Understanding Tools for Scientific Measurement


Over the course of the fall and winter, Garden Educator Jacqui Roytman has been conducting various scientific observations and experiments with students in Gateway Intermediate School (IS) 364. From learning about the changing climate to the micro-organisms living in the garden, students have been filling their journals with notes on everything they see, touch, smell, and taste (thanks to the fall harvest). This month, the middle schoolers in Laura Saccomanno’s science class have been studying the different types of scientific tools used to make measurements.

Roytman explained to the class that when she performs indoor gardening, using hydroponic or aquaponic units, she needs to use certain tools to measure water content and test the water’s PH balance. Saccomanno used the class’ smart board to display a virtual rendering of a graduated cylinder, which is a piece of laboratory equipment used to measure the volume of liquid.

“Whenever you are measuring with a cylinder it has to be viewed on a flat surface so that you are looking at the meniscus, which is the liquid curve. Your eyes must be focused on the same horizontal line as the surface of the liquid,” Saccomanno said.

Roytman then presented the students with another tool used in laboratories and indoor gardening— graduated pipettes. To practice with these tools, Roytman provided the class with Peat Pods, a self-contained, dehydrated soil disk that expands when water is added. She asked the students to calculate how many drops from the pipettes are needed to make the pods expand and remain moist. “The pods will absorb the water, but what does that mean,” Roytman asked the class.

Sixth grader, Marcus Smith said, “It means that the pod sucks up the water and then will puff out like a sponge.” The entire class experimented with these new tools, and they even attempted to dip the Peat Pods in water to see if the disks float. “I really liked doing these experiments because we are able to test things and sometime make cool things happen,” Smith said.
For their next gardening class, Roytman will show the students how she tests the PH balance in water, which is a useful technique for aquaponics gardening.

Photos by Amanda Moses