I taught one full year of 9th grade physical science when I was living in Ohio. That course covers physics, chemistry, and bits of Earth science all in a single year. Obviously there's not enough time to do all of that in great depth, but since it's for students who are only 14-15 years old, they wouldn't be cognitively ready for a deep treatment anyway.
So, here I present a smattering of the materials I used/created in that course. Most of it is inspired by stuff I found elsewhere, but I wanted to put my own spin on it.
Tools of Science / Density
- Like any science class, I start with a "how to do science" sort of unit. See my physics files to see the kinds of activities I start with. For 9th graders I basically just adapt those same activities.
- My introductory unit also has a big emphasis on density, as you can see from the selected files here. It's a topic students have trouble grasping abstractly -- mainly a failure to differentiate between density and mass -- and for which there are a lot of simple experimental and mathematical approaches you can take.
- Density Jones
After showing a clip from the beginning of "Raiders of the Lost Ark" in which Indiana Jones switches the gold idol for a bag of sand, I have students think about these questions.
- Density of witches
Another set of questions to go with a movie clip, this time the scene in "Monty Python's Holy Grail" in which Bedevere educates the peasants on how to scientifically(?) detect a witch. Along with covering density concepts, this scene provides a lot of material for discussing logical arguments.
- Will it float?
A great lab challenge activity. The basic idea is that students are given airtight plastic containers like film canisters -- but hopefully you can give each group a different size/shape -- and they have to get it as close as they can to neutral buoyancy. But, they aren't allowed to put it in water while they work. They have to get to neutral buouyancy strictly through measurements of the container's dimensions and its mass. Each time a group is ready to test their work, the whole class gathers around, excited to watch and see what happens!
- Unit 1 review
Review questions for the first unit. Lots of this is standard, but there's a few question types in there that are a bit novel.
- Speed calcuations
Calculations with speed, distance, and time, but presented in a variety of different ways.
- Speed and velocity
Speed vs velocity, average vs instantaneous.
- Unit 2 review
A wide variety of review questions covering distance, displacement, speed, and velocity.
- Vision and color slideshow
A slideshow about human color perception, emphasizing the idea that color doen't really exist: only light with various wavelengths does. "Color" is a poor approximation of the real world, completely made up by our brains and full of bugs and quirks. The slideshow contains a lot of illusions and other images that mess with human visual perception, mostly from Boston University's Project LITE. It also references a few online videos, which you can find through these links:    NOTE: This file is a macro-enabled Powerpoint 2010 presentation. I had to save it that way to get some interactive Flash objects to embed and work properly.
- My goal in the geology unit was to provide students with as many chances as I could to apply concepts instead of just memorizing terms. So I wrote activities where they would practice using the definitions to identify things or use canned data to replicate tasks a geologist might do.
- Motion of the Hawaiian islands
Use known ages for the rocks on the Hawaiian islands to measure the speed of continental drift. There are many activities like this out there, this is just my take on it. Sadly I do not know where I got the images from... I didn't make them but I can't credit the source.
- Earthquake triangulation
Students are given (fake) seisomgraphs that were recorded in different locations. By analyzing the delay between the p-waves and s-waves, they find the distance from each station to the epicenter, then use a compass to draw circles on a map and locate the quake.
- Investigating Earth's interior
Students are given locations for siesmic monitoring stations all around the world, and a list of earthquake epicenters. On a circular model Earth, students draw connecting lines between epicenters and the stations that detected s-waves in each quake. This reveals Earth's "shadow zone" and allows students to estimate the depth/radius of our liquid outer core.
- Volcanos study guide
A quick study guide for volcanos, focusing on the famous "three types" and their differences.
- Classify the volcano
A worksheet with pictures and descriptions of several volcanos. Students apply the classification scheme to classify each one.
- Types of volcano: another view
A short article and questions about volcano classification which criticizes the standard "three types" scheme as being muddled and confusing.
Weather and climate
- Similar to the geology unit, I wrote a lot of material for weather and climate in which students apply concepts to answer questions. The kinetic thoery of matter figures very heavily in this material.
- Structure of Earth's atmosphere
Plot temperature vs altitude data to "discover" the layers of our atmosphere.
- Reading weather maps
A long packet which trains students in the basics of reading a weather map with highs, lows, and fronts drawn on it.
- History of meteorology
Four short readings about different eras in meteorology and some of the work that was done to advance the field. Each reading has some comprehension and conceptual questions afterward.
- Basics of climate packet
Another long packet, this one covering the basic factors that influence a region's climate: latitude, water, and mountains. As each factor is introduced, examples are given and students are asked to apply the ideas to make predictions about climates on hypothetical maps. I do not know the sources for many of the images in this one anymore.
Your standard worksheets where students make and read climatograms. I throw in some maps as well to call back to the climate packet.
- Simulating global warming
Based on an activity I found online, here students use a deck of cards to simulate random year-to-year temperature variations, but by removing certain cards, we alter the carbon balance and end up with a warming trend on top of the random variation.
Matter / chemistry
- Element / Compound / Mixture
A worksheet using "particle diagrams" to explore the difference between elements, compounds, and mixtures. If you've never seen a particle diagram before, I strongly recommend you check this out or search for more of them online. They're a great tool for teaching a lot of chemistry topics.
- Avagadro's Chocolate Company
I'm super proud of this one! Unlike most of my teaching files, the entire idea for this is original. It's a metaphor for moles and molar masses in terms of boxes of chocolates at a candy factory. Students are doing Q.A. at the factory, making sure each box has the right number of chocolates by analyzing their weight. Different varieties (caramels, malt balls, etc.) stand in for different elements. All the conversions that students need between moles, number of atoms, and mass are covered here in a much more concrete and relatable context. You can do this to intruduce the idea of a mole, or afterward to reinforce the concepts.
- Chemical bonds 1: Ionic bonds
A largely self-directed packet which teaches the ideas around ionic bonds and has students drawing dot diagrams, counting valence electrons, figuring out ionic charges, and writing ionic formulas.
- Chemical bonds 2: Covalent bonds
Another self-directed packet, for covalent bonds. Students identify unpaired electrons, draw Lewis structures, and evaluate likelihoods of certain elements bonding with each other.
- I create nearly all my materials in the OpenOffice suite, which is free and open source, so they are saved in version 1.2 of the OpenDocument format. If you want to edit them I strongly recommend using OpenOffice to do it. Microsoft Word can open the files, but depending on your version of Word they may be essentially useless. For example, when I try it in Word 2010, it says my ODTs are "corrupt" and then offers to "recover" some of the data. It gets the text mostly right, but the drawings are completely wrecked, and they're the most time-consuming part to make!
- My text documents are mostly written using a font called "Korinna BT". It seems to be pretty widely available if you search for it. If you don't have/want it, you may need to massage the formatting and spacing to make things look right.
These works by Steve Stonebraker are licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.
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- modify the files to suit their needs or the needs of their students.
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