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It’s been ages since we’ve had Science together, but I’m happy to say that I’m feeling much better now and it is wonderful to see everyone again. I missed you all very much!
This week, in honor of the letter ‘O,’ we learned about opposable thumbs.
First, we looked at a cat’s paw.
Cats have retractable claws. We turned our hands into paws with claws and tried retracting them.
Then we looked at a bear’s paw
and contrasted it with the cat’s.
We learned that another name for fingers and toes is ‘digits.’ Cats have four digits on each foot. Bears have five.
We alsolooked at a person’s hand and compared it with the paws. We have five digits on each hand and foot.
It’s good to have an extra hand if you want to pat yourself on the head!
Next, we created a cat’s paw with child-sized digits. Cats have four digits. They are all next to each other. The claws are usually retracted.
Bears have five digits. They are also all next to each other. The claws are not retracted.
People have five digits, but one of them (the thumb) isn’t lined up with the others. It is separate from the rest.
In fact,it is opposite the others. That’s why the thumb can give the fingers high-fives!
(Bear’s digits can’t really do that without moving – but they can still try!)
That’s also why we can easily touch our thumb to each one of our fingers.
Because the thumb is opposite the fingers, it is called an ‘opposable’ thumb.
Some animalshave opposable digits. Here are some monkeys with opposable thumbs and big toes:
Gorillas have opposable thumbs and big toes, as do orangutans, and chimpanzees.
Note that gorillas, orangutans and chimpanzees are apes, not monkeys. Monkeys have tails. Apes do not.
When Curious George gets in trouble and starts running away and people are chasing him and yelling, "Stop that monkey! Stop that monkey!" he never stops. George does not have a tail. He’s an ape, not a monkey. Maybe that’s why he keeps on running.
Koalas have opposable big toes on their hind feet and TWO opposable thumbs on each front foot. That’s six opposable digits!
The best way to learn why opposable thumbs are important, is to not be able to use them for a while. We prepared to do several tasks without using our thumbs by putting Super-Scientific-Thumb-Immobilizers on our hands.
Then we tried putting snap-cubes together and writing our names with crayons — no thumbs allowed.
We took off the thumb-immobilizers, took the cubes apart and used the crayons some more. We were all extremely relieved when we were allowed to use our thumbs again!!
Now we know one reason that cats don’t color with crayons.
See you next week,
In light of Wednesday’s field trip to the Symphony, this week in Science we learned some things about xylophones.
First we used a mallet to tap the bars on this instrument:
We thought it was a xylophone, but it didn’t sound ‘right.’
Why not? To find out, we compared it with a second instrument. (We knew the second one must be a real xylophone because it had all of the colors.)
After many suggestions, we decided that the bars were in the wrong order. How could we move the bars? It turned out that they were Velcro-ed to the frame, so it wasn’t difficult at all.
Once we rearranged the bars in size-order, the xylophone sounded much better.
Next, we took out another instrument.
It looked like a xylophone, but it wasn’t one. The word xylophone comes from ‘xylon’ = wood and ‘phone’ = a sound. Only instruments made out of wooden bars, like the first two we played, are true xylophones.
The third instrument is called a metallophone because it has metal bars.
Next came…a telephone?
No – it was another metallophone….
and then, another xylophone.
Once we had all of these instruments out, we noticed some things about them.
When we tapped the longest bar on the xylophone, we heard the lowest note and when we tapped the shortest bar, we heard the highest note.
We checked out this ‘Long is Low, Short is High’ rule on each instrument. It was always true, no matter what the instrument was made from…
even if it was made from wrenches!
We heard a low note when we struck the longest wrench and a high note when we struck the shortest wrench.
This year, at my house, we bought new lumber for our sukkah. That meant that I had a lot of old lumber sitting around just waiting to be made into a giant xylophone!
Everyone got a xylophone bar and we used two long pieces of wood to form the xylophone’s frame.
Next it was time to figure out where to place each bar. We needed to put all of the bars in size-order from big to small. We compared the bars, measuring them against each other one at a time, until we had them all in the right order.
When the xylophone was assembled, we tested it out.
It sounded pretty good!!
…and then the moment we had all been waiting for. It was finally time to play all of the instruments!
It was like the Symphony was right there in our classroom! :)
See you next week,
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