7 Ways to Reduce Anxiety in Science Class

Picture of writing on a desk

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Have you ever noticed your palms getting a little sweaty when it is time to go to science class? Your body is letting you know that you are nervous. Your cortisol levels spike and your body and mind are ready to fight, flee or freeze. Not the perfect time to go into your science class and be prepared to learn. If this happens to you, you’re not the only one. I’m sure that almost half of the students in your science class experienced the exact same thing when they headed into class (it doesn’t matter whether your peers are male or female). It is very common for students to have anxiety about school but especially about science class. Here are 7 ways to reduce anxiety for science class and allow your brain to actually understand the science concepts being taught. No more feeling behind or lost.

 

  1. Become a pro at deep breathing.

Practice breathing in deeply for 4 counts and slowly releasing that breath for 8 counts then do it again with 7 counts in and 11 counts out. Get in the habit of doing this as you enter the classroom and then again as the teacher is presenting a difficult problem.

 

  1. Understand what mindfulness is and practice it in class and on a daily basis.

Mindfulness is paying attention to the present moment with a non-judgmental attitude. This takes practice. I have a tendency to worry about future problems which can spiral out of control quickly, leaving me feeling worthless and out of control which leads to anxiety and depression. Wow, that was a little depressing to tell about, haha. I write that because it has become so powerful in my life to practice mindfulness. As soon as I begin to focus on what I am doing right now, in a non-judgmental way, my breathing calms and I feel a clarity of mind that helps me do anything.

 

  1. Take care of you.

Get enough sleep, water, exercise and healthy food before you actually have to go to class. You would never start a marathon or even a 5K if you hadn’t had a good meal and plenty of water. Why would you think going to class doesn’t require the same care for your body? If you don’t take care of yourself there is no way you can do difficult things including learning. Running a marathon and learning science don’t require the same skills but they do require some of the same self care.

You need at least 8 hours of sleep (kids and teens need more).

You should be trying to drink close to a gallon of water a day (this is for teens and adults. Kids need plenty of water too. If they seem unusually tired, kids might just need more water).

You should try to exercise for 10-30 minutes a day and you should be eating food that is actually healthy for you. I always think that if it has good natural color then it is good for me. For example, spinach and broccoli are a nice dark green = healthy. Blueberries and strawberries are deep colors = healthy. Carrots and oranges are a nice orange color = healthy. Try some almonds or cashews, greek yogurt or black beans. Just take care of yourself before class so that you can keep cool in class.

 

  1. Practice progressive muscle relaxation techniques while sitting in your desk.

Many times your body will tense up when anxious. Visualization and focus can help relax those muscles so that you can cope and move on with your learning and life. Be sure to practice before you get to class so that you can do it while in class. I like to begin with my face and move to my neck and shoulders. I visualize the muscles that make up that area of my body and I think of sending a brain signal to that area to tell the muscles to lengthen and release their tension. Then I visualize the muscles getting longer and laying flatter against my bones. Any knots or hard places need extra time and focus.   I can feel myself relax and be more at ease.

 

  1. Get organized and take notes.

If you don’t write it down then your brain has to just try and recall it. The more abstract something is the more difficult it is to recall and science fits well into that abstract category. Don’t do that to your brain; you are just stressing it out. Write stuff down and keep it organized.

Check out my free note-taking email course to get you started on taking better notes. This course helps you identify how you learn best and then incorporate that into your note-taking style. You will be taking better notes in less than a week.

 

  1. Save a portion of your notebook to write down your worries before class starts and then doodle in the margins during class.

Writing out your worries and problems actually helps to cope with them thereby reducing your anxiety. Be sure to get to class a little early, 3 minutes is all you need, so that you can write down what you are worried about. Also, box out an area in your notebook for the day where you can make simple doodles when you start to feel that anxiety return. Small movements actually help your brain to cope and “reset” in a way that lets you overcome that bout of anxiety and get back to work.

