Sunday, December 2, 2012


Been wanting to get a view of the International Space Station ?  Or maybe you've already seen it and want to show your friends?  This week and next there are two great viewing opportunities (from Dale County area).  Times and viewing locations are listed below - Good Luck !!

Saturday, 08 Dec 2012 - at 6:34pm, ISS will be in SE sky (129 deg azimuth) and almost directly overhead (83 deg elevation).  It will be flying from right to left.

Tuesday, 11 December 2012 - at 5:39pm, ISS will be in NW sky (318 deg azimuth) and 60 degrees above the horizon.  It will be flying from left to right.

Want to check satellite flyover times for yourself?  Check out this link - you can give it your location then get a 5-day forecast on satellites that are bright enough to see without a telescope.

THANKS to Alabama Power Foundation - $1000 Grant for Science Club !!

On Monday, October 26th, we were honored by a surprise visit from Mrs C Johnson, representing the Alabama Power Foundation.   The foundation awarded a $1000 grant to Mrs D’s Science Club to further the club’s ability to reach out and encourage 5th and 6th grade Science students.  

Mrs Johnson remarked, “Thank you for all the hard work – please continue to inspire these young people.  We hope that this grant will allow you to invest in additional field trips or special experiences in the Science Club.”

Wow!  Thanks very much to the Alabama Power Foundation.  We are grateful for your participation and for this generous grant.  We will indeed use these funds wisely to create new learning opportunities for Science Club members.

The Alabama Power Foundation generously supports educational and community activities.  To learn more about the foundation or to join with them in giving or volunteering, checkout their website.  Ala Power Foundation

Sunday, November 4, 2012

Thank you Oscar Fann for visiting GW Long!

Oscar Fann from WTVY in Dothan visited the sixth graders last week.  He talked to the students about "catastrophic weather events" that occur on Earth!  We learned about major volcanic eruptions and huge earthquakes throughout history.  Thanks, Mr. Fann!  We learned a lot!

Sunday, October 7, 2012

Space X Makes History - EARN A REWARD

On October 7th, SpaceX made history by being the first official commercial resupply mission to the International Space Station.  SpaceX is led by a scientist and billionaire named Elon Musk.

EARN A REWARD!!!  Do some research and write down the answers to these questions.  Submit your written answers to Mrs D by class on Friday, October 12th to EARN A REWARD!

  1. Where is Elon Musk from?
  2. How old is Elon Musk?
  3. List at least two of the universities he has attended
  4. What is the name of his car company and what is unique about the cars they sell?
  5. Name at least two other businesses he has started/invented
  6. What is the name of the SpaceX craft that was launched on October 7th?
  7. If you had a chance to meet Elon Musk and ask him one question, what would it be?

Saturday, September 22, 2012

Sunday, September 16, 2012

Solar Cells – Learn About Energy and...

You've probably seen calculators with solar cells -- devices that never need batteries and in some cases, don't even have an off button. As long as there's enough light, they seem to work forever. You may also have seen larger solar panels, perhaps on emergency road signs, call boxes, buoys and even in parking lots to power the lights.

The sun's light (and all light) contains energy. Usually, when light hits an object the energy turns into heat, like the warmth you feel while sitting in the sun. But when light hits certain materials the energy turns into an electrical current instead, which we can then harness for power.  A solar cell is a device people can make that takes the energy of sunlight and converts it into electricity.

Solar cells are expensive to make and to install.  They are not very efficient – meaning that they for every one unit of light energy they convert to electricity, about three units are wasted (or converted to heat).  In some cases, they are a smart choice, in locations with long hours of sunlight, or in special applications such as satellites.

Solar panels CONVERT energy from the sun into electricity.  Leaves on plants and trees CONVERT energy from the sun into chemical energy.  This process is called photosynthesis.

You are the scientist who is in charge of a new electrical power system for GW Long Elementary.  The Governor of Alabama is requiring that you use one of these methods to power the school:
  • Solar Energy
  • Wind Energy
  • Energy Derived from Water (Rivers)

In your first meeting with the Governor, he provided you three maps to use in your study.

