Science on a shoestring

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Many of us can appreciate the theme of this issue. As a science teacher, I often wondered what it would be like to have a substantial budget for science equipment and materials. But as the authors of these articles show, science isn’t  just about how much “stuff” students use, but rather how they think using whatever is available.
I was reading this issue at the beach, so when I came to the article A Scientific World in a Grain of Sand I had a laboratory right at my feet! The article has some great suggestions for getting started on investigations of this material that is found just about everywhere, incorporating concepts from geology, physics, and chemistry. The website Sand from Pasadena City College has more ideas. If you want to see how an interest in sand turned into a long-term classroom project and lifelong hobby, see the website Communities of Sand. Perhaps you have a sample to include? If you start your own collection, try putting a small sample on a piece of clear contact paper and seal the sample with another piece. Students can examine the samples with hand lenses, sort them, or do other activities without spilling the sand into the crevices of your desks or lab tables!
On another beach/pool thread, Chromonoodles demonstrates how simple materials can be used in making models to help students with difficult concepts. The photographs are very helpful, too.  (SciLinks: Chromosomes/Chromatids)

The article It’s Elemental describes an interactive periodic table and activities to guide students through exploring elements and their properties, using 3-D graphics. This would be a terrific resource for students to use on laptops or other devices, as an alternative to print-based periodic tables. (SciLinks: The Periodic Table.  You can also search SciLinks for information on individual elements by name.)
In keeping with the theme of this issue, the authors of Simulating Science show how authentic science can be learned using simple materials (a list is provided) and microscale techniques. With these activities, the title could also be “Stimulating” Science. (SciLinks: Diabetes, Kidneys, Kidney Disease, Pathogens)
By the time students get to high school, they may have already done cookbook activities related to making slime. But Hydrogel Beads: The New Slime Lab shows how to extend the activity into an inquiry-based one in which students explore the properties of the material, which I learned has very practical uses. (SciLinks: Polymers)
The “Headline Science” department is not included in the online version of TST, but there are several topics this month that have related topics in SciLinks:

Be sure to look at the Connections  for this issue (July 2011). Even if the article does not quite fit with your lesson agenda, this resource has ideas for handouts, background information sheets, data sheets, rubrics, etc.
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5 Responses to Science on a shoestring

  1. Charles Lindgren says:

    I was wondering why my Science of Sand website was suddenly getting so many hits! The link above is called “Communities of Sand.” As you travel this summer to virtually anyplace, consider picking up 15 ml of sand sand sending it to me. I will take maco images of the sample, do a spectral analysis, and create a page for your sample. In addition I will add a link to your school. Don’t think the location needs to be exotic. ALL sand is special! Instructions for mailing the sample can be found at the website

  2. MaryB says:

    I think your project is a wonderful example of lifelong learning and a great way for students to participate in a project beyond the classroom walls. I noticed that you do not have any samples from Delaware–I will correct that situation. Who else can fill in a gap?

  3. Samantha S says:

    In addition to the “Periodic Table Live!” check out the “Dynamic Period Table” at

  4. Jenny says:

    There is another useful periodic table site that I use frequently:

  5. romi gupta says:

    Get here various type of periodic table and electronegativity chart from this website.

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