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General science resources for a 7th grade level

  1. Feb 20, 2016 #1
    My friend is a 7th grade teacher and has asked for help finding resources she can share with her students. Web sites, videos, books, etc. appropriate for a Jr High/middle school level.

    Specific topics she'd like to cover would be:
    time travel
    economics (socialism vs capitalism - real economics, not 1950s propaganda videos)

    I'll post more topics if she gives me more. Her initial request was for resources on time travel. I think these are for her students to study on their own, for those who are interested.

    So what resources would you all recommend?
  2. jcsd
  3. Feb 20, 2016 #2


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    Time travel is not science, it's science fiction and not a good topic for schools except to point out that it is science fiction.
  4. Feb 20, 2016 #3
    So I spent like half an hour talking my friend up about this site and how the people here were intelligent and educated and helpful. I feel kind of let down by this response.

    Time travel is science. Nevermind that we're all time travelers, what about the passengers on the ISS who are traveling through time slightly faster than us down below? But there are also numerous hypotheses about time flow in a collapsing universe or asymmetrically accelerating the ends of a wormhole or higher order dimensions. Saying that "Time travel is not science" is simply not true, and it's a sure fire way to demolish any burgeoning interest a 7th grader might have in studying science.
  5. Feb 20, 2016 #4


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    Sorry to disappoint you but I'm pretty confident that when a 7th grader hears "time travel" they are NOT thinking about the subtitles which you correctly point out, they are thinking about "Back to the Future" and other science fiction and THAT is the notion that needs to be dispelled.

    If your friend can find a way to introduce the students to the kind of thing you are talking about, then great. I suspect they're going to be disappointed, but it's worth a shot. I just think there are other more interesting things that they likely WOULD be interested in, such as the Twin Paradox which at least sounds a bit like time travel and gets them headed into world lines and Special Relativity.
  6. Feb 20, 2016 #5
    She tutors a remedial class where her students, based on how she's described them to me, are actually fairly bright but completely and totally disengaged from the learning process (and therefore behind on the learning curve and grade scale). I believe she intends to use these particular themes that interest them as a way to get them more engaged. The idea would be to find a book or video or other resource that (for example) might use Back to the Future as a segue into QM and the many-worlds interpretation - at a 7th grade level.

    I've already sent her links to several YouTube channels such as VSauce and Mental Floss, but I'm hoping this forum can provide some additional resources, maybe some specific videos from Neil deGrasse Tyson or even ('cause I kik it old skool) Carl Sagan.
  7. Feb 21, 2016 #6
    Please don't feel this way because of one member. There are some members on PF who like to put people down.

    Anyway, time travel is an exciting topic. Try to search for "closed timelike curves".
  8. Feb 21, 2016 #7
    Here's a cool video:

  9. Feb 21, 2016 #8

    Andy Resnick

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    The two quotes nicely summarize the difficulty with introductory science education- on one hand, there is a desire to engage and excite the students at their level, and on the other, there is a need to keep the lesson grounded in science.

    For my part, I recommend Gamow's "Mr. Thompkins" books and "1, 2, 3, infinity" as 'source material'

  10. Feb 22, 2016 #9

    Fervent Freyja

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    I'm sorry, but it is not science. Science is much more beautiful than that fantasy, it is real. We need scientists with burgeoning interests in improving the quality of life for the world, not interested in the awesome power and control that time travel could give one person over the world. Why isn't what we already have good enough- why want so much more?
  11. Feb 22, 2016 #10
    Oh my god. Are you people serious? First of all, time travel is science. The twin paradox is a legitimate time travel "paradox" and so are closed timelike curve.

    And second, they're planning lessons for children. They're trying to get them excited in something. Can't they make it a bit exciting for once if it gets them into science? Time travel is a fun topic to talk about. It's not only scientific, but also of great imaginative and literary importance. If you think children will be amazed by a careful investigation of pulley-rope systems, think again. If you think children will even remember this after a year, think again. On the other hand, a well crafted lesson on time travel could spark a lot of interest.

    Maybe instead of criticizing, you guys should first actually try to teach a seventh grade class.
  12. May 7, 2016 #11
    Greetings! I have been teaching middle school for 21 years so I understand your friends issue! Additionally, though a bit harsh, I also understand those advocating the practical over the theoretical. There is no reason, however, that there can't be a middle ground. I would suggest perusing the following sites to find an NGSS standard to serve as the foundation from which he/she can build lessons incorporating both:
    Good luck!
  13. May 19, 2016 #12
    I think time-travel and science fiction more generally have inspired many, many kids now in their 70s! And why not wonder about it? You only find out what's not possible by imagining it is and drawing conclusions about the scientific implications. You can never otherwise prove that something isn't possible. It may not be testable (like most of string theory) or it may require too much energy, but that doesn't deny the question itself.

    As far as having conversation about science grounded in experiments that have been done or science that has been established, what about suggesting your friend explore the physical notion of time itself? Atomic clocks, for example, are filled with fantastic and hard-core scientific ideas -- plus history, engineering, ingenuity, chemistry, and even compensations for the earth's rotation. Here are some National Institutes for Standards and Technology websites that explore it:
    and here's a nice lay-person article on the topic:
    Here's a science project on building them:
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