Units and Experiments

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Below are all the WOW Unit Topics and a brief look at the WOW Experiments.  If you would like to see an experiment pdf/doc or an entire unit packet, please visit and fill out the contact us page here

Are you a Columbus City School teacher or principal interested in having WOW come to your school? If so, please contact us here for more details. 

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WOW Units

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The WOW Programs always start with the Scientific Method Unit because the scientific method is the basis of all science. The information and experiences learned in this unit will help students with future units and experiments. 

Only one experiment is selected for this WOW visit as the experiment takes 30 minutes to an hour to complete. Some experiments can be abbreviated to do two during the visit like the Mystery Boxes and Spaghetti-Marshmallow Towers experiments. 

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Photograph of WOW volunteer talking to first graders about aerodynamics and airplanes for one of our scientific method experiments.

 

Airplanes

When trying to solve a problem, we often use a form of experimentation, “guess and check”—unwittingly, we are using the scientific method! Here, students can improve the flight distance of an airplane using the scientific method. 

 

 

 

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Photograph of second graders learning about the scientific method and working on building their clay boats.

 

Clay Boats

Groups of students will be challenged to make a boat out of clay that holds the most weight. Clay is denser than water, so a randomly-shaped lump of clay will sink. It is up to students to figure out how a boat works, and use their intuitive understanding of surface area and volume to make a boat that can float—and carry a load!

 

 

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Photograph of Battelle employee/ WOW volunteers talking to 5th graders about mystery boxes and the scientific method.

Mystery Boxes

The scientific method is a structured way of solving scientific problems. Students will use the scientific method to describe the mystery item in each box. The objective is not to guess the contents of the box; instead, the goal is to make as detailed and accurate a list as possible of the box properties. 

 

 

 

 

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Photograph of WOW student volunteers building a spaghetti-marshmallow tower

Spaghetti-Marshmallow Towers

Groups of students will be challenged to make the tallest tower out of raw, uncooked spaghetti and marshmallows. In this activity, students will explore structures and investigate building methods to make not only the tallest structure, but the strongest structure as well. Students will be able to rebuild and alter their designs to improve them while working with a team to create the best design. They will get an insight into the scientific method and real-life process of designing, testing, and redesigning their product just like architects and engineers.

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For the second or third year a school is in WOW, the WOW Programs will actual begin with the Measurement Unit instead of the Scientific Method Unit. This unit is more math focused, but the tools learned here are helpful in data collection and analysis for science experiments.

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Photograph of CAS employee/WOW volunteer teaching 4th graders about displacement and sinking objects by dropping golf balls into a beaker of water.

Measuring with Rulers/Crayons/Paperclips (K-3 grades: 15 minutes) 

Measurement began in ancient times when people needed a way to keep the trading of goods fair.  Early measurement was definitely an improvement from no measurement, but it still had some problems.  Often, body parts such as feet were used to make measurements.  Not all feet are the same size, so measurements made with peoples’ feet were not consistent.  Eventually a system of standard measurement developed, using constant values.  This activity helps students understand why standard units of measurement are needed.

Sizing Things Up (K-2 grades: 4 stations - 30-45 minutes -- for larger classes, measuring with rulers can be the 5th station)

Measurement is an important part of life at all ages and provides necessary information for the other stages of scientific investigation. This exercise promotes basic measuring skills with simple ordering and categorization activities.

Measuring Wheel (1-4 grades: 15-20 minutes)

Measuring the length of a straight line is easy; the only equipment necessary is a ruler. Determining the length of curvy lines seems more difficult but can be just as simple with the proper tools. A measuring wheel can trace winding paths to measure their lengths. Construction and use of measuring wheels will be described in this activity.

Sinking Objects (2-5 grades: 15-20 minutes)

This experiment illustrates making measurements and seeking patterns.  Students will collect data, prepare a graph, and interpret the data and graph in order to determine a relationship between water level and number of sunken objects.

How Many Beans? (3-5 grades: 30-45 minutes)

Is counting all the beans in a large container the best way to determine the amount? In this experiment students make observations and measurements on a large container filled with beans.  Students will indirectly measure the number of beans and determine the average number in the jar.

