The Perpetual and Profound Question: Does cooking chocolate melt faster than ‘normal’ chocolate?

WHY is it that even some of the BEST Science students the school can acquire insist on investigating: 

“the melting points of different types of chocolate”

for their year 10 student investigation?



All you people in the Science Lab: Can I have some originality PLEASE?? 



Making M&M atoms with Year 10

Modelling The Subatomic Structure of an Atom (Year 10)

Prior Knowledge: atomic number=number of protons, atomic mass= number of protons + neutrons, number of electrons=number of protons, electrons exist in energy levels or shells with 2 occupying the first shell and 8 occupying the shells after that.


mnms skittles mnsmmini


periodic table


1. Write on the board:

M&Ms= protons


M&Ms minis=electrons.

2. Point out that the size difference between protons and neutrons is negligible (for year 10) and that electrons are much smaller than the other two subatomic particles. Hence, the mini M&Ms are the electrons.

3. Students use the information in their periodic table to construct an atom of hydrogen, an atom of lithium and an atom of beryllium.

4. Students draw the atom they have created out of consumables.

5. Students create a table showing similarities and differences between the structures of the three atoms. (help them to notice that they all have one electron in the outer shell and that each one has a different number of electron shells)

6. Students use the information in their periodic table to construct an atom of helium, neon and argon.

7. Students draw the atom they have created out of consumables.

8. Students create a table showing similarities and differences between the structures of the three atoms. (help them to notice that they all have full outer shells and that each one has a different number of electron shells)

9. Link the number of electrons in the outer shell to the group number (explain the helium anomaly) and the number of electron shells to the period number.

My class is pretty bright, so I managed to leap straight from this to ionic bonding by getting them to trade mini m&ms. They picked up on their own that the atoms become charged if you change the amount of electrons, and thus I could introduce the concept of ions.

I’m not going to lie, this lesson was a massive hit. They worked as fast as they could in order to eat their atoms, and the physical model also helped them to see that the nucleus doesn’t get ‘filled’ it is actually just MADE of protons and neutrons. Likewise with ‘shells’. If you remove an electron from a shell with only one in it, the one underneath becomes the outer shell.

This is actually a lesson I borrowed off of another teacher and then modified. It was originally shown to me as a lesson for teaching year 9 about the existence of protons, neutrons and electrons and their organisation within an atom. In this instance, you should provide the kids with a scaffold showing a distinct empty nucleus and some empty energy levels.

This is a very versatile lesson and I hope it works for you! Don’t forget to write the lollies off on tax….even the extras that YOU end up eating!


The Scientist in Me Needed to Make a Graph….

My lack of blogs has severely affected my writing skills. In fact, I feel that they have already deteriorated and I am remorseful about the fact that I haven’t written. I have created a simple line graph to illustrate the phenomenon of my reduced compositional output: 




Fig.1. Although the scales are completely bogus, it is clear to see that as the amount of bloggable material occurring increases, the time available to blog about the bloggable material decreases. Conversely, when the amount of bloggable material is small, the time in which to blog about it increases. 







When it’s not ok to ask “are you ok?”



As a school student

I remember knowing that it was my solemn duty to respond immediately to emotional pain and suffering if I saw it occurring at school. I had been taught since kindergarten that if someone was being bullied, I had to step in and help them and that if somebody had no friends, I should adopt them and introduce them to others. If I saw someone crying, I should go and put an arm around them and ask  “are you ok?”. I tried to live by this to the best of my ability as a student, but I now know that I didn’t see most of the pain I was supposed to respond to. Real bullying and isolation comes not from strangers, but from former friends when you’ve grown apart from them. However, there were definitely times in the playground when I had conversations and gave advice to upset people who were not necessarily my friends. It was a normal thing to do, and there were times when other students did the same thing for me.


As an adult

When I see someone experiencing extreme emotion, a wave of hot and cold fear slugs me in the ribs and then spreads all the way down the trunk of my body and through my extremities. The feeling is always followed by a violent shiver, and then it abates. During the fear wave, I get one moment of ‘deer-in-headlights’ and then many moments of ‘flee the situation’.  The most important thing is that they shouldn’t know you’ve seen their moment of vulnerability. Or, they should be able to plausibly pretend that they don’t know about you seeing their moment of vulnerability. There are plenty of options for making yourself unobtrusive during someone else’s emotional lapse. If you’ve just walked onto the scene, and nobody looked your way, back away sneakily, then turn and run. If they did look at you, smile, mime forgetting something, and then leave, pretending you didn’t notice anything unusual. Make small talk with your back turned so that they have time to wipe their face and compose their voice. If they try to flee the scene, let them go, and say the things you’d normally say when they leave a room.

It all sounds cold-hearted, doesn’t it?

