Friday, November 29, 2013

Go with the flow

Yesterday we learnt about flow rate and viscosity.  In order to demonstrate the flow rate of a variety of fluids without making a huge mess you can just do this quick demo.  Place a marble inside a test tube and fill it with a fluid and cap it off with a cork and tape it down.  Repeat for a variety of fluids.  Then race them!  It took months for the marble in the molasses to get to the bottom!


Earlier this week the grade 8s did a fun lab all about separating mixtures.  There were 6 stations with a variety of techniques from chromatography, distillation, evaporation, filtering, magnets and more!  

Click here to see last year's labs 

This video is an amazing summary

We also did some online virtual labs like these

Thursday, November 28, 2013


Last week we did a lesson about adaptations and bioaccumulation in the food chain.  The kids were divided into three groups, each with a mama or papa bird with a nest (cup) and all the baby birds with different beaks (fork, knife, or spoon).  They had to collect seeds (beads) from the ground using nothing but their beak and bring them back to the nest.  You can imagine the shenanigans that ensued!  

I had them do it several times and the results varied, especially after I gave them some tips like working together or stealing from other birds!  I expected the spoons to to the best but it turns out the forks were able to spear the beads and did very well too.  Poor knives.

This helps to demonstrate natural selection and survival of the fittest in a very tangible way.  

After we looked at their beads I had them remove all of the orange ones.  I didn't tell them but the orange beads represent DDT.  If they had more than X amount of orange beads they were dead.  We talked about how DDT bioaccumulates in the food chain and the impacts it has had.  We have previously studied about the peregrine falcon and the recovery programs out of Wainwright, Alberta.

Try this online game to learn more!

bioaccumulation at 8:46

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Owl Pellets

Today the grade 7s are doing an owl pellet dissection.  An owl pellet is basically owl vomit full of the fur and bones of it's prey.  It sounds gross but the pellets are serialized and are like a combination of little archaeology digs and a treasure hunt all wrapped up in to one!  We are studying them to understand their role in the food chain, niche, ecology and more.

Teachers - Click HERE to download my Google Docs folder complete with photos, videos, and lab worksheets (English and French - both go with the Science Focus 7 text book but you can edit them to make them your own).

To learn more check out these videos

Owl pellet song - awesome

Here are some of the class photos

Friday, November 22, 2013

Meeting Chris

Well I did it!! I finally was able to meet Chris Hadfield! 

He was in town on November 21st for a whirlwind media frenzy including interviews with CTV, City TV, CBC Radio and more!  He even stopped by the Southside Chapter's (Gateway) and signed all the copies of his book.

 I was able to shake his hand, thank him for what he has done for space education (he thanked me for making the effort to say hello) and then a quick picture.  My hands were shaking so badly but it was worth it.  I hope the next time I have the chance to talk to him for more than 30 seconds and have a real conversation.

He always talks about following you dreams, but more than that he talks about turning yourself into the person who can accomplish that dream.  This includes setting goals and working hard towards them, making each day a learning experience, and enjoying the ride!  My goal has been to meet Chris Hadfield (check!), have him talk to my school, and spark the passion for science in the hearts of my students.  So I am half way there!  But this hasn't all happened because I am jut lucky.  It happened because I am passionate about science, have spent a lot of time reading and researching, and am truly inspired and excited by the lessons Hadfield has taught us all.  

Morning Live interview with my buddy Robbie Williams and the rest of the gang!
Chris does the weather and intergalactic forecast.  HILARIOUS! **
Chris cooks breakfast
Performing Rocket Man
CTV Evening News *

City TV
Breakfast Television interview

CBC Radio Canada**
CBC Radio interview - I was the viewer that tweeted in the Rocket Man question

Chris Hadfield on Twitter

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

My new friends

Just a few Twitter interactions with my friends Jeremy and Magalie from the CSA ... because it's official!  We are on a first name basis after all!  LOL.

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Happy Birthday ISS

The ISS is 15 years old today!  As Chris Hadfield Tweeted, almost old enough to drive!
Join the ISS and CSA on Twitter and see if you can wave to the ISS as it passes over head.  They are doing 24 tweets in 24 hours!  See more about this amazing event here

Follow along on Twitter with the hash-tag #ISS15

Mme Merriman @AmandaGMerriman
CSA English: @csa_asc
CSAFrench: @asc_csa
NASA  @nasa or @nasa_johnson

Don't forget to follow some other amazing Canadian space dudes!

