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  #1  
Old 04-30-2011, 12:38 PM
Ruffian Ruffian is offline
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I'm teaching Grossology! Activity/topic ideas?

This summer, this sixth grade math and science teacher will be teaching a two week course called "Grossology" to incoming third and fourth graders (8 and 9 year olds) at a local private school. I've been given more or less free rein--the idea is make it fun, make it exciting, and make the kids come home talking about how fun science is.

I'm already planning activities--taking apart owl pellets immediately came to mind, as did "gack" (a minilesson on polymers) and bringing in one of my pet snakes for study. The science I typically teach is Earth science, which is a bit lacking in the gross department (although a similated oil spill I do every year is always fun and messy), so I'm looking for ideas. I have instructions on how to pin and preserve insect specimens...that could be interesting (and a bit gross).

I have about $27 per student (multiplied by about 15-20 students) to spend on materials. I aim to buy the kid-friendly book Grossology, and now, I'm here asking my Doper buddies what other topics would be sufficiently fun, gross, and exciting for kiddos--and the teacher.

Whatcha got?

Last edited by Ruffian; 04-30-2011 at 12:40 PM..
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  #2  
Old 04-30-2011, 12:46 PM
QuarkChild QuarkChild is offline
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I don't know if this counts as "gross" or not, but does smell bad: If you can find a high-voltage supply (140 Volts minimum), you can hook it up to a pickle (the large, whole kind) and make the pickle glow in the dark. Kids love it. It smells like burning hair so is best done in a well-ventilated area. If you have a college physics department nearby, they should have the right kind of power supply.

The owl pellets sounds like a great idea. Maybe you could also talk about how rabbits eat their pellets. I bet that would gross them out.

In the "messy but not necessarily gross" department, there's the paper mache - baking soda volcano.

The chemistry club at my college does some kind of "make your own goo" thing with elementary school kids, but I don't know the recipe for it.

Sorry, I'm probably not being very helpful here.
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Old 04-30-2011, 12:52 PM
mnemosyne mnemosyne is offline
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Originally Posted by QuarkChild View Post
The chemistry club at my college does some kind of "make your own goo" thing with elementary school kids, but I don't know the recipe for it.
Either the standard non-Newtonian fluid cornstarch+water mixture which is nice and slimy but kind of messy or the much more fun "Silly Putty" Borax and Elmer's white glue mixture. Kids love playing with both of them.

I'm not familiar with it, but that second website I linked to might be a good resource.
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  #4  
Old 04-30-2011, 12:58 PM
Colibri Colibri is offline
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Identification of animals by their scat would be plenty gross, although you probably want to stick mainly to photos.
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  #5  
Old 04-30-2011, 01:39 PM
twickster twickster is offline
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Originally Posted by Colibri View Post
Identification of animals by their scat would be plenty gross, although you probably want to stick mainly to photos.
Paging Gary "Wombat" Robson!
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  #6  
Old 04-30-2011, 01:40 PM
twickster twickster is offline
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Is blood inherently gross? You could test for blood types.
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  #7  
Old 04-30-2011, 02:41 PM
Colibri Colibri is offline
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You might also tell them about eyelash mites.
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  #8  
Old 04-30-2011, 03:47 PM
Ogre Ogre is offline
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Nothing a kid is likely to find grosser than a nice, smelly dissection.
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  #9  
Old 04-30-2011, 06:04 PM
Zsofia Zsofia is online now
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My nephew wanted to make bread from scratch for his dinner last week, so I ended up explaining how we enslave little yeasts to eat sugars and poop bubbles for us. Evidently this is VERY gross and also cool.
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  #10  
Old 04-30-2011, 07:16 PM
horsetech horsetech is offline
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Originally Posted by twickster View Post
Is blood inherently gross? You could test for blood types.
Do they still do that in school with all the concern about HIV/hepatitis/etc.?

You could ask local veterinarians if they have any parasites or tumors that they'd be willing to loan you. They're a twisted lot and often have a clinic collection.

Colibri, I like the comment at the bottom of the article - "By far the easiest pets I have ever had."
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  #11  
Old 04-30-2011, 07:23 PM
Colibri Colibri is offline
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You could get Petri dishes with agar medium and culture bacteria you collect on swabs from items around the school.

As it turns out, doorknobs have a lot more bacteria than toilet seats.

