Passion for Inquiry... with Lisa Detloff

Passion for Inquiry provides exemplary hands-on science programs and curriculum development
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Science Workshops

Two-Hour Science Adventures provide a deep dive into inquiry, with a series of activies to reinforce a set of concepts.

 

Two-Hour ScienceAdventures for Lower Elementary Students

These Science Adventures provide a deep dive into inquiry, with a series of activies to reinforce a set of concepts.

Electricity and Magnetism

Electricity Detectives
Become an Electricity Detective! Build simple and safe electric circuits using bulbs, switches and batteries, creating an “electricity detector.” Use your “electricity detector” to check which materials let electricity through them. Learn about electrical safety as we build several electric devices, including an Electricity Spinner and a homemade switch.

Magnetic Explorations
Explore the mysterious behaviors of magnetism! Through your own explorations, begin to unravel the mystery of magnetic fields and poles. Discover how magnetism is used in many devices and inventions. Investigate what controls the strength and direction of a magnetic force. Finally, we explore how magnetic devices use characteristic behaviors of magnets to accomplish tasks. We will unleash our playful creativity by designing fun magnetic inventions.

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Chemistry

Mad Mixtures and Peculiar Potions
Create mad mixtures and peculiar potions as you enter the mysterious world of chemistry. How does your concoction change if you adjust the amounts of the ingredients? If you make a wacky mix of things, how can you separate them out again? Learn how to use dissolving, magnetic separation, filtering of mixtures, and evaporation to separate mixtures in a chemistry lab.

Resolving Dissolving
Some powders seem to disappear when they dissolve into a liquid (like salt into water), but what is really happening to the powder? Where does it go? How does it change the liquid it is dissolved in? Can we get it back again? What happens if you try to dissolve salt in other liquids, such as oil or rubbing alcohol? Grow salt crystals as we explore evaporation and crystallization.

Icy Melty Steamy Foggy Stuff
Exploring Solids, Liquids and Gases:

Use the power of temperature to make big changes in things we use everyday. Watch ice crystals form, melt solid shapes, and make drops of water come out of the air. Do experiments to explore the strength of solids and the thickness of liquids. Finally, explore mysterious substances that act like both a solid and a liquid

Magical Color Changing Chemistry
Chemicals that change colors can seem like magic. Enjoy the surprise as colors change right in front of your eyes! In chemical reactions, color changes often tell us about what is in the chemicals. Learn how to use color changes to detect acids, starch in foods and other chemicals. We will create a rainbow of colored potions as we mix and explore.

Potions: Bubble, Heat and Change Color!
What kind of things can happen when chemicals come together? Which combinations react and which don’t? Mix up ten different potions, each with different results. Experiment with different formulas to see how this changes your final potion.

Bubble Formulas
How can we make the biggest bubble? What makes the best bubble formula? After creating bubble domes and learning how to measure their size, we will compare the bubble solutions made using different brands of soap. Finally, we will design our own bubble formulas, measuring the size of bubbles they can make.

Secret Toothpaste Formulas
Let’s create some Secret Formulas! Investigate the properties of substances as you make your own personal brands of toothpaste and cola. After conducting “cleaning,” “foaming,” and “texture” tests on several brands of toothpaste, we will create and test our own formulas. These activities give us real-life experiences with chemistry, and controlled experiments, just like the chemists who design our foods and bathroom products.

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Secret Cola Formulas
Let’s create more Secret Formulas! We will investigate the properties of soft drinks as we make our own personal brands of cola. After identifying the properties that we would want in a cola, we will select ingredients to add each of these properties. We will experiment with different proportions of these ingredients to come up with our own cola formulas. These activities give us real-life experiences with chemistry, and controlled experiments, just like the chemists who design our foods and bathroom products.

The Chemistry of Ice Cream
Explore chemistry of ice cream making! Ice cream is cool, but how does it get that way? In this workshop, our chemistry experiments will show how chemicals can be used to make things colder and how the “ice” gets into the cream to make ice cream. We will do experiments in heat flow and freezing temperatures. Our final project is to make ice cream in a bag!

Gassy Reactions
In this workshop, we will investigate chemical reactions that make gases. Mix chemicals together that react by bubbling, blowing up balloons or making foam. What kind of gas comes out? Experiment with recipes to make different amounts of gas and different types of gases.

Stacking Liquids
This exploration of density and solutions is rich in important chemistry principles. In this series of activities, we will explore the relationship between the density of liquids, concentration of solutions, and the ability of liquids to stack on top of one another. After observing stacking liquids and recording their relative weights, we will begin making solutions of different concentrations. We will find the maximum amount of each substance that can dissolve in water and create saturated solutions. We will measure and compare the density of different saturated solutions and relate that to their ability to stack on top of one another.

