Ruxz_M-rbu5hJUPoenSULdy6Wzk The Science of My Life: 2011

Friday, December 30, 2011

Kool-Aid Chemistry and favorite Kool-Aid recipe for playdough

One of my goals for this blog is to make science fun for families to explore and understand together.  So I downloaded Popular Science for my new Kindle :), and I get daily science articles.  I am sharing the Kool-Aid link because I have been making homemade playdough for years thanks to my friend Natalie and this recipe.  Recently I have been using this basic recipe to explore a new experiment called Squishy Circuits that teaches children about circuitry using playdough.  Absolutely the coolest thing ever!

So here is the article and my recipe.  I will also link you to Squishy Circuits.  I am preparing demos to take to schools in 2012.  Very exciting!

Kool-Aid Playdough:
MIX Together:  3.5 cups flour, 0.5 cup salt, and 1 TB cream of tartar
MIX together: 4 packages koolaid...same color and flavor
                        2.25 cups boiling water
                        3 TB oil

Combine the wet and dry ingredients and knead, first with a spoon since it will be hot, then with your hands!  The flour used is actually variable...I start with 3 cups and add until the dough is not sticky.  I store this playdough in the fridge in an airtight container for months.  It is great fun for all ages!
I usually half the recipe so that I can make 4-5 batches of different colors without using all the flour in the house!

Another reminder for Hot Careers in 2012...STEM always makes the list!

In the following days, I will be posting several actvities that are great to know about in 2012.  Please let me know by email if you hear of local events or programs that support STEM education.

Monday, December 26, 2011

Great Snowflake Images...

I love the images captured by Physics researcher, Kenneth Libbrecht.  This USA Today article discusses his ability to capture amazing photographs of snowflakes...and I thought you would like to see them.   Here in Idaho, we are ready for some storms.  I have some skiers in my house that are tired of man-made snow.  Time for Mother Nature to step it up.  I feel OK saying that because we are done with our holiday travel and my parents got safely home to Texas today.  So bring it on!

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Updated: Science Mom Reading List over the break....

My friend Megan invited me to read a new book over the Christmas break, so I thought I would pass the title along to you, as well as a few other books that I am reading or just finished. 

After getting a recommendation from a family member, I read and then assigned the book, The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind by William Kamkwaba.  It starts out a little slow, but I really enjoyed his story and what he was able to accomplish for his family, his village, and the world.  My students really enjoyed the story and made them a little more thoughtful about what they have and how they take their education for granted.

Next on my list is The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks, by Rebecca Skloot, which is a story about the journey her cells have taken from 1951 to now...without her knowledge.  It will be a lesson on bioethics for me and I plan to assign this book to my Biology 100 students in Spring.

Just finished the book.  So interesting!!  I have always enjoyed biographies and this book did not disappoint.  It was full of biological concepts, so I may not require my nonmajor students to read it, but I totally recommend it for science students and teachers.

Finally, Megan is reading  The Spirit Catches You and You Fall Down by Anne Fadiman.  She says it is about the cultural clash between ancient traditions and modern medicine.  I believe the setting is China. 

With so little free time, I do enjoy reading books and stories that make me think.  Enjoy the Christmas break, and find something wonderful to learn about.

Saturday, December 17, 2011

What an awesome day in Moscow, ID!!

Where do I start?   We have had a great time at the University of Idaho at the FIRST Lego League State Competition.  About 60 teams from all over Idaho came to share their projects and show off their mad programming and robot design skills.  Our boys, the Hotwired and RoboRebel Teams, did great in all categories.  The RoboRebels ended the day at 7th overall in the robot awesome!  Hotwired is taking home a First Place Trophy in Research...which is because they learned so much about cross-contamination.  They also finished 13th in robot competition...thanks STEVE (Robot name)  We are so proud of all the kids who represented not just Mini-Cassia, but Magic Valley.  The RoboSpuds from Rupert took home a 2nd place trophy in Innovative Solutions and the Kimberly Bacon Bits got 2nd Place in Overall CHAMPION!  WOW!

