Living Things Big and Small

Middle school students at the Academy have started 2021 learning about life sciences. Students learned about the qualities that we use to define what is living and explored how certain living things interact within ecosystems.

Since then, they have honed in on the basic unit of life, the cell! They investigated tissues using virtual microscopes and discovered variations between the structures found in plant and animal cells. Next, they demonstrated their learning by making cell models, using a legend and written descriptions to highlight functions and interactions between the structures making up these microscopic marvels.

Moving forward, they’ll continue to build on their understanding of cell processes and learn how cells can work together to form functioning tissues, organs and systems in multicellular organisms.

Applications of Acid-Base Reactions in Everyday Life: Antacids

Acid-Base reactions are a part of everyday life. In the previous lab, students identified everyday substances found in the home as acids or bases. In their second chemistry lab, the grade ten science class explored the practical applications of acid-base reactions, specifically looking at the use of antacids to stop acid reflux (“heartburn”). The antacids used were: Alka-Seltzer, Tums, Rolaids, and Life Brand.

In the experiment, the different antacids were reacted with an acid (soda pop – coke) to determine which one neutralizes the acid best (increases the pH). After the experiment, students explored the results, and reflected on the effectiveness of the antacids and considered possible explanations for their observations.

Identification of Acids and Bases

Although we have temporarily returned to fully online learning, the show must go on. One of the more “colourful” experiments in chemistry is the one where students try to identify everyday household items as either acidic or basic, and not having access to a lab wasn’t going to stop the grade ten science class from the experience. Having “commandeered” some basic pieces of equipment (test tubes, litmus paper, and a funnel) the identifying acids and bases lab was relocated to my kitchen. Students were given a list of everyday household items (vinegar, pepsi, lemon juice, liquid soap, baking soda, orange juice, mouth wash, and milk) and had to hypothesize whether they were acids or bases.

Each substance was reacted with a bit of red cabbage juice, which contains a natural pH indicator that changes colors depending on the acidity of the solution (very acidic solutions turn the indicator a red color, and basic solutions a greenish-yellow color). This gave students a quick, surface level indication of whether the substance was an acid or a base. To be a bit more accurate, however, we also tested the pH of each substance using a piece of litmus paper. This lab nicely sets up our next experiment where we will look at the applications of acid base reactions.

Constructing Cold Frames

Teaching a course like Green Industries can be tricky in the fall season, headed into a cold Canadian winter, as a big emphasis of the course involves growing plants. This presented a perfect opportunity to introduce the concept of “cold frames”, which allow gardeners to keep growing crops outside even in Canadian winters. What’s more, we were able to upcycle the pallets that we had our soil delivered on, and use them as the material to construct our cold frame. Waste management is another emphasis of the course, and learning about reusing materials to build something practical and productive, as opposed to sending them to a landfill is a win-win-win. Stay tuned to see how our crops flourish in the next month!

Planting Native Species With the TRCA

After being put to work outside in the cold rain and ice, during many of our Green Industries classes, I was hoping that Mother Nature would make it up to us for our trip to a natural area in Etobicoke to team up with the Toronto and Region Conservation Authority (TRCA). Fortunately, we were treated to a sunny day and 18*C weather. The sun energized our group as we spent 2 hours of hours planting a variety of different native plant species, while learning the importance of establishing and propagating such species for ecosystem health and improving biodiversity. The students worked hard, and were rewarded with leftover halloween candy and lunch at the Sherway Gardens food court. The TRCA crew was so impressed with our effort and attitude that they are eager to maintain a partnership with our school and excited to invite us back out to a variety of different efforts and initiatives that they’re working on around the city.

Check out more photos from this event on our Facebook page!