Jeremy Hansen @Astro_Jeremy
Chris Hadfield @Cmdr_Hadfield

And this is just a guilty pleasure ...

Sunday, November 17, 2013

ATASC 2013

I had an amazing time this weekend at the ATA Science Council Conference and am humbled by the great minds that were brought together to share and inspire!  The ATASC did a wonderful job, as usual, bringing together a wide variety of presenters keynotes with excellent hospitality.  I am tempted to join the council.  I was able to meet so many new people who all had such unique and amazing ideas and ways of teaching science.  I feel both inadequate and inspired all at the same time.  

I also introduced myself to the ATASC Science Teacher of the Year Award winner, Annie, who is one of the few other French immersion junior high science teachers I have ever met.  Naturally I exchanged information with her and will be in touch soon.  I am looking forward to picking her great big science brain!  Felicitations Annie!

I was able to present two session with my friend, Morgan Laird, about teaching with technology and quick science demo's and how we keep them organized on Pinterest.  It was wonderful to have someone so like-minded to work with and explore what we are able to share with other teachers.   See our session notes and links HERE.  See the notes and hand outs of ALL of the sessions HERE.

Morgan and I ready to rock our presentations!
The rest of the weekend was spent being inspired by other educators and organizations out there looking to share with and support teachers.  There are so many energy and petrochemical companies with free resources that not only share he science of oil but also how to conserve and protect the environment.  My favourite of all is Inside Education, the organization that brought Morgan and I together for the love of science!  See their website for FREE teacher PD!!

The highlight of the entire weekend was being able to meet Canadian Astronaut, Jeremy Hansen as well as Magalie, his lovely co-worker from the Canadian Space Agency.  I introduced myself to Jeremy and Magalie and they both indulged my questions and we had a lovely conversation about space, science, geology, parenting, and more.  I found out Jeremy lived in Cold Lake when had just started teaching there.  I wonder if it was his F-18 roaring over my class making the windows shake?  He was very kind and spoke with an innate yet humble intelligence.  He was gracious enough to sign a picture I brought and pose for a picture that I will treasure in my space-geek collection.

The autograph reads "To Amanda, Thanks for your contribution to our students!  Jeremy Hansen"
Later on Jeremy gave his keynote address that made us all want to become astronauts!  Well maybe if it weren't for the exhaustive training, arduous elimination process, and the immeasurable amount of education, patience and intelligence needed.  If we aren't up for that we were at least inspired to be the best we can be, reach for our goals, work hard to achieve them, and enjoy the ride in the mean time.  Maybe we will be the teachers that share our love for science and space and inspire the next generation of future Canadian astronauts!   Jeremy was very appreciative of teachers and acknowledged the importance of what we do, especially if we do it well and with caring and passion.  He spoke of a variety of resources for space and science education including the educational support the CSA has to offer, the Tomatosphere project, and the ever evolving National Film Board Space School that my school was lucky enough to participate in.
The CSA looks like the starship Enterprise!
Hadfield and the Candarm - Great Canadian contributions to space
He showed us some amazing pictures of the ISS, his training, new technologies and a variety of perspectives of our world.  He shared about working with Chris Hadfield and my favourite video of him in space, other than the ISS song and Space Oddity.  Jeremy was very witty and I think the CSA was testing how he deals with pressure by having a technical glitch with his presentation that deleted all of his video links.  He recovered with humour and great speed.  Well done.  
Trying out being weightless with other astronauts from around the world!
Jeremy flying over the Alberta Rockies.  Stunning.
Jeremy was part of Chris Hadfield's ground support.  Sounds like a great team to me!
My favourite Chris Hadfield science demo
This is by far one of the most stunning videos from space I've ever seen.  My kids keep asking me to play it for them over and over again.  My boy wants to be an astronaut now!