 

  1. After class take a break. 

Walk and talk or do a word/mind puzzle, go for a jog or shoot some hoops. Reward yourself for making it through class and unwind for a minute.

 

Using these tips will combat the anxiety you have towards science class and will allow you to perform at your best. Don’t look at these tips as some sort of cure-all that will lead to you never having anxiety. Completely removing anxiety from our lives isn’t good for us and shouldn’t be our goal. What we want to do is name it and tame it. Name it by knowing that you are feeling anxiety and how it actually feels to you and then tame it by using these tips so that you can continue on with science class and really learn the concepts and excel in your classwork.

I hope these tips are useful to you and I would love to hear how you are doing. Comment below on what your go-to anxiety reducer is. And don’t forget to follow me on facebook and pinterest.

7 Ways to Reduce Anxiety in Science Class

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Trampoline vs. Lightning – What You Should Know About Static Electricity

Kid on a Trampoline with hair standing up due to static electricity

What a cute kid!

What is happening to his hair?

lightning

Little baby hair is so much better at showing static buildup than adult hair.  My little guy loves crawling on the trampoline (I think it is much softer on his little chubby knees), which results in this fantastic do.  Of course I have to use this adorable moment to expand on science.  Electrons are AMAZING! They are so versatile; making this little up-do relate completely to this dangerous bolt of lightning.

 

Brandon Morgan

Atoms make up everything

Before we get started, lets do a quick review of atomic structure.  Atoms are the building blocks of everything.  (Yes, atoms are made of smaller parts but those smaller parts don’t act like the matter we are used to dealing with so it just isn’t worth worrying over these smaller parts).

You can't trust an Atom, they make up everything

They contain a basic structure that scientists have been working to discover and describe since Aristotle.  They contain larger particles known as protons and neutrons bound tightly together in the center around which fly the much smaller electrons.  The protons are positively charged and attract the negatively charged electrons.  The electrons don’t fly into the nucleus and stick to the protons due to their velocity.  They are just going too fast.

 

Now that we recall the anatomy of an atom, let’s talk about static electricity and hair standing-on-end.

 

Someone did a ton of measuring and came up with a list of materials ordered in a way that shows which material is more conductive (or a better insulator.  It depends on how you look at the list.)

Are you asking yourself, “What does this have to do with static hair?”

Electron affinity is how good an atom is at stealing electrons from another atom

Well let me tell you…

It all has to do with an imbalance of electrons on different materials, with different amounts of conductivity.

Isn’t it amazing how we can affect something as small as an atom?

Static on the trampoline

When my little boy rubs his knees across the trampoline he pushes hard enough (which isn’t that hard right? cuz he isn’t even one-year old) that it causes the atoms to squish into each other and lose electrons.  The material that is a better conductor will lose the electrons to the material that is not as good of a conductor (also known as an insulator).

Triboelectric series from soft-matter.seas.harvard.edu

Image Reference:[ http://www.esdsystems.com/whitepapers/wp_tribocharging.html] via soft-matter.seas.harvard.edu

This is the point at which the list of conductive materials comes in handy.  Most trampoline mats are made of some form of polypropylene.  On these lists, known as a triboelectric series, polypropylene is found as one of the best
insulating materials (not the best, but close. and therefore isn’t good at conducting electrons at all). This means that the trampoline mat will steal electrons from my son’s clothing and even skin.  (Did I hear a big gasp? Do you feel alarmed? Well you shouldn’t.  It will all work out.  You’ll see)

This leaves my son positively charged and the mat negatively charged.valence shell is the location of the electrons that are held most loosely by the protons

Static charge

Hopefully you remember that opposites attract and therefore similar charges repel.  Well, each individual hair on his head is now positively charged and will repel all of the other hairs.  Standing on end like that allows the hairs to be as far apart as possible.

