Blogs: Science

wind turbines

How will we power the future?  Will we harness the wind that blows across the plains? Will we build a collective of small, modular nuclear fission reactors, safer and more efficient than today's ungainly nuclear power plants?  Or maybe the success of giant solar plants like California's Ivanpah Solar Power Tower will inspire more solar projects?  Already, there are eleven states that generate electricity from renewable sources at double the U.S. average (not including hydropower).  Which states?  Take a guess.

There are a variety of renewable power options that could prove successful in the future.  All of them carry advantages and disadvantages, of course.  You'll find unbiased information on both sides at, including neatly laid out arguments for and against lots of different energy sources.  There is also a detailed historical timeline of energy source development that covers over 4000 years of human energy consumption.

So where will the future of energy take us?  Wind energy is the fastest growing energy source in the world now, with lots of potential benefits.  Hydropower is the renewable energy source that produces the most electricity in the U.S., though tidal energy (one kind of hydropower) has yet to be developed in this country.  Biofuels and bioprospecting are an exciting potential source of clean energy.  Solar power, on the other hand, was humankind's first source of energy, and may still be part of our diversified energy future, as explained below by Crash Course's Hank Green.

Want more information on sustainable energy sources?  Ask a librarian!

Have you ever been in love? That was actually your Limbic System.  

Have you every wonder why you get  hot, cold, or hungry. It was probably a part of your diencephalon which is a part of your brain that controls the parts of your brain which regulate internal body condition. 

Are you right or left brained? Maybe both? 

If you are curious about how the brain works, need to write a report, or do reasearch on the brain, check out MCL's database on Teen and Health Wellness and click on Body Basics. There are  articles, detailed images, charts that you can look through and that are easy to follow. The articles include an MLA, APA, and Chicago citation!  


An image of the human brain depicting left and ride side functions. The logical left brain and the creative right brain.

If you need more information on the human brain, click on contact a librarian. You can text, email, or call us! 



Do people cause climate change? How will it affect us as we grow up? Here are three informative websites for students that explain the basics of climate change. They can serve as a starting point for your report and answer other questions you have.

First we have a site from NASA, the National Aeronautics and Space Administration, Climate Kids. This site answers some of the big questions about climate, such as "how do we know?" and "what is the greenhouse effect?" There are also games to play and things to make, if you want to have fun.

The Environmental Protection Agency's A Student's Guide to Global Climate Change is full of information about the effect of climate change on the environment. Learn the basics, see the impacts, and begin to think like a scientist at this well organized site. It includes thoughtful answers to frequently asked questions, such as "Is climate change the same thing as global warming?" The video above was produced by the EPA to explain the basics of climate change.

The most scientific of these sites, Spark Science Education, has a wealth of information, and comes from the National Center for Atmospheric Research. The focus is mainly on atmospheric issues. This site includes a section on climate change activites, to explore projects and data about climate change.

The library also has online resources and encyclopedias to help with your report. Look up "climate change" on Grolier Online, with material for students of all ages. You will need your library card number and PIN to use this resource from home or school.

Want to learn more? Ask a librarian online or at your nearby library.


Pigsqueak plant (Bergenia cordifolia)Do you need to learn the parts of a flower?  For a start, look at this clear diagram provided by the American Museum of Natural History.  For more descriptions of the flower parts and what they do, investigate "The Great Plant Escape".





This interactive flower dissection activity will give you even more practice in sorting and labelling, then will test your knowledge of flower parts.  Once you're on this site, you can start the activity by clicking on OK in the "try this" box (it's not necessary to download).  To reach the quiz, click on "Label" after you've dissected the flower.  This activity includes clear, printable pictures with descriptions of what each flower part does.

Parts of a flower diagram

If you learn well under pressure, you should look at this timed quiz.  You'll notice that some diagrams, such as the one at this site, may include more terms than you'll see on other diagrams.  You can play this game by clicking on "start" (there's no need to download), then begin pointing and clicking to label the parts.  Try it out, and challenge yourself to keep shortening your time!

If you want more information, contact a librarian through your computer or at your local library. 

What if all those times you're waiting around you exercised instead? 

We need exercise! To stay healthy, reduce stress and maintain a healthy weight, it’s important for kids to exercise one hour a day. Yup, scientists have discovered too much sitting can actually kill you in seven different ways. Since computer and TV screen time means you’re sitting a lot, break up your viewing time with some fun moves that make you active.

But how about using your screen time to  improve your moves? There’s lots of online videos made to get you moving. This kids’ twenty minute dance and fitness workout is like having your own fitness instructor bring the class right into your home. Put together basketball moves for a ten minute recess break. Or how about a reggae  or a hip hop instant recess?  A twenty minute yoga stretch break can make you feel refreshed. Workout with a friend or exercise with your family. Quit eating gummy bears and get silly with the gummy bear dance instead. Or go crazy and just dance like nobody’s watching.

More questions about exercise?  Contact a librarian to be sure you get what you need.

