Cars and Ramps

Maybe you’ve noticed. Maybe first hand. But it’s been tricky for some of our kids to be consistent with a long-term experiment. Like speaking to our rice.

And that’s okay…for this reason. We’re here to learn what we can.

Does our consistency or lack of consistency affect our experiment? Absolutely. So keeping this in mind, we’ll draw what conclusions we can about how our words–the kinds of words we speak aloud–affect our rice. Affect us.

Please have your student bring his rice jars and data with him next week.


In our experiment with cars and ramps, we wanted to find out how the distance (how far a car is up the ramp) affects how far the car moves an object at the end of the ramp.

In other words, is there a greater force applied to the object at the bottom of the ramp if the car begins at a higher spot on the ramp than a lower spot?

Most of us would say, “of course.”

And we’d be right. But let’s set out to prove it.

It looks like everyone over here has lost something.

What each student is doing is choosing three different positions on the ramp as his starting positions for his car.

He’s choosing a low position on the ramp. A middle position. And a high position.

How we’re recording the position is by looking at the ruler taped beside the ramp. This group here is recording in inches. A low position on the ramp might be somewhere between 0 and 5 inches.

This group is recording in centimeters. So they’re starting position might be anywhere between 0 and 10 centimeters on the ramp.

Each student has his own car and gets to pick his three starting positions.  Each of these positions he will test THREE times.

The upside down yogurt container is the object each of our cars is moving.

When a car runs down the ramp, it pushes the yogurt container. What we’re measuring is how far the container is moved. The two pieces of red tape represent where the container started and to where it was pushed. We’re measuring the distance inbetween.

This group has a precise system for letting their cars go. Nice.

These guys have a steeper ramp, making it trickier to keep the yogurt container from blasting on its side each time a car begins in a higher position on the ramp.

Testing and measuring the force our cars put on our container takes time.

But eventually everyone lets his car ride down the ramp three times per position.

We’re finished when everyone has ALL his data recorded.

Finished for today, anyway.

For next week, we’ll take our data for our three trials per position and we’ll learn what it means to figure the average distance our cars went at each position.

When we have our average distance that the cup was moved at our low, middle and high positions on the ramp, we’ll be able to draw our conclusion about ramp position as it pertains to the force our cars apply to an object. 🙂

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Week 20 (3-20-17) Experimenting with Friction

We began with our rice.  Tossing our moldy bags of rice and filling and labeling our new jars of rice.

What everyone has now are jars of rice–one labeled “control” (which means that we’ll completely ignore this jar), one labeled “I love you” (which means that we’ll bless and praise and thank the rice in this jar), and one jar labeled, “you fool,” (which means we will say negative things to the rice in this jar).

Students have been asked to speak to their rice once a day.  (More is fine). Then to record on their grid with simple check marks that they have spoken to it.  If by chance their grid for recording is lost, they simply could use notebook paper to record the date and a check mark for each day they speak to each jar of rice.

All the jars should be kept in the same location–living room, bedroom, etc.  Just not in the refrigerator or freezer.

Thanks for helping your son or daughter be diligent with this experiment.  After our spring break we’ll discuss what we’ve found in our rice as a response to our words.


Friction.  Monday was classic for watching an experiment go one way when it was SURELY supposed to go the other.

What you’re seeing here are pictures in our second half of class where we’re experimenting with an empty pop can and a full pop can by sending them down a ramp.

Yeah, only the empty pop can, because it has less friction on it than the full pop can, is supposed to be the first one down the ramp.

Only it’s not.

The full pop can barrels down the ramp first seven out of seven times.

Which honestly is what most of the kids thought would happen. That the full can would outrun the empty can.

But. Let’s back up. Here’s our question. Which can–full or empty–will make it down the ramp first?

And here we are writing it down.

Here’s where we delved into discussion talking about friction.

And exploring what resistance on an object means.

Apparently riveting.

What we did conclude–Ben put it into the best words–was that in our experiment the weight of the object overcame the friction on it.


Proof, I suppose, that even when it fails, it doesn’t fully fail.


When we’re back from break, we’ll take another look at these same topics–friction and resistance–and create our own experiments with objects on or off a ramp.

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Week 19 (3-13-17) Rice Experiment–The Power of our words

Not sure who Dr. Masaru Emoto is? He’s worth looking up.

Dr. Masaru Emoto was (he died in 2014) a Japanese scientist who proved through his studies on water and words that the molecular structure of water can be changed merely by speaking positive or negative words over the water.

In essence our words–either good or bad, breathe life or death. Blessings and curses.

What you can find online are pictures that Dr. Emoto had photographers take through a microscope of polluted water before prayer. And after.

Simply incredible.

So. If our words have this type of power over water…and our body is composed of 60% water, what is the chance that  our words have an impact–positive or negative on us.


The two lists on the board were examples of blessings and curses.

What we’d like to know or find out over these next three weeks is to what extent our words impact our experiment. Specifically our rice.

Here we’re filling three bags apiece with cooked, white rice.

We’re also giving each bag a different label.

One bag will say, “I love you.”

