Monday, March 13, 2017

What's the Matter?

The other day, we took our Matter unit pretest in Science class! I got an 80 on the test.

I know that 80s don't seem like a very high grade, but if you got an 80 on a pretest, that's actually super good. Getting an 80 on a pretest means that you already know 80% of what you're going to learn in the unit. That's really cool! It means that you already have a lot of prior knowledge!

We started exploring atoms, elements and compounds as well - we began to talk about how they're related and how they're different. I learned that atoms make up all matter. They're classified into elements, and they're counted as similar when they have the same atomic number. Compounds are substances made of two or more elements.

^The makeup of a glucose molecule^

^ The diagram of an oxygen atom^

Mr. Ferriter also taught us that the atoms in solids are packed tightly together and vibrate. The atoms in liquids slide past each other and are less dense. Finally, the atoms in gases move unpredictably and quickly through the air.

I wonder if atoms also affect the way substances look. I know they affect the way that compounds feel because they'll be either solids, liquids or gases. But do the atoms affect their color or texture as well?

To answer my question, I'm going to pay special attention to these properties during this unit.

Friday, March 3, 2017

Mental Pathways

I was reading about a panda that was about to be brought back to China, and I knew what her Chinese name meant. This got me wondering about languages and mental pathways.

I've heard that the things that we take as granted, easy to do, are like pathways carved into your mind. Now, you can just hop onto your bike and take off, but do you remember how hard it was when you first tried to ride your bike? Wasn't it super hard? You had to focus on balance, pedaling and steering all at once, and now, you don't even need to think about it!

When you do a math problem, you automatically know what to do to add, subtract, multiply and divide without having to think hard about it. How do you remember that so easily?

Same goes for speaking. You don't need to think to remember the word you want to say; the language is just imprinted in your brain. It could be any language, too; English, Chinese, German, French, Spanish. I've also noticed that the older you get, the harder it is to learn new skills like speaking a new language.

How do our minds remember how to do things? My grandfather has brain cancer, and he can't move his right side. I'm wondering if that's because the cancer affects his memory or just paralyzes that side of the brain. Along those lines, how do diseases like Alzheimer's make your memory malfunction and forget? How does memory work?

Thursday, March 2, 2017

The Berlin Wall

We are currently working on a project in Language Arts in which we read a historical fiction book and try to persuade others that our book should be awarded the Salem Middle School Award for Historical Fiction. The book that I am reading is A Night Divided by Jennifer A. Nielsen.

This book takes place in Germany. Specifically, the day is Sunday, August 13, 1961, and we are located in East Berlin. The Berlin Wall has just gone up.

The Berlin Wall divided Berlin into the East and West. People lost their jobs. Easterners could not cross into the west. People were so desperate to go into the west for freedom that they crashed their cars through the Death Strip, which was part of the wall. Other ways people escaped were swimming through canals and digging tunnels under the bridge.

These ways of escaping were life-threatening. So if they chose to escape this way, they'd live free or die. This means that freedom and rights must mean a lot to people.

Would you rather live a life that you don't like, or die?