Geography Quest: Great Backyard Bird Count Edition

 

Geography Quest Great Backyard Bird Count Edition

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It’s that time of year again! When families everywhere will be counting the birds that come to their yards in the Great Backyard Bird Count (GBBC) sponsored by The Cornell Lab of Ornithology, Audubon Society, and Bird Studies Canada. This year’s count takes place on February 13- 16, 2015.

Observe & Submit Your Bird Checklist

Have you participated in the GBBC before? If not, you can read all about how to get started. It’s a pretty easy gig:

  • Register or log in for the count.
  • Count birds for at least 15 minutes a day on one or more days of the GBBC.
  • You can count for longer than 15 minutes and you can count birds on as many days and in as many places as you’d like during the GBBC.
  • Read the directionsfor submitting the checklists using the checklist page or the new app.
  • Do you regularly use eBird? eBird is another website where you can submit bird sightings year round. If you are already an eBird user, please use your eBird account and your observations during these dates will count toward the GBBC. That is great information because I did not know that.

Use GBBC Data to Map The Results

Did you know you can access historical data on the GBBC? This would be a fun map making adventure.

  • There a few map options available to explore on the website.
  • Toggle between top ten lists for species and the map room to find what to map.
  • Pick a favorite bird species and map its populations in North America- or name any location.
  • Observe the data and see if you can find winter patterns or to see if any migration patterns emerge.
  • Look to see if there are patterns in the activity of a species using the places page.
  • What other types of maps could you make using the data from the GBBC? Tell us about them!

Resources for the GBBC

Need some help to keep things easy? Here are a few resources made available by the folks with the GBBC.

  • Create your own tally sheet.
  • A downloadable pdf data form
  • Birding apps recommended by the GBBC- this makes it easy to keep track of the birds you see and you can use it to log your results when the count is complete.
  • iBird Pro mobile bird guide- It’s got a thorough library of bird species information, calls, pictures, etc. This is one of the few apps I’ve paid for for my phone!
  • Merlin- this is a new app by the Cornell Lab of Ornithology. This looks pretty good although it’s not available for Android until the spring. Bummer! It’s a bird ID guide- I saw the prototype at the lab a couple years ago and it’s fun to use.

Join us this weekend to count some backyard birds and submit your results to the GBBC. Our feeder needs filling before we get more snow tomorrow. We see a bunch of birds daily out there enjoying our black oil sunflower seeds. I’m looking forward to officially tallying them this weekend.
Bird Notebook Pages | Harrington Harmonies Need a great way to record your birds during the count? Check out these bird notebooking pages from Harrington Harmonies.

 

 

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Comparing the Accuracy of Liquid Measurement Tools

Blog, She Wrote: Comparing the Accuracy of Liquid Measurement Tools

Have you ever thought about how accurate your volumetric measuring tools are? How do you know your measuring cup is calibrated? Is it good science to use your kitchen tools for science? Today’s discussion is Comparing the Accuracy of Liquid Measuring Tools.

Are All Volumetric Measuring Tools the Same?

Blog, She Wrote: Comparing the Accuracy of Liquid Measurement Tools

The gold standard in measuring volume is the Volumetric Flask. It’s a laboratory flask which is calibrated precisely to a certain volume at a particular temperature. They come in various sizes from 1-10,000 mL of liquid. But, they are also expensive and they are typically not found in classroom labs or homes because neither work with extremely precise volumes of liquid.

So, what do we use instead? The rule of thumb is to use the graduated cylinder. With all the markings on the cylinder, it is considered more accurate than other volume measuring tools. But, is there a big difference? We decided to test them to see.

Tools for Measuring Volume

Blog, She Wrote: Comparing the Accuracy of Liquid Measurement Tools

What are some tools available for measuring volume?

  • Beakers- Are containers primarily used for mixing and heating. There are markings on them for measuring, but they are meant to be approximate.
  • Measuring Cups- The liquid measuring kitchen variety. We use Pyrex brand.
  • Erlenmeyer Flasks- These are wide bottomed but not circular with a neck that can use a stopper (with or without holes). It makes a good reaction vessel and allows a larger area for smaller volumes.
  • Florence Flask- This is a round bottomed flask used for boiling solutions.
  • Field Collecting Tubes- These are screw top collecting tubes which come in 15 mL or 50 mL and they are terrific for collecting aquatic specimens in the field. We use them during our entomology excursions.
  • Pipettes- Used for moving small volumes of water or removing liquid in small increments. I like the disposable kind because the cleaning is much easier!
  • Graduated Cylinder- Are used for measuring volumetric quantities. They range in size from 10- 1000 mL. If you are going to choose only one, the 100 mL size is a good one.