When explaining how they deal with the potential conflicts of living in space for so long and being confined together he said "Nobody wants to fly in space with a jerk." He continued to explain the extensive training and team building they do for years before they ever leave the ground.  He was able to go up to the Arctic and train with a geologist so he would be able to collect data and samples on the moon, an asteroid, or even Mars!  He also did a cave exploration with a team of astronauts from around the world and had to squeeze through some tiny spaces as well as collect scientific data.  All of this to prepare for the day when it will finally be his turn to go into space.  We will be cheering you on from Canada Jeremy!
Jeremy on Mars with his Mars Rovers ... or the Arctic with ATVs.
Jeremy's cave adventure
I have to indulge my ego and share something that was by far the most meaningful moment of the conference for me.  Jeremy was able to stay and enjoy the rest of the conference and a few sessions.  A total class act.  As I was leaving the final keynote speech to go home after an exhausting (and amazing) day he stopped me to talk.  He said that someone was singing my praises and saying that I was a passionate science teacher.  He shook my hand and thanked me for all of the hard work and all that I do.  I stood there blushing and dumbfounded but truly honoured.  I thanked him and in a blur made my way home.  I'm not sure if he will ever know just how much it meant to me to be acknowledged by someone of his calibre.  I plan to pay it forward and acknowledge all of the amazing and talented teachers, students, and people who are dedicated to their passions.  

Thank you Jeremy.  Merci

What an amazing week!  I'm going to buy a lottery ticket and if I win get on that flight with Lady Gaga into space!

StarAcer Academy

I have been having a great weekend at the ATA Science Council Conference this weekend.  One of my favourite sessions was about StarAcer Academy.  It is a series of space-themed cartoons and lessons for a variety of science topics.  Very cool.

And guess who is included?

Thursday, November 14, 2013

Google Hangout with Hadfield

Today we were able to participate in a Google Hangout with Chris Hadfield!  It was all about his book, travels in space and here on Earth.  It was wonderful to hear what he had to say about kids and education.  We may not all want to be astronauts but hopefully we are inspired to work hard and achieve whatever goals we chose.

Read all about the event and Commander Hadfield here 

See the complete video of the hangout here

Join us for a Read Science!/ Scientific American hangout with ISS Commander +Chris Hadfield on Thursday, November 14, at noon EST! We will discuss his new book "An Astronaut's Guide to Life on Earth: What Going to Space Taught Me about Ingenuity, Determination and Being Prepared for Anything." The chat will co-hosted by SA blogger +Joanne Manaster and +Jeff Shaumeyer, with commentary by SA space and physics editor +Clara Moskowitz.   (Yes, Hadfield is the one who performed Space Oddity on the International Space Station earlier this year! See it: Space Oddity)

See all of my Hadfield posts here

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Piece de resistance!

A few weeks ago I was harassing Chris Hadfield's publisher, Random House, because his book tour was skipping Edmonton but is in Calgary for two days.  I bombarded them with tweets and got a lot of local followers. The publisher was so nice and explained the logistics and said he would send me a gift for my enthusiasm ... or just to shut me up! Well MISSION ACCOMPLISHED! I have an personalized AUTOGRAPHED copy of Chris Hadfield's book as well as an Expedition 35 pin and a Hadfield mission patch along with a kind note from the publisher. 

"When you truly want something the entire Universe conspires in helping you achieve it." - Paulo Cohelo - The Alchemist 

Chris Hadfield's Reply

I wrote Chris Hadfield a letter yesterday (read more about it here).  I shared my admiration and just how much I appreciate how he has brought the magic and science of space into my life.  His sister AJ forwarded it on and HE REPLIED!!

I cant stop smiling and crying ... wow!!  

Dear Amanda

Many thanks for the work you have done, for your support of education, exploration and our space program, and for the very kind letter. It was blushingly delightful to read.

The influence you are having speaks to the very heart of responsible education. You have my gratitude for all the extra work you continue to put into it.

To answer your questions:

1.      My father grew up in Parry Sound, Ontario, on the Great Lakes and not too far away from your home town of Sarnia.  What was your favorite thing to do that is truly unique to that part of our country?  Where did you like to go?  Have you ever been to Parry Sound, the Bobby Orr Hall of Fame (I’m related to him!), the amazing island cruise, or Kill Bear Park?  These were all my favorite places when we would visit. – My favorites were skiing, both water and downhill, as well as canoeing and sailing, on our lovely hills, lakes and rivers.
2.      Did you get to see Niagara Falls from space?  It is truly spectacular up close and I can only imagine what it looks like from above. – yes, and I took many photos. Some can be found in my Twitter feed. Beautiful.
3.      What is one of the most memorable moments working with Jeremy Hansen?  What advice would you give an up-and-coming astronaut?  He seems like a really interesting person too. – advanced technical education, fitness, and practiced responsible decision-making. It’s the same advice I gave Jeremy when he was a student.
4.      I’ve heard you answer many questions on advice to kids and young people about following their dreams and your journey.  What would be your biggest advice specifically for educators?  Parents? – always have short and long-term goals, and use them to help make your daily decisions. But never ignore nor forget the joys and beauties that each day brings.
5.      Who is this guy on the cover of your book?  No moustache = not you! – he’s the everyman astronaut, the publisher’s choice J

Thanks again, and my very best wishes to you, your family, and your students.


