Gizmo of the Week: Senses
The sights, sounds, and smells of spring—courtesy of your senses!
Explore how our senses help us experience the world around us. Use each of the five senses to see the different ways they detect stimuli and convert them into nerve impulses in the brain.
Achoo! In many parts of the country, April is prime hay fever season. Hay fever is caused when our immune system mistakes pollen for a hostile organism and goes into overdrive. Hay fever can affect many of our sense organs: runny nose, itchy mouth, watery eyes, and irritated skin.
You can learn more about these sense organs in the Senses Gizmo. In this Gizmo, you can explore how different stimuli (a tasty apple, a blasting speaker, etc.) can cause a reaction in a sense organ, resulting in a nerve impulse that is sent to the brain. Students will have the opportunity to explore each sensory organ in detail, down to the level of the cells that detect each stimulus. They can then trace the nerve signal to the part of the brain it is routed to.
Luckily there are good medications to control the symptoms of hay fever. Hopefully hay fever won’t prevent you from smelling the flowers, tasting yummy food, and enjoying all of the sounds, scents, and other sensations of spring!
Gizmo of the Week: Cannonball Clowns (Number Line Estimation)
Clowns become human cannonballs!
Launch clowns from a circus cannon to a given target to learn how to estimate distances. Pitch those pranksters across a number line, the Big Top, a football field, and more!
When the circus comes to town, you’re treated to a variety of shows that include trained animals, acrobats, and clowns. One amazing circus act is the “human cannonball.” The first flight took place in 1877 when young Rossa Matilda Richter (aka “Zazel”) was launched by a cannon invented by a well-known 19th-century showman and inventor, William Leonard Hunt (aka “The Great Farini”).
In the Cannonball Clowns (Number Line Estimation) Gizmo, students launch clowns from a circus cannon to develop strategies for estimating distances. In the Gizmo, students practice setting launch distances in an attempt to land the clown (safely) inside the given target. They first practice their launching skills on a number line, and then move on to The Big Top, Football Field, Golden Gate Bridge, and more!
For more fun, watch this video of the launching of a human cannonball.
Gizmo of the Week: Ecosystems STEM Case
Explore the ecosystem of Yellowstone National Park.
Play the role of a park ranger and restore balance to the ecosystem! Interact with wildlife and plants to discover the impact food chains, food webs, and human factors have in the health of an environment.
During the 1990s, one of the most dramatic environmental battles took place in Wyoming, where biologists fought to reintroduce wild wolves to Yellowstone National Park. First released in 1995, the wolves brought a cascade of changes to the ecosystems in the park. By preventing overgrazing by elk, the wolves have benefitted many other species, from willow and aspen trees to beavers, eagles, lynx, and grizzly bears.
Students can explore these interrelated effects using the Ecosystems STEM Case. In this case, students play the role of park rangers in Yellowstone. Along the way, students learn about ecosystems, food webs, producers, consumers, and keystone species. They then run simulations in the park, adjusting the populations of different species to see how each change affects the ecosystem. The case is available in elementary, middle school, high school, and AP versions.
In December 2021, the wolf population in Yellowstone was 95. As of 2015, there were about 500 wolves in the greater region. While biologists agree that wolf introduction has been a big success inside the park, wolves that wander outside the park boundaries can be hunted and their presence is still very controversial. Read more about the impacts of wolves on the Yellowstone ecosystem.
Gizmo of the Week: 3D and Orthographic Views
Visualize and construct 3D shapes using only two dimensions.
Use your spatial reasoning skills to construct a 3D object based on orthographic projections of two-dimensional images.
An orthographic projection is a two-dimensional image of a three-dimensional object that shows each side of the object without perspective. The two-dimensional images of the object are shown from every angle and are drawn to scale. For example, the three orthographic projections on the left show the top, front, and right views of the 3D object on the right. Orthographic projections are used for maps, blueprints of buildings, and other technical drawings.
Students can use the 3D and Orthographic Views Gizmo to construct a 3D object based on three orthographic projections. In the Gizmo, students are challenged to use their spatial reasoning skills to construct each object. As they progress from the easiest orthographic projections to more complex views, they will develop skills in visualizing the related three-dimensional shapes. These skills can then be applied in many situations, from reading blueprints to interpreting product specs.