So, if you want to use something other than what’s found in your kitchen, where do you get them? We use Home Science Tools. We order some specialty items, like collecting tubes, from BioQuip. Just for fun, we also visited our local university’s chemistry supply room. Armed with gift money, our then 8 year old, took a trip with Dad to pick out his own glassware.

Testing the Accuracy of Volume Measuring Tools

Blog, She Wrote: Comparing the Accuracy of Liquid Measurement Tools

Since we used the graduated cylinder as our gold standard, we chose to determine the final volume in a graduated cylinder. Our procedure:

  • Choose a beaker, flask, or collecting tube and fill it with water to the highest marked volume in mL.
  • Record that volume in your data chart which will be labeled with the containers you are using.
  • Pour the contents of the first container into the appropriately (closest) sized graduated cylinder available.
  • Measure the volume of water in the graduated cylinder
  • Record the volume.
  • Repeat using various sized measurement tools.

How to Record Data When Doing a Science Exploration

Blog, She Wrote: Comparing the Accuracy of Liquid Measurement Tools

The data chart for recording volume was designed by each student separately based on what we needed to write down. Here are a few things to remember about data charts and recording data.

  • Have each student design her own based on ability- parents can step in when columns are missing.
  • Give hints or general categories students need to remember when constructing their own chart. It’s ok if the charts turn out differently from others as long as they record everything.
  • Creating their own data chart is a great way to learn the skill of organizing information. I think we underestimate the importance of our homeschooled students being able to organize information on their own- without the help of a printable!
  • Remember printables are fun, but they aren’t necessary and sometimes they slow you down- like when you are spending all your time looking for ones you’ve already printed or when you can’t find just the perfect one.
  • Scientists in the field must create their own data charts since they often design their own experiments. Step boldly!

Our Findings- How Accurate are the Volumetric Tools?

Blog, She Wrote: Comparing the Accuracy of Liquid Measurement Tools

What were the results?

  • All volumetric containers are not the same!
  • The graduated cylinder has more markings and measures more accurately – it was certainly easier to determine an accurate volume with more gradations.
  • The readings on the graduated cylinder were higher than the same volume measurement in the other tools.
  • The larger the container, the larger the discrepancy. The largest beaker was off my 20 mL or more!

What does it all mean? Well, it means if you want accurate volume without using a volumetric flask, use the graduated cylinder for the best results. Always use the container that will reasonably hold your liquids. If you use the extreme opposite, your readings will be less accurate.

Does My Homeschool Need Volumetric Measuring Tools?

Some of you might be asking whether or not it’s a good idea to invest in some volumetric containers for your homeschool. Is it a good idea? Here are a few things to think on:

  • Using containers meant for science frees up your kitchen tools- I prefer to use science tools for science and kitchen tools for the kitchen. That might be the science teacher talking, but it’s more than that!
  • Some chemicals don’t belong in vessels we eat from- Perhaps your wet labs aren’t dangerous, but some of them might be.
  • Using science tools reinforces safety measures- We don’t eat in the lab! Nor should we really eat from vessels used in the lab.
  • Ensures your students know how to measure volume accurately using appropriate tools
  • Your students will be versed in labware and how to use it
  • It helps our science to be more accurate- rather than guessing at volume when your liquid falls somewhere between 50 mL marks!

It’s easy to start out with a few beakers and graduated cylinders. We have a mixture of plastic and glass, but plastic lets me relax a little more. I would recommend a 100 mL graduated cylinder, 250 & 500 mL beakers at a minimum to start. If you work in small volumes, a 10 mL graduated cylinder is a good size.

Even the simplest of labs can introduce a great deal of concepts and provide plenty of practice at homeschool science. It’s important to use scientific volumetric tools as much as possible. Your measurements will be more accurate!

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Teaching Geography with Earth Science

Blog, She Wrote: Teaching Geography with Earth Science

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Not only will our high schoolers earn a high school credit in geography, but they will also have their earth science high school credit. We can get a lot of mileage out of the content and videos in the earth science text when we are doing physical geography, but there are also beginning concepts which compliment one other. Here’s a look at How We Teach Geography with Earth Science.

Blog, She Wrote: Teaching Geography with Earth Science

High School Earth Science Topics which Go along with NorthStar Geography

There is some amount of overlap between geography and earth science. Physical geography includes discussions on earth science. While physical geography teaches the various features of the earth, earth science will not only name them and describe them, but will tell us how they were formed. In looking at both resources, I made a list of the shared concepts.