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Mechanics

Floaters, Sinkers and Cartesian Divers
Build a diving science toy to take home! First, investigate the properties of sinking and floating objects, exploring the relationship between density and buoyancy. After we try combining floaters and sinkers in different ways to explore their collective buoyancy, we will investigate how objects float differently in different liquids. Finally, we build a Cartesian Diver, a device whose diver sinks and floats on command.

The Science of Building and Balance
Learn to use weights and distances to balance and build things. Balance a paper butterfly on the eraser of an upright pencil. Do experiments to predict what objects will balance. Use your result to build a balancing mobile.

Optics

Changing the Way We See
Let’s investigate the mystery of perception. How do we see things? How can we improve the way we see things? We will explore microscopes, tripod magnifiers and hand lenses, observing how they change the way objects look. We compare different types of lenses, and use them to project images and magnify objects. This workshop explores the function of lenses and strengthens skills in using magnifiers.

Color Analyzers
Teasing a rainbow from a light bulb. Decoding messages from abstract art. Unveiling the answer to why an apple looks red. We will explore of light, color, and the wonders of how our eyes work. Experimenting with color filters, we will decipher secret messages—and create our own—and along the way, explore why an apple looks red, for instance. We will use diffraction gratings (“rainbow makers”) to appreciate how many "hidden" colors a source gives off, even though our naked eye perceives only one color.

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Life Science

Terrarium Habitats: Dirt, Critters and Decomposers
Our fascination with the critters and mud runs wild, as we explore the makeup and properties of soil and the tiny creatures that live it. We start with soil investigations and an exploration of the decomposition process that turns leaves and other forest litter into soil. After investigating the components that make up a tiny piece of the natural habitat, we build our own simple habitats, a home for worms, “roly-polies” (pill bugs) and other tiny creatures. As we introduce each new creature to our habitat, we will investigate its body parts, looking at how it moves, eats and defends itself. Along the way, we explore the principles of habitats and decomposition, learning about the natural cycles that keep microenvironments healthy.

Aquatic Habitats
Creating and expanding our own little aquatic worlds over a period of a month, we observe, record, predict, and draw inferences about the creatures and plants within them. Our desktop model ponds develop and change, allowing us to discover firsthand some of the complex interactions within a typical pond ecosystem. Unlike clean, filtered aquariums, these aquatic habitats more closely model what happens in the natural world. Plants, worms, snails, fish, and other organisms compete for limited space, food, and resources. Concepts such as life cycles and food webs take on real and memorable meaning as students become increasingly drawn into the drama of life itself.

Squid Dissection
In this workshop, we investigate the relationship between ocean life and the physical ocean. We will begin with a squid dissection, investigating its structure and learn how all the parts function together to allow the squid to survive and thrive in its open-ocean environment. A squid’s adaptations will be compared to those of a snail. We end by honoring this marvelous organism in a squid feast.

In Your Guts: Digestion (K-2)
In this gutsy and courageous investigation, explore the parts and functions of your digestive system. Create simulations of the digestive processes and observe and experiment with some of your own body’s digestive processes.

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In Your Guts: Hearts and Lungs
Explore the anatomy of the heart and learn how the heart and lungs bring oxygen to the cells. Simulations and experiments explore how oxygen and blood are moved through our body systems. Build a simple model of a heart and watch the dissection of a real sheep heart!

Exploring the Eye: A Cow Eye Dissection
After a series of activities exploring lenses, we will dissect cow eyes to see a real life example of the eye up close. We will begin with an exploration of lenses, discovering the relationship between magnifying power and curvature of the lens. We will use lenses to project images on a small screen and measure the focal length of several different lenses. Finally, we will build a simple working model of the eye. The last portion of our session will be a dissection of cow eyes. As we explore each part, we will create a labeled diagram of the anatomy and discuss the function of each part.

Flowers, Fruits and Seeds
In this session, we will investigate the structures in flowers, fruits and seeds to explore the reproductive process for plants. We will compare similar structures in different types of flowers and fruits, exploring the reasons the differences occur. We will simulate the pollination process and discover the relationship between flower structure and pollinator type. Finally, we will dissect different types of fruits and seeds, comparing their structures.

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Earth and Space Science

Sun Moon and Stars
Enter the Star Lab to watch the Sun, Moon and Stars in the night sky! In this exploration of the heavenly bodies, we will learn how to find the Big Dipper the North Star and other constellations. We will watch how the sun moves across the sky during the day, and observe the different shapes of the moon. This workshop brings the Star Lab Planetarium from the Lawrence Hall of Science to our lab, creating an immersive space experience!

Fossil Dig
In this workshop, we will explore the process that paleontologists use to learn about the creatures that inhabited our planet millions of years ago. Learn how to use Stratigraphy (rock layers) to find the ages of fossils. Create a simulated rock layer model and dig the (plastic) fossils out of it, using the clues you find to discover which creatures lived when, and which dominated over others.