After the awards ceremony, our Declo teams met with Dr. Ed Galindo, a scientist and awesome science dude here at U of I.  We learned about his NASA research, toured his fish-naut lab, and had a great dinner.  Thanks Ed!  It was great to see you again!

Magic Valley Winners

The Burton Christmas Card?  Thanks for everything, Carrie!

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Outreach and Grant News

As I wrap up my CSI classes for another semester, I wanted to share one of my favorite websites for you to explore over the break.  In the last few weeks, I have visited about 8 schools to substitute for math and science classes, and I have used my favorite genetics and cell site several times. is a great site to cover cells, heredity, DNA, and current examples of all things genetics.  I use the virtual labs to introduce students to real labs they will be doing.  Whether I am teaching my college students or HS students, we always cover gel electrophoresis, blood typing, and/or  DNA extraction and I  learn something new each time.  The website is very user friendly, and it is sponsored by the University of Utah.

I also got good news this morning.  I wrote a grant this Fall to Target to help fund a field trip to Boise so the students could go to the Discovery Center, and we were chosen to receive the money.  I am so excited for our Fourth graders!  So keep looking for funding opportunities...there are so many available!

Tomorrow morning my son and I leave for the State Robotics Competition.  I will post updates throughout the competition...there are at least 5 Magic Valley teams going...and I am sure we will all have a great time! 

Monday, December 12, 2011

INBRE Grant at CSI...Article in Times-News

This article summarizes all the great opportunities that the Biology Department has pursued with the INBRE Grant money. I have been personally so grateful for these funds because the Burley Lab now has most of the same equipment that is available to students on the main campus.   For instance, after we make and run our gels through the electrophoresis chambers, we have a new UV light box to see the stained bands.  Woohoo!


Here is a link to the INBRE website, and they talk a little about the outreach that we do at CSI.  Because of INBRE funds, we have been able to visit schools throughout Magic Valley and bring science experiences to students of all ages.

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Family Science Nights at CSI - TF and Burley

Christmas plus chemistry, EQUALS FUN! You will never think of Christmas the same way after you spend and evening performing holiday themed science projects.
Instructor: Bill Ebener               Fee: $20 (1-3 people),
$25 (4-5 people) $30 (6+ people)

Bill has some great activities planned so sign up today!

Contact:  Diane Gause   208-732-6442

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

More National Science Fair Winners...

It is amazing what some of these students are able to accomplish with their Science Fair Projects.  Siemens just announced their international winners this week in Washington.

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Lunar Eclipse on Saturday morning...Event Canceled at Herrett Center but the Eclipse is ON!

If there’s one pre-winter morning during which clear skies would be a very good thing, it’s Saturday, Dec. 10. Either way, a total lunar eclipse will occur that morning. It would be nice if those of us who get up early actually get to see it.

Anyone who wants to come to the Herrett Center that Saturday morning to view the eclipse is welcome to the Centennial Observatory at no charge. Astronomically speaking, the eclipse begins at 4:34 Saturday, Dec. 10 but no one will notice it yet. The moon will start to be visibly covered by the Earth’s shadow at 5:46 a.m. The Herrett’s large telescope will track it until 6:23 a.m. at which time the moon will be too low on the western horizon for it. At that time, smaller telescopes on the observatory deck will track the progress. The total eclipse will begin at 7:06 and be at its fullest point at 7:32 a.m. The sun will rise at 7:56 a.m. and the moon will set four minutes later.

The next total lunar eclipse that will be visible in southern Idaho will be in 2014.

Saturday, December 3, 2011

UPDATED: Best "Toys" for kids and Borax snowflake recipe with pictures

This is an unusual post for me, but with the Holidays coming up, it was a good reminder about what matters most to our kids.  I like the posts on this Geek Dad website, so enjoy his Top 5, and then his 6th Best toy for kids.