Prepare a short report for Governor Bentley that answers the following questions.  (You might have to do some additional research online in order to complete your answers.)
  1. What would a solar energy system look like at GW Long?  Describe in words or draw a picture.
  2. Why might it be a good choice?  (provide at least three reasons)
  3. Are there any challenges that would have to be addressed? (list at least three)
  4. What would a wind energy system look like at GW Long?  Describe in words or draw a picture.
  5. Why might it be a good choice?  (provide at least three reasons)
  6. Are there any challenges that would have to be addressed? (list at least three)
  7. What would a water energy system look like for GW Long?  Describe in words or draw a picture.
  8. Why might it be a good choice?  (provide at least three reasons)
  9. Are there any challenges that would have to be addressed? (list at least three)
  10. What source of energy is your final recommendation to the Governor?
To EARN A REWARD, turn in your answers to Mrs D before class on Friday, September 21st.

Monday, September 10, 2012

A Better Breakfast Can Boost a Student's Brainpower

Attention students: Do not skip breakfast — or your grades could pay a price.  Evidence suggests that eating breakfast really does help kids learn. After fasting all night, a developing body (and brain) needs a fresh supply of glucose — or blood sugar. That's the brain's basic fuel.  "Without glucose," explains Terrill Bravender, professor of pediatrics at Duke University, "our brain simply doesn't operate as well. People have difficulty understanding new information, they have a problem with visual and spatial understanding, and they don't remember things as well."
Sugary cereals get into your body quickly and cause a peak in blood-sugar levels, but the levels then fall dramatically after two hours or so. Oatmeal, on the other hand, is absorbed slowly, so oatmeal eaters gets a slow rise in blood sugar and enough energy to last through the morning.
To keep your brain powered up, the first meal of the day should be rich in protein and good carbohydrates — the whole-grain variety that will sustain you for a long spell rather than the sugary kind that will push your blood sugar up, then let it fall. Here are some breakfast recommendations from the experts:

  • Peanut butter and jelly on multigrain bread
  • Whole-grain cereals, hot or cold, with low-fat milk or yogurt and 1-2 tablespoons of slivered nuts on top.
  • Eggs with bacon or sausage 
  • A bowl of whole-grain cereal (cold or oatmeal), preferably with nuts, milk, fresh fruit. 
  • Whole-wheat toast, 1 or 2 eggs, milk, fresh fruit

Sunday, September 9, 2012

Alabama Outdoor Class Program

We are excited to report that GW Long has had discussions with a corporate sponsor about the possibility of constructing an OUTDOOR CLASSROOM for our school!!  What's an outdoor classroom?  Checkout this link for more information and check back with our website for updates !  Outdoor Classrooms Link

Monday, September 3, 2012

Tools for Research and Fun !
Become a Better Scientist - Learn to Use GoogleEarth and EARN A REWARD!

Google has collected and integrated photos and data from satellites, aircraft, and cars to give us an incredible new way to look at our world.  Google doesn't shoot its own images. There are a handful of companies that do that. But GoogleEarth has designed software that knits it all together so it feels like we're zooming in.  

GoogleEarth has an addition called "street level" mapping. Basically it's a rig on top of a vehicle containing eight cameras, covering a full circle as it slowly drives along, snapping digital images.

EARN A REWARD!  Learn to use GoogleEarth and complete these exercises.

You will need GoogleEarth on your computer to complete this exercise.  You are welcome to use a computer in Mrs D's class.  If you want to install GoogleEarth on your home computer, BE SURE TO FIRST GET PERMISSION FROM YOUR PARENTS.   If you have not used GoogleEarth or just want to brush up on the features, click on this link to get short tutorials.

To earn your reward, put your answers on paper and turn in to Mrs D before class time on Friday, September 7th. Have fun!

  • Type in these LAT LON coordinates.  51.997915,8.49231   Who do you see at this location?
  • Type in “Cape Cod”.  Zoom in on the northern tip of the cape.  What is the name of the town?
  • Type in your street address.   Does GoogleEarth have a view of your house (yes or no)? 

  • Turn on layers for volcanoes (under Layers - Gallery).  Now go to the island of Hawaii.  How many volcanoes are on this island?
  • Turn on labels for  Now search on Martha’s Vineyard and find the webcam for Martha's Vineyard, Edgartown Harbor from the Vineyard Square.  Click on the webcam…..  write down what you see in the webcam photo.

  • Find a place that interests you.  It might be your house, or a ball field, or the Statue of Liberty.  Add a placemark at this location and give the placemark a name.  For example, Mrs D put a placemark on Bryant-Denny stadium in Tuscaloosa and added the name “Cam owns this place!”  Print a copy of your GoogleEarth screen showing your placemark or just record what you did on your paper.

Using the ruler tool, measure the distance of the longest runway at John F Kennedy airport in New York.  
  • State the distance in feet.  
  • State the distance in miles.

