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Sea otters’ cellular surprise

Students will answer questions about the online Science News article “Sea otters stay warm thanks to leaky mitochondria in their muscles,” which explores scientists’ efforts to figure out how the ocean’s smallest mammal maintains an extreme metabolism. A version of the story, “How muscles keep otters warm,” appears in the August 14, 2021 issue of Science News.

Physics Helps Alien Rain Stay In Shape

In this guide, students will learn how the laws of physics shape rain on other planets and explore how molecules interact within alien raindrops.

Sizing up alien rain

Students will answer questions about the online Science News article “How the laws of physics constrain the size of alien raindrops,” which explores a new model for rain on planets across the Milky Way. A version of the story, “Physics helps alien rain stay in shape,” appears in the May 8, 2021 & May 22, 2021 issue of Science News.

Modeling molecules in alien rain

Students will compare and contrast rain on Earth with rain on other planets and practice drawing molecular structures of various rain substances to examine the substances' physical and chemical properties. Students will use that information, along with the planetary conditions needed to form rain, to create a short weather forecast for one planet.

Bonds in limbo

Students will answer questions about the online Science News article “This weird chemical bond acts like a mash-up of hydrogen and covalent bonds,” which explores new research that suggests chemical bonds exist on a continuum. A version of the story, “Chemical bond acts like a mash-up,” can be found in the January 30, 2021 issue of Science News.

Accepting the exceptions

Students will discuss the classical definitions of chemical bonds and determine how to adjust those definitions based on new research. Then, students will talk about the best strategies for assessing general chemistry concepts and exceptions to those generalizations.

Create a recipe for life

Students will research the conditions necessary for the formation of organic molecules and living things. Working in groups, students will then develop a “recipe” for life based on physical, chemical, geological, astronomical and biological principles. Class discussions will cover the role of interdisciplinary research in studying the origins of life on Earth and searching for life beyond our solar system.

The joy of science

Students will answer questions about the online Science News article “From Elvis worms to the Milky Way’s edge, these science stories sparked joy in 2020,” which summarizes Science News stories from 2020 that provided a happy distraction from the world’s worries. A version of the story, “Stories that sparked joy,” can be found in the December 19, 2020 & January 2, 2021 issue of Science News.

Chemicals cue behavior

Students will explore the chemical makeup of pheromones, how the chemicals may cue species behavior and why it’s important for scientists to study such information. Students will answer questions related to the pheromone discussed in the Science News article before applying the same questions to a pheromone of their choice.

The science of locust swarms

Students will answer questions about the online Science News article “A single molecule may entice normally solitary locusts to form massive swarms,” which describes a compound used in locust congregation that might also be used to control the pests. A version of the story, “Chemical coaxes locusts to swarm,” can be found in the September 12, 2020 issue of Science News.

Creating the blues with chemistry

Students will answer questions about the online Science News article “Beets bleed red but a chemistry tweak can create a blue hue,” which explores how scientists altered the molecular structure of a pigment molecule from beets. A version of the story, “Beets bleed red, but chemists turn it blue,” can be found in the May 9 & May 23, 2020 issue of Science News.

Colorful chemistry

Students will review concepts of light and chemical structures to explore color. Then, students will partner up to research a pigment of their choice and present their findings to the class.