I promised my borax snowflake recipe, so here it is.  You will need powdered borax, pipe cleaners (white is best), wide mouth quart jar, a pencil, and boiling water.  I make these each year with my kids and classes that I visit, and they always turn out well.  If you save them, they do change from sparkly to white/opaque, but they keep their shape and I have some ornaments that my kids made years ago.  Enjoy the season!

My son made this apple with colored pipe cleaners... very cool!

My daughter cut a white pipe cleaner into 4 shorter pieces to do this snowflake.

Friday, December 2, 2011

Burley Junior High Science and Invention Fair

Last night BJHS showed their commitment to STEM by hosting a Science and Invention Fair, combined with CO2 racing cars built by students, and a friendly FLL Robitics Competition.  Thanks to Reda and Rick and all the science teachers at BJHS for your dedication to STEM and your students.  It was a great night!

Members from 3 FLL Robotics teams ready to compete

Michael making last minute modifications

The helium-filled remote controlled shark watches over the projects!

                                         Real life angry birds~too funny~
The egg cracking and cooking machine

My kids making Rocket Racers

CO2 Race Cars, designed and built by BJHS students

Members of the Rupert team make a plan

Go RoboSpuds!  Girl Power~

FLL Robotics teams from Declo, Minidoka, and BJHS

The Marshmallow Grinder...just for fun, the student said!

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Project Learning Tree Fall Newsletter

With Winter around the corner, I wanted to post this before the snow flies.  I hope it flies soon!  I am posting my favorite crystal snowflake recipe tomorrow.  Check back!

Monday, November 28, 2011

Herrett Center Planetarium Shows

These all look like great Holiday shows at the Herrett Center on the CSI Campus.  Take a break from shopping and enjoy one of these with your kids.  I can't wait to see the new show, "Santa Snork saves the Seasons!"

Friday, November 25, 2011

Solar Energy Podcasts

Happy Thanksgiving Weekend!  Maybe you have a few minutes to watch informative podcasts about solar energy from the American Chemical Society?  Or are you too busy shopping and eating?  Well, enjoy the break doing something you love!  I will post again on Monday.

And thanks to my friend Cheryl who shares great is a 13 yr old kid who is designing solar panels using math!

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Tweets for Science Teachers

This fun list may just get me to tweet after all...I got this link from my NASA online class that I am taking.  Enjoy!

It's an excellent collection of science teachers who tweet.  I only followed @drwetzel and now I have a bevy.

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Times-News Article about FRC Robotics


FRC is coming to DHS!! A special assembly is scheduled for Wednesday at 1:00 PM at Declo High School. The Livewire team from Pocatello is coming to show us their robot and explain what FRC is and how much fun students and families can have participating in this program. Our school team is being organized exciting!!

Thursday, November 17, 2011

More Teacher Opportunities

Tonight as I reviewed an earlier post about grants for teachers, I was reminded how lucky we are to have access to so many opportunities.  Yes, you have to dig a little, but it is worth it.  Back in September, I posted the NSTA calendar of ongoing grants and other events, so take a look at that extensive list.  Here is just one example of another opportunity just about to expire...

Looks fun, huh?  Deadline is December 9.

Monday, November 14, 2011

New IPTV D4K Episode Today... Tuesday, Nov 15

Remember that classes can submit questions to the show and win prizes.  I have a few more calendars left if you want one.  They are great for classrooms!

Local 4-H Robotics teams qualify for state competition | The Voice of Mini Cassia - Burley & Rupert Idaho

Here is the article about our boys. If you want to see them again, we will be at BJHS Science Fair on December 1. It is going to be a great event, so stop by and see STEM in action!

Local 4-H Robotics teams qualify for state competition The Voice of Mini Cassia - Burley & Rupert Idaho

Geography Awareness Week

Celebrate Geography Awareness Week with National Geographic this week. The theme is “Geography: The Adventure in Your Community”. Visit the link to start exploring your community, completing missions, and earning badges.
Launched in 1987 by presidential proclamation, Geography Awareness Week is an annual opportunity for families and schools to engage in fun, educational experiences that draw attention to geo-literacy and the importance of geographic understanding.

