October 19, 2015 by libraryheather
Target Age Range: Grades 4-6
Program Length: 90 minutes
Play a game to understand and calculate the Orders of Magnitude, then use paper shapes to mimic structures on the nanoscale.
2 sets of Sizing Things Down cards (color, printed on card stock)
Paper (at least 1 sheet per participant)
Pencils (1 per participant)
Computer hooked up to a projector (sound is optional)
Pennies (as many as humanly possible! we collected 6 sets of 250–or 1,500 pennies)
Ribbon / yarn / string
6 12oz plastic cups (1 per group)
Single hole puncher
6 rolls of scotch tape (1 per group)
7×7″ origami paper (18 sheets per group at a bare minimum–preferably more in case they make mistakes)
-Print out 2 sets of Sizing Things Down cards in color on card stock. Shuffle each deck thoroughly and keep separate.
-Separate pennies into bowls for each group–250 pennies per bowl.
-Prepare 1 weight holder for each group, per the instructions on Science Buddies.
2. Explain what nanotechnology is, the nanoscale, carbon molecules at the nanoscale, uses of nanotechnology, and just how small a nanometer is: 5 minutes.
Optional: Show this video from RMIT University: How Does Nanotechnology Work?
3. Explain how the nanoscale relates to other sizes by explaining the Orders of Magnitude (what it is, how it’s written out, the scale itself, how it works, and how to calculate things using the scale–it’s also fun to show this interactive website!): ~5 minutes
4. Sizing Things Down group activity: 20 minutes (see Special Instructions and Procedures below)
5. Exploring Nanotechnology project: 50 minutes
6. Discuss everyone’s results: 5 minutes
Handouts: None (unless you want to make trial sheets, per the instructions for the Exploring Nanotechnology project on Science Buddies)
Special Instructions and Procedures:
There are multiple fantastic sources that can teach you the basics of nanotechnology. Explain That Stuff’s article on nanotechnology is a good general primer, as are these from MRSEC Education Group, and Nanooze.org. Science Buddies has an excellent breakdown of the nanoscale and the ways carbon is formed (which is the basis for their Exploring Nanotechnology project).
Insofar as explaining the Orders of Magnitude, we found the explanation on this Word document from NISE extremely helpful. You may also want to check out definitions from TechTarget.com, FSU.edu, Boundless.com, and Math is Fun.
We did explain multiplication (10x10x10) to understand the Orders of Magnitude, but in order to find the difference between orders on the scale, we simply wrote out a number line (e.g. -4 -3 -2 -1 0 +1 +2 +3) and had them count the places between the two orders of magnitude. So, if one object was 10(-3) and the other object was 10(1), we counted out 4 places between them. Then we looked at our chart (in the picture above) to see that 4 orders of magnitude means that the objects are 10,000x bigger/smaller than each other. See the picture below for an example.
Sizing Things Down activity:
We found this activity on the Nanoscale Informal Science Education Network (supported by the National Science Foundation) website. Instead of playing the game as outlined on NISE’s website, we partly modeled it after the Size and Scale activity on NNIN.org, adding a little of our own flair. We printed out two decks of cards, split the participants into 2 groups on different sides of the room, and gave the following instructions:
“Our first activity will be to help you practice the orders of magnitude. I have 2 decks of cards. On each card is an object, what the object can be seen with, and its order of magnitude. For instance, here is The Universe, it can be seen with a satellite in outer space, and its order of magnitude is +26. These have been shuffled randomly. We will split you into 2 groups, and your objective is to work as a team to arrange the cards according to their order of magnitude (from -15 to +26). Once you’ve done this, keep the cards on the floor, but choose 4 different pairs of cards, and tell us how many times bigger or smaller the objects in the pairs are. For instance, you might choose The Eiffel Tower and Australia—but you need to figure out how many times larger Australia is than the Eiffel Tower based on their Order of Magnitude numbers. Does that make sense? The first team to accurately write all 5 results up on the board first wins!”
Believe it or not, our kids were totally into this activity. Prepare yourself for the eventuality of them wanting to calculate the orders of magnitude between the biggest and smallest cards. When that happens, you can find the name on Wikipedia (or, if you can’t bear using Wikipedia in a library, you can try this site from the University of North Carolina instead).
We split the participants into 6 groups of 4 for this project. We set up tables in a closed rectangle with an open center, seating the participants around the outside of the rectangle. The tables had just a small gap between them for testing the paper objects per the Exploring Nanotechnology project procedures. This allowed sufficient testing areas for each group.
Explain That Stuff: Nanotechnology
Maricopa.edu: Order of Magnitude
What we would do differently:
It would’ve been helpful to demonstrate how to make one of the pieces of the paper cube, as well as how to attach the pieces to form the cube. Depending on how many kids there are, it might be best to have 2-3 people demonstrate this to groups of children simultaneously.
Adaption for older/younger audience:
This is not recommended for a younger audience. However, this program would still work very well for middle school (and possibly high school) students as-is.