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Archive November 2016

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Library of Congress Blog Series - Nov 2016 - Science Projects in Biology, Natural History and Agriculture

Getting kids interested in science can be challenging. The Library of Congress has many online resources available to K-12 educators and their students including lesson plans, reading lists, and more that each relate to a specific topic in science. You can find these resources by visiting
This month we are featuring the list entitled, “Science Projects in Biology, Natural History and Agriculture.”  The list can be found at
There are few word pairs that strike fear into the hearts of parents like the words “science fair.”  It’s not that science fair projects are that difficult in and of themselves; the problem often comes in finding a project that is interesting and is within the scope and ability of the student and his family.  Nevertheless, teachers who want their students to understand how science works assign projects to kids, hoping that the next Nobel Laureate might be inspired to do great things as a result.
We have a great resource with some science fair project ideas ready to go. Entitled Energy Fair, the guide contains an example project, guidelines for completing a project from hypothesis to conclusion, and a set of worksheets designed to help your student choose a topic that is interesting to her. The guide ends with a page of questions about energy-related topics that might help guide your student into selecting a topic.
However, as shocking as it may seem, not all students are as excited as we are about energy. What can you do to help those kids find a science fair project about which they can be excited and engaged? The Library of Congress has a list of project resources related to life sciences. The list, referenced above, is a compilation of books, articles, project guides and bibliographies that you can use to help your student find a life science related topic for the science fair. There are other project lists, too, which can be found at
One resource listed is Everyday Science Experiments with Food, written by John Daniel Hartzog. It is a short book of ten food-related experiments, with step-by-step instructions, that kids can do on their own. The book is not a science fair project book on its own, but the experiments can be easily adapted into science fair projects by helping kids find a question related to them. For example, one experiment, Calcium Makes Strong Bones, has students soaking a chicken bone in vinegar to dissolve the calcium and leave the protein behind. The activity could be turned into a project by asking “What animal bones have the most calcium?” and then measuring the mass of various bones from foods, such as from beef, pork, chicken, and turkey, before and after soaking in vinegar.  Grow a Potato could be adapted by changing up the growing conditions, or asking how large the potato chunk must be to grow a good plant.
The book is one in a series called Science Surprises and is written for students in approximately grades 2-5. However, older students could find the activities fun, too. The other titles are Everyday Science Experiments in the Backyard, Everyday Science Experiments in the Car, Everyday Science Experiments in the Gym, Everyday Science Experiments in the Kitchen, and Everyday Science Experiments at the Playground.  At only twenty-four pages including index and Internet resources, Everyday Experiments with Food is a very manageable book that would make a great holiday gift or addition to a classroom library.  Library of Congress number TX355.H295

We're Talking Total Turkey

Thanksgiving triggers thoughts of tables towering with turkey and all the trimmings. The images seem to transport us to happy times, with family around, football on the TV, and the only time all year when overeating is not only tolerated, it’s expected. What are your Thanksgiving holiday plans this year? Are you hosting? Is it a pitch-in style meal, or are you doing all the cooking yourself?
Not to add more stress to your holiday plans, but have you thought about the total cost of your holiday meal? Yes, you need to purchase that big bird and all the delicious sides that go with it. But all that food will need to be transported, stored, cooked, and then stored again – and all of that requires energy. How much does the meal cost in total, from start to end? Have you thought about it? We have, of course (you knew where this was going, didn’t you?). 
We’re happy to announce that our holiday curriculum guide, Cost of a Thanksgiving Meal, has been updated, upgraded, uploaded, and is ready for your classroom or home use. The guide now includes ways to calculate the total cost, including purchase, preparation, storage, and cleanup, of your meal, whether you cook with gas or electric. Also included is a brief discussion of the transportation energy required to get your meal from farm to table. It can be a great discussion piece in your classroom or after dinner when everyone is in a carb coma and if you mention cranberry sauce one more time you’re going to have a roll thrown at you. The guide can be found here.
All of us at NEED hope you and your family, however large or small, have a relaxing, enjoyable, blessing-filled Thanksgiving holiday. Being able to serve all of you makes us feel very thankful, indeed.

