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Blowing Your Top April 19, 2010

Posted by bobv451 in education, science.
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Volcanoes are scary, to say the least. The completely unpronounceable Icelandic volcano is a case in point, and Coast to Coast AM loves to go on about the Yellowstone super volcano. If that one stays on schedule it ought to blow in about 65,000 years. I’ll wait. Especially after seeing what a “dinky” one in Iceland can do.

Coming up on Wednesday I’ll be judging at a science fair (3rd year for this particular school, so I must be doing something right). The first year was a real heartbreaker of an experiment. The girl wanted to determine the burn times for scented vs nonscented candles. Her initial experiment was pretty much a mishmash since the candles were different sizes. Most students would have presented the data and come to weird conclusions. She recognized the problems, made her own candles to be as identical as possible, one batch scented, the other not. Then she varied the circumference, the wick and all kinds of other things–one at a time. The experiment was a thing of beauty. She recognized controllable variables and did something about it.

For a fifth grader, there was a depth of understanding of things scientific I don’t see in seniors in high school. Hell, among most adults, she understood the scientific method better. I asked what she wanted to do for a living. She wanted to work in a curio store. Sigh. I hope she’s adjusted her sights higher over the years since she would make a great researcher. Whether it’s candle wax or whatever, she “got” it. Which transcends most of the students who think it’s an experiment to cut off the nutrition facts panel from a box of Cheerios (no kidding–there are usually a couple of those every year. Maybe not Cheerios specifically, but the “experiment” is the same. And they have no idea what niacin is.)

But volcanoes. How many realize the chemically powered school volcanoes have not much of anything to do with the real-life ones? Not many, not enough.

My online store is taking shape and I ought to get it open in a week or so. And next Sunday I’ll be doing an interview in Second Life. More on that in a few days, but technology needs to be whipped into shape for that. Seriously corralled, broken and ridden, yee-haw. (Uh, back to the western….)

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