Last edited by Colibri; 04-30-2011 at 07:24 PM..
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  #12  
Old 04-30-2011, 07:28 PM
Sierra Indigo Sierra Indigo is offline
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You could replicate the Mythbusters "Double Dip" episode, with kids double-dipping a chip into some salsa or dip, vs getting a great big mouthful and splutting it back into the bowl (single-serve bowls, individual agar plates)

Extra bonus, kids get to have some noms at school.
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  #13  
Old 04-30-2011, 08:04 PM
ShelliBean ShelliBean is offline
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A simple discussion lesson on what makes farts smell like they do would fit the budget and would, ahem, engross the kiddos. Really, anything ass related - smell of farts and poop, how the intestine digests at different stages, anything. Why armpits smell is a good topic too. Odors are interesting. Hell, just today my friend and I discussed which smelled worse: a GI bleed or a small bowel obstruction as we shared chips and salsa.

We settled on an obstruction or other surgical blood in a fairly new ostomy, as it combined some if the best of both worlds.
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  #14  
Old 04-30-2011, 10:30 PM
twickster twickster is offline
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Originally Posted by horsetech View Post
Do they still do that in school with all the concern about HIV/hepatitis/etc.?
Hm, didn't think of that, probably not.
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  #15  
Old 05-01-2011, 12:40 AM
Boyo Jim Boyo Jim is offline
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One word, Benjamin.

Slime.
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  #16  
Old 05-01-2011, 08:13 AM
Napier Napier is offline
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How about comparing aerobic and anaerobic bacteria. Which smell worse? What determines which kind will predominate? How can you tell them apart?

Or, how about chemicals that make things smell either good or bad, depending on the context and what you're expecting? For example, butyric acid helps make parmesan cheese smell good, but helps make vomit smell bad - how we interpret its contribution to overall odor depends on what we already think about the situation.

What about the many uses of poop? Sure, it's fertilizer. But aren't there expensive coffees made from coffee beens that have been eaten and excreted by, I dunno, a civet cat or something? Don't people cook over dung fires in some places? IIRC, isn't latakia pipe tobacco aged over dung smoke?
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  #17  
Old 05-01-2011, 08:21 AM
Ferret Herder Ferret Herder is offline
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Originally Posted by Napier View Post
What about the many uses of poop? Sure, it's fertilizer. But aren't there expensive coffees made from coffee beens that have been eaten and excreted by, I dunno, a civet cat or something? Don't people cook over dung fires in some places? IIRC, isn't latakia pipe tobacco aged over dung smoke?
The coffee in question is called "kopi luwak." You could use this as a discussion for certain seeds that don't germinate well unless they've been through an animal's intestines - usually it seems to be a fruit-eating bird that poops out the seeds, providing it with a little fertilizer as well as helping break down the outer seed coat.

Maybe something about using mud as building material? Mud huts, bricks from mud and straw?
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  #18  
Old 05-01-2011, 08:43 AM
Antigen Antigen is offline
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Parasites are gross and freaky - how about some discussion of tapeworms and their friends?

Maybe composting? What to compost, how to do it, how and why it works? It's basically a pile of garbage (gross) that ends up being great for your garden.
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  #19  
Old 05-01-2011, 12:27 PM
irishgirl irishgirl is offline
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Dissect a cow or sheep heart.

Get some Locusts- those things are always mating or eating each other. Dissection optional.

Discuss parasitic wasps.

See if you can get any videos of animals giving birth.

Mentos and Diet coke.

There is an experiment about lactose intolerance here that might be fun.
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  #20  
Old 05-02-2011, 09:40 AM
QuarkChild QuarkChild is offline
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I thought of some more ideas:

- Make vinegar. The whole "vinegar beastie" thing used to gross me out.

- Make a rot chamber. We did this in 5th grade--use a 2-liter bottle, cut off the top, fill with dirt and kitchen waste. Keep moist. Smells rather ripe after a while.

-Mold experiments. Have students wrap a piece of bread in foil and open it up 10 days later.
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  #21  
Old 05-02-2011, 10:38 AM
Minnie Luna Minnie Luna is offline
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Originally Posted by twickster View Post
Is blood inherently gross? You could test for blood types.
Not allowed to do that anymore. Anyone handling human blood has to take "Bloodborne Pathogens" course and have proper disposal of sharps and waste. They have "faux" blood type test kits that you can buy. It comes with various vials of fake blood of different blood types and all the reagents needed to test the fake blood for blood type.

Fisher Scientific has a Science Education section on its website. Use that for some ideas.

Fisher Science
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  #22  
Old 05-02-2011, 10:46 AM
CalMeacham CalMeacham is online now
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Quote:
Either the standard non-Newtonian fluid cornstarch+water mixture which is nice and slimy but kind of messy or the much more fun "Silly Putty" Borax and Elmer's white glue mixture. Kids love playing with both of them.

