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Upper El (Mr. D): Sci-Fair, Loops, Why?

This week, students finished up their stories from last week, began research for the Science Fair, and continued answering our question of, "how can we sustain life on another planet?"


Research starts with questions. For our Science Fair, we discussed three different categories to consider. What do we need to know before we can begin our experiments? What is important to know? And, what is just interesting about this topic?

Our goal this week was first to write down questions and place them into those categories. Some of our group had to answer the need-to-know questions right away. These were questions, like "how much do solar panels cost?" Or, "can I grow bacteria at home?" Basically, can we do this experiment?

After we answered those, we could move on to the other two categories and spend more time there. Students can now do their experiments while doing their research. The research and experiments will be done at home over the next month and a half, but we will check in on the research at school as well to make sure we're all on track.


On Tuesday, we had a brief lesson on the mechanism behind homeostasis: feedback loops. We discussed what feedback loops are and the difference between positive and negative feedback loops. We used examples in technology as well as in biology.

I used a balloon to illustrate the differences. I blew up the balloon, and we let this represent body temperature. I blew up the balloon to show the temperature increasing. What does the body do? Sweat! I release some air to show things cooling down, and then I release too much air. We're cold now. What does the body do? Shiver! I blow the balloon back to its original size.

For positive feedback loops, we talked about platelets in our blood and how they help stop bleeding. When a cut occurs, the body signals platelets to go to that area. They stick to the sides and other platelets. Then, since it's a positive loop, they call for more platelets. The balloon gets bigger—more platelets. Then, it gets bigger again. And bigger again!

I can't tell you how much they wanted that balloon to pop! I secretly wanted it to as well ; ) But, instead, after the demonstration, I just let the balloon go, and it zipped around the room. They liked that too. I hope the visual, along with the examples of temperature regulation and platelets at work, make the concept stick!


On Thursday, we revisited the BIG question of this unit: how can we sustain life on another planet? There are several different directions to go now, and I have a few different plans. But, instead of just going ahead, I figured it would be a great time to put things to our group. Let them decide.

So, I posed our BIG question to them again and asked: what questions do we need to answer to understand and answer the BIG question? Then, we were off brainstorming.

After a while, we settled on two questions that seemed to come up the most. The First was, why? Why should we be considering this question of sustaining life on another planet? Love it! I wanted to address that in the following unit, but I may shift things around now because they were super curious and adamant. Some offered some quick reasons, but we will have to dive deeper.

The other question was, what do we need to stay alive as humans? This is the area I was initially planning to go into next. We will talk about the human body, organ systems, etc. However, after consulting our awesome team, we might need to move into the question of "why?" first.

I feel like this week went by fast! I'm looking forward to continuing our explorations next week!

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