Every day is a great day for a science safari, when students go outside and explore the elements of science near their homes. Besides allowing students their fill of fresh air and exercise, as seasons and weather patterns change, the neighborhood is constantly providing them with new scientific discoveries. Two days ago, it stormed here in Texas. Today, I decided to head outside and see what I could find.
Biology is the study of living things.
These fallen tree branches are showing signs of decomposition including dried leaves and color changes. This leads to great discussion about composting and Mother Nature’s circle of life. Some science vocabulary words to throw into the discussion include:
- aerobic (with oxygen) decomposition. The decomposition that is taking place in this photo is aerobic decomposition. In aerobic decomposition, living organisms, which use oxygen, feed upon the organic matter. They use the nitrogen, phosphorus, some of the carbon, and other nutrients.
- anaerobic (without oxygen) decomposition.
- decomposition: the process of breaking down organic substances; bacteria and fungi help decompose organic matter.
- organic of, relating to, or obtained from living things. These fallen tree branches came from a living tree and is, thus organic.
Physical science is the study of matter, energy, force and motion.
These two tractors are made up of several simple machines that come together to make it easier for workers to clear this construction site.
- fixed pulley A pulley that doesn’t move. The pulley on a flagpole is a fixed pulley. The pulley doesn’t move to another place. It just sits at the top of the pole. The rope around it moves as someone pulls it.
- force A push or a pull. When you push open a door, you use force on the door. When you pull on a drawer handle, you use force on the handle. The force makes the objects move.
- friction A force between two surfaces that are touching; friction works against motion.
- fulcrum The support that a lever turns around. The fulcrum can be close to the load or far from it. The closer it is to the load, the easier it is to lift the load. gear A wheel with teeth. If you could see the inside of a clock that has hands, you would see that it has gears. When one wheel turns, it makes other wheels turn. A big wheel and a little wheel turning at different speeds make the hour hand and the minute hand turn at different speeds.
- pulley A simple machine made of a grooved wheel with a rope or chain wrapped around it. Pulleys let you lift objects into the air. They can even let you use less force to lift heavy objects.
- simple machine A tool that makes it easier to move objects. Inclined planes, screws, and wedges are all simple machines. Simple machines often let you do a job using less force than it would take you to do the job without the simple machine.
- wheel and axle A simple machine made of a round object (the wheel) that turns around a rod (the axle). When a bus driver turns the steering wheel, she can turn the whole bus. She uses a small force to turn the big wheel. A smaller axle attached to the wheel turns a shorter distance but with more force.
Botany the branch of science that deals with plant life.
Texas native tree: Southern Magnolia This regal beauty features magnificent blossoms in white, pink, red, purple, or yellow. Magnolia trees are diverse in leaf shape and plant form, and they include both evergreen and deciduous sorts.
Besides this being a Texas native, I threw in a few scientific terms during our discussion:
- animalia one of the four main kingdoms; includes species such as anemone, insects, lizards, and mammals.
- classification the action or process of classifying something according to shared qualities or characteristics.
- fungi one of the four main kingdoms; made up of the decomposers (they absorb nutrients). Some of the members of this kingdom are fungi, slime molds, yeast, mold, and mushrooms.
- kingdom the general way that living organisims are described.
- plantae one of the four main kingdoms; the characteristics of plants are that they have chlorophyll, cell walls (cellulose), and vacuoles. This kingdom also includes red, brown, and green algae.
- protista one of the four main kingdoms; consists of single-celled organisms.
- taxonomy aspect of that deals
For a copy of Texas A & M University’s Texas Tree Planting Guide, click here.
Meteorology is a division of Earth science that deals with the atmosphere.
Clouds A cloud is a large group of tiny water droplets that we can see in the air. They are formed when water on Earth evaporates into the sky and condenses high up in the cooler air. The two factors that affect the formation of clouds are moisture and temperature. Clouds move with the wind currents. Most clouds form in the troposphere (the lowest part of Earth’s atmosphere) but occasionally they are observed as high as the stratosphere or mesosphere.
There are a range of different types of clouds, the main types include stratus, cumulus and cirrus:
- Stratus clouds are flat and featureless, appearing as layered sheets.
- Cumulus clouds are puffy, like cotton floating in the sky.
- Cirrus clouds are thin and wispy, appearing high in the sky.
- Fog is stratus type of cloud that appears very close to the ground.
- air the mixture of gases, which form the atmosphere of the Earth.
- atmosphere: the atmosphere is a thin layer of gases that surrounds the Earth. The four layers of the atmosphere are the troposphere, the stratosphere, the mesosphere, and the thermosphere.
- climate the average weather conditions in a certain place or during a certain season. Weather may change from day to day, but climate changes only over hundreds or thousands of years.
- funnel cloud a tornado that doesn’t reach the ground. It has a rotating cone-shaped column of air extending downward from the base of a cumulonimbus or thunderstorm cloud, but whose circulation does not make contact with the ground.
Other planets in our Solar System have clouds. Venus has thick clouds of sulfur-dioxide while Jupiter and Saturn have clouds of ammonia.
For a great Teacher’s Guide about clouds (grades 5-9), click here.
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