Tuesday, November 12, 2013


A friend of mine, Suzanne, is a doula and has helped me and many of my friends with childbirth.  She attended postpartum training this weekend with none other than Chris Hadfiled's sister, AJ.  Suzanne shared my "enthusiasm" for all things Hadfield with her and I think a laugh or two as well.  I am a little obsessed but I promise it is mostly intellectual inspiration and not creepy.  Well at least I like to think so!  In their discussions AJ generously offered to forward a letter from me directly to Chris Hadfield!  HOW AMAZINGLY GENEROUS IS THAT!!??  I spent an hour or so writing this letter and hope it shares my admiration and hopes of one day thanking him in person.  As I read over it all I see are my grammatical errors but I hope my sincerity and enthusiasm make up for it.

One small step closer to my goal.

See my other Hadfield pots here

Here is an excerpt from my letter
"As I read the first few chapters of “An Astronaut’s Guide to Life on Earth” to them (yet another reward for good behavior) we read about how you set your goals and lived your life so that every decision you made brought you on the path to your dreams. Thinking like an astronaut. And so have we. What would Chris Hadfield do?
This ideology has had a huge impact on my life and that of my students and my own children. Since I’ve started following you online I have had a renewed vigor and passion for teaching. I’ve always loved my job but now I am truly excited to absorb all of the new innovations in the world around me and share them with my students. I have seen both David Suzuki and Jane Goodall speak at the ATA Science Council Conferences and, like you, they both talked about the importance of igniting the spark of science in a child’s heart that will lead them to an innovating and inspired future. I hope to bring that spark to my kids as you and my own teachers have done for me. Our kids are the future and my main goal in life, other than being a good mother, wife and friend, is to ignite that spark."

Friday, November 8, 2013

Lest We Forget

I am just blown away by our school and community.  This was one of the most memorable Veteran's Week and Remembrance Day's ever.  Ecole Coloniale Estates knows how to properly honour our Veterans!  Everyone did a great job today and a special thanks to Mr. Chromiac and Mr. Morin.

This week I shared the stories of both sets if my husband's grandparents who, in one form or another, both served in the military during WWII.  Joyce and Arthur Bamsey met during WWII where he was serving in the Navy.  He sent her from Edmonton, England to Edmonton, Canada as a war bride to keep her safe from the fighting.  Margaret and Lester Merriman both served in the Military and Lester was a pilot for the Royal Canadian Air Force and also an electrical engineer up in the Yukon after the war.  

Lester and Margaret Merriman
Art and Joyce Bamsey
 I had the kids write letters to veterans and a few kids were chosen to write to my husband's Granddad, Arthur Bamsey, who lives here in Beaumont.  We were fortunate enough to have him and a few other seniors join us in our Remembrance Day celebration today and I introduced the kids to him.  I am so very proud to have been able to honour our Veterans today, including Granddad.  Thank you all so much.

I am also incredibly grateful for the kids who brought in pictures and shared stories of their family members.  What a special and remarkable thing to be able to learn about together.  I hope the captions are correct.  Please email me if I made any mistakes.

Madison’s great grandfather LCol. John Henry (Harry) Quarton served in WWII and is quite decorated from the War and thereafter back in Edmonton.  

Madison's Great-Grandfather's squadron
Olivia's Great-Grandfather in the middle
Olivia's Great Grand-Father
 Finally I am beyond honoured to have had Master Corporal Shudra come to speak to our classes about his experiences as a solider and his tour of duty in Afghanistan.  The kids asked him some pretty intense questions and he answered them all remarkably well.  It really hit home.  We are so grateful for his service and to Mr. Morin for making this opportunity available to us.

I am hoping to make it out to the Beaumont Remembrance Day Ceremony on November 11th at Town Hall.  If you would like to join us please come around 10:30am.  If not take a moment at 11:00am on the 11th day of the 11th month to remember.

Lest We Forget