On Sandy Shores
Go to the beach to do scientific field studies!
Or, we can bring the beach to you!

Dive into the hidden world beneath our feet into the marvelous ecosystem we call a beach. We will explore many aspects of the "sandy shore," from grains of sand to commonly found animals, to more complex biological and ecological interactions. Our explorations include Beach Bucket Scavenger Hunt, Sand on Stage, The Sights Sand has Seen, Build a Sandy Beach, and Oil on the Beach.

Two-Hour Science Adventure for Upper Elementary Students

These Science Adventures provide a deep dive into inquiry, with a series of activies to reinforce a set of concepts.

Electricity and Magnetism

Electric Inventions (2 sessions)
Create your own electrical inventions! We will explore an assortment of ingenious electrical devices, learning how they operate and how their circuits work. Build series and parallel circuits, and learn about short circuits, investigate batteries, resistance, conductors and insulators. Invent your own switch design and learn how to draw circuit diagrams that engineers use. Electrical safety is an important part of any electrical investigation, so we will explore that too. Finally, the creativity sparked by this investigation will lead us to invent our own electrical gadgets.

Magnetic Explorations
Explore the mysterious behaviors of magnetism! Through your own explorations, begin to unravel the mystery of magnetic fields and poles. Discover how magnetism is used in many devices and inventions. Investigate what controls the strength and direction of a magnetic force. Finally, we explore how magnetic devices use typical behaviors of magnets to accomplish tasks. We will also unleash our playful creativity by designing fun magnetic inventions.

Inside Electric Power Plants
Build mini electric power plants! Make small safe amounts of electricity using coils, magnets, generators, wet cells and solar cells. Explore the relationship between electricity and magnetism. Learn different ways that electrical power is generated, as you explore their impact on our planet and investigate alternative ways of making electricity. An electrifying ending is guaranteed with high voltage electricity devices. Electrocute a pickle, watch the rising fire of a Jacob's Ladder and stand your hair on end using the static electricity “lightning” machine.

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Electro-Mechanical Devices (2 Sessions)
Let your creative inventor go wild as you learn how to build Rube Goldberg devices! These complicated devices move energy through a long and crazy path of mechanical and electrical movement. Create your own design to turn electric circuits on and off using a mechanical device. Change mechanical movement into a different type of movement. Build a series of devices and connect them together with signals and switches.

Chemistry

Acid-Base Chemistry (1 or 2 sessions)
There are many ways to play on the pH scale. What happens when you mix an acid with a base? How can you measure the strength of an acid? How are acids different from one another? In this workshop we will experiment with acid-base neutralization, pH numbers, chemical indicators and diluting acids and bases.

Color-Changing Chemistry (2 sessions)
Chemical Indicators tell us about a substance by changing their colors. In this workshop, we will explore a variety of chemical indicators that can tell us the acidity, oxygen level, amount of vitamin C, or the presence of chemicals such as phosphates or nitrates. We will also learn how to make chemical indicators from substances easily found in the grocery store or pharmacy.

Hot and Cold Reactions
Hot chemistry and cool reactions! Create chemical reactions that make heat or cool things down. Track where heat goes in a chemical reaction and how you can control temperatures with chemicals. Make a hot color-changing foaming reaction that produces a stinky gas. Explore cold packs, fire and other special chemical reactions.

Gassy Reactions
Chemical reactions create gases in a variety of different ways. Experiment with several reactions that make different types of gas. Explore the different properties of those gases as we test them for density and flammability. Experiment with changing the reaction ingredient proportions to see how it affects the gas production.

Resolving Dissolving
When substances dissolve in a liquid, we can’t see them, even though they are still there. What impact does a dissolved chemical have on a solution’s color, density, taste or other property? How do powders dissolve in other liquids such as oil or alcohol? What about dissolving gases in water? Watch the effect of heat on the dissolving power of water. Make substances come out of solution again through evaporation and crystal growth. This workshop is a series of experiments on the fascinating process of dissolving, when molecules break apart to join a liquid.

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Solutions and Concentration
From food to medicines to chemical reactions, concentration has an important place in our lives. Explore the differences created by making chemical solutions with different concentrations. Experiment with chemical reactions and see how they are affected by changing concentrations. Learn how to measure and set concentration of solutions, an important skill for advanced chemistry.

Maxed Out Solutions
How much of a chemical can you fit into a beaker of water? Is there a limit? Is it the same for all chemicals? How does the a solution change when a chemical is dissolved in it? The ability of substances to dissolve is a fascinating part of chemistry.

Gas Laws
How do things change when you heat up a gas, compress it or change its volume? The ideal gas law (pV = nRT) affects our weather and many other phenomena around us. Conduct a series of intriguing experiments to explore the relationship between temperature, volume and pressure of a gas. This workshop includes experiments with solid carbon dioxide (dry ice), a fun substance to explore.

