Homeschool Art and Science: Gravity

Page from Jason Chin's Gravity: The Moon would drift away from the Earth.

Cover Image from Jason Chin’s Gravity, 2014.

A quick one-shot lesson plan from a juvenile art and science session I ran as an intern. I wrote this up in detail for a Teaching and Learning class during my MLIS.


Chin, Jason. Gravity. 2014.


For Gravity Drop:

Ping pong balls, marbles, Styrofoam balls, pencils, paper clips, erasers, crumpled papers, rubber balls, tissues, feathers, blocks, coins, Matchbox cars, stuffed animals, or any other object kids might want to drop

Eggs, if the experiment is done outdoors

For Art Activity:

Paper or other canvas material

Lid from a cardboard box – around the same size as the paper/canvas

Washable paint



For Gravity Drop:

Print “What Falls Faster” worksheets, 1/ child

For Art Activity:

Lay a paper or other canvas material inside the lid of a cardboard box. There should not be much extra room. If there is, make sure the canvas is secured flat against the bottom of the box so that the marbles can roll over it. Having paint in squirt bottles makes it easier to add to each box quickly.


Have two volunteers each pick an object. Ask the class which object will fall faster – which will hit the ground first. Record the guesses (hypotheses). Have the group count down from 3, with the volunteers dropping their object at the count of 0. Have the group watch to see which hit first. Was it the object they expected? Repeat this activity several times in order for students to make observations and hypotheses several times using different object comparisons. Have students draw each object and record which one fell faster.

(Note: As gravity will affect all objects equally, any discrepancy will be based on air resistance and the quickness of the volunteer in dropping them. If it becomes an issue, have the volunteers trade objects as a control.)

If facilities permit, have a chair or other platform available for those that want to be higher. A summer variation might include water balloons filled with different amounts of water.

Read Gravity. Ask students what they noticed in the book’s illustrations. What sorts of objects fall to earth? What happens when objects have no gravity? Where might there be little or no gravity? Ask them to think about environments where gravity might act differently for next week.

Start the Art Activity. Note that depending on class size, it may be wise to prepare more than one painting set. If possible, children should do this art project in groups of 2-4, although older students with more coordination may be able to do it on their own, particularly with smaller canvases.

Have students each hold a side of the box. Place the marbles inside the box and have them move the marbles by lifting and lowering the sides of the box. Remind them to keep the marble inside the box, but have them observe how the rate of movement changes depending on the amount of difference between the high end and the low end. (This will help prepare them for the simple machines unit). Once they seem to have a grasp of this (or when you are at least reasonably sure the marbles will stay in the box), add a squirt or dollop of paint to one section of the canvas. Have the students try to roll the marble through the paint and then around the canvas. After a few minutes add a second color, then a third if time allows.

Tell the students that this is gravity in action! Remind them to think about examples of places that gravity isn’t as strong.

Clean up and dismiss the class.


What is gravity?

What things fall?

What happened to each of the objects as they fell?

Why do you think that happened?

Is there any relationship between size and speed? Between weight and speed? Between height and weight and speed?

Can you categorize the items in any way at all?

Adaptations for Older or Younger Groups:

Older Groups:

Have students compare a flat piece of paper and a crumpled piece of paper in the discrepant activity. Begin to lead their thinking toward air resistance and mass, reminding them of the space occupied by air (and so the idea that air is “in the way” of gravity).

Begin to lead their thinking towards the idea of mass. Define Mass [How big an object is.] Clarify that objects with different masses will hit the ground at the same time if an outside force (like air resistance) does not affect them.

Younger Groups:

Students can skip the written explanation on the “What Falls Faster” worksheet. For PreK and K children, the teacher and other adults may be used in place of student volunteers for the drop experiment.

Other Notes:

Last week wrapped up the weather unit about tornadoes, including the building of a tornado tube. Students may remember that air filled up the bottom bottle (air pressure), and that water falls because it is heavier than air. Quickly reminding students of these comparisons and observations at the beginning of the class session may be beneficial and put them in the right mindset

Next week will be about defying gravity – floating in the water, jumping up, and the International Space Station. Consider leaving the items used in today’s dropping experiment for use in a water tank next week so that students can compare what happens when an object is dropped through air and when it’s dropped in water. What other forces are at work when something is dropped in water? What lifts it up? The movement up, and the amount of force it takes to escape gravity, will be the focus of discussion, aided by the use of the storybook Mousetronaut by Astronaut Mark Kelly, and culminating in the launch of a pop-bottle rocket with the group.

