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Investigating the Sun with our First Grade Sky Scientists September 27, 2017

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Photo Sep 26, 1 09 34 PM

Over the past two weeks, first graders at all of the Burlington elementary schools have been starting their exploration of the patterns we see in our sky by observing their shadows to answer the question: Does the sun move in our sky?

Just about every first grader acknowledges that the alternating day and night we experience is a pattern, but how and why this pattern occurs is often a mystery. To help uncover this mystery, Mr. Musselman has been spending time with each and every first grade classroom outdoors with chalk, clipboards, and some clever use of student feet to observe and measure how student shadows change over the course of the day and how it relates to the sun’s position in the sky.

Students work together (just like scientists!) to trace one another’s shadow.

Early morning shadow measurements at Pine Glen with Miss Jackson’s first graders.

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Then they record the time of day and the length of the shadow by counting how many steps they can take toe-to-toe.

Measuring our morning shadow length with our footsteps.

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Once the measurements have been taken and the time recorded, students add this information to a chart, collecting their data for the day on the chance a rain shower might come and wash their shadow tracings away!

Recording our shadow data into our notebook.

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Later in the day the students record to observe the changes to the length and direction of their shadow. Many students are surprised to see just how far their shadow has moved. They take time in their notebook to describe the new location of their shadow in the sky, sometimes using the cardinal direction they are facing (with the help of Mr. Musselman’s compass app) or by describing an object on the ground that the sun is over.

Afternoon shadow sketches. What happened to the sun?! #bpschat

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Our shadow is a little bit slanted! What does this tell us about our sun?

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The results are in. Our shadow changed and the sun has changed its place in the sky! #bpschat

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Students also take time to observe the shadows of their friends and look for patterns there too. Do all of the shadows appear to be pointing in the same direction? Are all the afternoon shadows shorter or longer than the morning shadows? Are these patterns too? Students answer these questions and make predictions about where they think a shadow might be cast later in the day before wrapping up their day 1 investigations with Mr. Musselman.

On day 2 students return to their shadows once more around the same time they visited the previous day. Is the shadow the same or different? What do we think our shadows will be like at this time during the winter? We will have to investigate more then to find out!


The Solar Eclipse is Nearly Here! August 17, 2017

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Mr. Musselman trying out his solar glasses. Even when the eclipse is over these glasses will still let you observe the sun safely!

As you have undoubtedly heard, a partial solar eclipse will be visible in Burlington on Monday, August 21st. Roughly 60% of the sun radiating on Burlington will be blocked by the ‘new moon’ directly between the Sun and Earth between 1:28 p.m. EDT and 3:59 p.m. The maximum partial eclipse will be visible at 2:46.

Solar and Lunar eclipses can be incredible sights! Even though solar eclipses occur as frequently on Earth as lunar eclipses (when Earth’s shadow is cast on a full moon), only people in the small band of Earth’s shadow can see the solar eclipse. They are also shorter in length, making them more rare to see in any one location.

When viewed properly, solar eclipses can be incredible sights! Below are some common myths dispelled along with information and support from NASA Solar Eclipse educator, Charles Fuco.

Myth #1:  “The Sun is more dangerous during an eclipse.”

An eclipsed Sun is no more dangerous than the “everyday” Sun. However, because the intense radiation of the sun is diminished our eyes do not “alert” our brains as effectively and we can be more inclined to look toward the sun… which can still do damage to the sensitive layers of light sensing tissues in our eyes. Therefore, its important to know how to view an eclipse safely which brings us to myth #2…

Myth 2:  “There are no safe ways to view an eclipse.”

There are many proven, safe ways for to observe an eclipse: young children can cross-hatch their fingers to make little pinhole cameras and stand with their backs to the Sun while they project the solar image through their fingers onto the ground—no equipment needed! They also will enjoy seeing the myriad undulating “mini eclipse” crescents on the ground under a leafy tree while remaining safely under its cover; older students can construct a solar viewer, which also satisfies an NGSS Science & Engineering Practices requirement. Anyone can hold a pasta colander as another way to project crescents on the ground; and one can look directly at the eclipse using certified-safe solar glasses (on a non-eclipse day as well). In Burlington, we will not be experiencing a total solar eclipse, so it is never appropriate to look directly at the sun without solar glasses.

