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SummerSTEM: Engaging Students through Programming and Robotics July 18, 2014

Posted by MrMusselman in Science Center.
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Today marks the end of a wildly successful pilot of the Burlington Programming/Robotics SummerSTEM camp, spawned after the well received “hour of code” earlier this year by me and Francis Wyman’s IT Specialist, Ben Schersten. With the focus on learning basic strategies and methods applied by computer programmers and robotics engineers, our two-week course primarily utilized “Hopscotch,” an iPad app using “Blockly” computer language, and a dozen Lego NXT kits funded through a grant a few years ago at the Francis Wyman Elementary.

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Mr. Schersten sharing the html code of his website.

With relatively little direct instruction students went from being relative novices in computer language and coding concepts, to mechanical and software “engineers”, problem solving everything from coding miscues to optimal gear placement on the robots axles. Many students integrated the use of sensors to build robots that avoided walls while attempting to maneuver balls from one side of the room to the other. Receiving only rough, open-ended guidelines for much of the camp, students seemed to work tirelessly on their projects, some even groaning when recess or snack brought a “mandatory” break and in some cases coming to camp 10 to 15 minutes early to get a little “extra time” with their Hopscotch program.

To emphasize the importance of robotics and computer science in their community, we spent one day on the second week on a field trip to two robot companies in the area, Harvest AI and iRobot. Their kids were wowed as the Harvest prototypes, “Shaq” and “Skip” endlessly carted potted plants to their watering and sunlight destinations. Our hosts were kind enough to show us the electrical wiring inside one of their other bots and the display sharing the hundreds of lines of commands being used by the bots as they made their way around the warehouse. At iRobot we received a historical tour sharing the evolution of iRobot’s most popular models and learned about how robots were best used when doing jobs people classified under the “Three D’s: Dull, Dirty, or Dangerous.”

Along the way students also dabbled in Scratch, exploring how different coding platforms still use the same skills and concepts. During the first week students also participated in a few Computer Science Unplugged activities, teaching students about how computers use binary numbers to compute numbers, compress image files, and debug programs where the code is translated in error.

With the Burlington school system further investing into its LEGO Robotics infrastructure, Ben and I are looking forward to expanding the robotics camp and programming opportunities available to our students in the future!

Mr. Musselman and Mr. Schersten would like to thank Harvest AI and iRobot for graciously hosting us, and our student volunteers from the high school and middle school who volunteered their time and talents to share and work with our students!

Planting at the Burlington Community Garden June 23, 2014

Posted by bsciencecenter in Burlington Community.
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Matster Garnder, Peter Coppola, and the first grade classrooms at Francis Wyman School spent the morning planting at the Burlington Community Gardens behind their school.  Their excitment was evident as the students came rushing to tell me about their future gardening adventure.

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Mr. Coppola gave the students a tour of the different areas within the garden.  He explained the difference between the leased plots for families/residents vs. the area designated for people who are in need of food assistance (food pantry garden).

Mr. Coppola then talked to the first grades about moving about within the garden.  He demonstarted the differnce between the row (where we can walk) and the bed (where we can not walk).  He also introduced the basic tools the students would be using for their planting.

Mr. Coppola explaining the difference between a bed and a row

Mr. Coppola explaining the difference between a bed and a row

Each class had the opportunity to introduce sprouted plants intto the soil and the opportunity to plant seeds directly in the ground.  Mr. Coppola described the steps on how to correctly place each plant into the ground.  Each student was given a small shovel for digging and a watering can for watering.

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Mr. Coppola describing the steps on how to plant in the soil

First graders at their planting beds

First graders at their planting beds

Some of Francis Wyman’s fourth grade classrooms also planted items at the garden the following week.

The Science Center currently supports plant science and sprouting seeds throughout several grades in the elementary schools.  We aspire to connect gardening with the science curriculum over the next few years.  The community garden is a great way  to extend the learning from the classroom into the outdoor environment.   It is an important tool for children to learn how we get produce and where their food originates from.  Our goal is to help connect our youth with nature, provide them with a meaningful outdoor experience and to educate them about ways they can help conserve our environment.

If you are interested in leasing a plot or volunteering, please contact the science center at pavlicek@bpsk12.org or Peter Coppola at petercoppola@rcn.com

 

 

Squid Dissections at Memorial School June 12, 2014

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The fifth graders at Memorial did a fantastic job with a science investigation that is widely considered a “right of passage” for students entering the Marshal Simonds Middle School next year. The squid dissection is an opportunity for students to use their observation skills to explore the similarities and differences between human and animal body systems. Teachers guide students through the steps and thinking scientists go through when exploring an organisms insides (and outsides!)

Check out some of the short Vine videos Mr. Musselman took while guiding the students through the dissection by clicking on the pictures!

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Science Center Aides Celebration June 10, 2014

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At the end of every year, the Science Center hosts a celebration for our high school students who help clean and feed all of the animals.  It is a great way to honor the hard work and dedication they exhibit throughout the year.  The high school aides share worst/best animal stories, enjoy food and refreshments and take a group photo (including their favorite center animal).  This is also a time where we say goodbye and good luck to our seniors.  The animal program at the Science Center would not exist without the help of our high school students.  Thank you!