I'm not familiar with it, but that second website I linked to might be a good resource.
More deliciously slimy than either of these is Polyvinyl Alcohol and Borax. if you color it green, it makes a great "snot"


http://chem.lapeer.org/Chem1Docs/SlimeDemo.html

http://education.andrew.cmu.edu/gelf...hol_Slime.html

www.chymist.com/PVA%20Slime.pdf

And it goes in GLOW in the Dark:

www.chymist.com/Glowslime.pdf

Last edited by CalMeacham; 05-02-2011 at 10:47 AM..
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  #23  
Old 05-02-2011, 11:57 AM
Long Time First Time Long Time First Time is offline
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You will need:

1. One barn cat - preferrably a nice one. Let the kids pet it and love on it for a while before starting
2. One microscope, low field OK
3. Mineral oil
4. Q-tips
5. Microscope slides



Moisten Q-tips with oil, then swab the cat's ears VERY gently. Roll a little of the blackish goo onto the microscope slides

Look at the ear mites under the scope - they will be alive and will be crawling around. They will also look HUGE under the scope.

Remind the class that they'd just spent the last 20 minutes petting the cat. Kissing it on the head is even better.
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  #24  
Old 05-02-2011, 12:07 PM
mnemosyne mnemosyne is offline
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The primary ingredient in Elmer's glue (perhaps other than water) is polyvinyl acetate...it works just as well and is easier to obtain. I've made literally gallons of this stuff for chemistry fairs and my mom's classroom. Any white glue will do, really.

Last edited by mnemosyne; 05-02-2011 at 12:09 PM..
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  #25  
Old 05-02-2011, 12:20 PM
CalMeacham CalMeacham is online now
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The primary ingredient in Elmer's glue (perhaps other than water) is polyvinyl acetate...it works just as well and is easier to obtain. I've made literally gallons of this stuff for chemistry fairs and my mom's classroom. Any white glue will do, really.
If you mean "just as well as polyvinyl alcohol", I'll have to disagree. the textures are very different (and if you color elmer's glue slime green, it looks like green elmer's glue, not the vibrant transparent green of polyvinyl alcohol slime.


It's more trouble to get polyvinyl alcohol, but it's worth it.
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  #26  
Old 05-02-2011, 02:10 PM
mnemosyne mnemosyne is offline
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It's true that it won't be transparent, but I found that the texture can be varied quite a bit with different concentrations of the glue and Borax. I have done the polyvinyl alcohol version as well, and I don't remember it being that different, though I admit it's been several years (OMG probably a decade )

I made a ton of the glue+borax one 2 years ago for my mom's grade 1/2 classes (the whole year)...then for a grade 4 class whose teacher dropped by and got curious, leading to a grade 3 class asking for a turn, then I think the other 4th graders...that's about when I ran out of ingredients. The dixie cups were replaced by looseleaf folded into paper cones, and no one cared for stirring sticks anymore even if there were any left. Kids really love this stuff, because they love watching the transition from liquids to goo, as well as just playing with it.
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Old 05-02-2011, 02:34 PM
CalMeacham CalMeacham is online now
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It's true that it won't be transparent, but I found that the texture can be varied quite a bit with different concentrations of the glue and Borax.
In my experience the Glue and Borax came out more Silly Putty-like, while the PVA and Borax came out more like slime. But i haven't played extensively with concentrations.
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  #28  
Old 05-02-2011, 02:54 PM
TheTerribleTako TheTerribleTako is offline
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Originally Posted by Antigen View Post
Parasites are gross and freaky - how about some discussion of tapeworms and their friends?

Maybe composting? What to compost, how to do it, how and why it works? It's basically a pile of garbage (gross) that ends up being great for your garden.
I'll second composting, and add that worm composting would be great for kids. There's not a lot of digging involved and the kids can feed the worms with their fruit and veggie scraps. You can tie it in with worm anatomy, the cycle of life (the compost is worm poo), ecology, and even nutrition. The cost isn't very high, around $30 for a pound of worms + ten pounds of dirt and maybe $5-6 for a large plastic bin. There's a lot of lesson plans online.