Type in the address 212 S Halsted, Chicago, IL.  Now go to Street View and look around.  
  • What business is located at this address?

Now congratulate yourself for learning how to use GoogleEarth and for earning a reward!

Saturday, August 25, 2012

Hurricane Hunters - See How They Work and EARN A REWARD!

Exactly how do scientists take measurements of hurricanes and predict their movement?  
  • Ground weather stations? – Yes!
  • Weather balloons?  - Yes!
  • Satellite imagery? – Yes!

And believe it or not, scientist even fly aircraft DIRECTLY INTO HURRICANES to better understand the storms and to provide real-time information to help meteorologists better forecast where these storms are headed.  Check out this video to see how brave pilots and crew members fly straight into these storms!   Hurricane Hunters

EARN A REWARD!!  Do some research to find answers to these questions.  Write your answers on paper and present to Mrs D by class time on Friday, 31 August to receive a reward!
  • What type of aircraft are used to fly the “Hurricane Hunter” missions?  (Name at least two.)
  • What term is used for the middle of the hurricane?
  • Which way do hurricanes rotate, clockwise or counterclockwise?
  • The Saffir-Simpson scale is used to rate the strength of a hurricane and it has five categories.  What wind speeds are associated with each category?
  • What months are considered “hurricane season”?

Think all of this is fascinating?  Tune into the new show "Hurricane Hunters" on The Weather Channel, Monday evenings at 8pm Central.   TWC - Hurricane Hunters Show

Saturday, August 18, 2012

Wish list for Durrance Science classes

As promised, here are the wish list items that we need in Science class:

  • Reinforcement labels (for 3 ring paper)
  • Printer ink (hp 61 black and 61 tri color)
  • Expo markers (black and colors)
  • Seven Five 3-ring binder hole punches (heavy duty, table top)
  • 28 jumbo clips 
  • Bubble gum - variety of flavors, brands 
Several items have been donated - thanks for your kindness!  If you are able to donate any of the remaining items listed above, it would be appreciated.  

Thanks very much!!

Friday, August 17, 2012

Batman and Robin Recommend 5th and 6th Grade Science!

Check out this link!

Batman and Robin Recommend 5th and 6th Grade Science!!

GOING FOR THE GOLD - Science of Swimming

Michael Phelps, a swimmer from Baltimore has now won more gold medals than anybody else in Olympic history.   What makes Michael Phelps so good?  Do Phelps' body shape and flexibility give the gold-medal winner a physical edge in swimming?  Beyond his drive to succeed, and his undoubtedly good training, could it be that a good bit of his talent just boils down to simple anatomy?  Here are some thoughts from Dr H. Richard Weiner an internist, former team physician, and former All-American swimmer...

What do you think about the notions about Phelps’s built-in, anatomical advantages?
When someone does something impressive, like winning gold medals in swimming, we try to come up with some far-fetched reason for it, like he or she has to have some bizarre physiological adaptation or freaky anatomy. But most things that you measure in human beings fall within predictable ranges.

What do you think accounts for Phelps’s success then?
Phelps has very good stroke mechanics—that certainly goes a long way. Some people also have better  “locomotive genius”—this is when swimmers have that sense of moving the water around them and how much water they are displacing. 

Why do you think these ideas of physiological advantage are often repeated?
I guess it’s hard for people just to believe that it can just be stroke mechanics for Phelps or any other swimmer. Unless a seemingly suitable explanation comes up, people then think that this individual must be cheating or doping. It couldn’t just be that the guy trained his guts out.

So do you think there is anything to these “natural physical gift” arguments?
I’m sure if we could measure Phelps as much as we would like, we would find attributes better than average for swimming, but I don’t think we would find any glaring abnormalities. 

Thanks to Scientific American.  Check out this link for more information.

Sunday, August 5, 2012

Seven Minutes of Terror !

In November of last year, scientists launched the Mars Science Laboratory which will touch down on the surface of Mars at 12:30 CDT on August 6th – (really late Sunday nite).  The lab is a roving vehicle called Curiosity and its mission is to perform experiments to unlock the history of Mars.  Curiosity will take samples of soil, rock, and the Martian atmosphere.  The record of the planet’s climate and geology is literally recorded in the rocks and soil.
So what is the “7 minutes of terror?  The spacecraft’s final descent to Mars takes seven minutes but it takes fourteen minutes for a radio signal to travel from Mars to the earth.  By the time that scientists receive a message from Curiosity, it will have already safely arrived or have crashed on Mars seven minutes earlier.

