Crustacean Estimation

I’m still messing around with engaging elementary students with measurement and estimation. My own kids seem pretty interested. I don’t know if that’s a good measure at all. It has been a new experience for me to see how the different ages are able to engage with the same media. It is interesting to have your own tiered test group at hand- no matter how biased.

This particular structure was sparked by one of the elementary specialists commenting that the students would often guess similar weights for a lion and a cat. My idea is to present similar animals but of very different sizes.

I see it going something like this.

crustacean scale
Solicit comments about what kids know. Have the students guess which one is bigger. How much bigger?

crustacean scale
I may need a child sized silhouette rather than an adult- probably a good idea to mix the gender as well. I don’t know if that opens up additional areas of confusion. This is a also where I might add a zoomed in slide that breaks things down by inches. I think it’d be important to have a scale grid on the wall for students to measure themselves against. If it had the silhouettes, on it all the better.

crustacean scale
Now we have a much larger scale. What unit of measurement do you use? How big is this lobster? How can you tell?

crustacean scale
The actual statue in Shediac, New Brunswick is supposed to be 35 feet long. That seems a little off if we assume the guy is about 6 feet tall. It may be that the perspective is messing things up some. It may be that guy is very large (and with a very large woman). Troubleshooting estimation issues in photographs with students would be worthwhile I think. You could play some fun games with that especially given things like Japanese perspective photo fads.

Internet Detritus #5


The sounds of made by a West Indian furrow lobster – via Boing Boing

Radio Berkman – Facts Are Boring – via itself

This week we tear apart the difference between Truth, Fact, and Evidence, and the quiet, but irreplaceable, role of the humble factchecker in our media:

Author/factchecker Jim Fingal on the Lifespan of a Fact
Former GQ intern and factchecker Gillian Brassil
Veteran Atlantic Monthly factchecking department head Yvonne Rolzhausen
David Weinberger, author of the recent book Too Big To Know

From the New Blogs

Why was melamine so toxic? “Because it’s not, really. It’s not supposed to be absorbable by the human body,” Jia says. Its LD-50 (“lethal dose-50?), or the dose at which 50 percent of those exposed would die, is 3161 mg/kg in rats, an incredibly low toxicity. So why had so many children gotten sick?

National Geographic’s Phenomena

There are so many things memorized in school but never understood at all.

“If you were standing at arm’s length from someone and each of you had one percent more electrons than protons, the repelling force would be incredible. How great? Enough to lift the Empire State Building? No! To lift Mount Everest? No! The repulsion would be enough to lift a “weight” equal to that of the entire earth!”

Richard Feynman; The Feynman Lectures on Physics

via It’s Okay to be Smart which is pure goodness and led me to this great map post and the West Wing clip below.

In order to detect prey it senses slight changes in air currents with bumps on its skin and chemical sensors on its antennae to let them essentially taste something to determine if its food. When a prey item is eventually encountered, the slime is forcefully squirted through oral papillae near the head and launched up to 30cm in a sort of spray-and-pray manner. Once the slime contacts the victim, it quickly dries ensnaring it, where now the worm then seeks to eat the organism by injecting its saliva and digestive enzymes turning the innards into a slurpee. Mmm delicious.

The velvet worm are primarily nocturnal ambush predators and their senses and locomotion allow them to hunt. They move silently and fluidly with pneumatically inflated sets of valves to inflate/deflate their legs, meaning they don’t really rely on muscles for movement and is why it looks so cool as they glide along the ground. Another awesome thing about them is they have a tubular heart that extends almost the entire length of the body creating an open circulatory system.

Essentially, you have the perfect horror movie monster- nocturnal, crazy attack method, liquifying victims, silent and creepy method of transport, non-standard circulatory system (not sure if this would make them easier or harder to kill – heart shot would be anywhere but would it matter?). Use as writing prompt or as encouragement for research on anything that could be worse if only it was large enough to eat humans.

via Fresh Photons


“An online forum for elderly people has been shut down because of “racist, homophobic and anti-Semitic comments”.”

. But Mr Green said that despite “vicious” debates on subjects such as the Middle East, the network was “closed more in sadness than anything else”.

via The New Aesthetic

via Boing Boing

More Random Media

This makes me want to graph lots of things like this. I’d want kids making their own posters for the room.

This would be my introduction to scientific research, properly intro’d by bringing in an old McDonald’s burger and leading kids into the assumption.