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The Chemistry Unit will be implemented into the WOW Program visits once throughout the school's three year duration with the program. Teachers will pick at least 4-5 experiments from the experiment options below. All experiments are 5-10 minutes in length and for grades K-5.

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Photograph of WOW volunteer teaching kindergartners about the physical reaction between hydrogen peroxide and potatoes.

Acid-Base Chemistry

Chemical compounds are grouped together based on similar properties. Acids are chemical compounds that are sour or bitter. Bases are a group of compounds that have opposite properties to acids. Bases are characteristically slippery. A number scale called a pH scale, which spans from 0 to 14, is used to provide information on how strong an acid or base is. Values on the pH scale between 0 and 7 are acidic; values above 7 are basic. A pH value of 7 corresponds to the neutral condition, neither acidic nor basic.

Color Changing Milk

This experiment is designed to show students the concepts of polarity, miscibility, and immiscibility. Chemical polarity describes how equally bonding of electrons are shared between atoms.

Chemical vs. Physical Changes

These experiments provide hands-on experience with chemical and physical changes. Set up multiple stations, and ask students to explain which experiments are chemical changes and which are physical changes. Safety goggles should be worn at all times.

Chemical Change: Baking Soda/Vinegar

Chemical Change: Potato with Hydrogen Peroxide 

Chemical Change: Making a Polymer/Slime 

Physical Change: Change of State/Vanilla Evaporate 

Physical Change: Is it a Solid or Liquid - Cornstarch/Water 

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The Electricity Unit will be implemented into the WOW Program visits once throughout the school's three year duration with the program. All experiments below are 5-10 minutes in length and for grades K-5.

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Photograph of WOW volunteer teaching a kindergartner about closed and open circuits

Connect the Circuit Game

Electricity can flow though a complete, closed circuit, but cannot flow though an open circuit. This concept is reinforced with a fun game that tests the steadiness and patience of the players while illustrating this basic fact.

Energy Ball

Circuits are everywhere! They are responsible for the lights over our heads, how our cell phones work, and how we watch TV. These devices only work, however, when those circuits are closed. This activity allows students to witness what it means when a circuit is closed, and to test what materials (including themselves) electricity can flow through.

Lemon Battery

Batteries use chemical reactions to create an electric current. In 1800, Alessandro Volta made the first battery by layering copper and zinc in a jar of salt water. The chemical reaction created the first steady supply of electricity. The steady supply of electricity from batteries is used to power all sorts of electrical devices such as toys, light bulbs, radios, calculators and cars. Following Volta’s example, we can make batteries, too. 

Parallel and Series Circuits

There are different ways to make an electric circuit.  In a series circuit, the amount of current through any part of the circuit is the same, while a parallel circuit divides the electric current into two or more “parallel” paths. By comparing the brightness of light bulbs, we can trace the current and voltage in a parallel and series circuit, to see how they differ. 

Static Electricity

We often think of electricity as only electric currents, such as power lines, or generators that “make” electricity. All matter is made of protons and electrons, so really all matter is “electric”—but we normally do not observe this electric charge, since the positive and negative charges cancel. A surplus or deficit of electrons will give an object a negative or positive electric charge—static electricity.

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The Geology Unit will be implemented into the WOW Program visits once throughout the school's three year duration with the program. Teachers will select experiments that total a 45 minute to 1 hour class visit. For this unit, we work in collaboration with The Ohio State University's Byrd Polar and Climate Research Center and the Polar Rock Repository. They have rock boxes that can be loaned out to schools. Details to request a rock box can be found here at http://research.bpcrc.osu.edu/rr/rock_box/

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Photograph of a rock collection for the Geology experiment

What’s Under My Feet? Soil Exploration (10-15 minutes, K-3 grades) 

In this activity, students will explore what is in the soil beneath their feet. Once the activity concludes, students will be able to draw and describe what they might find in soil. Soil is the loose surface layer of the Earth where plants grow. It consists of organic material (plants, animals), rocks, and minerals. Soil is formed over a long period and can take up to 1000 years for just an inch of soil to form.