Saturday, November 12, 2011

Another Great IDAHO STEM Website!

Thanks to TJ for providing this website and FB page for STEM events and news.  I am already excited about the information posted.  In fact, there is a cool science teacher symposium at USU on Monday. It looks so great!  I will check this new online resource and share what I find, but better yet, like it on FB and you will get reminders yourself!!

Awesome!  Have a great weekend!

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Online GPS Course this Saturday

So one of my favorite new resources is coming out of this NASA class I am taking.  Teachers from all over the country are sharing their backgrounds and connections with each other, and we have just added a place on our page to share events like this.  I know this is coming up in just 2 days, but I wanted to share anyway.  I might be able to fit it in myself.  How fun!  You know I like to letterbox, but I am not really confident using GPS in lesson plans.

Introduction to GPS (Grades 5-9)
Saturday November 12, 2011, 8:00 a.m. – 9:30 a.m. AZ (10:00 Eastern)
The Global Positioning System is an engaging educational tool for teaching students science, mathematics, and technology. This session will introduce teachers to the science behind GPS, will contain engaging activities including determining the size of the Earth, and will cover associated NASA resources to aid in teaching GPS to students. Presented by: Todd Ensign - NASA IV&V ERC This is an online workshop. You only need an internet connection and a computer with the capability to receive audio to participate. Email to register. Registered participants will receive login instructions via email prior to the workshop and a certificate of participation following the workshop.

Monday, November 7, 2011

CSI Education Technology Article

Here is an article about my friend Dave Makings. I am enjoying the SeTEM class that I get to observe at CSI. I am also enjoying my first true online course through NASA and Georgia Tech. Last night I learned how to scan a QR Code and download documents to read. Very cool!


Saturday, November 5, 2011

Twin Falls FLL Robotics Competition...What a DAY!

Well, how fun was that?  We are so proud of our Declo teams for doing so well and qualifying for State Competition in December.  Thanks to Darcy at the Herrett Center and all the CSI organizers and judges for helping our kids have a great day!  Thanks coaches and parents for supporting your kids.  These teams were judged on team work, presentation and research, programming and design, and robotic missions.  The theme this year is Food Safety and they have learned a lot.

               Hotwired presenting their project to the judges.
             Cassia Teams...BJH Bobocats, RoboRebels, and Hotwired
RoboRebels in competition!

Hotwired preparing to compete!

Our Mascot, Nash

Three of the best judges...Sue, Bill, and Dan

BJH Bobcat Team...good job!

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Idaho EPSCoR Newsletter

I am very grateful for EPSCoR and their willingness to team up with and support CSI and STEM Outreach.  If you scroll down their summer newsletter, you will see a couple of our Declo Science Events from last Spring.  I am thrilled that our work was mentioned in their newsletter.

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

So much happening in STEM!

My head is spinning with all the opportunities out there.  Last night I toured a local milk facility that makes powdered milk from local dairies, and I am never going to look at milk the same way again.  We take so much for granted when it comes to our food supply!  I was visiting with my son's robotics team so they could learn about food safety.  Their competition is THIS Saturday at the Herrett Center at CSI.  So much to do!

Also, I spent the day at the Junior High with the best 6th graders in Idaho.  I have known some of these kids since preschool, and we have a lot of fun doing science experiments.  It was their first time with the black box, and it went really well.  ( I will post pix tomorrow!)

Finally, I started an online course through Georgia Tech today.  I applied in the summer after I got an email from NEON, and I am excited to communicate with teachers all over the country about online education.  This course is free, and I am earning 2 credits if I am successful with all the requirements.   So teachers, keep an eye out for these kinds of classes, because they can really help us stay up on technology.