Freeze, Melt, Evaporate, Condense
Temperature is the key to change substances from solids to liquid to gases and back. Explore a variety of substances with very different characteristics, as they change phase from one to another. Observe phase change in detail!

Crystal Growth
They form fast or slow, large or small, from many different substances and in a variety of shapes. Crystal growth is one of the most fascinating ways that substances transform from liquids to solids. Watch instant crystal growth, experiment with how different factors affect the size and shape of crystals and make a painting that forms tiny crystals on its surface.

Electrochemistry
Electrifying chemical reactions! Make electricity with a chemical reaction as you construct a “wet cell.“ Drive a chemical reaction with the power from a battery. In this workshop, we will investigate the relationship between moving electrons and chemicals.

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Forensic Chromatography
How do forensic scientists tell which pen was used in a crime? How do drug companies separate impurities from medicines? Chromatography is a widely used chemical technique, often with colorful results. When a liquid moves through paper or other substances, it can drag pigments or other chemicals along, usually at different speeds. Experiment with different pigments or mixes of colors, different liquids and solid to create the separation of colored substances. This is our most decorative workshop!

Dueling Densities
What happens when you combine liquids with different densities? We will experiment with thick and thin liquids, observing how they interact with one another. Stack liquids in a straw, make a density layers tool for measuring the density of solids and explore the relationship between density and buoyancy.

Chemical Plating
Put a metal piece in a colorful chemical solution and poof! It gets a shiny coating of a different metal. Use electricity and crystallization to plate metal on different objects. Make a copper nail, and put a grey metal coating on a penny. Learn about the chemical reactions used in making gold jewelry and other metal plating industrial uses.

Experiment Design (two sessions)
During these two sessions, we will explore the process of taking an interesting physical phenomenon and designing an experiment around it. We will investigate physical principles underlying gas production and temperature change in chemical reactions, the foaming of soap, and the mechanics of levers with a focus on experiment design. After demonstrating some intriguing science tricks, we will brainstorm what factors we could adjust in each one that would change the outcome. What one factor could we change in our experiment and what others should we keep the same? What can we measure to determine the impact of changing our variable? What question will we answer by doing our experiment?

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Light and Color

Color Analyzers
Teasing a rainbow from a light bulb. Decoding messages from abstract art. Unveiling the answer to why an apple looks red. We will explore of light, color, and the wonders of how our eyes work. Experimenting with color filters, we will decipher secret messages—and create our own—and along the way, explore why an apple looks red, for instance. We will use diffraction gratings (“rainbow makers”) to appreciate how many "hidden" colors a source gives off, even though our naked eye perceives only one color.

Cryogenics

Mysteries of the Super Cold (two sessions)
This investigation into the realm of extremely low temperatures looks at how materials change, as they get colder. We will begin with an exploration of dry ice, super-cold carbon dioxide in the solid form. As we explore this intriguing substance, we delve into gas laws (relating volume, temperature and pressure) and heat transfer experiments. We will move on to explore liquid nitrogen, a chilling 320 degrees below zero. We will compare the hardness of different materials as their temperature drops hundreds of degrees. Observing the behavior of gases in a series of super cold experiments will lead to a discovery of the basic gas law, the relationship between the volume, temperature and pressure of gases. We will continue with some playful tricks that explore the nature of super cold materials and end by making liquid nitrogen ice cream.

Life Science

Squid Dissection
In this workshop, we investigate the relationship between ocean life and the physical ocean. We will begin with a squid dissection, investigating its structure and learn how all the parts function together to allow the squid to survive and thrive in its open-ocean environment. A squid’s adaptations will be compared to those of a snail. We end by honoring this marvelous organism in a squid feast.

Cow Eye Dissection
After a series of activities exploring lenses, we will dissect cow eyes to see a real life example of the eye up close. We will begin with an exploration of lenses, discovering the relationship between magnifying power and curvature of the lens. We will use lenses to project images on a small screen and measure the focal length of several different lenses. Finally, we will build a simple working model of the eye. The last portion of our session will be a dissection of cow eyes. As we explore each part, we will create a labeled diagram of the anatomy and discuss the function of each part.

Field Studies
Let’s do Outdoor Field Studies in a wild park! Each pair gets their own field studies backpack, with soil moisture meters, soil thermometers, lenses, tools to measure soil compaction and percolation, special loupes for looking at tiny creatures, and chemical tests for water quality. We will work in the field to sample, record, and analyze information about living organisms and their environment. We explore biological sampling techniques and develop mapping techniques.

Aquatic Habitats
Creating and expanding our own little aquatic worlds over a period of a month, we observe, record, predict, and draw inferences about the creatures and plants within them. Our desktop model ponds develop and change, allowing us to discover firsthand some of the complex interactions within a typical pond ecosystem. Unlike clean, filtered aquariums, these aquatic habitats more closely model what happens in the natural world. Plants, worms, snails, fish, and other organisms compete for limited space, food, and resources. Concepts such as life cycles and food webs take on real and memorable meaning as students become increasingly drawn into the drama of life itself.

