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Exploring Ever Changing Habitats on Plum Island April 4, 2018

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Students overlook the Parker River Wildlife Refuge salt marsh at low tide.

To support second grade’s life science curriculum transition to habitats this spring, the Science Center coordinated field trips with the Mass Audubon Society for all of our grade two classrooms to the Joppa Flats Education Center on Plum Island. These programs are facilitated by a mix of Mass Audubon educators and volunteers who are passionate about introducing our youth to the often overlooked, but invaluable Parker River Wildlife Refuge, and estuary at the mouth of the Parker and Merrimack River home to a diverse and abundant amount of wildlife.

Students started on the salt marshes of the Parker River, investigating the organisms that make their home in the habitats thick sea hay and the role the ebb and flow of the tides play in bringing life to and from the ocean and the marsh. They slopped through porous ground and vegetation, hunting for “coffee bean snails” and other creatures that make their home in the detritus layers of the marsh as its native ducks would.

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Ducking around in search of coffee bean snails! Our spoons are like duck bills!

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A short bus ride away, students clambered over sand dunes that had overcome the  boardwalk during the March storms on their way to the beach. They mimicked the behavior of piping plovers making nests on the island’s beach and dunes while learning about how their nesting grounds are protected by the reserve during their nesting season. Students caught a glimpse of the reconstruction efforts of the sea walls along the islands more developed area before learning about how the sand dunes interlocking roots create natural barriers for the salt marsh and land further inland.

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The boardwalk is covered in sand! What caused this sand to cover our path?

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What is the human impact on this habitat?

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Modeling piping plover nests!

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All the while students braved the elements, with stronger winds and cooler temperatures than those found in Burlington. Our students were very engaged and we look forward to making connecting between these habitats and those they will explore closer to home later in May when they investigate the many habitats found at the Mill Pond Reservoir.

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Winter Sky Wonderings: Observe Orion! January 8, 2018

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As we know, the winter nights are long and can be cold, but they also present opportunity to connect with student sky explorations and the patterns of nature!

The January and February sky offers fantastic views of the constellation, Orion – easily identified by his bright, three star belt. Orion chases Taurus the Bull, a V shape constellation that can be seen when scanning up and to the right of Orion. These constellations will be visible in the Southeast sky at nightfall before rising higher in the sky as they slowly march South as night passes. These constellations take a path similar to that of the sun across our sky, a pattern you can connect to with your child by observing the constellation at two different times in the night with a point of reference (such as a tree or street lamp) to indicate that the constellations location in the sky has moved.

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Night sky image from: http://www.astronomytrek.com/step-4-interesting-facts-about-orion/

If Orion is still hidden by trees early in January just wait 2-3 weeks. Orion will be even higher and more south in the early evening hours as winter marches on. Orion is a seasonal constellation that can only be seen during one half of the year. During the summer months Orion is high in the sky during the day time!

The use of printable star charts or apps that chart the sky using augmented reality technology can also enhance your sky exploring experience. We hope that you will brave the cold and enjoy what the night sky has to offer with your child!

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.

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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.

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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!

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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.

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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!

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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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SNOW SCIENCE FUN #1: LIVE CHICK BROODER CAM!

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!


SNOW SCIENCE FUN #2: HOW MUCH WATER IN A FOOT OF SNOW?

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. 

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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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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!

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Students exploring oobleck.

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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.

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“The oobleck can be stretched into different shapes!”

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“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.

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“Oobleck can break into many parts.”

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“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.

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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.

http://youtu.be/g3eEV1eykXQ

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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:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Fjr3A_kfspM

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To learn more about wood frogs:

http://www.fcps.edu/islandcreekes/ecology/wood_frog.htm

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

http://www.massnaamp.org/calling_amphibians.html