3 eggs =18 gummi bears =1 glass of milk= 200 calories.This is 200 Calories is a fun video that compares what 200 calories of different foods looks like. It also talks about what a calorie is, and why calories aren’t the only thing to consider in planning a healthy diet.

What Does 200 Calories Look Like? is a poster that compares visually 200 calories of more foods.

Wondering how many calories are in your favorite drink? This look at calories in drinks compares calories in soft drinks, juices and coffee drinks. Don't forget, serving size matters!

The Fast Food Nutrition Calculator lets you calculate the nutrition of meals at fast food restaurants. Select the items you want to eat then see how many total calories, grams of fat, and could it be? - vitamins -  are hiding inside your favorite meal.

Need more help?  Contact a librarian to be sure you get what you need.



Stellar Blue Jay

Chirp chirp. Tweet. Awk! Caw, caw. Skree, skree, skree-chip!

   Blue Heron on a fence

Even in the city, birdsong is all around us. We call it “birdsong,” but why do they sing? Why do birds make those noises?

Well, why do people sing and make noise? Sometimes we sing for fun and from joy, and maybe birds do too. But a lot of the time we humans make sounds in order to communicate with each other. It turns out that birds are doing that, too. Other birds understand them. Sometimes other animals understand them, too!

I was amazed when I took a class at Metro and discovered that humans can learn to understand a little bit of bird language. It’s like there was a secret code going on all around me, and I never even noticed it. But now sometimes I can crack the code. I can tell when a mated pair of birds is telling each other “I’m over here -- I’m safe!” and “I’m over here -- Me too!” Sometimes the birds alert me that there is a predator nearby -- or that they are worried because I’m nearby.

Birds pay attention to everything going on around them. Paying attention to birds is a great way to get an insider’s view into some of the secrets of your local ecosystem.

Crow on Portland water fountian

Want to learn more about birds, their language or their place in our local ecosystem? Take a look at OPB’s Field Guide videos; visit a local park and take a walk with a naturalist; ask a librarian or check out some of the great books below.

We get energy from many different sources, both renewable and nonrenewable.  A renewable energy source is one that is naturally replenished like wind, hydro, biomass, and solar energy.  Nonrenewable energy sources cannot be replenished in a short period of time; they include oil, coal, natural gas, and nuclear power.

Energy consumption by source, 2012.

Compare and Contrast 

The Energy Kids site, produced by the U.S. Energy Information Administration, includes timelines of energy resource development, pros and cons of energy sources, and statistics about prices, production, and consumption.  The National Academies site, "What You Need to Know About Energy," compares energy sources, their uses, costs, and efficiency.

Another good overview, which comes from the BBC, includes handy tables of advantages and disadvantages of different energy resources.  It includes an interesting case study on changing energy use in Britain.  Energy Resources is a site created by a British teacher which covers a variety of energy resources, and includes summary worksheets and quizzes.


Mapping Energy Resources

Maps can be a useful tool for packaging lots of information in a visually appealing way.  The U.S. Department of Energy creates lots of energy-related maps, whether of per capita energy consumption by state, or windfarm placement.  Find maps of renewable energy availability - as well as many others - at the National Atlas.


America's Energy Future


How will life in America change as our energy outlook changes?  Here’s what the scientists at the National Academies think:


Want to learn more?  Librarians can always help you find more resources.

If you’ve studied the periodic table of the elements, you know that there are, well, lots of elements.  Having trouble keeping them straight and remembering their properties?  Check out Periodic Videos from the University of Nottingham’s Chemistry Department.  Each element has it’s own video.  You can watch an (often explosive!) experiment with each element and listen to a mad scientist (complete with crazy hair) explain the element’s properties.  Here’s a video about the very reactive element, potassium, to give you an idea of what to expect from this site.

As you learn more about the periodic table, you’ll begin to understand that it’s organization is meaningful: each element's place within the table can tell you a lot about its properties.  But what if you arranged the elements in a different way?  What other properties of the elements could you use and how would that change the periodic table?  What other periodic tables could you make?  To answer these questions, check out the Internet Database of Periodic Tables where you can find everything from ancient periodic tables to three-dimensional ones.

If you need more information about the periodic table and the elements, you can look at the books on the list below.  Most of them are at a middle-school or high-school level and a few of them include cartoon pictures.

Doctors and nurses help people who are sick, but when a whole group of people, like in a town or a school, get the same disease or other health problem, there's a special name for the scientists who figure out what is going on: epidemiologist.  They look for trends and causes behind outbreaks, and some people even call them "disease detectives".

In real life epidemiology can be serious business, but have some fun with it by picturing yourself as an epidemiologist or other type of scientist while playing Imagine Yourself... or investigate infectious disease outbreaks in MedMyst. Check out real-life stories of some current epidemiologists, or watch a video about Disease Detectives throughout history.  You can even see some current outbreaks on this interactive map!

And you can always contact a librarian for more info!


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