Science Project Ideas for Energy Conservation and Recycling

by Dolly Santos
These days, it’s important to teach our children about the best ways to conserve energy, and one of the easiest ways to do that is by introducing them to science experiments. While some of these can be used for school, they can also be done at home, meaning you can benefit from this learning experience as well.
There are lots of ways to teach about energy, using wind, water, solar power, and heat. Here are some great experiments to try with your child.

Photo via Pixabay by WDnet
The Solar Panel Experiment
With this one, you can track the energy output of a solar panel by leaving it in a fixed spot in the sun. By not changing the panel’s position with the sun’s movement in the sky, you will be looking at the effects of the sun’s heat on the panel to see whether it remains constant or if it wanes. You’ll need:

  • Solar Panel

  • Multi-meter to measure Milli-Amps.

  • Graph paper and pencil

Set up the solar panel on a flat surface in an area outside that gets the most sunlight during the day. Connect the ammeter and set it to read in milliamps. Without moving the panel, record the meter readings every hour from 9AM to 3PM and graph the data. 

Recycling Project
Take a look through your garbage--or better yet, examine things before you throw them away--to see if they can be reused, such as milk cartons or jugs, coffee containers, and matter that could be used for compost. Cardboard boxes can be broken down and used for project display materials; in fact, try to make the entire project out of recycled materials. Containers can be cut and painted to be used as vases, pencil cups, or kitchen containers, while perishable waste like banana peels can be thrown into compost for a garden. The best part of this experiment is that it costs very little--just enough for your supplies, such as paint, glue, glitter, and scissors--and can be done with just about any age group.
This experiment requires a dirty mirror or window, a bottle of store-bought cleaner, and a bottle of vinegar/water solution. With the store-bought cleaner, clean half of the mirror or window for one minute; let dry. Finish the surface with the vinegar solution for the same amount of time and let dry, then compare the results. Is a store-bought chemical any better than plain old vinegar and water? This experiment will show what we can do with natural products rather than relying on expensive--and potentially damaging--chemicals.
Pools and Water Power
Scientists have been watching certain fish and how they use changes in the water to conserve their energy while swimming. You can apply a similar principle to an experiment in a paddling pool in your own backyard, using a water hose, rocks, and a wind-up bath toy. Place the rocks in a straight line down the center of the pool with space between them and turn the hose on full blast underwater, recreating conditions similar to the spinning eddies that form in a lake or creek around stationary rocks. Wind up the toy and set it loose, recording the movements it makes as the force of the hose creates changes in the water. Move the rocks around and record any changes.

Dolly Santos enjoys writing about a variety of subjects based on diligent fact-checking.

We are always delighted when someone wants to write a blog for us that is relevant to energy education, teachers, and their students! Thank you, Dolores Santos, for preparing the above article about some science projects that can be done at home to reinforce the concepts of energy use and conservation as well as recycling.
We wanted to add to what she had to say by highlighting some things already in NEED curriculum units that you can do right now with what is already in your home, or with very little additional equipment needed!
Science Fair Fun – NEED has a host of science fair-ready experiments for your students to check out and begin very quickly.  Head to to get started!
Facts of Light – In our energy efficiency and conservation curriculum guides, we provide a worksheet to guide students through calculating the entire life cycle cost of various styles of lightbulbs. Students first standardize to 25,000 hours of light, which is the life span of an average LED bulb, and then calculate the number of bulbs, their purchase price, and the electricity cost of old-style incandescent, halogen incandescent, CFL, and LED bulbs for those 25,000 hours of light. Very enLIGHTening!
The activity is on our Monitoring and Mentoring Student Guide, pages 31-32, and can be downloaded by clicking here
Plug Loads – If your kids need practice using spreadsheets, this is a great activity that will help them learn to use the software, as well as teach them about how much energy common machines use. Students can read the power rating right off each of the devices, or if you have one available, can use a Kill-a-Watt meter to measure the actual consumption while the device is running. We have a spreadsheet ready to be downloaded with formulas and everything!
The activity includes a discussion about phantom loads, too. The curriculum unit is located here
And the spreadsheet is here
Museum of Solid Waste and Energy and Talking Trash – Let’s face it, we live in a throw-away culture. Phone starts acting up, we replace it. Dishwasher not running right? Buy a new one. And don’t even start with disposable plates, cups, flatware, … the list goes on. How much energy could we save if we really understood what is involved in taking care of all this garbage? 
These two curriculum units are designed to help students get a firm grasp on all the energy consumed, not to mention resources and landfill space, when we so easily throw things away without a second thought.  The activities within are a little more involved but can be a fun way for your kids to learn, and can make a useful, informative community project that can be displayed in a library, shopping center, or another public place. 
Museum of Solid Waste and Energy is designed for middle and high school students
Talking Trash is geared toward elementary-age kids
Renewable Energy Fun – Want to learn a little about renewable energy? How about building a model wind turbine with our Wind Can Do Work activity? Using paper, straws, pins, tape, and a cup, students learn that wind can truly do useful work!
Experimenting with UV beads and Nature Print paper can help young students understand how solar energy can cause things to change – and result in a great craft project. 
The Wind Can Do Work activity is available on page 19 of Energy from the Wind Teacher Guide and page 22 of Energy from the Wind Student Guide. You’ll need both pages to complete the activity. 
You can obtain a set of solar energy consumables from our online store
7 Wind Science Experiments for Kids to Learn Wind Power | iGameMom. (2016). Retrieved