Student group photo with their favorite animals

Student group photo with their favorite animals

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Celebrate!

Seniors-Becky, Jill, Jackie, Laura, Sharleen, Sam

Seniors-Becky, Jill, Jackie, Laura, Sharleen, Sam

 

 

Senior Sam and our kestrel, Hailey

Senior Sam and our kestrel, Hailey

Seniors Becky and Laura with their donations to the center

Seniors Becky and Laura with their donations to the center

Science Center Alumni Earns a Veterinarian Degree! May 20, 2014

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Science Center alumni and BHS graduate, Hilary Jones, received her degree of veterniary medicine from Tufts University this weekend.  We are so proud of her and all her accomlishments! We wish her the best!

Hilary Jones pictured with Mr. and Mrs. Jones

Hilary Jones pictured with Mr. and Mrs. Jones

Sunflower Growing Contest May 12, 2014

Posted by bsciencecenter in Burlington Community, Science Center.
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Every other year the Science Center holds a growing contest for Burlington’s elementary students.  This year’s contest is the largest sunflower!  Every classroom K-5 receives a greenhouse growing kit from the center so each student can sprout their own plants to take home.

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The Science Center will send out entry forms in the fall.  We will award prizes for the tallest plant and the largest seedhead.  All growers who participate in the contest will receive a certificate and goody bag.  Good luck and don’t forget to take a picture of your plant for us to share! (no matter how big or small it is)

These our winners from our last sunflower contest in 2009.

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OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

 

 

 

What’s In Your Backyard? May 8, 2014

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Students observing a beaver chewed log

One of my favorite acitvities with my elementary students is called “What’s In Your Backyard?”  Our third grade students learn about plant and animal habitats as part of the life science curriculum.  We start of the lesson by talking about what kinds of things scientists do (ask questions, discover, explore, create, build, and observe). Then students talk about what it means to “observe” something and how they use their 5 senses as part of their observation skills.

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As a class, they brainstorm and make a list of animals that are found in their bakyard (the habitat they are most familiar with).  I ask the students “how do they know that particular animal lives in your backyard?”  We list the clues or evidence that animals can leave behind in nature that cues us in to the fact that they are around.

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There are several numbered stations spread out around the classroom, which include artifacts or evidence that nature has left behind in their backyard (examples include feathers, footprints, antlers, nests, scat, acorns, woodpecker holes in a tree, trash).

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Woodpecker holes in a tree

The students then observe each object, record data about this object and answer why they think the item was left in their backyard.

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Footprints station

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Deer tail station

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Skull station

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Students observing antlers, scat and trash

At the end of the lesson students share their answers and have group discussions about why they think the object was in the backyard.

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Students decide a turtle had passed away due to the observation of seeing the backbone on the inside of the shell

This activity helps students with observations skills, brings nature indoors and changes the way a student looks at the outside world.  An exttension for this acitvity is taking the class ouside for a nature walk to look for similar clues or items in their schoolyard.

Ms. Pavlicek named “Teacher of the Month” for Pitsco Education May 5, 2014

Posted by bsciencecenter in Burlington Community, Science Center.
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Congratulations to our K-5 Science Director and “Rocket Girl” as Ms. Pavlicek was named “Teacher of the Month” for Pitsco Education!  Read about on Ptisco’s website here!

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Anita Mason honored with “Exemplary Science Teacher Award” May 2, 2014

Posted by bsciencecenter in Burlington Community.
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Last night, third grade teacher, Anita Mason of Francis Wyman Elementary School was honored by the Science Center and the North Shore Science Supervisors Association (NSSSA) with the “Exemplary Science Teaching Award.”  This award was presented during the NSSSA’s end of year banquet at the Danversport Yacht Club.  The Burlington Science Center is a member of the NSSSA and nominated Anita for her outstanding hard work and attention to the sciences as a classroom teacher. We are so proud of her!  The Science Center appreciates her passion for teaching and her dedication to the students of Burlington Public Schools! It is our goal to nominate and honor more of the amazing teachers from all the Burlington schools in future years.

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Wood Frog Eggs and Life Cycles! April 16, 2014

Posted by bsciencecenter in Science.
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Every spring as the temperatures rise and the local water resources thaw, local wildlife starts to emerge and prepare for reproduction.  Amphibians travel to areas of the forect floor that have filled with water from melting snow.  These pools of water are called vernal pools.   Vernal pools provide a great food source and a safe place to lay their eggs.  They are a wonderful habitat for viewing unique wildife. photo 1 Every year Ms. Pavlicek travels to local vernal pools in search of amphibian eggs to share with her elementary classrooms.  They are used for a variety of science curriculum connections including life cycles, characteristics of living things, adaptations and amphibian units.  Each interested classroom receives 10 eggs, food and an information packet.  The classrooms will raise their tadpoles and release them back into the vernal pool shortly after. 

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Wood frog egg masses attahed to plants

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Wood frog egg mass

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Garden snake in the forest

Be sure to check out the Science Center’s video on this egg collecting excursion here.

Mrs. Anderson’s second grade class working on their observation amphibian journals.

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