Earth Day Online Scavenger Hunt

Earth Day Online Scavenger Hunt

It’s Earth Day! Normally this is a day when communities have lots of organized activities to help people learn about and improve the environment, but with the current global pandemic that is not an option this year. So, we created this fun and educational online scavenger hunt that families can complete together while sheltering at home. We hope that as you check off all of the challenges on this list, you will learn about important environmental issues and find ways you can reduce your family’s environmental impact & help solve the climate crisis.

1. Find pictures & population data of 5 endangered species.

2. Find an image, video, or article about rain bombs.

3. Find a picture of an invasive species (plant or animal) that has been found in your area and look up information on why it is problematic.

4. Find information about local recycling programs. Make a list of items that can be recycled in your area and hang it near your trash bin as a reminder.

5. Find pictures of healthy coral reefs and pictures of coral reefs affected by ocean acidification. Discuss the differences and the environmental effects of ocean acidification.

6. Use a website like carbonfootprint.com to calculate your household’s carbon footprint. Examine the results and discuss ways you can reduce your carbon footprint.

7. Look up water usage for baths vs showers of various lengths. Calculate how much water your family uses for baths and showers over a week, month, and year.

8. Locate an area impacted by severe drought. List at least 3 ways the region has been impacted by drought beyond water needs.

9. Look up data on sea ice loss since you were born. Find a video or graphic to help you visualize what that loss looks like.

10. Look up information or watch videos about the pressing environmental issues related to disposable and one-time-use plastic products. Take a tour of your home and make a list of plastic products you can commit to replacing with items made of other materials and disposable products you can replace with reusable versions within the next year.





The Other Science Crisis: Climate Change

The Other Science Crisis: Climate Change

Everyone, everywhere is talking about the coronavirus right now and for good reason. But this Earth Day, let us remember that there are at least two major science crises going on right now:

  1. The global warming that is causing the climate crisis
  2. Of course, the coronavirus

The science explaining the coronavirus is not yet well understood. The science explaining climate change is. And there is no time like the present to learn the science of climate change. In part because,

“Scientists have long warned that climate change will impact not just our environment, but also our health by increasing rates of infectious disease.” (Ibrahim AlHusseini)

Long after a vaccine has been developed for the coronavirus, the climate crisis will be an ongoing problem. We need to be working to find solutions for it. The first step to doing that is to understand the science explaining it. Whether your kids are home for a short time (school under teach this issue) or for longer, make this the year your family learns what climate change is, how it happens, and what you can do to help.

To celebrate Earth Day, SEA Publishing has put The Science of Climate Change: A Hands-On Course on sale for almost 80% off (April 22-24, 2020). Check out the book the National Science Teaching Association calls, “a much-needed resource for understanding climate change and gets into the details of climate change in a way that increases understanding for both kids and adults alike. This is a great, user-friendly book for all of us who need to understand the complex issue of climate change.”    





Teaching the Science of Climate Change to Middle Schoolers

Teaching the Science of Climate Change to Middle Schoolers, Secular Homeschool Science

Q & A on (Almost) Everything You Want to Know about Teaching the Science of Climate Change to Middle Schoolers*

 

*don’t be afraid to ask!

When I was asked to teach a course on the science of climate change to the middle schoolers in our science group, believe me, I had some questions!

As I worked to answer those questions, I gained a deeper appreciation for how interconnected everything (and I do mean everything) really is. And I got excited thinking about the many ways this course could challenge and inspire the kids with all kinds of learning…and dare I say it?  Change the world!

Here are some of the questions I asked as I got started.  I hope to help make this more approachable and encourage you to tackle the science of climate change in your homeschool or co-op!

1.  Why consider teaching about the science of climate change?

For me, this goes to the heart of why we teach anything.  We want to empower our kids with tools to build a good life—one in which they find their own point of view and understand their position in this world, where they can identify problems and think about solutions, where they can find joy and pleasure and beauty.

A course on the science of climate change encompasses every discipline necessary for developing these life tools: critical thinking, deep understanding of scientific method, geography, geology, chemistry, communication, math, physics, biology, creativity, morality, politics, economics, and an appreciation of the interconnectedness of all life and systems in our world.  It even includes the arts.  Talk about a powerhouse of interdisciplinary learning!

2.  Why the science of climate change, and not just climate change?

We’re specifically talking about teaching the science of climate change, not simply the topic of climate change, and this distinction is important.

Science means asking questions, evaluating data, thinking deeply and creatively.  It’s more than a collection of facts.  It is coming to grips with how we know what we know, how we figure out what’s problematic, how we imagine and create a future that works for our world.

Learning about the science of climate change means asking lots of questions and making lots of connections.