The truth is that other people’s emotions are awkward to deal with, and there’s a very clear reason for this: fear of rejection. I don’t want to put myself out there and offer comfort or ask that fateful question “are you ok?” Only to have that person frostily reply with “I’m fine”, and think of me as a busybody. If I’m very close to someone, or very clear on where our relationship stands, it’s a completely risk-free situation, and I can acknowledge their pain and respond to it immediately. Likewise, if I’m certain they don’t want to be acknowledged, I can just enact one of the above evasive manoeuvres. Otherwise, the decision to ask or not to ask is risky!

I don’t want to be the one who makes the move of asking, only to have the other person think “geez, we’re not close enough for you to be asking, man! Why can’t she be cool and pretend that it’s just hot in here?” I also don’t want someone I barely know to open up with a flood of information, because I would never know them well enough to help. I’ve been in situations like that with students, where you offer solutions and they keep saying “no” until, in a burst of frustration they just say “you don’t understand” and run off sobbing. I don’t want to be the reason that an upset person feels worse instead of better.

There’s also the awkwardness surrounding The Comforting Physical Gesture. If it’s somebody I am not sure of, I never know if I’m being too cold or overly familiar when I’m talking to them. I’m just thinking the whole time “all right, that thing they just said was bad, do I put my arm around them? pat their hand? No, wait, opportunity missed, it would be creepy now. Oh, oh, something worse, and they’re getting teary, now I have to do something! Quick! Decide!”


Accidentally hit them in the head with my hand because they moved as I was putting my arm around them.

What if it’s a member of the opposite sex that I’m trying to comfort, and they think my comforting gestures are an ill-disguised attempt to get into their pants? What if they decide that sounds really good, and they forget that they’re upset and start putting the moves on me?


What if they think I’m coming onto them, so they suddenly get better and enact their strategies to get out of Unwanted Sexual Contact situations?

Then someone else would have to go through the above process to ask ME if I’M ok!

Some might say I’m over-thinking this, but others will totally get me, because they, like me, have been burned before.

Now to find the courage, sometime today, to ask a special person if they’re ok instead of procrastinating by having a paranoid-anxiety-attack on my teaching blog…………

MsBlueScience Out! 



My nose remembers more than my eyes, but my eyes can create meaning from my world

Photo on 13-01-14 at 6.13 PM

Of the five senses, smell evokes the most distant and the most vivid memories. The olfactory bulb in the brain is very close to the hippocampus and the amygdala, which are associated with memory-forming and emotions respectively. Strong links are often forged between memories, emotions and scents. In Dementia patients, it has been documented that certain smells can trigger accurate memories of childhood.

Being here in this house is both familiar and alien. It is not my house and it will never be my home. I created many memories here, but no memories of me have lasted.

This house has sections that smell the same, and my brain remembers how I used to feel and the things that I used to do, but the differences in the scents are also striking. The people who live here have changed in my two-year absence, as have I, and many things about the house are new to me. New perfumes, deodorants and colognes. New cleaning chemicals and regimes. An ageing dog. The layout has changed. The routines have changed. The office that used to be a bedroom smells like an office, and it feels different. The people have different routines now and they use different chemicals and undertake different activities. They wear different clothes. Everybody’s smell has changed. One fewer person living here. Six ageing people, including me. This house smells different, so I feel different.


Smell can tell me about the similarities and differences between this house and the image of this house that exists in my memory. My eyes capture the light that is refracted and reflected from the objects and the people in the house. They transmit the light to my brain so that I can read faces. I can read photographs. I can read furnishings and decorations. I remember some of the decor and some of it is new to me. I see some items and I remember the long-standing arguments and drawn-out decision-making attached to them. I see photographs and I remember looking at the people in them on the night that they were taken, but I cannot remember what I looked like on those nights and I cannot remember how I felt. I know that if I stumbled across the perfume I wore then, I would remember more about myself and less about others. I look for things in this house that were brought by me, and owned by me, but there are none. They are gone because I took them away two years ago. When I smell a remembered scent, it gives me pictures, colours and emotions. My eyes take information and create meaning in the form of an internal dialogue. This house is telling me that it is not my house and it is not my home because it looks different, so I feel different.

I take in the subtle cues from my environment through olfaction and vision. Although vision is the strongest sense in humans, others would be different to me, I am sure. Perhaps they would listen carefully to their world and remember sounds and voices. Maybe they would remember the contours and textures of fabrics and the shape of other people through touch. Eating certain foods or ingredients might remind them strongly of places they’ve travelled or people they have eaten with. I suffer slightly from industrial deafness and I’m not a tactile person, so most of those memory jolts and eerie feelings come to me when I smell something or see something. I actively look to make links from these senses as my way of interpreting and remembering my world.

I have always found it particularly interesting that a scent-triggered memory can elicit direct emotions from me, but that a vision-triggered memory is dialogue with no pictures.

Being here in this house is both familiar and alien. I have aged. It is not my house and it will never be my home. I created many memories here, but no memories of me have lasted. We look different, and we smell different, so I feel different. This house and I, we are not the same as we once were. 