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Earth and Environmental Science

Ocean Currents
Simulate the forces that move the waters of the earth’s oceans around, creating weather, moving heat and nutrients. What causes ocean currents? What impact do they have on Earth's environment? We will gain fascinating insights into our ocean planet through these innovative activities. We learn how wind, temperature, salinity, and density set water into motion, and make an "in-depth" investigation of the key physical science concept of density. We model how pollution dumped in one location can spread throughout the ocean. We will finish by exploring how oil spills in the ocean are cleaned up. What causes ocean currents?

Fossil Dig
In this workshop, we will explore the process that paleontologists use to learn about the creatures that inhabited our planet millions of years ago. Learn how to use Stratigraphy (rock layers) to find the ages of fossils. Create a simulated rock layer model and dig the (plastic) fossils out of it, using the clues you find to discover which creatures lived when, and which dominated over others.

Ocean Currents
Simulate the forces that move the waters of the earth’s oceans around, creating weather, moving heat and nutrients. What causes ocean currents? What impact do they have on Earth's environment? We will gain fascinating insights into our ocean planet through these innovative activities. We learn how wind, temperature, salinity, and density set water into motion, and make an "in-depth" investigation of the key physical science concept of density. We model how pollution dumped in one location can spread throughout the ocean. We will finish by exploring how oil spills in the ocean are cleaned up. What causes ocean currents?

Stream Investigations
Build a river! In this series of experiments, we use large stream tables to investigate river formation and erosion. After observing the basic features that form naturally when water flows over land, we explore how changing the steepness, the amount of rain and other factors affect the shape of a river. Through these experiments we begin to understand rivers as dynamic, ever-changing systems. We investigate erosion, pollution, toxic waste, and human manipulation of rivers, as we learn about controlled experimentation. After we conduct flood simulations, we will compare our river results to photos of real floods. We will investigate erosion and human manipulation of rivers.

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Stories in Stone (2 sessions)
Explore and simulate the processes that create rocks. Igneous, metamorphic and sedimentary rocks form through complex and fascinating processing. Model how sedimentary rocks form using sediment-settling experiments. To learn about the formation of volcanic rocks, we will grow different types of crystals, make models of crystal shapes, and do an experiment with an instant-forming crystal. We will finish by doing a “clay-mation” play of geologic history, using clay modeling to get "hands-on" insight into the rock cycle and into plate tectonics.

Acid Rain (2 sessions)
In this workshop, students explore acids, bases, and the pH scale. They make “fake lakes” and determine how their pH changes after an acid rainstorm. Finally, they present a play on the effects of acid rain on aquatic life. In addition to providing much information on acid rain, the unit encourages students to analyze complex environmental issues for themselves, and emphasizes community cooperation

Environmental Mysteries (2 sessions)
Solve the mystery of The Gray Area fish die-off. Meet the suspects in the case, and conduct lab experiments to test the truth of their statements. The scene of the crime is the "Gray Area," a watershed that includes forests, a city, a town, a coast, three rivers, a lake, and a pond. We will investigate the many potential causes of the fish dying, including chlorine pollution, acid rain, erosion and sediment pollution, predator-prey relationships, phosphate pollution and algal blooms, and oil pollution. This study is an opportunity to grapple with a complex, scientific problem.

On Sandy Shores Scientific field studies at the beach!
Dive into the hidden world beneath our feet into the marvelous ecosystem we call a beach. We will explore many aspects of the "sandy shore," from grains of sand to commonly found animals, to more complex biological and ecological interactions. Our explorations include Beach Bucket Scavenger Hunt, Sand on Stage, The Sights that Sand has Seen, Build a Sandy Beach, and Oil on the Beach.

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Two-Hour Science Adventures
for Middle School Students

These Science Adventures provide a deep dive into inquiry, with a series of activies to reinforce a set of concepts.

Physics Lab Favorites

Experiment Design (1 or 2 sessions)
You are the master of your own experiments! Turn a fascinating phenomenon into a lab investigation. After observing some “cool” effects in fun and inspiring scientific demos, we will explore the variables that might alter these effects. The “cool effects” might include interesting phenomena involving combustion, chemical reactions, density, surface tension and more. After seeing the effects and brainstorming variables, you will design your own experiment. The purpose of the experiment will be to answer the questions you have about changing certain factors. What should we measure or observe to track the changes? How could we show this phenomenon with a graph? Through our experiments, we will learn what variables affect different physical phenomena involving chemical reactions, heat, surface tension, combustion and other fun effects.