  • Maps & Direction- Types of maps and how to use them. For example, topographical maps (including contour maps), geologic maps, bathymetric maps.
  • Navigation- Subtopic of maps & direction. Lines of longitude and latitude, tropics zones, prime meridian, etc.
  • Structure of the Earth- Plates & continents. Earth Science will talk about composition of the earth while geography will touch on the people and their boundaries.
  • Topography- Bodies of water, man-made features, the lay of the land so to speak
  • Lithosphere- Mountains, volcanoes, and earthquakes.
  • Hydrosphere- Oceanography, freshwater systems
  • Atmosphere- Climate, weather, weather maps and interpreting weather data

Blog, She Wrote: Teaching Geography with Earth Science

How We Use Ck-12 Earth Science for High School with NorthStar Geography

CK-12 is an open source text book out of California which offers courses in science and math for free. The open source nature of the site means you can enjoy lots of content folks share including quizzes, tests, labs & activities. This particular course (Earth Science) has quite a lot of front matter, so we skipped it having met those topics in our science courses many times. We began with the Earth Science content.

Here are a few ways we have found to work these two courses together so far this year:

  • Read the chapters in both the NorthStar Geography text & the Earth Science text- the matching concept chapters compliment one another and come at a topic from a different perspective.
  • Watch the embedded video from the Earth Science text- For example, after doing the chapter on maps, we watched a video on latitude.
  • Activities & labs from Earth Science work well with geography and vice versa. We did the mapping activities with NorthStar Geography as our work for Earth Science.
  • NorthStar Geography Activities- Can add hands on fun to the Earth Science sections which are the same.

Blog, She Wrote: Teaching Geography with Earth Science

Flexible Technology Allows us to Use Both NorthStar Geography & High School Earth Science

Part of working with both of these resource tools together is to make use of technology when we can.

  • We use the ebook & print version of NorthStar Geography- The student reader is available in either the print version or the digital version. If you purchase the printed version, it comes with a CD which includes the digital edition.
  • The earth science text and NorthStar Geography were put onto my students’ kindles- They can watch embedded videos right from the text and read anywhere without sharing the resources with each other. The earth science text is offered in a mobi file for Kindles and the geography was loaded as a pdf.
  • If they want to compare resources they can read off the computer while viewing their NorthStar ebook or text book. With two kids taking the courses at the same time that’s handy. They will be busy with assignment and not necessarily work at the same rate or in the same way, so having options with no extra expense is a bonus.
  • Using a Kindle in Your Homeschool- Do you use a Kindle in your homeshcooling? Our student Kindles have been invaluable to our studies as our children have gotten older. Reading, research, and organization tools are used every day by our students. Amazon has a new Kindle- the Kindle Fire HD6 is $99 and offers the same excellent features as the one we use (with the bonus of a camera) with a slightly smaller screen. That’s a cost effective way to enter the world of tablets!

Blog, She Wrote: Teaching Geography with Earth Science

Benefits of Choosing NorthStar Geography for High School Credit

So far, the course has been enjoyable. We love geography at our house and even our high school junior, who considers himself a geography buff, could stand to brush up on his knowledge- especially in the area of human geography. What makes this one credit course right for us?

  • It’s easy to follow and very thorough- I think it’s especially easy when you have WonderMaps because the directions tell you what features to choose in the map before you print it.
  • There are several schedules you can use depending on how often you want to study geography in a particular year.
  • Hands on activities for every chapter- There are activity directions for each chapter which are easy to access and print for your students.
  • Build your own student atlas using WonderMaps printables or the ones included in the resource disc.
  • Hands off kids can work on memorizing the maps- They can choose to make an atlas or concentrate on memorizing only. There are a variety of ways for students to approach the course by choosing options along the way.
  • Customize to your needs and abilities- With so many components and the clear directions not to use them all, you can easily customize the course to your student’s strengths and your goal with the geography course.
  • Purchase alone or as a bundle with WonderMaps- If you already own WonderMaps you can go right for NorthStar. If not, you can purchase them together. The maps you need are included with NorthStar, but I love to make custom maps for our work and for any other of our map needs!

My plan is flawless except for the Lyme Disease which my high school junior is fighting. Whenever you are working with multiple ages and coordinating curriculum, something is bound to go wrong- in case you might think the world is perfectly aligned with such a great plan! So, our high school freshman must work ahead at this point. Ethan will have to catch up later or they will continue separately or mixed and matched with labs and activities. It’s important to remain flexible and keep forging ahead with circumstances as best you can. The plan is still there to keep on us track and let us know where we are headed!

We are delighted that earth science and NorthStar Geography are part of the plan this year!

North Star Geography & WonderMaps Combo

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