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Today for STEM Friday we are featuring The Next Wave: The Quest to Harness the Power of the Oceans (Scientists in the Field Series). Author Elizabeth Rusch introduces us to a number of scientists who are working hard to convert the mechanical energy of ocean waves into electrical energy. See a full review at our sister blog, Wrapped in Foil.

Waves are actually very complex and we are still learning about them.

How do waves form?

The waves in the ocean form due to wind blowing on the surface. The shape and size of the waves depend on the force and steadiness of the wind, and the distance over which the wind travels, called "fetch." The shape of the wave is also influenced by the depth of the water, especially as it meets the shore.

Activity 1. Exploring Waves

Gather:

  • Plastic bin
  • Water
  • Food coloring
  • Dropper

You may use a sink or bathtub to hold the water, but because you will be blowing across the surface, a plastic bin situated on the waterproof surface of a counter or tabletop will probably be easier to maneuver around. This would be an ideal activity to try outdoors.

bin-with-water

Fill the bin 3/4 full of water.

Ask the children if they have ever been to the ocean and seen waves. If they have not, consider showing a video (YouTube has dozens).

ocean-waves-ca

Brainstorm about how to form waves. If water splashes are not a problem, allow the children to free-explore their ideas about how best to produce waves. They will probably put their hands in and swirl the water.

Now reveal that waves are formed by wind blowing over the water. Have the children blow and see how the waves look different from those they produced using their hands.

Did they form in parallel lines like in the video above?

Once the children have seen waves, add a drop of food coloring to the water and have them blow waves again. How does the water move? Do all layers move the same way?

Many texts will tell you that the water in the deeper part of the ocean does not move forward as a wave passes by, but simply travels in a circle or oscillates. Proof is given when an object floating in the water simply bobs up and down, rather than moving forward.

waves-oscillating

 

If you look closely at the second video, however, you will see that the top layer of the water with the food coloring moves across the surface with the waves. Why?  One possible solution is that the bin is too shallow and the waves are behaving more like those at the shore, where the circular motion is disrupted. Can you think of any other reasons?

Activity 2. Water Vortices

Older students might want to try the experiments with vortices suggested in this video by Physics Girl (has a pop-up ad):

Isn't that incredible? I can't wait until it is warm enough to try it myself.

If your children like these activities with waves, be sure to pick up The Next Wave: The Quest to Harness the Power of the Oceans (Scientists in the Field Series) . It introduces young readers to an exciting new technology that will capture the energy of waves and convert it to useful electrical energy. The book will definitely inspire young readers who want explore waves and oceans. It is also a great resource for adults who want to learn more about this relatively new area of research on a potentially renewable source of energy.

Age Range: 10 - 14 years
Grade Level: 5 - 9
Series: Scientists in the Field Series
Publisher: HMH Books for Young Readers (October 14, 2014)
ISBN-10: 0544099990
ISBN-13: 978-0544099999

You might also be interested in other books we have reviewed from the Scientists in the Field series. 

 

scientists-in-the-field-series-book-reviews

Disclosures:  The book was provided by the publisher for review purposes.  I am an affiliate for Amazon, and if you click through the linked titles or ads and make a purchase, I will receive a small commission at no extra charge to you. Proceeds will be used to maintain this self-hosted blog.

 

Come visit the STEM Friday blog each week to find more great Science, Technology, Engineering and Math books.

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We are hosting STEM Friday this week, the gathering of children's books about Science, Technology, Engineering and Math. We are featuring two new books by Elizabeth Rusch, Eruption!: Volcanoes and the Science of Saving Lives, with photographs by Tom Uhlman and Volcano Rising, illustrated by Susan Swan.

volcano-rising-bigger

Children are definitely interested in natural processes like volcanoes, but perhaps too often children's books focus on the sensational, explosive aspects. Volcano Rising is a picture book for younger kids that explains not only what volcanoes are, but also how volcanoes can be a positive force by creating new land and adding nutrients to the soil. Rusch has created a two layer text, one layer that is meant to be read aloud with lots of action verb and sounds, and the other for those who want to really delve into what volcanoes are all about.

