We had a great week learning about the science of superheroes. We started out learning about how animals see the world and making a picture to compare what humans see to the vision of animals. Did you know that while dogs see less colors than we do, birds can see a greater range of colors including UV? That means birds and other pollinators like bees can see markings on flowers to lead them straight to the pollen. We also talked about how eye position might change your view on the world. Predators tend to have forward-facing eyes to zero in on their prey, while prey have eyes on the side of their head to get a better view of the world around them.
We moved on from vision to sorting animals into the fastest in the world. Although the cheetah is fast, there are a few birds that can fly faster and the swordfish family, including the marlin and the sailfish, are no slouch in the speed department. But for the fastest moving body part, there is a mantis shrimp with a punch that breaks the sound barrier, meaning it doesn’t have to physically touch something to stun or injure it. They have been known to break aquarium glass, but the punch is really designed to take out the shells of other crustaceans and mollusks.
We had some fun with some wall crawlers and tried to move like animals. We ended our first day making a home for Aquaman, an ocean in a bottle. We used blue liquid water color and water to create the initial ocean. Then we added a layer of vegetable oil. When we tilt it on its side, we can make waves. We added shells inside and out, then hot glued the lid in place.
We started a long-term project, growing “kryptonite” crystals on day two. For our crystals, we boiled water with epsom salts, adding more salt little by little as we stirred and boiled. This allowed the solution to become super-saturated with salt. We dipped string in the solution to “seed” the string, which encourages crystals to grow on the string first. Each student was given a cup to soak their string in and allowed to add some glow-in-the-dark powder paint to help the crystals get some glowing color as the color was absorbed by the string. After our crystals were set up, we moved on to test the elasticity of rubber bands by hanging weights from them and the bounce of various balls in honor of Elastigirl and Mr. Fantastic.
We used balloons and cardstock tubes to label bones and create a pair of arm muscles, seeing how the tricep and bicep would work together. Following up on that, we used straws and string to turn a cardstock hand drawing into a moving robot hand. We then tested our own strength and the malleability of various metals by attempting to bend several different types of metal including aluminum, tin, zinc, copper, and iron.
In honor of Storm, we learned a bit about the weather. We used a plasma ball to look at lightning and created static electricity with balloons. We used a tornado tube to create a vortex. And we talked about tools used to study the weather. With so many heroes that fly, we played a little with rockets and then went to work designing a vehicle for our heroes. Some students added to the activity by creating a headquarters for their heroes to work out of. And of course, what would those heroes be without a costume. Students made masks and capes and shared ideas about their hero’s name and powers.
We made some “radioactive slime” using some thermochromic powder to help our regular slime recipe change colors a bit. And we ended our hero week with some planting for those like Poison Ivy, Swamp Thing, and some mutants. We planted some peas in a bottle to watch them grow.