3.  Why teach this to middle schoolers?

The science of climate change is excellent for middle schoolers.

By this age, kids have learned some basic weather science, chemistry, physics, and social studies.  They are aware of the value of trees and forests.  They also have a grasp of basic farming or gardening concepts.  These things are a foundation for building their understanding of the science of climate change.  And building on their foundational knowledge is one of the things middle schoolers do best!

In learning about climate change, they will take scientific theories, models, and facts and make connections with history, with present conditions, and with future possibilities.  They will see first-hand how real-life science gets done because they will be doing it, just like the scientists whose work they are learning about.  They will devise creative solutions for the problems they identify, collaborate with each other, and present their data and ideas creatively and colorfully.  They will tackle the ethical issues in their passionate, big-hearted way.  (They probably will even get a little muddy.)

4.  Ok, but what about the elephant in the room?

There is overwhelming scientific consensus on the impacts of climate change, yet some people consider this to be a controversial topic.  Do not let that intimidate you.

Teaching controversy is a key aspect of teaching for global competence—preparing students to investigate the world and weigh perspectives is critical to their growth as global citizens.

And I think you will find, as you explore the issues and learn about this science, that the real questions are about what we can and should do to change climate change.

5.  I’m not a climate change expert!  How do I know what to cover?

You’re probably already watching documentaries and reading a lot.  Be intentional about noticing things that pertain to climate change, particularly the connectedness of earth’s systems with the peoples and ecosystems.  When something grabs your attention, explore it.

But don’t worry about becoming an expert on climate change.

You (and the kids) will learn a great deal, believe me, but the main point of all this is to foster an understanding of:

  • How we know what is going on
  • How it all works together
  • How to evaluate sources
  • How scientists do what they do
  • How we can figure out what to do next
  • Any other HOWs you and the kids come up with!

6.  Climate change can be really depressing. How do I keep the kids (and myself) from sinking into despair?

Here’s where I took a lesson from Ivy and Bean.

Yes, Ivy and Bean.

Ivy and Bean: What’s the Big Idea? (book 7) by Annie Barrows and Sophie Blackhall.  In this story, the fifth-grade class presents a lesson on climate change to Ivy and Bean’s second-grade class, miring the younger kids deep in an existential crisis of hopelessness and despair over the doomed polar bears and the destructiveness of humanity.  With a stroke of genius, their teacher allows the second graders take ownership of the problem: for their science fair projects, they devise clever ways to help cool down the earth.  Thus the children’s hope is restored, their creativity blossoms, and most importantly, they no longer feel that life is meaningless and the future bleak with misery and ruination.

Fact: Middle-schoolers are not much different from second-graders when it comes to hopefulness and existential crises.  Focus not only on the problems, but also on the real and possible solutions.  Always end the lessons with something they can feel hopeful about, or at the very least, take care that you don’t leave them despondent!

7.  What will the kids do in a course on the science of climate change?Teaching the Science of Climate Change to Middle Schoolers, Secular Homeschool Science

There are so many opportunities here!  With some thoughtful preparation, you can create a course on climate change that will allow your learners to:

  • engage in scientific experiments
  • learn how to gather data
  • evaluate sources
  • examine the practice of peer-review in scientific publication
  • practice data analysis and presentation
  • apply mathematical formulas to analyze data and determine potential futures
  • learn about earth’s systems in a meaningful way
  • explore humanity’s role and impact on earth’s environment and systems
  • apply chemistry to real life
  • combine a study of history with science
  • draw
  • play games
  • think creatively
  • do field work
  • take field trips
  • learn about and talk with scientists and inventors
  • solve problems
  • …and more!

8.  What will I use to teach the science of climate change?

As I prepared to teach this course, I found more material than one person could possibly need.  Some of it is fantastic.  In fact, there’s so much available from reputable sources that your primary difficulty will be deciding what not to use and keeping what works best!

Here are the primary curricula I used:

I combined these with some videos, interactives, articles, and games to create a full, rich learning experience for a relatively low cost.  Supplies for labs mostly can be found in your home or supermarket; a few will need to be sourced ahead of time.  You can easily use these for co-op classes, after-school classes, or your own family.

I challenged the kids to bring their ideas to the class, too.

Our group decided to incorporate some project-based learning: the kids decided to design and build their own green energy technology!  This is a work in progress, and I’m so excited to see what they come up with!

9.  Are you ready to learn more about creating a robust course on the science of climate change with all kinds of interdisciplinary learning?

Like you, I’m super busy and appreciate when I don’t have to do a thing totally from scratch.  Our course is still in progress, but I’m really pleased with how it’s turned out. I am more than happy to tell you what we’re doing in greater detail, including a list of supplies and links plus how to prep for the classes!  I’ll make these available on my blog over the next few weeks and months at backyardowls.com.