Now the really cool part…

Lightning

This is similar to what happens to create lightning.  Before lightning can actually happen, there has to be some electron stealing.  Just like the trampoline mat stole electrons from my boy, water droplets in clouds steal electrons from each other.  This causes the lower part of a storm cloud to become concentrated with negative charge. The top of the storm cloud is positively charged.  Remember, opposites attract and similar charges repel.  The bottom of the cloud becomes so negatively charged that it actually repels the electrons in the ground below it.  The ground then becomes positively charged.

AMAZING! Electrons are tiny, beyond microscopic and they do sooooo. much. work.

Balancing out electrons

Like all of us, electrons need balance in their lives.  For electrons, that balance usually comes when the ground helps out.  When my son gets off the trampoline, the electrons can balance themselves out.

Think of the earth as an infinite supply of electrons; always accepting or delivering electrons where they need to go.

When the storm cloud builds up enough charge, the electrons can actually travel through the air to make a connection with the ground (sometimes this is THROUGH buildings or trees etc.) and balance out the charges.

Electrons, not Protons

Electrons are the ones moving, not the protons.  Lack of electrons leaves more protons hanging around which results in an overall positive charge.  It is NOT a result of more protons showing up to the party.

Everything will always work out

Building up charge on a trampoline or by scuffing along a carpet or during a thunderstorm will always end up balancing itself out. Once a connection with the ground is made, the electrons will move to where they need to be to even out the charges. Hopefully with no harm done. (Really you only need to worry about the lightning. Trampolines just aren’t going to build up enough charge to harm you.) If you do build up enough charge on a trampoline and then touch the metal frame, you will get quite a shock as electrons balance themselves out, and sometimes that can hurt.

 

This post only scratches the surface of what electrons are capable of.

Leave a comment below and start a discussion of your opinion of electrons.  Below are a few links for additional reading.

Information on Triboelectric Series

Information on Lightning

 

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trampoline vs. lightning

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Anatomy of an Alloy

Not a brass farthing. I hope this post is worth more than a brass farthing. Oh, Audrey Hepburn, always playing the most loveable roles. (Are you wondering if this is a science blog or not? Haha, me to.) I watched this video from MEL science and it made me think of the scene in My Fair Lady when Eliza tells her father “Not a brass farthing”. Just another day in the life of Me; making connections that aren’t really there.

So, why do you need this post? Well, because you are in desperate need of an understanding of alloys since you use them in your everyday life…and because they are really cool, especially shape memory alloys. Don’t you agree?

Well, let’s get started…..

Alloys are different forms of a metal. Not a compound with that metal in it (i.e. rust is iron (III) oxide and it is definitely not an alloy). Alloys are a mixture of one metal and at least one other element. This mixture is so well mixed that the atoms of “the other element(s)” fit themselves into the crystal structure of the metal (that takes a lot of stirring but mostly heat).  Did you know that metals are just crystals? Check out my growing crystals post here.

There are two basic categories of alloys, interstitial and substitutional. Alloys are considered interstitial if the element being mixed in occupies empty space in the crystal lattice. Substitutional alloys are mixtures in which the metal and “other element(s)” are similar in atomic size and “the other element(s)” replaces metal atoms in the crystal lattice.



Alloys have been used for centuries, nay millennia. Steel was developed in the iron age (hmm, imagine that). Since it seems to have been around the longest, we can start there.

 

Iron vs. Steel

So, is steel, iron? or is iron, steel? Iron and steel are like multiple personalities of the same person. Steel is made when Carbon is forced into the crystal structure of iron. (I think steel is iron)

The individual iron atoms arrange themselves into a body-centered cubic (BCC) structure. (Just think of a cube and individual iron atoms at each corner and one more in the very center of that cube (or body) all bonded together.)

You know you want to try this: Use some soft candy and toothpicks to create a visual for yourself.