Myth #3:  “You can see it better on TV.”

I can remember the first time I ever experienced a solar eclipse as a young elementary age child in Melrose. My brother and I used Cheez-its to observe the shadow on our front porch! It’s hard to imagine this experience would have left such an indelible mark on my memory if I had merely been watching footage on TV or via YouTube (assuming it existed then!) While I strongly encourage everyone to check out later footage of the eclipse totality, be sure to take the time to experience the eclipse first hand in your own backyards and playgrounds. This myth is spoken by those who have never experienced an eclipse live, seeing the dimming of the light in the sky, the sudden cooling of the air, and how our Earth’s wildlife seems to prepare for night to come… in the middle of the day! Experience this rare opportunity with your child today, so that they might reflect on it when the next partial eclipse comes our way another eight years from now!

Mass Wildlife Open House June 10th April 26, 2017

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A wonderful family outdoor event!  Ms. Pavlicek will be at the falconry table with some birds of prey.  Stop by and say hello!


Join us on Saturday, June 10 from 10 A.M. to 3 P.M. at the MassWildlife Field Headquarters, 1 Rabbit Hill Road, Westborough, MA. (Rain date: June 11)

MassWildlife is hosting an Open House in cooperation with the Town of Westborough’s 300th Anniversary. This event is FREE and perfect for families and wildlife enthusiasts of any age!

  • Free BBQ
  • Archery
  • Kids’ crafts
  • Prizes and giveaways
  • Live animals
  • Equipment and vehicle displays
  • Scavenger hunt
  • Interactive fish and wildlife displays

Snowday Science! January 26, 2015

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The chicks were supposed to hatch on Tuesday and Wednesday in the first and fourth grade classrooms at the Francis Wyman and Pine Glen schools.  Due to the blizzard, we decided to keep the eggs in the Science Center and students were able to watch the chicks hatch from home via our live web cam.  The chicks have now been moved to the brooder box (their home) and are growing as we speak.

Hope you enjoyed watching our live chick hatching! We hope to post more live web cam broadcasts in the future!


How many inches of water does it take to make a foot of snow? The answer might surprise you!

Make a prediction, then watch Mr. Musselman’s “Blizzard Science” video posted below and perform the experiment for yourself!

You can use our step by step directions or design a similar experiment for yourself. Whatever your results, be sure to write them down so you can compare them with Mr. Musselman’s results or a friend’s!

Wood Frog Eggs and Life Cycles! April 16, 2014

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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. 

photo 3

Wood frog egg masses attahed to plants

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Wood frog egg mass

photo 2

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.







Exploring Oobleck March 7, 2014

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Students all over Burlington celebrated Dr. Seuss and his imaginative tales by “Reading Across America” this past week. In many classes, students tied in the reading of “Bartholomew and the Oobleck” with a mysterious matter investigation of their own!


Students exploring oobleck.


What words can we use to describe oobleck?

First graders at the Memorial School spent several minutes exploring oobleck before sharing description words they could use to explain how oobleck felt, smelt, and behaved. After more exploring, students were prompted with the question, “Is the oobleck a solid or a liquid?” Students were asked to pick one of the two phases of matter and provide a reason for why through evidence they gathered while trying to describe the oobleck.


“The oobleck can be stretched into different shapes!”


“Oobleck is squishy!”

In the end, most students thought the oobleck was a liquid, using reasons such as, “it’s wet like water,” “it’s able to stretch,” and “it’s milky.” For many classes oobleck makes for a fun start to a deeper exploration in matter.


“Oobleck can break into many parts.”


“Oobleck takes the shape of the cup!”