I volunteered at an after school program for a while and did worm composting with the kids and it's a lot of fun. The kids are very grossed out by the worms but they love feeding them their leftover scraps. If you start the compost pile at the beginning of the summer, you might even be able to use it to start some seeds for the kids.
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  #29  
Old 05-02-2011, 09:28 PM
Ruffian Ruffian is offline
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Dopers, I'm in between wrangling Boy 1 and Boy 2's bath and bedtime, but wanted to at least say: You guys are awesome.
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  #30  
Old 05-03-2011, 03:48 PM
Max Torque Max Torque is offline
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I read one recently about "The Importance of Washing Your Hands".

Materials: potatoes, potato peeler, knife, Ziploc bags, soap and water.

Preparation: peel the potatoes, wash them well, cut them into chunks, and store them in a bowl filled with clean, room-temperature water.

For the next bit, you'll want to divide the kids into groups. One group will not wash their hands, one will rinse their hands briefly under cold water, and the other will wash vigorously with soap and warm water. When all the kids are ready, use a clean tool such as a fork to pick a potato chunk out of the water and place it in each kid's hands (careful not to contaminate it with your own hands). Have the kids handle them for a while and rub their hands all over them, then have them place each chunk in a separate Ziploc bag. Have them write their name, date, and whether their hands were unwashed, rinsed, or thoroughly washed on the bag. Hang the bags up somewhere that everyone can see.

Check on the contents every few days. You should see a lot more exciting growth on the potatoes that were handled with unwashed hands.
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  #31  
Old 05-03-2011, 04:25 PM
Napier Napier is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Long Time First Time View Post
You will need:

1. One barn cat - preferrably a nice one. Let the kids pet it and love on it for a while before starting
2. One microscope, low field OK
3. Mineral oil
4. Q-tips
5. Microscope slides



Moisten Q-tips with oil, then swab the cat's ears VERY gently. Roll a little of the blackish goo onto the microscope slides

Look at the ear mites under the scope - they will be alive and will be crawling around. They will also look HUGE under the scope.

Remind the class that they'd just spent the last 20 minutes petting the cat. Kissing it on the head is even better.


While working the cat over, stick your pinky in your ear and get your own earwax on it. Then show the pinky to the cat. The cat will probably eagerly lick your finger. Why would the cat evolve to like ear wax? Is it to encourage them to lick each other's ears to help combat the mites?

Just a thought, here - don't fool with the cat's ears and then stick your dirty finger in your own ear - that is, unless you want to experimentally determine what having ear mites feels like.
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  #32  
Old 05-03-2011, 04:34 PM
Ludy Ludy is offline
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Are there any ranches in the area? My grade 9 science teacher had a hobby farm and brought in a full sheep head to show off the brain. He also brought in the organs, blew into the lungs so we could see them expand, and squeezed out the intestines.

I was torn between being grossed out or awestruck.
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  #33  
Old 05-04-2011, 05:45 PM
Darryl Lict Darryl Lict is online now
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How about cooking with insects? You could grow some mealworms in class and then have a delicious snack.

These cayenne pepper mealworms sound pretty delicious.
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  #34  
Old 05-04-2011, 09:08 PM
Zsofia Zsofia is online now
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Originally Posted by Ludy View Post
Are there any ranches in the area? My grade 9 science teacher had a hobby farm and brought in a full sheep head to show off the brain. He also brought in the organs, blew into the lungs so we could see them expand, and squeezed out the intestines.

I was torn between being grossed out or awestruck.
Forget ranches - you can order all that if it isn't handy!
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  #35  
Old 05-05-2011, 06:57 AM
CalMeacham CalMeacham is online now
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How about cooking with insects? You could grow some mealworms in class and then have a delicious snack.
If you want to cook with insects, let me recommend this book (as I have in the insect-eating thread), Davif George Gordon's Eat-a-Bug Cookbook:

http://www.amazon.com/Eat-bug-Cookbo.../dp/0898159776

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Eat-A-Bug_Cookbook

http://www.davidgeorgegordon.com/


Heck, just reading from this book is arguably gross enough.

Last edited by CalMeacham; 05-05-2011 at 06:59 AM..
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  #36  
Old 05-05-2011, 09:13 AM
Skywatcher Skywatcher is offline
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Turn two liquids into string (i.e.: Nylon).
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  #37  
Old 05-05-2011, 09:22 AM
CalMeacham CalMeacham is online now
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Originally Posted by Lute Skywatcher View Post
I saw them do this at the Dupont pavilion at the 1964-65 World's Fair and was amazed -- they made it in a martini glass. I wanted to do that. For years you couldn't find the "recipe", but lately I've seen it springing up in various places.



It looks fun, but I wouldn't let kids do it -- they'd have to watch. Whereas you can actually eat many of the "goop" and "slime" recipes above.
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