When that spatial pattern repeats, then you get a nice sample of pure iron. If you heat up this pure iron to around 1000 degrees F those iron atoms start to move their structure and create a face-centered cubic crystal that is more space efficient (the atoms are packed in pretty much as close as they can get.) That means instead of an atom in the middle of the cube there are additional atoms on each of the faces of the cube (Thankfully, for once in science this naming system makes obvious sense).

Even though this is a more compact structure there are actually more spaces available to squeeze in some carbon atoms, which will change the nature of that sample of pure iron we started with.

Body centered cubic modelface centered cubic model

Can you guess in which category of alloy steel would fit?

Not a compound

I’m not talking about creating iron carbide, just steel. What is the difference you say? No electrons are involved in creating an alloy. Iron carbide is a compound that is created with an exchange of electrons. Steel can have iron carbide in it, but steel is just a solid mixture of carbon and Iron and some other elements and/or compounds.

Properties

Mixing things up in this way, allows for a change in the chemical and physical properties of metals without completely changing the identity of the substance. Thus, Iron and steel are two different “personalities” of the same substance. Pure iron is grey and soft and kinda ductile and malleable but not enough to really be useful. Whereas, steel is strong and quite malleable and can be used in all sorts of applications. (See? Multiple personalities.)

pssst….steel is an interstitial alloy.  Just in case you were wondering.

Nitinol

Another cubic crystal structure alloy is nitinol. Nitinol is composed of nearly equal parts nickel and titanium. The sizes of these atoms are similar and therefore create a substitutional alloy. It is a nickel-titanium alloy but it is a special one because it is known as a shape memory alloy.

When Nitinol is heated, its crystal structure moves about, similar to the process that iron undergoes when heated to create steel but now we are heating the alloy not the pure element. This heated crystal structure is its “happy state”. Once cooled, nitinol will look the same but you can bend and twist it however you want. When it is heated again to the right temperature it will “remember” its “happy crystal structure” which causes it to actually change shape on a large scale, not just an atomic one. AMAZING!

This is the part where people usually think, “That’s cool and all, but where am I ever going to see or use nitinol in real-life?” You know those eyeglasses that claim to be able to get smashed or twisted out of shape and then go right back to where they are supposed to be? Their frame is made up of nitinol! There are a bunch of other uses that are mostly medical, like stents, and I hope you don’t have to see nitinol in those applications. If you do find yourself in some kind of medical situation involving an alloy, perhaps it will be nitinol.

Brass

Now, back to the beginning. A brass farthing doesn’t exist. They were made of copper or bronze which explains a lot about this saying, but let’s get on to the chemistry of brass since that is why we are all here.

Brass is a substitutional alloy made of copper and zinc. Once again the atoms are similar in sizes. (if you don’t believe me, check the periodic table. Copper and Zinc are right next to each other which indicates that they are very similar in size)

Different amounts of zinc added to the copper will yield differing brasses.

This alloy is so common that you can actually try to make your own. YouTube has a bunch of videos on how to do it. Basically, all you need to do is coat a piece of copper with some zinc dust in a warm sodium hydroxide solution. Once it is coated, heat it up so that those zinc atoms can move into the copper crystal structure. Flinn Scientific suggests a safer version with zinc pellets and zinc chloride solution.  Here are a couple of videos that I like. It’s pretty cool and definitely worth trying if you are up for it.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bhus7L3cNrE

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=P_mj3xBAQxQ&t=149s

 

US pennies are actually zinc coated in copper. (You could cut one in half to find out) I wonder if we could use that zinc and copper already in the penny to create brass. Remember heat is the key. Also, if you change it to brass you can’t use it to buy anything (wait, could you use it to buy anything anyway? When was the last time you used a penny to buy something?)

 

So how do you feel?

Are there other alloys that you are familiar with? Do you need to go research what is in them? And whether they are substitutional or interstitial? Oh good. I thought that might be the result of this; a revelation of your subconscious need for more chemistry in your life.

 

What are you going to do now?

