Wednesday, April 29, 2020

Space Farming with Tomatosphere Space Seeds

I am so excited to share about this amazing organization and the exciting opportunity they provide for students! First the Seed Foundation's program, Tomatosphere, brings the excitement to your classroom with packets of tomato seeds. The program sends you two packets of seeds. One packet contains space-farming seeds that went to the International Space Station and the other packet was Earth-bound, the "control seeds." Through the Tomatosphere program, students experiment and learn about conducting a scientific experiment by looking at the germination rates of the two groups of seeds. 

After you read all about the Tomatosphere program, sign up! They will send the seeds to you with suggestions about how to plant them. You choose Fall or Spring. Some things I would consider are the holiday breaks, weather in you area and what you will do with them once they germinate. The packets come with approximately 30 seeds in each so I knew how many to plan for. I purchased these Jiffy Tomato Starter Greenhouses from Home Depot. Each kit came with 36 peat pellets so it was perfect. 

I began the lesson with this presentation. It is a huge file because of the video clips! I included clean clips from the movie The Martian so students could get the space farming concept. The discussion centered on how we will get 2 to 3 years' worth of food to Mars and why it is more practical to grow their own there. We wondered how outer space would affect the seeds and plants.

Tomatosphere relies on a "blind test" so I explained that we would not know which of the two packets are "space seeds" and which are the Earth-bound seeds until after we submit our data. Our wondering then continued and we recorded some initial predictions on this data sheet in our interactive notebooks like which packets were the "space seeds." These questions came from the website that had a lot of activities and ideas. I condensed them to work for us. Finally, we talked about what germination is, what it looks like and what qualifies it for the Tomatosphere program. I gave them a call to action to make a contribution to assisting space exploration by taking this investigation of the germination rate and growth of the plant seriously with their data.  

Now the fun part! Follow the directions for the peat pellets to get them soaked in water and ready to plant the seeds. Each student was able to plant 1 seed from each packet. There is a video on the website (included in the presentation) that shows how to plant them. You have to really push the seeds down into the peat pellet to be sure it is covered with dirt. 

Wait! The Tomatosphere Program suggests planting on a Wednesday or Thursday so they have the weekend to hopefully germinate, making the wait less torture for students the teacher! 

Once you have germination, start counting! The Tomatosphere program wants to know how many germinated and how many did not. Their requirement for germination is two leaves. You can find all kinds of resources here that will help you. Some of the things they don't suggest I couldn't help like fluorescent light and growing in the window sill. Ours still grew!

Once the germination is over, you submit your data on a quick form found on the website and through a link they send you. We had this poster up in the classroom to keep up with our numbers. Students checked the seeds daily and entered their data and observations in their notebooks. They were excited to find out which ones were the "space seeds!" We had a lot of students choose "M" because Mars and that wound up being the ones that went! 

I love being a curriculum coach and I especially love how my teachers open their classrooms up to me and are always up for anything crazy I want to try! Thank you to my 7th grade science teacher, Ms. Asbill! Follow her "teachergram" over on Instagram @science_is_my_jam. She has so many great ideas you will want to steal!

Here are all the files linked in the post!


Wednesday, April 1, 2020

Pythagorean Theorem Spiral of Theodorus

Pythagorean theorem is maybe my all time favorite thing for students to learn! It is also close to my heart from growing up on a construction site with my daddy. Pythagorean theorem was the thing that made me want to teach math and want to teach it in real ways. This is because my daddy would argue all day about how he did NOT use this fancy formula to calculate the pitch of the roof on the house he was building. Even though he would measure and use Pythagorean triples, he would never concede! I also love Pythagorean theorem because of the scandalous stories there are about Pythagoras! I love celebrity gossip and Pythagoras provides us with that. 

I like this math art because it helps students visualize a segment length with the square root of two. This is one of the first times students use irrational numbers so I want them to see the amazement in them. I have students use notecards that I have pre-cut to a one inch square for a template. I have them measure the bottom and side to be sure it is one inch. Then I have them measure the diagonal and get as close as they can to an estimate. Then we work it using the Pythagorean theorem to show how precise we can get. 

Students then use the notecard template to draw only half of the square, two adjacent sides of the square, creating a right angle in the lower left side of their big paper. Next, they create a triangle from the half and label all the sides with their lengths. 

Now the fun begins! Add a new right-angled, one-inch leg to the base of the hypotenuse of the first right triangle then add the new hypotenuse and label. Calculate the length of the new hypotenuse using the Pythagorean theorem then measure and change to decimal form. Is it close?!

Continue to add on one inch legs at right angles {this is super important} to your last hypotenuse and label all the new triangle's sides using the Pythagorean theorem. This is where the template square comes in handy!

Once you have the wheel, students can decide what it will become! Have them rotate it and think big about what it reminds them of. As you can see, some students put a LOT of detail into their design and others transformed their wheel into other shapes. 

Create a huge display of their wheels because they will be so super proud of their art! Get creative and peak their curiosity about Theodorus!
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