A Potential Subject for High School Science
By: Elizabeth Johnson
What do you see around you? Stuff! When I look at the stuff around me, I see about 99.9% solids and the other 0.1% (perhaps an exaggeration) is the water in my glass. I am also surrounded by gas (air), but I don't see it.
Now think back to a chemistry class you might have taken or even worked through with your child. How much was devoted to solids? If it was like a typical course, the majority of the class was devoted to fluids (liquids, solutions, and gases). Not dismissing the role of fluids in our lives, I am trying to bolster solids and that is where materials science comes in.
At a teacher's camp with ASM International, we learned about materials science--the study of stuff: how it is made, what its structure is, and what its properties are. ASM also has a materials camp for rising juniors and seniors that is free but selective. In addition to camp information, the ASM website has many educational resources. Students should check out City of Materials where they can learn about materials science and play an online detective or a CSI-type game using "stuff" of course.
During camp, I received a handbook with activities and background information, but all that information is available on the ASM website. Look for the link to the STEM Handbook under Educational Resources.
Also on the website you can find a sample curriculum for high school materials science arranged in units with concepts and activities from the STEM Handbook. Most of the articles referred to are printed in the ChemMatters magazine, many of which are available for download at the ACS website (www.acs.org; look under the Education link).
Even if you don't want to design a class around materials science, consider incorporating many of the activities into your child's other science classes. You will be able to use materials you have around your house. The only specialized equipment we used in camp were blow torches and lots of them. You can get blow torches at a local hardware store.
Truth be told, in camp we played. Playing is an important way to learn science, advance our understanding of the world around us, and increase technological development. Inspired I came home and played with my Real-D-3D glasses that I always take home after watching a 3D movie intending to use them for science.
At camp they gave us a sample of polarized lenses, and I was thinking the lenses in the glasses looked very similar. As I played around with both types of lenses, I noted some similarities and differences. You can make “stained glass” with polarized lenses and cheap transparent tape: (http://www.exploratorium.edu/snacks/polarized_mosaic/index.html.)
You can also do it with the lenses from the 3D glasses. Not having the exact characteristics as the polarized lens samples, I did some research and found out that these particular lenses have circular polarization while the samples have linear polarization. Do you see the lesson developing? Play, observe, research... all with easily accessible materials.
Elizabeth Johnson has been enjoying homeschooling for 13 years. Her oldest homeschooled through high school and is currently a junior at UMD. Her youngest will be a homeschooled high schooler this year. She tutors other students in science and math using inquiry based learning and modeling methods. For more info on classes she is planning for the current year see her flyer here.
Photo Credit: Elizabeth Johnson