  • Leave a comment below about your preferred alloy.
  • Share this post on facebook, twitter, or pinterest.
  • Create your own crystal structures using candy or playdough and post the pics with a link to this post.

 

Disclaimer: I am not liable or responsible in any way for any of your actions or consequences thereof relating to this post. If you try any experiments, be sure to use safe lab practices and disposal techniques.

Info on the alloys nitinol, steel and brass.

6 Gift Ideas For Mother’s Day

Inspired by Science

Have you ever read The Berenstain Bears: We Love Our Dad?

(I know what you are thinking….I thought this was a Mother’s Day post.) At the end the bear cubs ask why there isn’t a day for them. My 4-year old is very perplexed by this question. I’m sure every Mom can relate to this, too. I’m sure kids need another special day (did you detect the sarcasm?) But what would we kids do without our moms? (or dads)

Nevertheless, Father’s Day and Mother’s Day are coming. Mother’s Day is first and if you are anything like me, you have put off planning for it until this week (and then find that you have no time to fit in any of the grand ideas that have been rattling around in your brain)

Why not surprise your mom (or Dad cuz all of these thoughts can be modified just a little for Dad) with a thoughtful gift as well as show her how smart you are and thus what a great mom she is by raising such a brilliant child.

I think the number one gift on mother’s day has to be some variation of flowers so why not start there.

Here are some thoughts to get you started…..

  1. Use your crystal growing skills and grow crystal flowers. You had better plan ahead on this one since it takes overnight to get really great crystals. If you are growing rock candy crystals then you had better start today because they take 4 or 5 days to really work.
  2. Create a thermal flower. The Thermal powered flower from Kiwi crate is awesome. I love their experiments and their thermal flower is perfect for mother’s day and you can do it on your own without ordering the crate.
  3. Light up flower circuit. The possibilities are endless with this. You will need a button battery, some wire, electrical tape (or something like
    light up flower card

    via LeftBrainCraftBrain

    it) and LED lights (if you only have mini Christmas tree lights you will just need to use a couple of button batteries instead of just one and they aren’t super bright but they will work). Create a circuit from the battery to the light and add your own finesse and art skills and you will end up with a fun flower that your mother is sure to love.

  4. Use your chromatography knowledge to create colorful coffee filter flowers. I like to use several coffee filters bunched together and attached to painted popsicle sticks but you should arrange them in a way your mom would enjoy.

    coffee filter flowers

    via rookie parenting
    science

  5. Use your crystal growing skills to create crystal geodes. Moms usually like gems so it might be fun to grow these “gems” and surprise your mom. I hear egg shells work great for this. Check out some of these links to get some ideas. Once again, plan ahead because they will need to sit overnight for the crystals to grow.
  6. A little acid/base science will help you make amazing Bath Bombs. Need I say more? Every mom needs some relaxation time because, let’s be honest, being a mom is the most amazingly stressful job ever. So, find something to occupy your own time and let your mom relax for a few minutes. Add a bath bomb to the mix and Mom will be in a much better mood. They are just “called” bath bombs but they don’t need to be used in the bathtub. A footsoak or handsoak are equally effective stress relievers. You do need an acid to accompany your baking soda. Most recipes use citric acid, which is what I would use, but it might be hard to find. Check the ingredients on things like Koolaid or sour candies. They just might have the citric acid you need. You could also try ascorbic acid, which is Vitamin C. The fizzing might not be as “fizzy” but it will still work. Be sure to pick some essential oils like lavender, rosemary or orange.

 

All of these gifts are based on standard science so they are perfect to show off how smart you are as well as show off what a great mom you have because she has such a smart kid.

Disclaimer: I assume no liability for any of your actions or consequences thereof.  When performing any kind of science experiment please use safe lab techniques.