Susan Swan's mixed-media illustrations add another clue that this is a special book (see the cover above and an example at Charlesbridge). The illustrations give the look of a picture book, and also create a uniformity of scale and appearance that would not be possible with a collection of stock photographs.

Eruption-bigger

On the other hand, Eruption!: Volcanoes and the Science of Saving Lives (Scientists in the Field Series), is all about the blast. Written for ages 10 and up, this book follows the experiences of USGS volcanologist John Pallister and his team from of the Cascades Volcano Observatory as they participate in VDAP or the Volcano Disaster Assistance Program. VDAP is an international effort to provide assistance to any country impacted by volcanoes that asks for help in monitoring and predicting eruptions. The program was formed after the deadly eruption of Colombia’s Nevado del Ruiz in 1985.

Rusch reveals how VDAP works by closely following the heart-pounding, nail-biting events of the Mount Pinatubo volcano eruption in the Philippines. She shows the science of positioning and monitoring seismographs, determining  gas content and amount of ash, and even how satellite images can help predict when the next volcano will erupt. The case study also demonstrates that human responses to orders to evacuate are almost as unpredictable as the volcano itself.

Elizabeth Rusch has shown she has done her research and also that she is a versatile children's writer. Looking for information on volcanoes? Wanting to learn more about the science and scientists behind volcano eruption predictions? Elizabeth Rusch has the books for you!

Let's investigate some hands-on science activities inspired by the book:

1. Floating volcanic rock

Pumice rocks are lava from volcanoes that has cooled so quickly that they often contain pockets where air bubbles had been.

Gather:

  • Pumice and other igneous rocks, such as granite or obsidian.
  • Container
  • Water

Examine the rocks and predict whether they will float or sink. Fill the container with water and then place each rock in the water to see what happens.

If you can't do this in real life, try this virtual rock floating test at Science Kids.

For older kids, add a lesson about density.

2. The classic erupting volcano.

I almost skipped this one, because it is so overdone, but then realized that just because we adults find it has lost its novelty, doesn't mean kids who haven't done it should miss out.

a. Make a volcano cone.

This can be a simple as a mound of sand in the sandbox, or an elaborate cone made out of clay, paper mache, or a variety of other materials. Embed some type of container in the cone, such as a plastic bottle or cup to contain the reaction chemicals inside the cone.

b. Gather red and/or yellow food coloring (optional), baking soda and vinegar and some measuring containers. If you have a group of kids, go for the mega-store sizes, because you will be doing this again and again.

c. Have the children measure some baking soda into the container at the center of the cone. The amount will depend on how big your container is. You can adjust after you try it a few times. Add the a few drops of each food coloring to give an orange lava color. When you are ready pour the vinegar into the container with the baking soda. Be prepared to jump back if necessary.

This video shows an example. Science Bob suggests adding dish detergent to the mix, for more foaming action. Although he says to pour in the "water," I think it is probably vinegar. Of course you can try it with water, too, just to see if it works.

 

 

Now I'm going to share our family's top secret volcano formula. Instead of baking soda and vinegar, we use elephant's toothpaste. The reaction is slower, but lasts longer and gives off real heat!

Do you have another way to dress up the standard volcano eruption demo?

Need pumice? You can find pumice at rock shops, some science educational supply catalogs and even online at Amazon:

 

Disclosures: Volcano Rising was supplied by the publisher for review. Eruption was from our local public library. I am an affiliate for Amazon, and if you click through the ad and make a purchase, I will receive a small commission at no extra charge to you. Proceeds will be used to maintain this self-hosted blog, as well as to buy more vinegar and baking soda 🙂

 

Come visit the STEM Friday blog each week to find more great Science, Technology, Engineering and Math books.