Mr. Hill’s Earthwatch trip to Costa Rica

As you know, Mr. Hill is spending this week in Costa Rica doing scientific research about Leatherback Turtles. He’ll tell you more about it during our assembly tomorrow, and he’s blogging about his experience here.

More information about the Earthwatch project can be found here, explaining more precisely what Mr. Hill is studying.

Mr. Dandola also found some other good websites about leatherback turtles for your reference:

Please read up about Leatherback Turtles tonight so you can ask thoughtful questions during tomorrow’s assembly!

(Image source: National Geographic)

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Welcome to the 2011 Class Blog!

This blog is a place where Mr. Allen and Mr. Dandola post science stuff that we think would be interesting to the 6th graders at Collegiate School.

You should check it regularly (at least once per week) and comment on any articles that you find especially interesting.

The blog entries may or may not have to do with class topics.

If you find a good link to a website that you think your classmates would enjoy, please email Mr. Allen or Mr. Dandola so he can post it to the blog.

Note: This is the first entry of the 2010-2011 school year. All entries older than this one were posted in the previous school year. You are welcome to browse through the old entries if you want to, but please don’t comment on last year’s entries; chances are, nobody will see your comments!

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Alternative Energy presentation

For your alternative energy presentation, your group will give a 5-10 minute presentation about a form of alternative energy.

There’s not much time left before the end of the year, so here’s the timeline.

Wednesday and Thursday, you should find your topic below and review the web links. Take some notes–make an outline of important features of your topic.

Friday in class: refer to the reference books about your topic to finish up your outline and start working on your script for your presentation.

Friday in tech class: start to build a powerpoint slideshow about your topic

Friday for homework: finish up your outline/script and your slideshow. Save your slideshow in your class’s folder in MSShare. (That’s MSShare: Science: Science 6: 2015).

On Monday, the presentations start.

Make sure you assign jobs in your team. One person could take the lead on the script, and another could work on the PowerPoint. You can also divide up the planning; for instance, one person could be in charge of explaining how the technology works, another could be in charge of explaining the problems or downsides of the technology, and the third could be in charge of giving a real-life example of the technology in action.

Your presentation should include the following:

  • How does the technology work? What is the basic science behind your type of energy?
  • What are some of the problems with your technology? Are there safety risks? Environmental risks? Economic risks?
  • What are some real-life examples of your technology? Where is it being used?


Biomass Energy

Nuclear Energy

Solar Energy

Wind Power

Geothermal Power

Hydroelectric Power

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Jupiter's missing belt

Jupiter before and after
The major dark band in Jupiter’s southern hemisphere has disappeared! Amateur astronomers noticed that it was fading a few months ago, but since then Jupiter has been behind the Sun, invisible from Earth. When it reemerged, the band was almost totally gone.

As you know, Jupiter is a gas giant, and its “stripes” are actually belts of different gases. Most astronomers think that the belt is still there, but hidden under white clouds–but we don’t really know for sure.

Read more or listen to an audio story about it at NPR.

Image source:

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Space Shuttle Atlantis's final mission

atlantis ISS docking

The picture above is an amazing photo showing the space shuttle Atlantis about to dock with the International Space Station on its final mission. They passed in front of the sun for a half-second and a photographer in Spain was able to capture the shot.

You can see the entire picture here, as well as a realtime video and slowed-down video of the event.

After they finished docking, they passed in front of the sun again and the photographer took another picture, which you can see here.

This was Atlantis’s last mission before being retired; it landed this morning at Cape Canaveral. There are only two more space shuttle missions planned, one each for the Discovery and Endeavor. But the shuttles will not be disassembled; they’ll be kept on standby for emergency use in case the International Space Station ever needs rescue or emergency assistance. Without the space shuttles, the space station will be served by foreign spacecraft.

You can read more about the final voyage of the Atlantis at the New York Times.

Image source:

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Mount Saint Helens, 30 years later

Mt. St. Helens eruption
Ash clouds
Mount Saint Helens erupted in a colossal explosion 30 years ago, on May 18, 1980 (incidentally, exactly a week before my little sister was born).

