What Makes You YOU? Lady Gaga’s Hair and Personal Identity

In this lesson the teacher will introduce the concept of identity to students through class discussion and analysis of the Lady Gaga song “Hair”. Students will practice listening skills in addition to using facts to support their statements about what they hear. The song is about self expression through hair. Lady Gaga discusses the importance of her hair as a source of empowerment, liberation and individualism. At the end of the lesson, students should realize that their identities are based on their unique qualities and personal attributes.

Save the Twinkies!

In this lesson, students will write a letter to Hostess in hopes to resume production of Twinkies and have everyone settle their differences. In November of 2012, CEO of Hostess Brands Gregory Rayburn announced that they would be closing business, which meant the end for Twinkies, Ding-Dongs, and other products. This was due to the issue that the Bakers union and Mr. Rayburn were unable to come to an agreement.

Watermark Mania! Hashtags and Social Media Marketing Campaigns

In this lesson, students learn about the different social media marketing strategies that television networks implement and discuss what their benefits might be. At the end of the lesson, students produce their own social media marketing campaigns for a specific television show in efforts to boost the network’s ratings.

Social networks have their throne on the Internet, but over the last couple of months, they have made their way to television screens everywhere. On popular shows such as Glee, The Voice, X Factor, and 106 & Park, the network staff includes a hashtag watermark (#AmericanIdol, #Glee, #TheVoice, #XFactor, etc.) on the lower sides of the screen to promote discussion about the shows on Twitter and other social networks. Also, the news and talk shows let viewers know that they have Facebook and Twitter pages that they can access.

The Perfect Storm

Students explore hurricanes in a weather unit and use their skills to critically analyze the science in the movie The Perfect Storm.

Do You Buy the Hype? Tackling Consumer Culture with Macklemore

In this lesson, students analyze Macklemore’s songs “Thrift Shop” and “Wings,” which are both songs that call for people to eschew label-conscious, consumption obsessed culture, and ask themselves the question: How much do we care about brand names and designer labels? How much of my life is focused on consuming, and how much do I create?

The Science of Google Glass: An introduction to prisms and augmented reality

The unveiling of the Google Glass still seems more sci-fi than reality to many. Like any new technological advancement, we should understand the science behind these futuristic specs and their pending impact on our society.

Google Glass is simply a wearable CPU that includes a camera, mic, speakers and a visual lens called a prism. This prism makes use of the electromagnetic spectrum, focusing on visible light. All light travels as waves, and that wavelength defines the various regions of the electromagnetic spectrum. The prism uses a mini projector to transmit light or visuals to your eye’s retina, fovea and optic nerve. This visual layer is projected onto your eye, allowing you to see a digital image layered on top of your actual eye sight.

Some users have complained of eye soreness and a tendency to get headaches coming from their right temple. These symptoms are believed to be related to motion sickness. While there is no evidence of health hazards associated with the use of the Google Glass, some lawmakers are trying to outlaw the use of the glasses while driving, claiming that the additional images being sent to your brain will cause a distraction and can lead to disastrous results.

Naturally, this leads us to more questions than answers. Society will change drastically the more popular and widely used Glass will become. Soon we will need to ask ourselves where do we draw the line between socially acceptable and unacceptable behavior with new technology? What will be the new rules? And more importantly, what will be next?

Law & Order, Evidence, and Persuasive Essay Writing

This lesson uses scenes of closing arguments from the popular television show Law & Order to help students understand the importance of using evidence to support stances and arguments in their writing. Students then participate in mock court case to better understand the significance of using evidence to support arguments in writing.

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The Science of The Charlie Charlie Challenge

Naturally, these hard-to-balance objects have a tendency to roll around because the center of gravity is so difficult to access.


Invoking Charlie:

“Charlie Charlie, can you play?”   Take two pencils, balance one on top of the other, making an X or cross, over the top of a paper with four quadrants labeled “yes” and “no.”  Try to summon the supernatural entity, Charlie, and then ask him questions.  The pencil on top will eventually move and touch down into one of the quadrants!  Did it just move on its own?  Did you just summon a demon named Charlie?  The Charlie Charlie Challenge, not too dissimilar in nature to the infamous “Ouija” Board game, intends to get you and your friends in touch with the spirit world.  In this case, a demon named Charlie, apparently, and the goal is to see if he will play, and then answer “yes” and “no” questions.

So what about this game is so popular, and so convincing to so many that something supernatural is at play?   It is based on shaky science and methodology at best.  Good luck even getting one pencil to balance on top of the other.  I tried and failed many times!  Once you do actually accomplish playing the game the way it’s intended, here are some of the real scientific factors at play.

1. Gravity:

So what causes the pencil to move and even spin on its own? Only one of the most powerful forces on Earth: gravity. The “center of gravity” is a point where an object’s mass is concentrated.  In order to balance one object on top of another, the topmost object’s center of gravity must be positioned precisely over the supporting object. In the case of the Charlie Charlie Challenge, players balance two pencils on top of one another. Naturally, these hard-to-balance objects have a tendency to roll around because the center of gravity is so difficult to access.  If the edges were flatter or smoother, it might be easier, but then the long thin objects wouldn’t move around quite as much.


2. Magical Thinking:

“Magical thinking,” is the attribution of causal relationships between actions and events which cannot be justified by reason and observation.  In clinical psychology, magical thinking can cause a patient to experience fear of performing certain acts or having certain thoughts because of an assumed correlation between doing so and threatening calamities. Magical thinking may lead people to believe that their thoughts by themselves can bring about effects in the world or that thinking something corresponds with doing it.  It is a type of causal reasoning or causal fallacy that looks for meaningful relationships of coincidences between acts and events.


3. Power of Suggestion:

A 2012 study published in the journal Current Directions in Psychological Science found that people often employ a “response expectancy” in certain situations. In other words, by anticipating that something will occur, a person’s thoughts and behaviors will help bring that anticipated outcome about. In the case of this spirit-summoning game, it could be that players expect a certain result and their actions during the game – like breathing directly and subtly on the object – help bring it about.


4. Ideomotor Effect:

Aside from the Charlie Charlie Challenges’ seemingly mystical effect on pencils, other forms of “divination” include the Ouija board, turning tables, pendulums and dowsing rods.  Many of the supernatural qualities of these activities has been scientifically explained through something known as the “ideomotor effect,”  The ideomotor effect was first described in the 19th century by the English doctor and physiologist William Carpenter. It suggests that it’s the involuntary muscular movements of the people using the objects that causes them to move, not spiritual or demonic intervention.


5. The Excitement of the Unknown:

When we get really scared, our heart beats a little faster, we breathe a bit more intensely, perspire more and get butterflies in the pit of our stomachs. It is not uncommon for people to want to push themselves just to see just how much fear they can tolerate. There is a great sense of satisfaction when we can prove to ourselves we actually can handle more anxiety than we ever imagined we could.  There’s also a hormonal component when it comes to fear and enjoyment. The hormonal reaction we get when we are exposed to a threat or crisis can motivate this love of being scared. The moment we feel threatened, we feel increasingly more strong and powerful physically, and more intuitive emotionally. This charge to our physical and mental state is called an “adrenaline rush,” and as humans we are drawn to this type of feeling.  Participating in activities like the Charlie Charlie Challenge is a sure fire way to guarantee some chills, if you’re into that sort of thing.