Just Plain Crystals – Not Fancy Ones

Making crystals with my kids

was so fun that I had to write a short little post just about crystals (cuz my boys don’t listen when I start jabbering about the details).
I think my favorite crystal would have to be the one in the engagement ring from my husband. One of my facebook friends posted a pic with her new Swarovski crystal skechers (I admit that I was jealous). With those in mind, it might be a little anti-climactic that my crystals are just made of Epsom salt and borax. So it is my duty to spruce up these seemingly lame crystals so that everyone knows they are just as amazing as carbon in a tetrahedral crystalline structure (that’s diamond by the way. Like you didn’t know).

Let’s start with epsom salt

Epsom Crystal Structure
Epsom salt
orthorhombic crystal structure – kinda like long flat crystals. Oh wait, I can show you because I grew them and they are so great that you can see the orthorhombic shape. It isn’t a cube because the sides are all different lengths but you can see that it is like a long rectangular crystal that doesn’t have a pointy end like you think of with bedazzling crystals. Hmmm, I wish they had a name for this shape, oh wait, they do, it is orthorhombic, what a great name. Epsom salt is also known as Magnesium Sulfate Heptahydrate.

Now For Borax

Borax – sodium tetraborate. This name is a bit of a bore, haha, chemistry humor. They dig it out of the ground. (That is the same as with magnesium sulfate heptahydrate …aka epsom salt.) Have you ever read the side of the borax box? It tells you all about how they dig it out of the ground in Death Valley. (Now, That seems boring – or maybe just deathly hot. Oh dear, no more puns, please. Am I right?) It has a monoclinic prismatic structure. That basically means that it looks kinda like a prism. Check out the pic to get an idea of what monoclinic prismatic looks like. I found this website and I love it. They have really great explanations that aren’t full of jargon so you can actually learn something useful. I like their pics too.
Minerals.net

The cool thing about these crystals is that they are truly crystals. Right down to the individual molecular structure, they are the same shape. So if you broke down big crystals into little crystals they would just be smaller versions of the larger one. If I had a higher-powered microscope, then I would smash my crystals (with a hammer of course) that I grew just to see their mini forms under the microscope.

3 Types of bonds

There are lots of different chemicals out there but really only 3 ways that they can be formed. They share their electrons, give away their electrons or don’t really care where their electrons are or end up. Respectively, that is covalent bonding, ionic bonding and metallic bonding.  Chemicals with each of these types of bonds can form crystals. Diamonds are covalently bonded carbon atoms. Borax and Epsom salts are ionically bonded substances and any kind of metal that you can think of has a crystal structure (all metals are metallically bonded).  Check out my periodic table post to learn more about metals and nonmetals
I don’t know the bonding occurring in terrigen crystals but I’m thinking it is ionic (I think only marvel fans will recognize this reference)

How can you grow your own crystals?

There are about a million (I didn’t actually count them but I think I’m still close) posts on how to grow crystals. I think you could choose any of them and have success. I’m including my version here so you don’t have to go searching. Have fun! Remember to always use good lab techniques and safety when performing any experiment, including this one.

• Fill a microwave safe cup with hot tap water. Dump in your ionic substance of choice.(honestly, you can’t go wrong with borax or Epsom salts. The others can get a bit tricky.) Stir until you don’t think you can dissolve any more and then add a little more so there is some of your chemical sitting on the bottom of the cup.

• Stick it in the microwave and push the beverage button to allow your mix to warm. I used 2 beverage cycles but Pipe cleaner shape for growing crystalsthat much time in the microwave can make it really hot. So if you try that, be sure to use oven mitts and set our cup on a heat safe surface when you get it out of the microwave.

• Now that it is nice and hot, stir and add more of your chemical until no more will dissolve. You can tell because there will be a little on the bottom of the cup that won’t dissolve no matter how much you stir.

crystal growing apparatus pic
• Set your pipecleaner contraption (check out the pics for details) in and leave your cup in a safe place overnight.

• Voila! Crystals.

Comment below and let me know how your crystals turned out.

Disclaimer: I assume no responsibility or liability for any of your actions or the consequences thereof. You are on your own