At the Gates, Without the Password

“You’re really well prepared. Most resumes for new MLIS grads need padding – yours is full of really great stuff.”

That was really nice to hear during the ALA resume review service two weeks ago. I had just gotten a callback for a second interview, and by the end of the conference had scheduled an interview at another location. One month before graduation, and everything seemed to be going really well.

This week I got my first “real” rejection letter. I’ve gotten them before, of course. I spent a few years out of college working, and it’s virtually impossible to find someone who hasn’t gotten a rejection letter or two in their careers, especially in this economy. It was a bit like the thin envelope/fat envelope feeling from college acceptance: as soon as I got an envelope from them, I knew it didn’t contain a job offer. I was a little more crushed than I should have been.

I’m in a situation that many, if not most, of my fellow ML(I)S grads are in. We’re finished with the degree, our leases are up, and we have nowhere to go. Some have significant others that tie them in place, creating an artificial abundance of librarians-for-hire, driving down the likelihood of getting to stay in place. Others of us have family we can fall back on, albeit reluctantly, to house us while we continue our job search. The consideration that I might be part of that group brings on eerie-sounding choruses of articles heralding my generation as the lazy generation that lives at home. We have masters degrees, and I don’t think there’s many of us that relish the thought of being under Mom and Dad’s roof.

So we look elsewhere. We apply for administrative jobs, some of us in cities where supply and demand mean that an administrative assistant makes more than a public librarian. Part time clerking positions, maybe, if we’re lucky enough to get our foot in the door in libraries. We keep looking, and we try to keep our resumes from looking padded. Maybe, we think, if they were padded with other things, they would look better.

Some of the most intelligent people in my program, the one’s with the most attractive resumes, are taking part time positions. Maybe they aim too high in their applications – perhaps a more conservative judgement of our potential, like a backup school, would serve us well. Maybe we’ve been listening to the wrong people, and should have chosen more realistic critiques to listen to. Maybe we interview badly.

We’re followed by a million maybes. What ifs. I should haves. We apply and have nightmares of a typo in our cover letter. We were told hard work and experience would be our in, but it seems like the Gates of Moria and we don’t speak enough Elvish to know the password (there was bound to be a geeky reference to Tolkien somewhere in this post).

Graduation is a time of anxiety. Of loss and new beginnings. We’re all ready to be done. But we’re not all sure what we’re starting.

How to Give an Elevator Pitch When You’re Still a Student

“Elevator speech” seems to be the buzz word in library school right now. Even the papers we write for our intro class have to be distilled into elevator speeches for our Google Hangout sessions with our TA and classmates. Of course, since we’re required to talk for 3 minutes, we had better be riding the elevator in the US Steel building when we talk. (Even in New York City, the average elevator ride is only 118 seconds – a good minute short of our little spiels.)

But while we can now give elevator speeches on all sorts of information theory (really? I’m going to need this?), no one really tells a library student how to talk about themselves.

Business articles abound on the elevator pitch, which makes sense since it started as a sales tool. But for students, especially MLIS students, that can seem a world away. I mean, what library do you know that has more than, say 10 floors? And that’s for an academic library. Most public libraries are on 1-3 floors. You might not even need elevators.

Obviously, the point is to make your point, and fast. Here are some tips aimed at library students to be ready next time you find yourself face to face with a potential contact (like at a conference).

1) Start open.

Being a student, chances are good that whoever you’re talking to has a lot to offer you besides a job. Listen to them, find out what they do and how they do it. Find out where you can fit in. If you have this kind of time, it’s awesome. This is also the end goal of the whole elevator speech process – a real connection.

2)You’re awesome. Don’t be afraid to say it.

The caveat being, of course, that you need to say why you’re awesome. Are you a genius with metadata? Do you have deep knowledge of databases? Do your children’s programs leave kids anxious for the next one? Are you great at getting the word out about library services?