Check out this video to see how Curiosity will descend to the surface of Mars.

Walk into class on the first day of school with written answers to these questions and earn a reward!   (This opportunity is open to all current and former students of Mrs D.)
  • What is the name of the crater where Curiosity will land?
  • What is the mass of Curiosity?
  • Where was the Mars Science Laboratory launched from?
  • Who was the Kansas 6th grader that gave Curiosity its name?

Sunday, April 15, 2012

Georgia Aquarium - Awesome

On Saturday, I visited the Georgia Aquarium and it is truly an amazing experience.  Encourage your family to go sometime soon.  This is one of the world's largest aquariums and you'll have an opportunity to view (and sometimes touch) both saltwater and freshwater animals from around the world.  Checkout the links below to learn more!
Georgia Aquarium - YouTube video
Sharks Invade Georgia Aquarium

Sunday, April 1, 2012

Never Stop Learning !!

Mrs D just returned from the National Science Teachers Association national conference in Indianapolis.  Thanks very much to Dale County Schools for sponsoring this opportunity!

Science teachers are students too and this conference was a great opportunity to work with scientists and educators from across the country to learn more about science, learn new teaching methods and tools. 

Some highlights of this trip:
  • Visit to the National Weather Service in Indianapolis
  • Met Bill Nye the Science Guy and learned about his newest venture – The Planetary Society
  • Developed programs for Lego robots with other teachers and experts
  • Scientists from the Air Force Museum in Ohio taught short course on mechanics of flight
  • Learned cool new methods for creating Science notebooks
  • Talked with Scientist from Florida State in Tallahassee where they have some of the world’s strongest magnets.  (Hoping he will be able to visit GW Long Elementary!)

Looking forward to sharing new ideas and materials with our 5th and 6th grade students!

Sunday, March 11, 2012

Newton's Laws - Get Smarter and EARN A REWARD !

Newton’s Laws – who cares? Right?  Actually, Newton observed nature and realized that there are some very simple patterns that govern the way forces and matter act.  One of his observations is called “Newton’s First Law of Motion” or “the Law of Inertia”.

  • An object at rest tends to stay at rest (unless a force acts on it)
  • An object in motion tends to stay in motion (unless a force acts on it)

Think about it.  Have you ever seen a rock start to move on its own?  Ever seen a book fly across the room without help?  Probably not…. Because objects at rest tend to stay at rest.

Ever get concerned that the earth will simply stop flying around the sun?  When throwing a baseball do you ever worry that the ball will just stop in midair and fall?  Nope! Because objects in motion tend to stay in motion.

For this experiment, you will need a marble (or a small ball), a tape measure, and one empty paper towel roll. You will also need to download and print the form at this link.  Experiment Record Form  (If you are unable to get to the link, Mrs D will provide you a copy of the form.)

First, place the marble on the floor and mark its position.  Wait 60 seconds and record how far the marble moved on its own.  Wait 60 more seconds and record how far the marble moved.  Did the marble move?  Explain what you observed.

Create a ramp with the paper towel roll by holding one end 6 inches off the floor and allowing the other end to rest on the floor.  Release the marble into the paper towel roll and allow the marble to roll across the floor until it stops.  Measure how far the marble rolled across the floor.  Perform this experiment three times and record your results each time. 
Now select a different floor surface (one that is rougher or smoother than the first) and do the experiment again three times.  Record your results. 

To Receive a Reward – Complete the following by class time on Friday, 16 March.
  • Conduct the experiment described above.
  • Record your results and answer all of the questions on the form that you downloaded.  Turn in your form to Mrs D and be prepared to tell her what you learned.

Sunday, February 26, 2012

A380 - World's Biggest Jet Airliner

You won’t see this aircraft at the Dothan airport anytime soon – it’s just too big.  The Airbus A380 is the world's biggest jet airliner and the first to have two decks along its full length. It accommodates 525 passengers in a standard configuration, almost 100 more than the rival Boeing 747, the next biggest. 

The A380 is built in Europe by Airbus and is labeled the “gentle giant” because while it is a super-jumbo, its engines burn much less fuel and it is designed to meet demanding noise limits.

Check out this link to see time lapse video of this monster aircraft being assembled.  

Sunday, February 19, 2012

It’s a Bird! It’s a Plane! … No! It’s a NOAA Weather Balloon!