Cryogenics: Mysteries of the Super Cold (2 sessions)
Liquid nitrogen is a favorite lab substance that students can’t get enough of! At 320º F below zero, it is the “coolest” thing you can find in any lab. How do solids change when they get very cold? What happens to living materials that are quick-frozen? The most striking effects happen then you transform super cold substances from the liquid to the gas phase and back again. Observing the behavior of gases in a series of super cold experiments will lead to a discovery of the ideal gas law, the relationship between the volume, temperature and pressure of gases. Conduct a series of experiments with a super cold solid that is 109 º F below zero (dry ice) as you explore sublimation and extreme temperature changes in liquids, metals and gases. Finish the fun by making instant liquid nitrogen ice cream.

Electricity and Magnetism

Electro-Mechanical Systems (2 or 3 sessions)
Let the creative inventor in you go wild as you learn how to build Rube Goldberg devices! These complicated deices move energy through a long and crazy path of mechanical and electrical movement. Start with an analysis of a famous Rube Goldberg device, looking at all the types of mechanical movement and transition in the system. Create your own design to turn electric circuits on and off with a mechanical device. Transform mechanical movement into a different type of mechanical movement. Build a series of devices and connect them together with signals and switches.

Electric Inventions (2 sessions)
Create your own electrical inventions! We will cannibalize a few electrical devices, exploring how they operate and diagramming how their circuits work. We will build different types of series and parallel circuits, and learn about short circuits, resistance, conductors and insulators. Explore the relationship between magnetism and electricity and the devices that work on those principles. Invent your own switch design and learn how to draw the circuit diagrams that engineers use. Electrical safety is an important part of any electrical investigation, so we will explore the basis of that too. Finally, the creativity sparked by this investigation will lead us to invent our own electrical gadgets.

Green Technology (2 sessions)
This workshop provides a short introduction to green technology systems for providing electrical power. After investigating the relationship between electricity and magnetism and learning how generators work, we will study how traditional power plants work. A study of the environmental impact of conventional power provides context for the need for green power. A brief dive into the workings of solar, wind, micro hydro and other alternative technologies sets us up for our final project: After choosing lifestyle factors that impact electrical needs, we will design an alternative power system to meet our budget and our home’s energy needs. This exploration offers a deeper understanding of alternative technologies and the knowledge and thinking required to create alternative energy systems.

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Chemistry

Color-Changing Chemistry (2 sessions)
Chemical Indicators tell us about a substance by changing their colors. In this workshop, we will explore a variety of chemical indicators that can tell us the acidity, oxygen level, amount of vitamin C, or the presence of chemicals such as phosphates or nitrates. We will also learn how to make chemical indicators from substances easily found in the grocery store or pharmacy.

Electrochemistry
Electrifying chemical reactions! Make electricity with a chemical reaction as you construct a “wet cell.“ Drive a chemical reaction with the power from a battery. In this workshop, we will investigate the relationship between moving electrons and chemicals.

Chemical Plating
Put a metal piece in a colorful chemical solution and poof! It gets a shiny coating of a different metal. Use electricity and crystallization to plate metal on different objects. Make a copper nail, and put a grey metal coating on a penny. Learn about the chemical reactions used in making gold jewelry and other metal plating industrial uses.

Hot and Cold Reactions
Hot chemistry and cool reactions!  Create chemical reactions that make heat or cool things down. Track where heat goes in a chemical reaction and how you can control temperatures with chemicals. Make a hot color-changing foaming reaction that produces a stinky gas. Explore cold packs, fire and other special chemical reactions.

Chemical Reactions and Switching Partners: Ion Swapping 
(1 or 2 sessions)

Take two chemicals, mix them together and the resulting product is two completely different chemicals! A chemical reaction has occurred. Combine two liquids and a solid forms, in a way similar to when cheese is made. Learn how molecules break apart and reform into new configurations in a chemical reaction. Get to know ions and learn how they bond together to make chemical salts and other substances. This series of experiments gives insight into what is going on inside chemical reactions.

Maxed Out Solutions (2 sessions)
How much of a chemical can you fit into a beaker of water? Is there a limit? Is it the same for all chemicals? How does the water change when a chemical is dissolved in it? Make solutions with different concentrations as you explore solubility, an important chemistry concept.

Concentration
From food to medicines to chemical reactions, concentration plays an important part in our lives. Explore the differences created by making chemical solutions with different concentrations. Experiment with chemical reactions and how they are affected by changing concentrations,

pH and its pHriends (1 or 2 sessions)
There are many ways to play on the pH scale. What happens when you mix an acid with a base? How can you measure the strength of an acid? How are acids different from one another? In this workshop we will experiment with acid-base neutralization, pH numbers, chemical indicators and diluting acids and bases.

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Gas Laws
How do things change when you heat up a gas, compress it or change its volume? The ideal gas law (pV = nRT) affects our weather and many other phenomena around us. Conduct a series of intriguing experiments to explore the relationship between temperature, volume and pressure of a gas.

