Royal Agricultural Winter Fair

Dogs with superpowers, a ketchup race, amazing animals, delicious food, and a whole lot of fun: Academy students from four very different classes came together to experience all this, and much more, earlier this month at the Royal Agricultural Winter Fair.

The Royal is a longstanding Toronto tradition, and a fantastic place to extend learning through experiential opportunities that activate (literally) all the senses. This also means that it’s perfect for cross-curricular learning; at a seminar hosted by faculty and students from the Centre for Food at Durham College, we learned about how ketchup is made — including investigations of chemical processes, food science and safety standards, career connections, and sensory feedback. It was a supercharged lesson for our students from the Food and Nutrition, Grade 10 Science, Career Studies, and Grade 11 English classes.

At the Academy, we’re constantly working to find ways large and small to break down the walls of the classroom and provide authentic learning experiences. And when we can combine that with free cheese samples and a pack of adorable Superdogs? Well, that’s absolute perfection.

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Ontario Science Centre

On Tuesday April 9, the Academy’s two science classes made their way to the Ontario Science Centre to embark on a cosmic journey. The first part of the day gave students the opportunity to explore the space exhibit, where they investigated celestial objects they’d already learned about in the classroom, as well as celestial objects and phenomena they would be learning about after the trip. After the self guided tour of the space exhibit, students were treated to the IMAX movie Journey to Space, followed by a tour of the universe at the Centre’s planetarium. By the end of the adventure, it was the most jam packed outing to the Science Centre to date.

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A Look at Families of Elements

On the 28th of November 2016, the International Union of Pure and Applied Chemistry (IUPAC) approved the name and symbols for the four new elements that had been previously discovered during the past few preceding years: nihonium (Nh), moscovium (Mc), tennessine (Ts), and oganesson (Og), respectively for element 113, 115, 117, and 118. The periodic table of element was first organized into its modern form by the Russian chemist Dimitri Mendeleev in 1863.

Mendeleev noticed that 56 known elements of his day displayed more than the simple pattern of increasing in atomic mass. He realized that groups of elements had similar physical and chemical properties that they shared with one another, despite having different atomic masses. He used his newly formed period table to correctly predict the properties of eight elements that had not yet been discovered!

Using their knowledge of the periodic table and understanding that elements in the same groups/families on the periodic table share similar physical and chemical properties, the grade 9 science class put their scientific investigation skills to observe four sets of chemical reactions to determine which solutions belonged to the same family on the periodic table.

Students reacted silver nitrate separately with potassium chloride, potassium iodide, potassium bromide and potassium sulfide. After reacting the solutions, student recorded their observations and applied their knowledge and understanding of the periodic table to figure out which of the potassium solutions (if any) were part of the same group/family.

Biochemical Compounds in Food Samples

There are four broad classes of macromolecules that can be found in living systems. Each type of macromolecule has a characteristic structure and function in living organisms. You can use your knowledge of the basic structure of each macromolecule to perform tests in the lab that detect the presence or absence of key functional groups or overall characteristics in various substances through the use of indicators.

Students were given a scenario in which they had to play the role of scientists at a Canadian Food and Drug Administration Center for Nutrient Analysis where they test various food items for protein, lipid and carbohydrate content. In the face of an impending zombie epidemic, they must use their knowledge and understanding of biochemical compounds to determine which food substances could be used to quell the zombie epidemic. To do this they must analyse a variety of foods to determine which has the highest levels of complex carbohydrates and proteins which have been found to kill the zombie’s brain cells.

The Elephant Toothpaste Lab

Chemical reactions occur all the time around us. Whether it is a cookie baking in the oven or a battery producing electricity, chemical reactions drive the world around us whether we notice them or not. There are eight types of chemical reactions, four of which we focus on in grade 10 chemistry. These reactions include:

  1. synthesis
  2. decomposition
  3. single displacement
  4. double displacement

Learning about the chemical formulas that represent chemical reactions although important, is no where near as exciting as seeing what these chemical reactions look like in real life. In order to help students see past the equations, we can carry out slightly scaled up chemical reactions in the classroom to bring them to life. One such reaction that is a perennial favourite is the “Elephant Toothpaste” reaction, so called because the end product looks like a large tube of toothpaste being squeezed out of a bottle large enough to clean an elephant’s teeth.

The reaction is an example of a decomposition reaction. Hydrogen peroxide is mixed with some dish soap (and food colouring for effect) and then mixed with either potassium iodide or baker’s yeast mixed with warm water. The hydrogen peroxide decomposes into water and oxygen. With the aid of the potassium iodide or baker’s yeast as catalysts to speed up the reaction, the oxygen enters the soap bubbles causing the substance to quickly expand out of its container and overflow like squished toothpaste all over the table. The result is an exited room of students and a happy science teacher.

Another demonstration of a chemical reaction that is very captivating is the dehydration of sugar by sulphuric acid. In this demonstration, sulphuric acid is added to plain granulated sugar. Sulphuric acid being a dehydrating agent strips the sugar molecules of water leaving behind carbon. The outcome looks like a spectacular display of what looks like a giant snake appearing out of no where and which is quite the spectacle to witness.

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