I would be all over this Justin Long flamewar story in English and it might actually be a story that could be used to talk about the Internet and propriety without sounding like an old, clueless person1.

–these came from BoingBoing or Super Punch

1 Not that I think Justin Long is “cool” but the bar for decent internet conversations from teachers to students is set pretty low.

Pop Culture Omnibus II

A hodgepodge of links that inspired me and rough ideas on how I’d use them in class.

Picture 7

What is it? It’s a poster that lets you build your own story by picking component pieces- think MadLibs but for story construction.
What I’d do with it- This would be a really interesting culminating activity after studying a genera, author, poet or historical era. The students have to figure out the basic elements that are present in the author’s works or major people/conflicts/geography of the era. They then build a similar poster. It’d be hard to figure out which elements would be the variables and which would be consistent. Lots of thinking involved. Thinking about it, it might be a fun thing to build in Google forms using the new branching options.

Picture 8
The Shadow2
What is it? An artist who’s envisioning a boy with a monstrous shadow.
What I’d do with it- It’d be fun to depict the inner-selves of historical and literary figures as their shadows. So you’d have students analyzing the characters or historical figures and then drawing representative shadows. The key would be in how they explain what the shadow represents and how they explain the difference between the public persona and the inner-self. It could represent their hidden dark side, kind of like what I did with George Washington or it could be an interesting mix of what drives them as individuals.

Vikings never wore helmets with horns
What is it? It’s an ad campaign trumpeting the idea that good ads take precedence over facts.
What I’d do with it- It wouldn’t work with everything but for lots “common knowledge” history and science “facts” students would have lots of misconceptions to debunk. Doing it in poster format would allow you to display them and spread the love.

Picture 9
The Apollo Landing Disaster Speech3
What is it? This is the speech William Safire wrote in case the astronauts were stranded on the moon. It’s kind of like a pre-written eulogy but for an event.
What I’d do with it- Students write failure or success speeches. Take famous speeches and reverse them. What would they have sounded like had the occasion been reversed?

1 via boingboing

2 found via superpunch

3 via boingboing

Honda’s Musical Road

The Santa Monica ad agency RPA cut half-inch grooves into a quarter-mile stretch of Avenue K, in the exurban L.A. desert city of Lancaster. The grooves were synched in such a way that driving over them at precisely 55mph caused Rossini’s “William Tell Overture” — a.k.a. the Lone Ranger theme — to echo in the air around you.

So how cool would this be for physics, science and math? Lots of concepts to explore in a simple entertaining little Youtube clip.

Wonder what it’d take to make your own version? Not necessarily with a real car- maybe a remote controlled model?

Lord of the Rings – Web 2.0 Style

[kml_flashembed movie="" width="425" height="350" wmode="transparent" /]

I saw this on Neatorama. It’s worth checking out for the mix of web 2.0 story telling twists. You’ve got chat, emoticons, a Middle Earth twist on Google Maps some texting.

It’s a multimedia extension of the chat room colonization of the US concept.

You’ve got lots of room to play with this concept in a variety of subjects – history and English are pretty obvious but you could use it wherever there’s an interaction of objects and create a narrative around it. It’d work in chemistry (enzymes as instigators comes to mind), science (biomes, cell interactions) and government (it’d be a fun way to look at the bill to law process- maybe as a Google Map).

Interactive Introduction to the Human Body


National Geographic has an amazing interactive look at the brain, heart, digestive system, lungs and skin. You can stimulate the brain with a variety of inputs and see what part of the brain reacts. The heart can be “put through the paces”, the digestive system fed, and the skin aged. You can even trigger an asthma attack in the lungs. Each section looks at anatomy, function, and ills. This could be the centerpiece of some great student-centered exploration in a health or science class.

via BoingBoing

Google Earth – The Next Level


I found this KMZ file the other night. It’s really the greatest Google Earth file I’ve ever seen.

It’s tracking bird flu but it’s doing it through, time, space and evolution. It creates a three dimensional representation of the changing aspects of the virus as it moves from carrier to carrier and place to place.

There’s a video showing what it can do and explaining things here.

The source file is over here.

Why am I so impressed? Mainly because it’s a perfect representation of data visualization. It shows a completely different way to use Google Earth. Who would have thought to use a geography program to track the evolution of a virus?

This kind of convergence is amazing and examples like this can lead to some amazing connections. It can also lead the way for other creators to start using this application in different ways.