Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Discovering microscopes

Microscopes are tools that children love to use in the classroom, but are limited by only a few slides that the school has available. At the Discovery science center there are even high powered scanning electron microsopes that magnify objects even smaller than the fiberous thread on your shirt! These microscopes have magnified images of bugs, metals, snake skin, rocks and minerals, tree bark, coral, and sea animals. I used the scanning electron micrscope to look at common bugs that are found in households right here in Southern Caifornia. Yuck!


The ant colony exhibit at the Discovery Science Center demonstrated how simple roles build a complex organization able to complete tasks with synchronicity based on a combined effort rather than an individual accomplishment. What a perfect example of teamwork to illustrate for my students! A colony thrives when each member does its part to contribute to daily functions. The ant colony can also be compared to the human body and brain function. Although each individual brain cell can operate without central control; as part of a larger organization, the brain operates all body functions. Students will understand that within a class, they have individual responsibilities that makes them successful; however, they also participate in class as a member of a team, where they can negatively or positively influence the success of the entire class.

Ms. Fathi's favorite exhibit

My favorite exhibit was the Science of Hockey exhibit because it showcased my favorite sport with my favorite subject! I really enjoyed participating in the activities while learning about the scientific concepts used when playing the sport.

We were able to create our own uniforms and project our faces onto a virtual hockey player! We also took turns playing a shooter and goalie in a simulator where we were able to get in the game and feel the impact of a shooting puck.

We were even able to sit in a Zamboni and learn how it resurfaces the ice using rotating blades, steam, and hot water. I've always wanted to sit in the driver's seat!

Photos of my DSC exploration

We learned how to use a pulley to hoist ourselves up high without having to feel the full weight of our bodies. I only felt 1/3 of my body weight!

We learned about the bodily functions of dinosaurs. Our favorite part was the circulatory system. Our least favorite was the digestive system. Just look at that gigantic pile of dung!

We learned about surface tension by lying on a bed of sharp nails! Although it looks painful, the weight of our bodies pulled down by gravity was evenly distributed over all the nails so not a single nail could pierce our skin- PHEW!

What will I do to debrief students after I have attended the field trip?

After we have attended the field trip, I will debrief my students by first reviewing some of the exhibits they explored during the visit. I will have a large piece of butcher paper taped to the board where I will dictate some of the responses the students provide. Next, I will have the students make an entry in their science journals. I will ask them to write an entry based on this prompt:

1) Name 5 brand new facts you learned that you did not know before visiting the DSC (Pretend you are talking to an alien from outer space. Be detailed!).

2) Name 3 facts you learned about a topic we explored in class that you saw demonstrated in an exhibit at the DSC.

3) Describe 1 thing you learned and how you can apply it to your life outside of school.

I will then collect their science journals to read to get a general analysis of what the students gained from attending the field trip.

What resource materials are available to assist my preparation, teaching?

The Discovery Science Center has online as well as tangible resources available to educators for field trips as well as classroom materials for lessons. Here is a link from the DSC website dedicated to teachers:

The site offers printable lesson plans for a variety of topics that align with science content standards and provides the schedule of FREE professional development workshops given by the DSC. At the museum, there are specific hand-outs for each grade level that align with the science content standards. These hand-outs are to be completed by students while browing the exhibits at the DSC, and encourage investigation of both familiar and unfamiliar topics. There are also free water pollution activity books that are distributed by the DSC.

What would I need to do to adequately prepare my students before the visit?

Before the fieldtrip, I would prepare my students by mentioning a few of the exhibits inside the DSC. For example, I know that this time of year marks the beginning of the hockey season. Some of my students may take an interest in sports, particularly in hockey. There is a permanent exhibit in the museum entitled "The Science of Hockey" where children are given the opportunity to learn about Newton's First Law of Physics by playing the role of a goalie and as a shooter. The students can shoot or stop pucks while learning about motion and forces that work for and against the puck to score and stop goals. By presenting the students with some suggestions of exhibits to visit, their motivation to learn increases when they understand that there are exibits inside the museum of particular interest to them. Another way I can prepare my students for the field trip is to go over specific vocabulary words that were recently covered in the science curriculum and ask the students to search around the museum for exhibits containing these words. This would benefit English language learners who are learning academic language while learning grade level content as well as native English speaking students. I would also divide the class into small groups where students with special needs as well as English language learners are placed into groups with learners of all abilities. The groups would be required to stay together while discovering all areas of the museum. I would have a hand-out for the children to complete that would require a visit to each area of the museum. The children would have to collaborate to complete the hand-out and compromise to decide the sequence of exhibits to visit. By reading the hand-out before arriving to the museum, the students will be prepared and know what to expect.

What special benefits could my students gain from visiting this field trip site?

The Discovery Science Center provides an enjoyable learning environment for all ages. There are meaningful learning experiences abound where children can explore their topics of interest within a two story facility located in the city of Santa Ana, CA. Upon entering the DSC, children and adults alike are beckoned to explore all the facility has to offer by the colorful displays and friendly, knowledgeable staff. The limits to learning are endless; all senses are used to closely re-discover our world as we know it. Students can touch and manipulate objects, listen to sounds, and even use their sense of smell within exhibits. No matter what students take a particular interest in, there is an exhibit waiting for them at the DSC. For teachers, there are resources for every grade level that correlate with state standards required to teach. A field trip to the DSC can benefit everyone from students to teachers, parents, and other members of the community. There are opportunities for learning here that a classroom environment simply cannot provide.