3) Don’t just say – show.

It’s an old rule for writers, and it stands for elevator speeches too. Sure, you might think that you’re a web genius, but can you cite a web design project you’ve been in on? Do you have a class project that included planning a major library service deployment? Those are hard artifacts that can help you prove your point.

4) Don’t drop the ball.

If you can find something to interest the other person, you might find yourself in a good conversation. They might ask about your skills, and you might be able to ask about their current and future projects. Great.

Offer your business card (you do have a business card, right?), and ask if they have one (they’ll often hand you one as a reflexive response). Then keep track of it. Follow up with them, reminding them of where you met and what you talked about. Continue the conversation.

In the end, you’ll at least end up with a contact who knows your strengths – an invaluable resource to begin with. If you talk to the right person, your strengths might fit their needs, and you might end up with a job lead. Which brings me to…

5) Practice.

Either way, know what you’re going to say and how you’re going to say it. Practice it, but remember that it’s a conversation as much as a speech – you’ll have to adjust it based on your audience.

And relax, they’ve all been in your shoes. It’s a unique advantage for us – our bosses have been where we’ve been, and they probably want to help us out, even if it’s not with a job.

LIS 2600: HTML

Programming has always held mystique for me: how do they turn ideas into the concrete pages using nothing but text? I dabbled in it, with the help of cheesy children’s programs, but never really latched onto it. A few years ago, in a job interview, I took (and failed) a programming logic test. I realized I didn’t even know how all the programs I used on a daily basis worked. I started in on an easy language, not even really programming, but markup – HTML.

HTML was great, since so many forums accepted the basic formatting commands I was learning. Inserting pictures, links, and bolded text made me feel like I knew what I was doing.

I still didn’t. I’ll admit, there’s a lot I still don’t know. What with the advent of HTML5, I hardly know where to start.

HTML has a million great tutorials out there- Codecademy was my tutor of choice, and I still recommend it. Learning start tags, end tags, and what to put between them is invaluable.

Where I’ve finally managed to understand the logic of HTML, CSS is still rough for me. It’s hard for me to see where one overrides the other. The basic tags still apply (as well as innumerable tags I have yet to learn), which is helpful.


Muddiest Point: There was no muddiest point for this week. Maybe next week when we get to CSS. 🙂

OPACs in the Age of Google

Complexity has always been a topic in software. Simplicity is better, right? I think most of us would agree with that – to a point.

As far as simplicity goes, Google – with it’s blank page aside from the friendly search bar and engaging Google Doodles, may be the exemplar. Type something in, and Google’s highly developed algorithms will do their best to kick back something useful. Google differentiated itself from other search engines with its simplicity and usefulness, leaving competitors like Yahoo! and Bing in the dust.

But that’s the kicker, isnt’ it? That usefulness part.

I’ve seen a lot of OPACs lately that are very, very simple. They look Google-like. But they just don’t work. All that simplicity belies the truth: that a lot of hard work and complicated programming go into making it look simple. And ILS systems, especially OPACs, just don’t have the soul to match the pretty face.

But back in the day, Google didn’t look all that simple. It went through it’s growing-up phase. Take a look.

Google Then
Google Now

Google’s increasing sophistication behind the scenes has allowed it to achieve this design standard. It didn’t just say – I want to have one thing on my page. It made it so that one search bar was USEFUL. OPACs could learn from that. Most of the OPACs I have seen have tried to achieve that single search bar look, but the results are… less than useful. Only advanced search helps bridge the gap.

But the problem is that the money that makes it worthwhile for Google just isn’t there in libraries. Library systems, accustomed to the relatively low cost of their current ILS systems, are trapped between the “good enough” mentality and their budgets. ILS systems aren’t cutting it. Programming won’t improve unless there’s financial backing. Libraries simply don’t have the financial backing.

Is simplicity worth the extra money? I would say yes, as long as that simplicity is backed by an efficient system. Infrastructure upgrades cost money, and unfortunately people are often less willing to pass a millage for a new library software than a new building. Libraries may need to convince their community that the latter is made infinitely more valuable by having a user-friendly, intelligent, and integrated collections system.