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Popcorn Neutrino Lab

data | hook | main | background & resources | student

Author Contact Information

Jason Petula
120 1/2 West Tioga Street
Tunkhannock, PA 18657
(570) 836-8241

Student will parcticipate in a modeling activity that simulates the cyclical role of experimental and theoretical science. Initially, the students will measure the mass of popcorn kernels. This will require the use of balances and data tables. While the mass of the kernels are determined, students will also record predictions of the mass of the kernels after they are popped. After the popcorn is popped, the mass of the popcorn is measured. Data is shared and students arcticulate theories that explain why the masses do not agree. If time allows, students can conduct further investigations to try and capture the missing mass.

After students conduct the experiment, the topic of neutrinos is introduced. Essentially, the unpopped kernels represent neutrons and the popped kernels represent protons, electrons, and neutrinos. As students relate the experiment to the theoretical discovery of the neutrino, dialogue can follow discussing the strengths and weaknesses of the model.

Grade Level/Discipline
Grades 9-12/Geology and Astronomy The activity can also be adapted with middle level students

National Standards
NSES/Benchmark Standard: Physical Science Content Standard B

* Focus and support inquiries while interacting with students.

* Orchestrate discourse among students about scientific ideas.

* Challenge students to accept and share responsibility for their own learning.

* Recognize and respond to student diversity and encourage all students to parcticipate fully in science learning.

* Encourage and model the skills of scientific inquiry, as well as the curiosity, openness to new ideas and data, and skepticism that characterize science.

Pre-activity set-up
The facilitator needs to obtain several hot air poppers and several brands of popcorn. Also, the students need to be proficent with using a balance to determine masses. A variety of containers can be used to capture the popcorn.

Hot Air Poppers Balances Popcorn bowls Popcorn (several brands)

Time Frame
1 block (1.5 hours) 2 periods (50 minutes each)

Engagement and Exploration (Student Inquiry Activity)
1. Work in pairs to determine the mass of an individual popcorn kernel. Multiple trials should be conducted to ensure validity.

2. Record results in a personal data table and also in a community data table.

3. Pairs record predictions related to the mass of an individual kernel after it is popped.

4. Pairs pop their kernels and remeasure the masses of the kernels.

5. Record results

NOTE: Have popcorn out of sight to avoid distractions during the explanation section.

Explanation (Discussing)
1. Discuss differences in the masses of the unpopped and popped kernels. Relate data to predictions.

2. Arcticulate theories that explain why the masses do not agree

3. If time allows, pairs can try different experimental methods to capture the missing mass.

NOTE: Step three makes a great side project.

Elaboration (Polar Applications)
1. Introduce basic parcticle physics with an emphasis on neutrinos.

2. Discuss how the activity modeled Beta decay.

3. Introduce AMANDA and ICECUBE/ICETOP research.

Exchange (Students Draw Conclusions)
1. Analyze strengths and weakness of the model.

2. Discuss the role of experimental and theoretical science.

3. Sythesize how the popcorn neutrino activity models the discovery of the neutrino.

Evaluation (Assessing Student Performance)
Students can be assessed in a variety of way. Below are some possibilities:

1. Correct use of balance 2. Data table 3. Predictions and explanations related to the missing mass 4. Arguements using data 5. Reflection relating the popcorn neutrino activity to the discovery of the neutrino

data | hook | main | background & resources | student