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Scary Trees for Halloween

This was a fun post on the PLT website...thanks Michelle!  I enjoyed the examples in this collection of scary trees through time!  Enjoy and Happy November!

Saturday, October 29, 2011

Fun NASA Contest Winners...

I came across this today while reading the online edition of USA Today.  I wanted to share the essays and art that was recognized as winning entries.

The Shuttle Program is a generational marker for parents like me, and I will miss it.  I am grateful we took our kids several times to the Kennedy Space Center, and we even saw one of the Mars Rovers launch from Cape Canaveral in 2003.  I really need to convert my old photographs to digital...I could show you the cutest pix of my kids at KSC.

Junior High visits CSI Mini Cassia Center

Yesterday I hosted a 7th grade class from BJH in the MCC lab.  We did a microscope activity and they were able to see their own cheek cells, stained and 400x bigger than normal!  It was a great morning, and I am grateful for their teacher, Mrs. G, for having a passion for teaching science.  Keep it up!

Friday, October 28, 2011

Snake River AEYC Fall Conference

I think this looks like a great day for all early childhood educators. 

Saturday, November 12, 2011 9:00am-4:00pm EST
College of Southern Idaho in Twin Falls
This conference will be filled with exciting information.
Topics will include: the importance of immersing young children in nature,
inquiry inside and outside of the classroom, and 100 nature resources.
For questions, or to register for the conference, please contact Jennifer Patterson at 208-732-6884 or

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

What a busy day!

I saw three exciting STEM activities in action today.

Four local classrooms submitted online applications for the e-instruction classroom makeover for new technology.  Their submissions were original and fun.  Good job and good luck to Burley High School and Declo Junior High.

I have a son participating in a FIRST FLL Robotics team, and their competition is next Saturday!  They are learning some great programming and teamwork skills, and I appreciate all the work this program requires of the team members.

Tonight is an Open House for the Minidoka National Wildlife Refuge from 6:30-9PM in Burley.  They are working on a plan to improve the services and programs at the Refuge so my students and I are hopefully going to attend.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Cassini Scientist for a Day

This essay contest is just about over (submissions due tomorrow) but I wanted to share the website and challenge anyway.  There are so many opportunities for our students to pursue, but we as parents and teachers have to be aware first, then guide them towards topics that interest them.

I find out about NASA events by being registered with NEON...Nasa Educators Online Network.  I get weekly updates about student and teacher contests, PD opportunities, and other activities. 

If you are reading this blog and want more of a specific topic, please email me with your request.  I am writing this blog to share relevant STEM news with families in my community.  I am going to add some new features this week to emphasize how important parents are to their child's educational experience.  Most teachers would agreee that parent attitudes directly affect student achievement in class.  So let's get to it!

Saturday, October 22, 2011

Soil Conservation District Speech Contest

As we finish National Forest Products Week in Idaho, I wanted to share this opportunity for high school kids in our area. The event is scheduled for next week, and there are cash awards!


Epilogue Oct 25:  My son did a great job tonight and won first place for East Cassia District.  But this is a good example of how we need to help our kids participate in these kinds of events.  There were only 5 students in attendance, and the organizers were prepared to hand out 9 cash prizes!  I will continue to post activities like these that can benefit students. 

Friday, October 21, 2011

NY Times article and MORE outreach

Thanks to my parents who read the WSJ and NY Times daily, I get the best science articles sent to me.  This one is just another reminder that our job as STEM educators, regardless of the age of students we teach, is critical to prepare young adults for a more challenging work environment.  As parents, our job is to encourage our students to take the harder classes and look for opportunities outside of the classroom to explore STEM and other technical experiences.

Also today, President Obama recognized 12 scientists for their from the Univ of UT...

Today I am spending my time with junior high students who are taking an elective course called Science and Technology.  Along with the required classes in Life, Earth, and Physical sciences, these students are problem solving with technology.  Very cool, Mrs. G!

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Great Idaho Shakeout!