At an isolated weather station in the central United States, a technician emerges from a small brick shed grasping a balloon. It's not just any birthday party balloon, mind you, but a massive, white sphere more than 5 feet (1.5 meters) in diameter. In the other hand, the scientist grasps a radiosonde, a lightweight cardboard box filled with scientific instruments that's tied to the bottom of the balloon. Striding out into an empty clearing, he gently releases the balloon and radiosonde.
After an hour, the balloon has ascended to almost 100,000 feet.  Below, the Earth's features are obscured by a thick layer of cloud. Above, the blue sky has faded to dark black. It's a beautiful sight, one only seen by a handful of astronauts and test pilots.
For the balloon, these breathtaking views will be its last moments. All throughout its ascent, the balloon has been expanding…. It is now the size of a moving truck. Stretched to its limit, the balloon bursts and sends the tiny radiosonde plummeting back toward Earth. Within seconds, the wind catches a small, orange parachute and slows the device's descent.
Each day, hundreds of weather balloons around the world undertake this dramatic, near-space voyage. More than 70 years after scientists sent up the first experimental weather balloon, they remain the workhorses of modern meteorological forecasts. Whether it's a tornado warning or the weather report on the 6 o'clock news, weather balloons are what keep people on the ground tuned in to the meteorological workings of the upper atmosphere.

Thanks to HOWSTUFFWORKS.COM for this post.

To learn more - check out these links!

Sunday, February 5, 2012

Super Bowl Science !!

Super Bowl Sunday - Giants vs Patriots !   Did you know that each player on the field is protected by a number of devices designed by scientists?  Shoes, leg pads, shoulder pads, kevlar vests .... and the most important of all: the helmet.  Helmets are designed to protect heads and faces and they are constantly improved.  Take a look at some football helmets dating back almost 100 years and look at the changes.

EARN A REWARD - Examine the helmets on the attached photo and do some online research.....  or even ask a football coach about helmet design improvements.  To get your reward, do the following and bring to class on or before Friday, 10 February.

(1) List the requirements for a good football helmet - identify at least six requirements
(2) List improvements in football helmet design in the past 100 years - identify at least six improvements
(3) Identify a sports related safety device that needs to be invented or improved upon.  (a) Describe it, (b) list at least three benefits of this device, (c) draw a picture of how it might look, (d) define the material you might use to make it.

Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Survive or SPLAT !

The Science club at GW Long is made up of more than twenty 5th and 6th grade students.  Last Friday, members competed in a challenge called "Survive or Splat”.  Students were divided into teams, each team was given a bag of approved materials and a raw egg.  The goal was to create a safe package that could protect the egg from cracking when dropped from nearly 30 feet in the air!  Students worked diligently for 30 minutes on their project.  Out of seven teams, 5 survived and only 2 went “Splat”!  Photos of our teams and their egg drop entries are shown below.

“The “Survive or Splat” activity is a great way to really engage students in creative and scientific thinking.  While students dream up and test ideas, they are so absorbed in  “thinking” that they don’t even realize they are learning!”  says Anne Durrance – the teacher who heads up the group.

In addition to “Survive or Splat”, Science club students participate in robotics – learning to build and program robots.  They have also started a recycling program for plastics and ink cartridges.

(Special thanks to Mr. Whatley and Pea River for providing a truck to drop the eggs!)

Saturday, January 21, 2012

THINK LIKE A SCIENTIST ! Garrett Brown Does and the Results are Amazing

Like watching action scenes in movies?  Love to see those close-up TV shots (that make you feel like you are on the field) with your favorite football team?  If the answer is “yes”, say “thanks” to Garrett Brown, professional filmographer, cameraman, and inventor.  Brown has invented numerous tools including the Steadicam and the SkyCam.  Checkout these links to see how the SkyCam actually works and to get some more info on Garrett Brown.

Here is some advice from Brown for inventors…..
"You may not think of yourself as a potential inventor, but devising your own unique objects, tools, appliances, accessories and methods, can be surprisingly easy.  There are seven basic steps:
  • Identify some object (or method or technique) you need or want that is missing—even if its absence has long been taken for granted.
  • Try to imagine all the ways that it might look, feel or operate if it did exist, and make sketches, diagrams or primitive models.
  • ‘Operate’ all the versions, at least in your mind, and select the most promising to try out or build
  • Deconstruct the winning version on paper, right down to its hypothetically disassembled parts.
  • Acquire whatever components can be purchased and hire experts to make the parts that are unavailable *
  • Assemble the thing and give it a try.
  • Improve it or start over (or celebrate!) as appropriate"