For a complete introduction and to get to know each Quirkle, work your way across the main menu bar above. Have fun exploring, and please contact us with any questions you may have!
But that's not all. Check out the introductory video that explains why we created the Quirkles, or take a look at the sample book Gilbert Gas below.
This month we often say love is in the air. If that’s the case it must be in small quantities because by volume, dry air contains 78.09% nitrogen, 20.95% oxygen, 0.93% argon, 0.04% carbon dioxide, and small amounts of other gases. Instead of love, this month we focus on one of those elements: oxygen.
Poor oxygen. How can something so important be so taken for granted? It’s essential for life. Oxygen is the third most abundant element in the universe. Just five elements make up more than 90 percent of the weight in the Earth’s crust. Almost half of the weight of the crust comes from oxygen. (Silicon, aluminum, iron and calcium are the other four main elements in the crust.) There is more oxygen inside your body than any other element, and at least 21% of Earth’s atmosphere is made of oxygen.
But what do you really know about this colorless, odorless, and tasteless gas that helps sustain life on this planet? Oxygen is really, really old. It’s been on Earth for at least 2.3-2.4 billion years! But even though oxygen has been around for a very long time, it took until 1608 for people to notice. A Dutch inventor named Cornelius Drebbel was working on an experiment when he noticed a mysterious gas being released. (Some say Leonardo da Vinci first proposed that air was made up of two gases, one for breathing and one for fueling fire earlier.)
By the 1770s, at least three different chemists were trying to solve the mystery of this unknown gas. In 1771, a scientist named Carl Wilhelm Steele discovered oxygen, but he never published his findings. A chemist named Joseph Priestly realized that the flame of a candle burned brighter in the mystery gas in 1774, and he did many other experiments to learn more about the gas. A third chemist, Antoine-Laurent de Lavoisier finally gave the gas a name: oxygen. Oxygen’s name comes from the Greek oxy and genes, which means “acid-forming.”
Oxygen (O2) is unstable in our planet’s atmosphere and must be constantly replenished by photosynthesis in green plants. (Read Gilbert Gas.) Without life, our atmosphere would contain almost no O2. If we discover any other planets with atmospheres rich in oxygen, we will know that life is almost certainly present on these planets; significant quantities of O2 will only exist on planets when it is released by living things.
We’ve already learned that all living things on Earth use oxygen to breathe, but oxygen has many other uses, too. Oxygen is used to make steel and plastic, and liquid oxygen is one of the main ingredients in rocket fuel. It is also used in cars and airplanes. Fire uses oxygen to burn. Oxygen tanks help people with breathing problems live and breathe. They also help astronauts walk in space and scuba divers swim to explore the depths of the oceans.
This month learn more by reading the Quirkles book, Ollie Oxygen then watch our video to see how oxygen impacts a candle race.
So now you know it’s important to appreciate this incredible element! Oxygen is in more than just the air we breathe: it’s in the oceans, the Sun, dirt, rocks, plastic, cars, airplanes, and more. We need it to live, fire needs it to burn, and oxygen-producing plants make it all possible. Thank goodness for oxygen!
You’ve heard the term about someone who creates friction. Usually this has a bad connotation and is someone who creates tension. But have you ever stopped to really think about the science of friction and how important it really is?
In our part of the world it’s cold right now! Not only do we have to bundle up, we have to pull out the winter boots to brave a bit of ice and snow. Anyone who has taken a tumble on ice in winter can appreciate the importance of friction.
From matches to machines, friction is one of the most significant phenomena in the physical world. Friction is a force. The two basic types of friction are static and kinetic. Static friction keeps a stationary object at rest. Once the force of static friction is overcome, the force of kinetic friction is what slows down a moving object!
Liquid smooths out a surface, creating less friction. For example, it’s harder for a car to stop on a wet (or ice covered) road than a dry one because the water creates a barrier between the car and the road. The tires don’t have as much contact with the road. Oil in a car engine lubricates the parts so they experience less friction. Friction causes heat, which can damage a car engine. That same heat is good when you rub your hands together to create friction to warm them up.
Scientists are slightly baffled at the real cause of friction. It is assumed that it is caused due to the rough edges of one object touching the rough edges of another. The actual ‘edges’ could probably only be seen in a microscope or some other highly technological tool, but it is believed that the process actually breaks off part of the rough edges of one or both objects.
This month we feature the Quirkles Friction Fred and how he solves his football team’s problem of falling on the slippery field. Our video demonstrates a very easy example of creating friction using only two things—a spoon and a nose!
So take a moment to appreciate friction. Imagine if we were constantly slipping—off our chairs, down the stairs, or on ice and snow. Life would be treacherous for sure! Thanks to friction, this does not happen. Stay warm this month!
Which candle will burn out first? Try a candle race to see!
Try this fun way to learn about friction! A spoon and your nose is all it takes.
"I would like to say THANK YOU! I have never seen a curriculum capture the true essence of learning like the Quirkles. My first graders eat, sleep, and breathe the Quirkles!"
-Mandy, First Grade Teacher, Siebolt, TX
I really appreciate your ideas and support!!! I am amazed at the Quirkles series that you have created and know you all must be FABULOUS teachers!!!
Cindy, Lower School Science Coordinator, Suffolk, VA