A final thought:

I’ve been inspired by designing and teaching this course and by the big-hearted, creative kids I’m lucky to be working with.  It really is exciting to think I can make a difference in their lives and in the world.  I hope you’re inspired, too, to see what you can do with this in your homeschool!  I promise: it’s worth it!

More About Climate Change & Secular Science for Homeschoolers

The Science of Climate Change Explained
Vetting Secular Science Curriculum
A Science Lab in Your Home

Teaching the Science of Climate Change to Middle Schoolers, Secular Homeschool Science




Blair Lee: A Science Lab in Your Home? It Really Isn’t that Hard. Trust Me, I’m a Chemist.

I am always caught off guard when homeschoolers worriedly ask me about setting up for and performing labs at home. It makes me think of how I came to write my first book, R.E.A.L. Science Odyssey Chemistry 1. I asked a good friend of mine, who was also homeschooling, what 3rd grade chemistry looked like. She told me it was terrible. She couldn’t find any good resources and was struggling with labs and how to structure the topics. I started rattling off how I would do it. Her response, “That’s easy for you to say. You are a chemist who taught chemistry!” The purpose of this talk is to help you get over your concerns about having your child perform lab science at home. I promise you, it is easier than you think.

 

Leave your comments below for Blair’s talk

A Science Lab in Your Home? It Really Isn’t that Hard. Trust Me, I’m a Chemist

to be entered to win cool prizes!

 

Blair Lee M.S. is the founder of SEA Homeschoolers and author for the critically acclaimed R.E.A.L. Science Odyssey Series. Blair has been handcrafting the education of her non-linear thinker for over 11 years. During that time, she has learned as much about how learning happens from him as he has learned from her. Blair is a passionate advocate of innovative academics using secular materials. Through her speaking and writing, her goal is to empower homeschoolers to dare to be innovative and create something unique and academically-rich when handcrafting their child’s journey through learning. You can follow her at SEAHomeschoolers.com. You can learn more about Blair Lee’s “Evolution in Homeschooling” here.

The Science of Climate Change Print on Sale Now
Bugging Around on Sale Now




The Science of Climate Change Explained

The Science of Climate Change Explained, Blair Lee, Secular Homeschooling at SEA Homeschoolers

The world is in the middle of an environmental crisis.

The first step to solving this crisis is to understand the science explaining it.

Climate change, Global warming, The greenhouse effect: You hear these terms a lot, but what do they mean? Are they the same thing? Do they somehow relate to each other? If you are wondering about this, you are not alone. And you might be surprised to learn that the science is actually fairly simple. The real issue is there are several pieces that need to be brought together.

Understanding global warming and climate change starts with the molecules that make air. Air is a mixture of gas molecules. The main gas molecules in that mixture are nitrogen and oxygen. The air has other gas molecules in much lower concentrations including, argon, carbon dioxide, neon, water vapor, methane, and nitrous oxide. But even in low concentrations, the air contains a huge number of these molecules.

1 liter of dry air contains 25,000,000,000,000,000,000,000 molecules
Type of gas molecule The number in 1 liter of dry air
Carbon dioxide 10,075,000,000,000,000,000
Methane 46,075,000,000,000,000
Nitrous oxide 8,250,000,000,000,000

Though the gas molecules carbon dioxide, water vapor, methane, and nitrous oxide might be in air in low concentrations, they have a big effect. These molecules, called greenhouse gases, absorb (trap) energy from the sun and transfer this energy to air in the form of heat. The warming effect from these molecules is called the greenhouse effect. The greenhouse effect has been important for the evolution of life as we know it. Without the greenhouse effect the average temperature on Earth would be -18 oC (0 oF). At that temperature it would be so cold, that the water on Earth, including in the oceans, would freeze, and life as we know it would not exist. Greenhouse gases do not just keep the air warmer during the day, they continuously radiate heat, thus warming Earth even at night.

Illustrator: Alina Bachman

Trap, Absorb, Transfer:  You will see all three of these words used to describe how energy from the sun when it comes in contact with greenhouse gases warms the air. It can be confusing. These words are not synonyms. How can they be used interchangeably to explain something in science?

When energy waves from the sun come in contact with a greenhouse gas molecule, the bonds between the atoms of the molecule vibrates and transfers the sun’s energy, in the form of heat, to the air. In effect, this traps or absorbs energy from the sun that would escape into space if greenhouse gas molecules were not present. It can be thought of as heat absorption through vibration.  