The Joys of Share Housing: My Rental Crisis


In my last post I alluded to the fact that I am looking for different accommodation because I cannot live with my housemates anymore. My housemates are foreign, which has never been a problem, except that two of them can be difficult to speak with, making the shared environment uncomfortable to occupy. I make excuses to go out or not to go home. It is also difficult to solve problems with people you cannot speak to effectively. One of them, a female Peruvian, speaks broken English, and it can be difficult to discern her true meaning from what she says. If she has a problem with someone else, she leaves passive-aggressive notes that are rather ambiguous or confronts that person in a bossy manner. It is difficult to tell whether her aggression stems from frustration at her limited ability to express herself, or her passion to win an argument. She also has no desire to work to earn a living. She wants to be a housewife, and so the only job she currently has is occasional babysitting. She is home all the time, watching bad TV. In between this, she “cleans” which involves disinfecting the entire house and rearranging furniture and cupboard contents-including items that don’t belong to her. She also has a shopping addiction, continually moving new things into the house and taking up more than her fair share of space. 

Another of my housemates is an older Mexican male who is extremely bitter about his wife divorcing him. His two children come over every second weekend and occupy the TV non-stop. The Peruvian female hates this, which gives me a guilty amount of pleasure. The Mexican is extremely loud when moving about the house and he brings random females with him all the time. It would be nice if he brought home a quiet one or if they could limit intercourse to once or twice per night or during weekends only. I am frequently woken multiple times between midnight and 6am by his bed creaking loudly, the wall shaking and grunting or squealing noises. It is not fun keeping silent about his habits when I meet the random women in the kitchen in the morning. It feels like I’m breaking some sort of ‘bro code’. 

Not the worst housemates by anybody’s standard, but they’re all becoming more and more inconsiderate in the noise department and it’s definitely time to leave. Here’s the problem: I want to buy a house, and that means saving for a deposit. Rental options to facilitate this are pretty much limited to share house situations. The cost of share-housing is the same or less than renting an apartment alone. I have found new housemates and we are searching for places to rent, but it’s very very difficult to find somewhere and have an application approved. 


 Here are the people that real estate agents and investment property owners want to lease their property to: 







I can totally understand that they are afraid of this happening: 



But we are responsible adults with full time jobs who want to keep a house tidy and clean. Why can’t real estate people see that we just want to live in a situation where we can save money and have some company after a hard day at work? 


“So you don’t have to go back to work until February, right? Wow, I wish I got 6 weeks of paid holiday!”


1301BlamingTeachers-ArtAt this time of year, the only smalltalk among friends and family during Christmas celebrations is a comment on my ‘extensive holiday period’.  I’d like to see some of my family members do this holiday with as much style as I manage to pull off!

But firstly: Merry Christmas and Happy New Year from Australia! 

Traditional Christmas Symbolism:

tree one

Australian Christmas Symbolism:

snowman sand


….although, to be fair, it did drizzle a bit on Christmas Day 2013.

How to Christmas Holiday like a Science teacher: 

1. Increase coffee intake so that your 10-week sleep debt catches up with you on the 27th, not the 25th. Try hard to remember that it’s not nice to snap at people.

2. Purchase gifts for everyone within two days. Do not buy anything that is more than 50% plastic and refuse shopping bags wherever possible. Don’t forget that children should be engaged in learning from their Christmas presents. (Yes, people ARE grateful when I’m their Secret Santa, why do you ask?)

3. Wrap presents as well as you can with minimal wrapping paper (reduce), rip the old tags off of last year’s gift bags (reuse), and separate the sticky tape and foil paper from the papery paper before putting the rubbish into your bins (recycle). Advertise unwanted boxes on freecycle for people who are moving.

4. Conveniently forget that the supermarkets are closed for two days. Neglect to shop for groceries. Strategically plan your meals based around the friends and family you visit.

5. OPEN GIFTS! Plenty of chocolate, Science documentaries, household trimmings and books to read! These gifts are truly orgasm-inducing! (Turn into boring adult: check!)

6. Watch housemates leave for work. Brainstorm people to hang out with…..but they’re all at work. Wait for something to happen on FaceBook.

7. Eat many things.

8. Sit on couch with no prospects of company for many days. Find reasons why usual exercise schedule is absurd and unachievable without a school routine.

9. Eat ALL chocolate with nobody around to avoid possible social tension stemming from an unwillingness to share.

10. Begin intense household cleaning regime.

11. Cook lots to pass time and to create MORE things to eat. (WARNING: Do not interact with scales).

12. Become dissatisfied with housemates and enter into harebrained scheme to move house. Keep this scheme continually running in the background.

13. Allow the days to pass in a blur of domesticity, superficial social encounters, overeating and vegetating.

14. One week before the return of school, panic.

15. Lock self in office and complete all planning, marking and resource creation that was supposed to be spread over six weeks.

16. Begin the term and dedicate yourself to teaching again at the expense of housework. Restart exercise routine. Plan to clean and cook again in ten weeks’ time. It is now safe to approach the scales, but you might have to leap over piles of mess……..


And that’s why they tell you to marry a teacher!