Melting, Foggy, Icy, Steamy Stuff
Temperature is the key to change substances from solids to liquid to gases and back. Explore a variety of substances with very different characteristics, as they change phase from one to another. Observe phase change in detail!

Crystal Growth
They form fast or slow, large or small, from many different substances and in a variety of shapes. Crystal growth is one of the most fascinating ways that substances transform from liquids to solids. Watch instant crystal growth, experiment with how different factors affect the size and shape of crystals and make a painting that forms tiny crystals on its surface.

Gas Reactions
Chemical reactions create gases in a variety of different ways. Experiment with several reactions that make different types of gas. Explore the different properties of those gases as we test them for density and flammability. Experiment with changing the reaction ingredient proportions to see how it affects the gas production.

Forensic Chromatography
How do forensic scientists tell which pen was used in a crime? How do pharmaceutical companies separate impurities from medicines? Chromatography is a widely used chemical technique, often with colorful results. When a liquid moves through paper or other substances, it can drag pigments or other chemicals along, usually at different speeds. Experiment with different pigments or mixes of colors, different liquids and solid to create the separation of colored substances. This is our most decorative workshop!

Dueling Densities
What happens when you combine liquids with different densities? We will experiment with thick and thin liquids, observing how they interact with one another. Stack liquids in a straw, make a density layers device for measuring the density of solids and explore the relationship between density and buoyancy.

back to top

Earth and Environmental Science

Environmental Mysteries (LHS GEMS) (2 or 3 sessions)
Solve the mystery of The Gray Area fish die-off. Meet the suspects in the case, and conduct lab experiments to test the truth of their statements. The scene of the crime is the "Gray Area," a watershed that includes forests, a city, a town, a coast, three rivers, a lake, and a pond. We will investigate the many potential causes of the fish dying, including chlorine pollution, acid rain, erosion and sediment pollution, predator-prey relationships, phosphate pollution and algal blooms, and oil pollution. This study is an opportunity to grapple with a complex scientific problem with many different factors.

Acid Rain (LHS GEMS) (2 sessions)
In this workshop, we will use scientific inquiry and critical thinking skills to explore the complex environmental issue of acid rain. We will explore acids, bases and the pH scale, learning to use different pH measurement techniques. We will make “fake lakes” and use them to determine how an acid rainstorm affects the pH of a lake and how lakes are buffered to recover from acid rain. A skit on the effects of acid rain on aquatic life highlights some of the biological impacts of acid rain. This workshop encourages us to analyze complex environmental issues to look at the costs and benefits of different technologies.

River Dynamics: Investigations with Stream Tables
Flow water through these large simulators to study how the land is shaped by water moving across it. How does a river change in a flood? Create a simulation with your stream table and compare your results to photos of recent flood disasters in Guatemala and other places. How do toxins move through a river system? What affect does soil type have on river shape? How does the steepness of a riverbed affect the stream’s path? Design your own experiments to answer these questions and more.

Topographic Mapping
Topographic maps can show the three-dimensional shape of land on a flat map. Learn how to create topographic maps from landform models and how to interpret different features on the map. How would a valley, a plateau or a canyon look on a topographic map? Can you plot a good trail up a mountain using contour lines? This skill is invaluable in backpacking and hiking, as well as community planning.

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Plate Tectonics (LHS GEMS)  (2 sessions)
Explore the causes and effects of shifting and shuffling of the Earth’s crust. Create dynamic models to simulate different types of plate movement and the resulting geographic features. What plate interactions cause earthquakes, volcanoes, fault creep or mountain ranges? Use foods to make realistic models of different processes deep within the earth.

Stories in Stone (LHS GEMS) (2 sessions)
“Stories in Stone” explores the processes that lead to the formation of igneous, sedimentary, and metamorphic rocks. Demystify the remarkable and relentless processes that create the visible and hidden geology of our planet. Model how sedimentary rocks form by creating sediment-settling experiments. To learn about the formation of volcanic rocks, we will grow different types of crystals, make models of crystal shapes, and do an experiment using instant-forming “Salol” crystal. We will finish by doing a “claymation” play of geologic history, using clay modeling to get "hands-on" insight into the rock cycle and into plate tectonics.

Volcanic Modeling
Explore the earth systems that create volcanic eruptions. What types of plate boundaries causes explosive strato volcanoes or shield volcanoes? Model different types of eruptions and learn how different volcano shapes result. How does the composition of a volcano affect its eruptions and its shape? What is unique about the hotspot volcanoes that created Hawaii? This workshop is about looking at the physical differences in the process that creates the variety of volcanic eruptions on our planet and on other planets.

Stratigraphy (Rock Layer Analysis) and Fossil Findings
The striped rock layers that are revealed in road cuts and seaside cliffs are the result of long complicated processes. We can make many deductions about ancient life by analyzing the different fossils found in rock layers. Build fossil layer models and conduct simulated fossil digs. Learn how to decode the story that is told in a peek at a series of rock layers.

