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Connecting with Science Newsletter March 2013


elcome to the Spring Newsletter for the Irish American primary schools science network. Spring is definitely in the air, the days are getting longer and it won’t be long until Easter is here. In this issue we look at some of the opportunities that involvement with initiatives such as Greenwave offers and we include an article about Spring from Tom Finnerty, the local co-ordinator of the Western Seaboard Science Project. There is also a competition on the back page for children to enter.

Signs of Spring The first sign of Spring to me is one which comes without any fanfare. It is the arrival of the snowdrop. I’ve always been struck by its quiet sense of determination to appear in the most adverse of weather. Its designated time could not have been worse. It pushes its way through the frosty crust and from under melting banks of snow. We admire the arrival of the hyacinth on the inside of the window but how much more difficult was that of the snowdrop? It stands there hanging its beautiful bell shaped white head humbly waiting to be discovered. It is the first to tweet the hope of Spring. Contrast that with the “Johnny come lately” daffodil, trumpeting its own glorious arrival. In the garden it shyly grows at the foot of the hedge always living life in the shadow of others, particularly the beech hedge which is the most reluctant to recognize that Spring has arrived, still holding on to last year’s coat. The snowdrop’s passing is even more humble than its arrival. It fades away in the forest of the growing grass. The sycamore tree too signals the arrival of spring. The bark seems clothed in new emerald green livening up its greyness. The moss has

taken on the task of dressmaker. On flat wall tops the moss gets really excited. It sports a dashing orange mullet hairstyle. In the hedges the honey suckle is already putting out tentative shoots. However, the hazel is the plant which shows the most activity. Hard green catkins have almost doubled in size. Their colour will change from lime green to a glowing gold in the next weeks as they unwind to their full length. This is only the male flower. The female flower must still make her entrance. The casual observer will miss her completely. She is no bigger than the head of a match. She wears a beautiful burgundy crown. She lasts no more than a week most people completely unaware of her presence. When we notice the raucous behaviour of the crows from the top branches we have the definite sign. The posturing and the bowing and scraping of prospective grooms towards the ladies, the faction fights of the older couples, the trespassing, the evictions and the thieving of building material from each other signal a building boom. Spring is definitely here! By Tom Finnerty

In this issue:

Experiments with flower colours

Identification keys

Competition for children Page 1

Greenwave Perhaps you don’t think winter is over yet but spring is definitely in the air. You could use your observation skills to check if there are any signs of spring in your area. You could join in a project to help scientists with their work. It is called Greenwave and you can find out more details and how to join on Some scientists say that if you look at Europe from outer space you will see a Green Wave moving up across the continent in spring time. This is caused by the green buds on the trees and hedges opening. The Green Wave begins in the south of Europe in February and moves up across the continent as temperatures rise. It is said to move at about 160 kilometres per week. If this is true, it should take about three weeks to move up through Ireland from Mizen Head to Malin Head. What you have to do is observe when certain trees get their leaves and also when certain flowers, birds and animals appear. You then have to register the information on the Greenwave website. By doing this you will help scientists to check if spring is arriving earlier each year.

Snowdrop experiment Snowdrops are able to flower early in the year because they have lots of food stored in a bulb underground. This gives them a head start over many other flowers. The white flower is a little bit unusual in that botanists say it has no petals. The white structures are known as tepals. Children can change the white to a different colour as the activity below show. You will need: • • • •

Snowdrops (or similar white flower e.g. white carnation) Green food colouring Water A container e.g. jam jar or beaker

What to do: 1. Fill the container with water and add a few drops of green food colouring. 2. Carefully cut the end off the bottom of the stem. 3. Put the flower in the container of food colouring and water. 4. Check it every few hours to see if you notice any changes. Record your observations. 5. Leave the flower in the water for a day or so. What happens to the flower? Did you know

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The tepals changed colour because the coloured water travelled up the stem of the flower and went into the tepals. What do you think would happen if you split the stem of a flower in half and put each part of the stem into two containers of different coloured water? Different colour combinations could be tested e.g. red and yellow; red and blue; blue and yellow. Pupils could be asked to predict what colour will result and then test their predictions.