November 02, 2016, from

Angle of Sun on a Panel. (n.d.). Retrieved November 02, 2016, from

McElrone, A. B. (2013, January 8). Reusing Your Trash. Retrieved from

Library of Congress Blog Series, Oct 2016, Girls & Science Education

Getting kids interested in science can be challenging. The Library of Congress has many online resources available to K-12 educators and their students including lesson plans, reading lists, and more that each relate to a specific topic in science. You can find these resources by visiting
This month we are featuring the list entitled, “Girls & Science Education:  How to Engage Girls in Science”.  As our economy becomes more technology-oriented, it is increasingly important to get people of all genders, races, and backgrounds involved in STEM-related careers. Yet for some reason, by high school fewer girls than boys are interested in a career in science, engineering, or applied science career. How can we bridge this gender gap? The resources on this list, available at, provide some direction.
The list is not just a book list, but provides online resources for teachers, parents, researchers, and young women. The list is extensive – 8 pages long! – so we suggest you take a look for yourself to find resources that best fit your own situation.
The first resource we are highlighting is The Ultimate GIRLS’ Guide to Science, written by Beth Caldwell Hoyt and Erica Ritter. The introduction begins with “Science is a girl thing.” Broken into chapters devoted to a specific branch of science or applied science, the book is conversational in tone and doesn’t once mention being pretty, popular, or liked by peers. Parents of girls will agree this is a welcome change in the way society communicates to our daughters. Each chapter has a mini-quiz that helps students determine if the particular branch of science is suited to her interests, a description of the discipline, and profiles of women whose careers are built around that discipline. This is an excellent resource that could and probably should be present in all science classroom and school libraries, as well as a welcome addition to the home libraries of families with girls. Published by Beyond Words Publishing, 128 pages, Library of Congress call #Q130.K37
The second resource we want to bring to you is from the Institute of Education Sciences at the National Center for Education Research. The IES Practice Guide is entitled Encouraging Girls in Math and Science and describes research into the reasons fewer women pursue careers in math and science than men. The publication also lays out 5 recommendations that educators and parents alike can apply to encourage more girls to major in STEM-related programs after high school and beyond. We will be honest with you – the reading can be a tad dry with its cited studies, charts, graphs, and research-based data. However, we also know that you as parents and teachers care about this topic and that wading through a technical document is not going to stop you from doing what is good for your students. The guide is about 40 pages long (more if you include the pages of citations at the end), and the first ten detail studies and results of those studies. The majority of the booklet is devoted to the recommendations, and tips for implementing them. Each recommendation is also backed up with potential roadblocks to implementation and solutions to overcome them. It’s definitely a worthwhile read for anyone who teaches girls and wants to encourage more of them into STEM fields. Encouraging girls in math and science. Diane F. Halpern and others, 47 pages. Library of Congress call number QA27.5.E53 The document is available in pdf format from a wide variety of sources; check with your local library or your school’s media specialist if you are having trouble finding it online.