Faced...
We will be experimenting with mirrors to see the multiple faces of our politicians (or our future politicians, anyway) and making a kaleidoscope to take home. Each child will need to bring a paper towel tube and a toilet paper tube. (Be prepared to find your kid sitting on the bathroom counter swinging the medicine cabinet door open and shut after this lesson.)

November 11: Up Periscope!
We will be exploring how mirrors change images, playing with concave and convex mirrors, and making a periscope to see around corners, under tables, and over fences. (Kids will be reminded NOT to use their periscopes for evil, such as looking under skirts, inside bathroom stalls, or into their siblings' business.) Each child will need to bring two clean, empty quart milk cartons or two paper towel tubes or a long mailing tube.

November 18: Meet Roy G. Biv
We will learn about the spectrum and use prisms to break light up into colors. We will learn how rainbows happen and why the sky is blue and why CD's make nifty suncatchers.

November 25: Scope It Out
We will take our spectrum knowledge even further by building a simple spectroscope to analyze the colors of light, particularly home light sources like incandescent bulbs, fluorescent bulbs, sunlight, and firelight. There will be a discussion of how scientists use spectroscopy to find out what the sun and other stars are made of. Each child will need to bring a toilet paper tube. NOTE: this will involve demonstrations (not experiments performed by children) of analyzing the light emitted by burning objects. Children will be discouraged from trying this at home, but we all know there's the occasional child who takes that disclaimer as a dare, so if your child is known to be one of those, you may want to keep a close eye on your matches after this one.

We will take another hiatus for the month of December so that your children can enjoy looking at their potato-based holiday lights through their periscopes, kaleidoscopes, and spectroscopes. (You may not see more than one of your child's eyes at a time for a while!)

I'm seriously considering adding a special session for December, on cleaning silver electrolytically, so that the kids can help get things ready for the big holiday dinner.