Monday, March 14, 2005

Growing Things

We spent today planting.

Last week, the kids designed experiments to find out how different variables* affect the growth of Wisconsin Fast Plants. I have groups comparing different quantities of fertilizer, the pH of the water they are using to water the plants, the number of seeds per cell, the color of light, etc.

Wisconsin FastPlants are a growing system designed just for teachers. You get little styrofoam quads - four cells each - along with seeds, fertilizer, potting mix ("Ms. Frizzle, what's potting mix?" "The soil." "I TOLD you it was the soil!"), plastic shoeboxes, water mats, water wicks, wooden sticks & plastic rings for supporting the plants as they grow, and - get this - dried bees which you are supposed to glue to sticks and then use to pollinate the plants for genetics experiments.

Basically, the kids plant the seeds according to the instruction manual, then they set up the watering system. This is a plastic shoebox full of water & anti-algal chemicals, with a plastic lid that has a hole in one end. You saturate a felt water mat, then drape it over the lid of the shoebox so that one end of the mat hangs down through the hole into the water. Water gets drawn up the mat, then into the wicks which you have placed in each quad underneath the soil. The plants water themselves!

My students who are watering the plants with different solutions will use the watering system on weekends but will water the plants with an eyedropper during the week.

We also have special lighting systems which are like large crates that have lights hanging down from above. A team of eighth graders is helping me assemble these during lunchtime, for community service hours. Some kids are testing how different colored light affects plant growth, so they are going to have to wrap cellophane around a ringstand in such a way as to make a colored filter to go between the plants and the light. It won't be perfect, but it should work well enough.

In my experience, Wisconsin FastPlants grow right on schedule - they sprout within a few days and their whole lifecycle takes just a few weeks. The only problem is that the planting process takes my kids a FULL hour. It took them the full hour even though they had been given the planting instructions to preview last week. My room looked like an explosion of soil and water by the end of the day.

I'll try to bring my camera to school from time-to-time over the next few weeks so you can get an idea of how this is all going...

*See Number2Pencil for a good explanation of independent & dependent variables, by the way, two concepts which, no matter how many times & how many ways I explain them, remain confusing to my middle schoolers. Consensus among science teachers at the Exploratorium this summer was to just keep hitting them with the concept in experiment after experiment, question after question, until they all finally get it. Variables are necessary to every experiment, so its not like you're dumbing anything down for the kids who figure it out quickly.


Blogger Clickbank Mall said...

System Of A Down and Michael Moore Join Forces for "BOOM!" Video
source: SOAD newsletter, March 2003

If ever there were a time in our young country's history when System of a Down's song "BOOM!" was appropriate, it's right now, today, with America and the world on the brink of war. System of a Down has joined forces with director Michael Moore and the crew from "Bowling for Columbine" to make the video for "BOOM!"

"The strangest thing about this impending war is that the people -- the REAL majority who make up the population of this country and the world -- do not truly want to go to war," said Michael Moore. "Watching the news, you would never know that millions have been out there proposing a different solution -- one that does not involve the slaughter of innocents. It is these people whom we will give voice to in 'BOOM!'"

Much of "BOOM!" was shot by independent media activists and local guerilla filmmakers at the various marches that took place across the globe over the weekend of February 15 - Presidents' Day weekend - Berlin, Cape Town, Rome, Paris, Tokyo, Washington, D.C., London, Chicago, Oslo, Rio de Janeiro, Croatia, St. Louis, Los Angeles - and Iraq - to mention just a few of the 40+ locales where footage was incorporated from. The video opens with a blistering array of images that show just how massive and overwhelming the desire for peace is throughout America and the world. Testimonies from marchers - fathers, brothers, sisters, mothers, children, aunts and uncles, grandparents - are heard: "We don't believe the lies that are being fed through the media," or "I don't understand why dropping bombs on children is the best way to achieve peace."

The video "BOOM!" is a life-affirming video that rallies people to visualize, and then create, the world they want to live in. "BOOM!" looks to empower people with the knowledge that war is ultimately their choice, not the media's nor the government's.

"The possibility of the U.S. going to war with Iraq is an extremely personal issue for me because I have family who live there," said System of a Down's guitarist Daron Malakian. "I visited Iraq when I was a teenager, and I can tell you first-hand that the people who I met there are really nice, ordinary people who don't want war with us or with anyone. So, we'd like to have the 'BOOM!' video help change the way people think about the solution to our global problems. We want to make the idea of dropping bombs, of waging war seem as antiquated and ridiculous as it is today for an Afro-American to have to sit at the back of the bus."

"We'd like the 'BOOM!' video to represent the importance and the beauty of humanity, the desire people have to live in a world without fear, without war or the rumours of war," explained Serj Tankian, vocalist for System.

The members of System of a Down - Serj Tankian, Daron Malakian, Shavo Odadjian, and John Dolmayan - armed with their own digital cameras, were filmed at the Los Angeles pro-peace march. Satirical animation that features George W. Bush, Saddam Hussein, Prime Minister Tony Blair, and Osama bin Laden riding rockets over a city has also been incorporated into the video.

"Like Woody Guthrie or Bob Dylan," added Moore, "System of a Down has crafted a true protest song for the new millennium with 'BOOM!' I think it will be a powerful, moving music video that will speak to the desires of the millions who will see it -- and it will let them know that they, the people of peace, are not alone."

Download New Music By System Of A Down

12:00 AM  
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