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

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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!


Eagle Scout Raising Funds for Pine Glen Elementary School Garden September 25, 2017

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Every year, several Scouts come to the Science Center looking for potential Eagle Scout Projects that connect with the Burlington Public Schools and community.  The Science Center supports the Scouts with their projects in many ways.  Ethan Rousseau decided on building a school garden at Pine Glen Elementary School, including raised beds and a fence.  Ethan made a video describing his project and the help he needs to get it started. Please support him if you can!

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Classroom Pets September 21, 2017

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The classroom pet program teaches students responsibility and respect for all living things. We offer a variety of all year class pets (hamsters, gerbils, fish) for the K-5 classrooms in Burlington. Pictured below is Mrs. Varrell’s second grade class at Pine Glen School. They are excited to have new animal friends in their classroom.


New Endangered Massachusetts Snake September 20, 2017

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Introducing the Science Center’s new black rat snake named “Salem.”  Black rat snakes are Massachusetts largest snake.  They are listed as endangered in MA, but are very common in other areas of the United States.  Salem’s owner had passed away, he was found on the property and then given to a local rescue (Rainforest Reptiles Shows Oasis).  Our elder black rat snake passed away this summer and we are pleased to raise a new one and give it a home teaching students in Burlington.  Pictured below is high school student Sam Nicoloro giving Salem some handling time.

Meet a Young Gardener September 18, 2017

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Jake Boossarangsi planted a seed from the science center during his kindergarten orientation last spring at Francis Wyman School.  He did a great job taking care of his plant.  Here is the pumpkin he grew over the summer. Great job Jake, we are very proud of you!IMG_0876

Welcome Back! September 8, 2017

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Welcome back and hope you have a rockin’ school year! Looking forward to another great year of science learning!

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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!

Lego League Bootcamp Full of Success (and Meaningful Failures!) July 31, 2017

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Over thirty students from all four Burlington elementary schools participated in the Science Center’s FIRST Lego League Bootcamp session as a part of the Burlington Public Schools summer programming. Students took on the robotics challenges from last year’s FIRST Lego League Challenge, “Animal Allies” using the board, challenges, and LEGO elements used by the MSMS Robotics team in the fall of 2016, Also on board were three volunteers from the team as well as a mentor from the BHS Devilbotz. Mrs. Sheppard and Mrs. Anderson co-operated the camp with Mr. Musselman and hope to use some of the elements and LEGO kits themselves in the coming academic year in their classrooms or after-school clubs.

About to begin scoring round 1 of our FLL boot camp!

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A look through the Burlington Science Center instagram feed over the past two weeks will reveal all of the great fun students had succeeding (and failing!) at their challenges. Students learned the importance of using sensors to guide robots toward their goals and experienced first-hand the challenges of cooperating with peers to coming to a consensus on how to approach a challenge with many possible solutions!

Working on our pollinator challenge at the @burlingtonsummerprogram

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Mr. Musselman is also pleased to announce that next year the Science Center will be expanding its role in the community by developing a EV3 LEGO Robotics library loan program, available to all Burlington students. Contact Mr. Musselman after September 15th to schedule a loan of one of the center’s EV3 LEGO kits.

Scenes from FLL boot camp @burlingtonsummerprogram

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The Science Center would also like to thank the BEF for their continued support of Burlington Public Schools robotics programs and the Science Center specifically. Thank you for all that you do!

Our great robotics programs would not be possible without the support from the @burlingtonedfoundation. Thank you!

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BHS Helpdesk Senior Constructs BEF Funded “Augmented Reality Sandbox” June 23, 2017

Posted by MrMusselman in Burlington Community, Science Center, Student Work.
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After two years of planning, designing, and construction successes and setbacks the BEF-sponsored “Augmented Reality Sandbox” has become a physical reality! Several students from the BHS Helpdesk have put their efforts towards this project, a tool designed to engage and support student learning around earth systems, watersheds, topography, and geologic hazards just to name a few. It has been the work of graduating senior, Eddie Reiss that has brought the project from pen and paper to fruition. During his time in the fall as a HelpDesk member Eddie “speced out” the necessary hardware, investigated different style projectors and sandbox sizes before ultimately falling on the design featured above. In the closing weeks of his tenure at BHS he took on the construction of the project as an individualized learning “internship”. The completion of this project means that with some minor additional work to be completed over the summer hitching the computer to the base of the portable sandbox and running cables up one of the posts, the sandbox will be ready for classrooms in the 2017-2018 academic year! The sandbox will also be featured at the 2017 MassCUE annual conference in the fall.

The Burlington Science Center would like to thank LeRoy Wong for overseeing Eddie’s work over the school year and most importantly the Burlington Education Foundation, or “BEF” for their support of this grant and several other grants over the years that have allowed us to continue to bring innovative tools and curriculum to our K-12 students. To learn how you can volunteer or financially support the BEF visit their website: www.burlingtonedfoundation.org

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Tidepool Create-a-Creature Activity June 21, 2017

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The Science Center takes all first grade to Marblehead Neck for a parts and function field investigation of tide pool animals.  When the students return, they brainstorm about the animal, their parts and their functions.  They then imagine, design and create a new tide pool creature.  They test their creature in a mock tide pool bin to see if their animal survives the motion of the waves.  Check out the video of some first graders from Fox Hill sharing their “create-a-creature” and putting their creations to the test!