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Astronomy

Movement in the Sky (A Star Lab Production) (2 sessions)
Explore the relationship between what we see in the sky and what is happening in space. How do the constellations appear to move as the night passes? How are they different with different seasons? Can we tell time with the stars? What path does the sun take across the sky in different seasons and how does that affect the position of the sunset?

Moon Mechanics (2 sessions—1 in Star Lab, one in science lab)
In this workshop, we will model the many physical processes that come together to create our experience of the Moon. How do natural satellites (moons) form in planetary systems? What makes a moon a moon? What causes the phases of the moon and lunar eclipses? How do different types of craters form? How are the moons of other planets on our solar system different from ours?

The Planet Project: Designing Planetary Systems
What would it take for a planetary system to fulfill the requirements for life to form? Investigate star types and life zones to reveal the relationship between color, temperature and habitable planets. How do scientists discover extraterrestrial planets? Answer these questions and more as you ponder one of the most intriguing questions in science: Are We Alone?

The Deep Space “Zoo”: Exploring Cosmological Objects
What species of strange objects are found in outer space? How did they form? What are they made of? How do they change with time? In exploring the variety of large objects in space, we will use a virtual telescope that can zoom us through space to see these objects up close.

Note: These workshops use the Star Lab, a giant inflatable planetarium. Special space arrangements must be made to ensure the Star Lab will fit in the workshop space.

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Life Science

Life Through Time (two or three sessions)
Focusing on evolutionary change, this life science exploration looks at trends, adaptations, and stressors in biology. We will explore the concept of simple and complex life forms, as we prepare to study the changes life on Earth has made over the vast expanse of time. We will look at how creatures’ bodies have evolved over time to better meet their needs for survival, analyze modern day live animals to compare the different ways they meet their needs for locomotion, defense, sensing and eating. Finally, apply what you’ve learned about changes in life through time by creating your own “campaign speech” for a life form you choose, detailing the important contributions this life form made to the evolution of life forms on our planet over time.

Squid Dissection (Grades 3-5)
In this workshop, we investigate the relationship between ocean life and the physical ocean. We will begin with a squid dissection, investigating its structure and learn how all the parts function together to allow the squid to survive and thrive in its open-ocean environment. A squid’s adaptations will be compared to those of a snail. We end by honoring this marvelous organism in a squid feast.

Optics of the Eye and Cow Eye Dissection (3-5)
After a series of activities exploring lenses, we will dissect cow eyes to see a real life example of the eye up close. We will begin with an exploration of lenses, discovering the relationship between magnifying power and curvature of the lens. We will use lenses to project images on a small screen and measure the focal length of several different lenses. Finally, we will build a simple working model of the eye. The last portion of our session will be a dissection of cow eyes. As we explore each part, we will create a labeled diagram of the anatomy and discuss the function of each part.

Field Studies (Grades 3-5)
Let’s do Outdoor Field Studies in a wild park! Each person gets their own field studies backpack, with soil moisture meters, soil thermometers, lenses, tools to measure the soil compaction and percolation, special loupes for looking at tiny creatures, and chemical tests for water quality. We will work in the field to sample, record, and analyze information about living organisms and their environment. We explore biological sampling techniques and develop mapping techniques.

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Hot and Cold Chemical Reactions
Hot and Cold Chemical Reactions


















Electricity Detectives
Electricity Detectives






















Icy Melty Steamy Foggy
Icy Melty Steamy Foggy




























Cool Science of Ice Cream
Cool Science of Ice Cream



















































Aquatic Ecosystems
Aquatic Ecosystems




Aquatic Ecosystems
Aquatic Ecosystems



































Aquatic Ecosystems
Aquatic Ecosystems























Electric Power Plants
Electric Power Plants


























Gas Reactions
Gas Reactions




















Hot and Cold Chemical  Reactions
Hot and Cold Chemical Reactions

























Forensic Chromatography
Forensic Chromatography



Forensic Chromatography
Forensic Chromatography










Aquatic Habitats
Aquatic Habitats







Aquatic Ecosystems






 






Aquatic Ecosystems
Aquatic Ecosystems







 

 

 

 

 

 

 



Environmental Mysteries
Environmental Mysteries
















 

 










Electric Power Plants
Electric Power Plants













Color-Changing Chemistry
Color-Changing Chemistry














































Gas Reactions



 

 

 



Forensic Chromatography






Engineering Challenge
Engineering Challenge





Chemical Potions
Chemical Potions

 



Hot and Cold Chemical  Reactions
Hot and Cold Chemical Reactions

 




Environmental Mysteries
Environmental Mysteries

 

 



Aquatic Habitats
Aquatic Habit

 

 

 



Aquatic Ecosystems































































































 

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