Today is the statewide Earthquake drill at 10:20 AM.  Parents, ask your kids if their school participated...and go over the experience with them.  My first grader is a little nervous, because drills mean you practice for something scary.  Since I am in class with my CSI students today, we will duck, cover, and hold on as well.  Lab tables are great for this kind of drill!

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Another great teacher getting materials through donors...

I read this article over the weekend and I am encouraged by willing and motivated teachers.  They are solving their needs by reaching out online.  Try it for yourself...I know it works, especially for smaller quantities of materials.

I spent yesterday with some great kids at Cassia High School.  We did activities about magnetism, chemical reactions, and engineering.  I appreciate all the opportunities I have to visit classrooms and see students who are motivated to learn.

Monday, October 17, 2011

National Forest Products Week...Essay Contest...

Are your students busy writing their essays? It is National Forest Products Week, and IFPC (Idaho Forest Products Commission) is offering its 17th annual Essay Contest. Don't miss out!

Look around you. How many items can you see that came from a forest? PLT activity recommendation: #13, We All Need Trees. Enjoy!

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Friday, October 14, 2011

More Outreach!

What a week!  Today I traveled over to TF to visit a great school!  Wings Charter School invited me to do the Black Box demonstration again, and some of the students remembered me from last year.   We had a good talk about expectations and preconceived ideas and how we should make observations and record data based on what we see, not what we want to see or expect to see.  They are a fun group of kids.  Thanks Mr. G for making time for STEM!

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Global Handwashing Day

I had no idea this existed, but October 15 is Global Handwashing Day.  This caught my attention because I have taken the glo-germ box and lotion around Magic Valley (thanks to Cassia 4H!)  to teach about the importance of soap when we wash.  The kids are convinced I pump germs on their hands when I give them the lotion.  So here is more info on this topic, along with a picture of my son's hands in the glow box!

Global Handwashing Day
October 15

Global Handwashing DayThe practice of handwashing with soap tops the international hygiene agenda on October 15 with the celebration of Global Handwashing Day. Since its inception in 2008 – which was designated as the International Year of Sanitation by the UN General Assembly – Global Handwashing Day has been echoing and reinforcing the call for improved hygiene practices worldwide.
The guiding vision of Global Handwashing Day is a local and global culture of handwashing with soap. Although people around the world wash their hands with water, very few wash their hands with soap at critical moments (for example, after using the toilet, while cleaning a child, and before handling food).
The challenge is to transform handwashing with soap from an abstract good idea into an automatic behavior performed in homes, schools, and communities worldwide. Turning handwashing with soap before eating and after using the toilet into an ingrained habit could save more lives than any single vaccine or medical intervention, cutting deaths from diarrhea by almost half and deaths from acute respiratory infections by one-quarter.
Global Handwashing Day will be the centerpiece of a week of activities that will mobilize millions of people across five continents to wash their hands with soap.
For more information, see the flyer (PDF) and access Global Handwashing Day on the web.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

INL Field Trip with CSI students

It was a great day to be on the INL site.  I learn new things with each visit and I know my students enjoyed the opportunity to be at such an interesting DOE Lab.  Don M. gives a great tour, and a trip to EBR-1 during the summer months is worth the drive.  But getting into the Advanced Test Reactor Building to see a real reactor is always exciting.  And getting to drive a van the size of the space shuttle is exciting also.  So here are a few pictures from our field trip.  Enjoy!

This new exhibit about EBR-II is cool. 
Idaho was so happening in the 50s and 60s if you were a nuclear engineer!

Monday, October 10, 2011

St Nicholas Science Outreach

What a fun afternoon at St Nicholas School!  The students and teachers were so excited for our visit.  Thanks to Vangie for the invite, and Mr. Bill for always blowing their minds while crushing cans.

Mr. Bill demonstrating Rutherford's experiment about the pong balls were thrown toward the silver plates, and the children counted how many hits occurred.

I focused on states of matter and properties of water.  That lava lamp never gets old!
Tomorrow is also a great adventure to to come!