A patriotic posy With St. Patrick’s Day just around the corner you will see the colours green, white and orange all over the place. So why not ask the pupils to design and make a special St. Patrick’s Day posy of green, white and orange flowers. You will need: • • • • •

White flowers such as carnations or snowdrops Celery stalks (optional) Plastic or paper cups Green, red and yellow colouring Water

What to do: 1. Pour some water into two cups. 2. Pour some green food colouring into one of the cups. 3. Pour some red and yellow food colouring into the other cup. What colour will that make? 4. Put one white flower into the green water and another white flower into the other coloured water. 5. Leave the flowers for a few hours or overnight. Predict what will happen to the white petals. 6. When the petals have changed colour make a patriotic posy of green, white and orange flowers. Why does this happen


A plant has small tubes called veins that carry water, minerals and food into every part of a plant. So the water with the food colouring gets carried up to the petals. When the colouring reaches the petals of the flower it changes the colour of the flower.

Simple identification keys for children can be found at; SAPS%20Grouping%20 &%20classification%20 The Field Studies Council produces excellent picture identification keys for all habitats that you are likely to encounter. Their keys are laminated which makes it possible to use them in very damp conditions. They can be contacted at or visit the website at

Insects and spring One of the first insects to appear in Spring is the Bumble bee. But soon many other insects will appear and children may not know their names. Scientists use identification keys to put names on plants and animals and children could get some practice with keys by either making or using a simple branching key like the one below. Does the insect have wings?




One pair of wings






Does the body end in pincers?



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Competition To celebrate the arrival of Spring, WSSP is running a competition to test your knowledge of science.The prize is a €50 voucher for your class to spend. All you have to do is answer the questions below but you may have to do a little bit of research to find the answers. Quiz 1. Which country was hit by a meteorite in February? A. America: B. China: C. Russia

When you think you have all the correct answers Send them to: WSSP Competition c/o Greg Smith St. Patrick’s College Drumcondra, Dublin 9

2. Which of these sentences is not correct? A. The sun can damage your skin. B. The sun is a planet. C. Dark surfaces absorb heat more rapidly than light surfaces

Make sure to tell us what class you are and the name of your school. Only one entry per class:

3. Which pulse rate belongs to an elephant? A. Over 500 beats per minute. B. 80 to 90 beats per minute. C. 20 to 30 beats per minute.

The entries with the correct answers will be put in a hat. The entry that is pulled from the hat will be notified by post and the name will be published in the Summer Newsletter, before the summer holidays.

4. Which of these animals does not hibernate? A. Squirrel. B. Hedgehog. C. Bat. 5. A fox’s home is called a: A. Holt. B. Sett. C. Den 6. Which of these statements is wrong? A. Friction nearly always causes wear. B. Friction causes things to cool down. C. Friction can be reduced by water. 7. In one day in summer, a queen bee lays how many eggs? A. 100. B. 1,000. C. 2,000. 8. How many planets are in our solar system? A. 9. B. 8. C. 10.

Entries should arrive by Friday, April 19th.

Useful websites for primary science: movement.shtml This BBC website is excellent for online simulations and games on all aspects of science This site provides teachers with a variety of resources in primary science, including games simulations and worksheets. Excellent site for teachers – resources include investigations and worksheets

9. The number of sides a snowflake has is A. 8. B. 6. C. 5. 10. A badger lives in a: A. Holt. B. Sett. C. Den.

Connecting with other schools in the network Thanks to Mr Tom Finnerty for his contribution to this issue of the Newsletter. We will be delighted to hear from anyone else with suggestions. So please send us any news, events or happenings in the area of science in your school that you would be prepared to share. We would especially welcome any suggestions for science topics that you felt worked well and that benefited the pupils. Equally problems that you encountered would be interesting to know about and possible solutions could be found from among the readers. With your permission we would print them in the next issue of the newsletter so that all the teachers in the network would benefit. Contact; Or

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Connecting with Science Newsletter March 2013  

Connecting with Science Newsletter March 2013

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