The sun radiates the same amount of energy to Earth each year. The average global temperature is a result of the amount of heat energy absorbed by molecules less the amount that is reflected back into space. Greenhouse gases are the primary molecules that transfer heat energy from the sun. Fluctuations in the concentration of greenhouse gases in the air lead to fluctuations in the amount of the sun’s energy that is absorbed, therefore causing fluctuations of the average global temperature.

With the advent of the Industrial Revolution, over two hundred years ago the amount of greenhouse gases in the air began to increase. The Industrial Revolution was a period in human history when animal and human power was replaced by machines. Machines are powered by a chemical reaction called the combustion reaction. The combustion reaction takes gasoline, oil, or coal and combines with oxygen to make energy that powers the machines. In addition to energy, the combustion reaction releases greenhouse gases and water vapor.

Illustrator Alina Bachman

 Global warming can be thought of as a simple budgeting phenomenon where

more heat-trapping molecules in the air cause the average global temperature increase.

During the past two hundred years, people have come to increasingly rely on machines and machine-made goods and services. This has led to an increase in the amount of greenhouse gases in the air. More greenhouse gases mean that more of the sun’s energy is transferred as heat into the air. The increase in the amount of transferred heat is causing an increase in the average global temperature, though the increase is not uniform. This temperature increase is called global warming.

Map courtesy of NOAA
Illustrator: Alina Bachman

 

Global warming is causing climate change

Some of the confusion with understanding climate change and recognizing that it is happening now is that many people treat the terms “weather” and “climate” synonymously. The difference between weather and climate has to do with the amount of time each is measured. Weather is a short-term measurement, measured in hours and days. Climate is a long-term measurement, measured using weather data averages collected over 30 or more years.

Since the Industrial Revolution, there has been a long-term increase in the average global temperature which matches the increased concentration of greenhouse gases. While the increase in the global temperature might not seem like much at 0.94°C (1.69°F), it must be remembered that this is an increase in the long-term average.

Graph Courtesy of NOAA

The increase in temperature is an average across the globe. Average long-term temperatures have increased by more than this in some areas, notably the polar regions, and less in equatorial areas. Global temperature is not the only thing affected. Earth is experiencing an increased incidence in powerful storms, rising sea levels, and changing ocean chemistry to the detriment of many ocean organisms.

The Science of Climate Change Explained - Blair Lee, M.S., Secular Homeschooling at SEA HomeschoolersEarth is 4.56 billion years old. Over its long history, the climate has changed many times. So why is it a big deal now? What is different about the current climate change is the rate at which it is occurring and the fact that one species, humans, is causing climate change. The rate the climate is changing is outpacing the rate of evolution for many species. The evolution of new traits takes time. Under stressful conditions, such as rapid climate change, those species that need more time to adapt are at risk of extinction. The rate of extinction is increasing as the rate of global warming and climate change increases. The current rate of extinction is happening so fast that scientists believe Earth is in the middle of the sixth documented mass extinction.

This doesn’t sound very hopeful does it? But don’t despair! Each of us can take some simple steps to slow the rate of global warming and climate change. The first and most important step is to understand what is happening and why. Next, use less energy from sources that generate greenhouse gases. In the short-term, you can help by reducing your energy consumption, such as using mass transit or driving energy-efficient cars (hybrids or electric vehicles), stop drinking bottled water and use reusable containers, change to energy efficient light bulbs, recycle, choose foods from near-by sources, and eat less meat. In the long-term, we need to end our dependence on the fuel sources that generate greenhouse gases: coal, gasoline, and oil. This can be accomplished by investing in and using alternative sources of energy.

One person or one country did not cause the current environmental crisis. Just like the warming causing climate change, this is a global problem. We need a global solution; with all of us working together to stop or slow the rate of global warming that is causing global climate change.

People are pretty smart.

If everyone came together, we could solve this problem.

Blair H Lee MS has been involved in science education for over two decades, first as a college professor and then as an author of science courses. She is an author for the critically acclaimed R.E.A.L. Science Odyssey. She is also the founder of Secular, Eclectic, Academic Homeschoolers.  Check out Blair’s new book The Science of Climate Change: A Hands-On Course for kids ages 9 to 15. The 92-page course weaves 18 hands-on activities throughout the straight-forward science-based explanations of global warming and climate change.

“The Science of Climate Change is a secular program containing peer reviewed, objective science. Even children who don’t yet consider themselves to be “good at” or engaged with science will be able to interact thoughtfully with the material presented here.”

      Rebecca Pickens, home|school|life magazine

Other articles about secular homeschooling by Blair Lee

A Science Lab in Your Home
Why Neutral Science Isn’t Neutral
Stargazing Supplies

The Science of Climate Change Explained - Blair Lee, M.S., Secular Homeschooling at SEA Homeschoolers