All about Rocks Exploration (15-20 minutes; K-5 grades) 

In this experiment, students will get to observe, touch, and talk about different types of rocks. They will learn that there are the three types of rock: igneous, sedimentary, and metamorphic. These three types of rocks are interconvertible and comprise a cycle. 

Pangaea: Plate Tectonics Puzzle (10-15 min; K-5 grades)

The Earth’s solid crust is broken up into numerous tectonic plates, which slowly move, carried by the motions of the slowly-convecting semi-liquid mantle. These tectonic plates collide or separate, forming mountain ranges, ocean trenches, mid-ocean ridges, and regions of volcanic activity. (The “Making Mountains” activity illustrates the collision of an ocean plate and a continental plate.) The long-term result of this is that the locations of the continents have changed over time.

Journey to Center of Earth (5-10 minutes; K-5 grades)

This activity models the Earth's interior using different kinds of fruit.  Students will learn about the Earth’s crust, mantle and core.

How a River Runs (5-15 mins, with extension/sand; K-5 grades) 

Erosion is a geologic process that shapes the entire surface of the Earth. Water has, over millions of years, carved deep canyons, such as the Grand Canyon of the Colorado River; likewise, glaciers scoured out the basins that filled to become the Great Lakes. All the rock eroded away by rivers and glaciers does not disappear; it ends up as sand on beaches, silt in river deltas, glacial moraines, and ultimately, returns to rock as sandstone, shale, or conglomerate. This experiment explores how river erosion takes place. By varying the angle of the cookie sheet, different river gradients can be simulated, and the conditions that allow a river to meander can be explored.

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Photograph of fossil impressions being created by pushing the fossil into clay and putting plaster in the impression.

Making and Dating Fossils (20 mins [50 min to dry]; K-5 grades) 

Fossils are something every student has heard about or seen, but few have actually touched or examined them.  In this experiment, students will do just that!  In addition, students will make their own fossils, and learn about where and when certain fossilized animals lived in the past.

Making Mountains (15-20 minutes; 3-5 grades)

The earth’s crust consists of two types – oceanic crust made up of material on the ocean floor and continental crust, made up of continental landmasses.  The oceanic crust, continental crust, and the upper mantle make up the lithosphere.  According to the theory of plate tectonics, the lithosphere is broken up into separate plates that move beneath the earth’s surface.  Mountains are formed when these lithospheric plates collide.  If oceanic crust and continental crusts collide, the oceanic crust is subducted beneath the continental crust, which pushes up mountain ranges—a process called orogenesis. This activity explores how mountains are made and shows the connection between mountain ranges and plate tectonics. 

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The Insect Unit will be implemented into the WOW Program visits once throughout the school's three year duration with the program. Teachers will select whole categories or pick and choose from each category to total 45 minutes to an hour. For this unit, we work in collaboration with Center of Life Science Education and the Insectary for the live insects. We also purchase Painted Lady larvae from Carolina Biological

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Photo of a Macleay's Spectre (insect) on a magnifying glass

All about Insects Category (Total for grades K-2: 40-45 minutes)

Includes *Gummy Worm Dissection (K-2, 5-10 minutes), *Insect Life Cycles (K-2, 10-15 minutes), Build a Bug (K-2, 5-10 minutes), and *Insect Symmetry (K-2, 5-10 minutes). 

Insect Communication Category (Total for grades K-5: 45-50 minutes)

Includes Insect Communication (K+, all: 30 mins or pick a part, 15 mins each) and Honey Bee Waggle Dance (K-2, but can also apply for older grades too), 15-20 minutes). 

Insect Diversity Category (Total for grades 3-6: 30-45 minutes)

Includes Camouflage (K+, 10-15 minutes) and *Insect Anatomy & Behavior (3-6, 20-30 minutes with a food web connection for 4-5). 

Insect Investigation Category

Includes *Crickets and Colors: (3-6, all: 30 mins or pick a part, 10-15 mins each), *Insect Habitat Preference (2-6, 15-20 mins and optional data/graph for 3-5, 20-30 mins), or *Insect Maze (3-6, 45-1 hr) with the first two experiments abbreviated. 

A * (star) indicates that live insects are involved. 

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