Every time we pick this bag of rice up, we’re going to bless it with words like–thank you, I love you, you’re amazing, I’m proud of you. Words that bless.

Another bag will say, “you fool.”

Every time we pick this bag of rice up, we’re going to speak curses over it with words like–you’re ugly, how could you?, this is gross, you fool. Words that curse.

Our final bag will be labeled “control.”

We won’t even bother picking up this bag of rice. We will ignore it.

With our rice set aside, it’s time to ask ourselves: what will happen to the rice?

What we need is a question for our experiment–what do we want to know?

And a hypothesis–based on what we know, what do we think will happen?

This is the part that takes time.

But we’ve got three questions here, all essentially asking the same thing.

Will positive words slow down the decay of my rice?

Will there be less mold growth on the positive-words rice?

Before we leave, we got to go over our rice experiment instructions–one more time.

Then this grid is how we’re going to keep track of our data.

Our goal is to speak to our rice each day.  But we need a means to record that we have or haven’t spoken to it. The grid makes it simple.

Here, by each date, we’ll simply make a check in the box for each rice bag that we speak to or ignore–positive-words rice, negative-words rice, control rice.

All of our instructions, grids, and rice get packed into our kits and head home with us.

Look at these guys! Proud of them.

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Week 18 (3-6-17) Paper Towel Experiment (part 2)

Minus the harried scramble at the end, today’s experimenting looked a lot like last week’s. Paper towels and water.

What we’ve learned thus far is that no experiment is conclusive unless it’s been tested at least three times.

Last week we had four separate paper towel tests going on. Three of our test groups asked the same question–which paper towel is the most absorbent?

And one of our groups asked–which paper towel brand is the least absorbent?

In theory we performed the test on the paper towels at least three times.

However, none of us went about the test in the same way. Which means we really didn’t perform the test 3 or 4 times. We each performed one test, one time.

Which leads us to today. We’ve got to perform our paper towel tests two more times apiece.

For those who asked the question–which paper towel brand is most absorbent–they’re going to be retesting the top two absorbent brands.

Because what we found from last week’s experimenting is that our paper towels fell into two categories. Absorbent. And lousy.

So what these groups are trying to determine is which brand–BRAWNY or BOUNTY is the most absorbent.

And because of our list of variables from last week, each of our groups is trying to limit our variables by being more exact in their procedures.

Still it looks like a lot measuring…

A lot of dripping of paper towels…

A selfie of Cody…

And general weirdness.

The best thing, though, is that everyone has a different method.

Cody and Ms. Mandy are squeezers. No dripping paper towel for them.

They’re also the only ones who measured in grams instead of ounces. Totally okay.

Ms. Lindsay and her crowd measured the water they poured on their paper towels and then weighed what was absorbed.

The guys with me dropped our paper towel into a bin of water and then let it drip for 45 seconds before weighing it.

Regardless of the process, you can see how underpaid some of us are feeling…

And how that affects those around us.

Ah. But this is the best.

Having to explain the way we did our experiments.

That means standing up front…

And turning toward the class…

And talking through the process.

Which is hard.

But so meaningful to the whole of the project. It’s the finishing touch.

Because when a person can stand in front of his peers and say, “I did this, and this is how I did it,” he’s done more than a science project. He’s shown himself he can do hard things.

Our conclusions were as follows:

There was too little distinction between Brawny and Bounty paper towels to declare one the most absorbent. So…if you’d like an absorbent paper towel, you’ll do well to buy one or the other of these brands.

However, if you don’t care in the least–in fact you just need something quick to wipe your nose, then throwing your money at Best Value, Sparkle or The Home Store brands will suffice. They–almost equally–absorb very little.

Until next week… here we are.

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Week 17 (2-27-17) Paper Towel Experiment

What you see here are paper towel rolls–five different brands– some of better quality than others.

What we’d like to determine here through the scientific method is which one is the most absorbent. Or which one is the least absorbent. Or some other question we can ask and answer.


What you won’t see, though, is me writing the question down on the board. Or our hypothesis.

And here’s why…


Our kids are working in pairs today. Two kids/one adult. Amazing.


And what each group must determine is what question they want to answer.


The kids working with me decided to ask: Which brand of paper towel is the least absorbent?

So that’s what we’re set to find out. I’ll be the recorder–and together we’ll do the experiment.


I can’t speak for the rest of the groups, but I can show you pictures of them busy figuring this experiment out.

Here is Ms. Lisa, Simeon and Silas.


And here is Ms. Mandy, Jocelyn and Wyatt.


There in the back is Ms. Lindsay, Hagen and Aaron.


Cody and Riley here are setting the tare on the scale for our group.


We decided first that we would need paper towels all the same size.


Then we did what Wyatt and Jocelyn are doing, we labeled our paper towels and then dipped each one in water.


Here’s Silas getting his paper towel wet, too.


We’ve got a tub of water for soaking the paper towels. Then once they’ve soaked and dripped (for the same amount of time), we weigh each one in ounces on the scale to figure out which holds the most water and thereby is the most absorbent.


Seems simply enough, and yet every group has a different method.


Some are measuring the amount of water they’re pouring on each paper towel.


