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Meet the Elements!

I always get really excited to cover Chapter 4, because we can finally begin to answer the questions that they have been asking throughout the school year! I felt that every day my students inquired about the periodic table in some way shape and form, so the day that I told them we were going to begin the periodic table, there were cheers (OK, so by cheers, I mean 3–4 students, but there were lots of smiles, which count for something)!

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Temperature, Density, a Science Song!

I love Section 3.6 for a couple of reasons.

The first is that the demonstration at the beginning of the lesson is one that hooks the kids right away. We actually have an apparatus that allows us to put hot water all on one side of the container, and cold water on the other side. Then, we remove the divide and watch the hot water (colored yellow) go to the top and the cold water (colored blue) sink to the bottom. The students all ‘Ooh!’ and ‘Aah!’, and many of them record the experiment using their iPads for a future showing at home.

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Float or Sink? Lessons of Density

When I was going to start the next few lessons of density, I had sit and ponder for a moment. Yes, the information in sections 3.3–3.5 was extremely important, and it was helpful to have similar concepts on the topics of floating and sinking for solids followed by floating and sinking for liquids. Furthermore, the idea of determining the density of water was great.

However, I had to think of more ways to keep things interesting. My 7th graders are extremely energetic, and I needed to think of ways in which I could expand these three sections, or at least keep them as engaged as possible. Furthermore, as a result of looking up how density is important in the world, many of my students had learned the density of water was 1 gram per cubic centimeter. So, what to do?

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On the Topic of Density

When I ask my students ‘what is density’, many of them usually reply using a form of the word density in their answer. However, if I ask them to calculate density, they are able to do it well because they covered it in past science class. This is why I love the MSC chapter on the topic, because it makes a direct correlation between the math and the definition of density on a molecular level.

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The Joy of Melting and Sublimation

After having completed the past phase changes, by time we reach melting my students have a good idea of what is going to happen in regards to motion and attraction of molecules. Section 2.5 serves to solidify this point, and remind them that water is special in the way it expands when frozen into ice, and contracts when melted into water again.

I really enjoy the activity here where the students are to really create their own lab to investigate how to increase the melting rate. It allows the students to use their higher level thinking skills and their creativity; they also get to use their knowledge on the importance of maintaining control variables.

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Evaporation, Condensation, Freezing: Or Fire, Singing, and Snowflakes!

Greetings again from my 7th grade classroom! The topic of phase change is one that many of my students have been introduced to in prior classes. However, what makes the MSC sections on these topics so great is that they give the students a chance to delve into what happens on a molecular level.

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Teaching Conduction at Home

Many of my students have heard about conduction in their 6th grade science classes, as they discussed the different ways in which energy is transferred. However, they seemed to think as a result that energy was itself a molecule, and these energy molecules are being passed from substance to substance.

Because of this misconception, I really love the animations that MSC provides. Through them, my students clearly see that molecules are colliding with one another, which is how they pass on energy (seen by an increase in molecular motion). I usually pause the animation to let my 7th graders know which side will be the spoon’s molecules, and which side will be the water molecules—they can get a little confused, so pointing it out to them really helps.

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Air Cannons and Science Songs

“Air has mass. Air takes up space.” These two major principles are repeated over and over again in my classroom, because the idea that gas is matter and not just ‘invisible stuff’ is what I want to stress to my students before moving too far into section 1.5.

I like to get them excited about each section, and for this one I began by taking out my air cannon and firing it around the room. In an instant, attention is captured, and the pleas of students wanting to be hit by a blast of air is hard to contain! This, along with the demonstrations using the scale (another great chance to teach about scientific equipment!), helps to show that gas is matter.

To show how gases react when they are heated and cooled, I can think of no better experiment than making film bubbles on the bottle, and then heating and cooling the air inside the bubble. Students are fascinated, and always want to video record their activity, to which I gladly oblige. However, there is one problem I’ve always encountered, and for which I would gladly take any advice you can give.

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Liquids, Solids, and the EMCS

Talking about thermometers is never an easy thing.

Neither is mentioning the idea of thermal expansion. But, through sections 1.3 and 1.4, my students were able to grasp both concepts quite easily, even if some occasionally forget to remove the case around the thermometer before measuring!

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Molecules in Motion!

The idea that everything is made of atoms and molecules that cannot be seen by the human eye can sometimes be daunting to middle school students. A scale that small is hard to conceptualize, and if that concept is tagged to the idea that those same atoms and molecules are moving and attracted to one another, you could have a classroom full of confused faces staring back at you.

This is the reason why I loved doing Sections 1.1 and 1.2 with my 7th grade classes using the website. I’m going to split this post into two parts in order to briefly highlight each section.

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