Spring has sprung! Luna moths are hatching… May 14, 2013

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This time of year, nature is in full bloom. From flowers to frogs, the natural world is busy during the spring.  The Science Center provides elementary classrooms with frog eggs, butterfly caterpillars and moth cocoons.  Students learn about life cycles and metamorphosis, while being able to watch these living things grow and change right before their eyes.

Check out this video produced by Mr. Musselman, showing the exciting life of the luna moth!

Frog eggs! Amphibians are amazing! April 8, 2013

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Spring is an exciting time for everyone, including wildlife!  In early Spring, the forest floor fills up with water from melting snow and rain.  This temporary body of water is called a vernal pool.  It is a unique habitat, which supports life for many organisms, including amphibians.  The amphibians seek out the vernal pools to lay their eggs inside of the water.


Watch our video below to see Ms. Pavlicek and Mr. Musselman during their egg collecting trip for the Burlington Public Schools.  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.



Wood Frogs use an amazing, special method to make it through the winter months.  Be sure to check out the Wood Frog’s story by watching this video:



To learn more about wood frogs:



Learn more about the many kinds of Massachusetts amphibians at the link below:



How Much Liquid Water in a Foot of Snow? February 10, 2013

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This past weekend’s blizzard covered New England with several inches of snow and will be remembered as one of the largest (and longest!) storms to coat Burlington in memorable history.

The snow could not have hit at a better time for our elementary schools though, as many of Burlington’s fourth graders are either wrapping up or just starting their science units on weather and climate!

A question often asked by students (and adults) is how much liquid water is there in a foot of snow? When learning about matter, students learn how matter contracts as it gets colder taking up less space, and expands as it gets warmer (taking up more space!)

But water is not like most matter. Thanks to water molecules electronegativity its molecules organize themselves into a special six-sided arrangement that produces a perceived hollow crystal interior. When ice and other forms of solid water are heated up, the arrangement breaks down, the hollow space collapses and the water “melts” into its liquid form. As you can see in the diagram below, liquid water ends up taking up less space than solid water and is therefore more dense than ice!

Water Molecular Arrangement

This phenomena has a profound effect on our Earth! Since ice floats the tops of Earth’s bodies of water freeze over while marine creatures live below. If ice was more dense (like most matter) ice would sink to the bottom, crushing marine creatures below and leaving our seas and rivers relatively lifeless!

Consider trying this experiment with your students or children and see if you get the same results! We are familiar with many different “kinds” of snow (light and fluffy, wet and sticky to name a few!) Do all of these snow types melt into the same amount of water? Does location matter? Allow your students and kids to explore the possibilities and maybe devise their own experiments!

The Giant Squid! January 16, 2013

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Recently, a team of scientists from Japan were able to film the infamous Giant Squid in the depths of the Pacific Ocean.  These mysterious creatures have never been filmed in their natural habitat.  Giant squids live in the deepest part of the world’s oceans, which has made them difficult to study.  This recent breakthrough will help scientists to learn more about their natural behaviors and their habits as predators of the sea.

Giant squids are the largest invertebrate (animal without a backbone) on the entire Earth.  The largest squid ever recorded was 59 feet and weighed over a ton!


They have eight arms (up to 10 feet) and two longer feeding tentacles (up to 40 feet long) that helps them bring food to their beak-like mouths. Their diet likely consists of fish, shrimp, and other squid, and some suggest they might even attack and eat small whales.


They use external fins to help maneuver around in the water. They use a propulsion system to move around, drawing water into the mantle (main part of the body), and then forcing it out the back.

Giant squid have the largest eyes in the animal kingdom.  They can be as large as soccer balls and up to a foot in diameter.


Be sure to watch the Discovery Channel special “Monster Squid: The Giant is Real “ that will air Sunday, January 27th.

Be sure to visit the links below for more information about the giant squid.

PBS Special on the Giant Squid

How stuff works pages on squid body parts:

All 5th grade students in Burlington have an opportunity to dissect a squid and learn invertebrate anatomy during their classification units.