Some are realizing that they may have a discrepancy or two with their variables.


But every one is going for it. No one’s a bystander.


Here we are getting ready to soak one of our towels.


Could anything be more fun?


And now we’re holding it to drip.

P.S. We were inconsistent with how long we let each drip. We needed to have timed each one, but that was an afterthought.


All around we’ve got hands in water…


Pens recording…


The scale weighing…


Variables being accounted for…


Multiple eyes double-checking the details…


Groups reaching conclusions…


And the circus coming to a close.


On Monday, We’ll get a chance to look deeply at the questions each of our groups asked, finish our experimenting, if we need to, and draw our conclusions about the quality of each paper towel.

Here we all are!





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Week 16 (2-13-14) Layering Liquids

For this experiment being one of the simplest, I’d never done it ’til now. Layer liquids.

So I made our first attempt at home with my kids. And inadvertently added vinegar to the list of liquids.

Fail #1.


We learned right away that adding food coloring to oil, wasn’t going to produce colored oil. Just spotted oil. Ya gotta leave the oil alone. Fail #2.


What we were trying to do was pick colors for each liquid, so that we would end up with colorful layers. Like the guys have who make it look super simple online.

Here’s what we got.


Corn syrup on the bottom, then dish soap, water, supposedly vegetable oil followed by isopropyl alcohol on top.

Only the isopropyl alcohol we were using was 50% alcohol. The other 50% was water. Which is why that thin little colored line on top is the true alcohol rising. The rest of the “alcohol” fell to the water level. Because the two liquids–water and alcohol–had originally been two different colors, the two “waters” merged and turned a type of rust color.


We’ve got a similar set-up in class.


What we want to do first, however, is guess which of the liquids we think is the most dense and write in on our sheet.


Then we determine which color we’d like to give each of our liquids.

Seems reasonable, right?

Fail #3.  Only we don’t know that yet.


We looked first at what food coloring does in oil. In fact, we could even scoop it out with a spoon. Might have been the coolest thing all day.


Then we gave all of our liquids–minus the oil–a color.

Corn syrup–green. Dish soap–blue. Water–red. Oil–oil. Alcohol–purple.


Then on our sheets we drew a jar, gave it five layers, and then color-coded each layer so that it matched our guesses.


If we had written down that corn syrup would be on the bottom layer, then we would have colored our bottom layer green because that was the color we had made the corn syrup.


It should be noted, I suppose, that we did use 70% isopropyl alcohol. Hard to tell, though, if it made a difference.

So here’s our jar with all the layers.


Tricky to determine even a single layer.


Here we can see the green corn syrup on the bottom all right. Followed by the blue dish soap.


But my, even with the help of a flashlight, the middle layers are difficult to discern.


And so our extra effort to color our liquids to get pretty layers worked against us. When we dropped items into the jar, unless they floated at the top, or sunk to the bottom, we couldn’t tell where they were.



Here’s the real order of how our liquids layered up. Or should have.


This had to end better.

So I gave it one more try at home. This time not using food coloring except for the alcohol, which we colored red. The dish soap was already blue.

Can you see the layers all right?

The clear bottom layer is the corn syrup. The blue is the dish soap. In the middle–the light blue–is the water. The dish soap must have some water in it. The top layer is the vegetable oil.


Here it is again. We haven’t added the alcohol yet.


Now here it is with the alcohol.

Which is wild again, as the alcohol, sinks to the water level because a good portion of it is water. What we can see on top is a thin layer of red, where what really is alcohol is resting.


If you get the whim to try this at your house, please–skip the food coloring or any other fancy step! You’ll enjoy something so much prettier!


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Week 15 (1-30-17) Plimsoll Lines

Plimsoll. Samuel Plimsoll is the guy we credit for giving us our International Load Line on the hulls of ships. And which is why we rarely hear the phrase International Load Line. Who wants to say International Load Line when you can say Plimsoll line and mean the same thing?


From what we learned last week in class, different types of water ( salt water and fresh water) have different densities. And so, even though salt water and fresh water take up the same space, the more dense the water is (the saltier it is) items that sink in fresh water may still float in salt water.


So what the Plimsoll lines do on a ship is indicate the maximum load a ship can be filled up with cargo in a certain type of water. Which is why the plimsoll lines are different for salt water and fresh water.

What we’re doing here in class is taking clay which is denser than fresh water and seeing if we can turn it into a structure–a boat of some type that will float.


Most of us can do come up with something that doesn’t sink on the first try.


But it doesn’t necessarily mean we’ve made the best structure to hold the most cargo.


What we’re after is being able to build a boat that will hold the most pennies.


This is my gold medal attempt at home. 27 pennies.


And I felt slightly fantastic about this until Mrs. Ponraj’s boat…


Held 34 pennies. Ridiculous.


Ack. Must try harder.


Which is what we all did.


We pushed and molded and counted pennies, until each of our boats finally sank.


Then Mrs. Meier made this gem. Which crushed all previous records, sinking at 39 pennies. Goodness.


Mine, here, held 30 pennies good enough to tie for 3rd place. Sigh.


See any good ones?


Happy Day!


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