The eruption was so great that the entire northern side of the mountain was blasted off, leaving a huge crater. Several minor earthquakes and venting gases in the months before the eruption meant that many people were studying and observing the mountain, but people were shocked at the size of the eruption. Fifty-seven people died (not to mention hundreds of thousands of trees and untold wildlife), and ash blew as far away as Boston.

Speaking of Boston, the Boston Globe put together an amazing set of photos from the eruption. Be sure to visit the link to see all of them.

Here’s a youtube video of the eruption.

If you have an hour, I’d recommend watching this recent episode of the science show NOVA, which is about the eruption and the state of Mount St. Helens now, thirty years later. Is it getting ready to erupt again?

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Duck species declared extinct

Alaotra grebe
The Alaotra grebe, a kind of duck that lived only in Madagascar, has been officially declared extinct.

From The Telegraph:

The grebe was wiped out by habitat destruction, by the introduction of a carnivorous fish called the snakehead murrel and by nylon gill-nets which accidentally caught and drowned many birds.
“No hope now remains for this species. It is another example of how human actions can have unforeseen consequences,” said Leon Bennun, director of science at BirdLife International.

Image source:

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Sopping up oil with hair and pantyhose?

We talked about some of the solutions BP is considering for trying to slow and eventually stop the Gulf of Mexico oil spill. But apparently one of the best materials to sop up oil is human hair.

Hair booms

Just like birds who get soaked with oil because of their oily feathers, human hair has oils in it that can attract more oil. Unlike bird feathers, humans cut their hair off regularly, so there’s a constant supply of hair that would otherwise be thrown away! Hair salons all over the country are getting into the act, collecting and sending in human hair in order to help the crisis. The hair is stuffed like a sausage into nylon stockings to make long tubes which can be laid down in the path of the oil to soak it up.

If you’re getting your hair cut soon, ask them if they’re collecting hair for the oil spill. If not, send them to to learn how to send it in!

You can read or listen to a news story about this at NPR.

Image source:

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Letter writing

If you are planning to write a letter to President Obama or BP CEO Anthony Hayward, consider these tips for writing an effective letter:

1) Handwrite it (unless your handwriting is hard to read).
2) Start by being polite/respectful
3) In paragraph two, get to the point and be specific. Say what’s on your mind. If you’re upset about something, don’t sugarcoat it, but don’t be mean, either.
4) Offer a suggestion or idea for a solution to the problem.
5) Thank them for listening to you.
6) Sign the letter (by hand, even if you typed the letter), and identify yourself (“6th grader, Collegiate School, New York City)

I’ll collect your letters tomorrow and send them in.

Here’s the speech I showed in class that reiterates what makes an effective letter–not all of his points apply to you, but it’s a good summary of how to get noticed by a politician or CEO.

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Deepwater Horizon

Satellite view of oil spillImage source (and another interesting article!):
Rig on fireImage source (and lots more incredible photos!):

The oil spill at the Deepwater Horizon oil rig is truly an environmental disaster. It will likely ravage the coastal environment of all of the Gulf states (Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama, Florida, Texas) and destroy the fishing industry there, causing major economic damage as well.

More than 200,000 gallons (5,000 barrels) of oil are spilling into the Gulf every day, and while BP is trying several strategies to contain the spill, it’s not certain that they will work, and they will take time; the spill will continue for at least several more weeks.

If you want more information, this blog has links to the best articles and graphics about the spill. Thanks to Mr. Ragone for finding the link.

If you’d like to write the the CEO of BP, Anthony Hayward, about the damage that this explosion is causing and how you think they should respond to it, or to President Obama about his proposal to expand off-shore oil drilling, I will give you extra credit and send them for you.

(If you choose to write a letter, it should be about a page and you should use the links in this post to learn a bit more about the oil spill, so that you can write a thoughtful letter. Use facts when making your argument, and be polite!)

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