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Pine Glen’s Bridge Engineers February 3, 2017

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“Twenty One Elephants and Still Standing” by April Jones Prince

Second graders at Pine Glen have been ‘building’ an understanding of how engineers select materials for specific purposes through their new “bridge engineering challenge.” Before being introduced to the challenge teachers read the core book, “Twenty-One Elephants and Still Standing” a picture book documenting how P.T. Barnum seized the attention and awe of New York City by marching  his circus star elephants across the newly constructed Brooklyn Bridge, proving to the masses the bridge was safe and his circus was in fact, “The Greatest Show on Earth.”

Using the pictures in the book and images from other bridges around the world, students discuss what materials bridges are made of and why learning that this “research” will be handy before they get to work building their own model bridges!

We used wood because it was strong and rigid! We used cups to lift the bridge over the gap. #bpschat

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The criteria for a successful bridge is simple: The bridge must be 45cm long and hold the load of 5 circus elephants. All groups use the same type and quantity of materials before engaging in the challenge.

Pine Glen engineers sharing the properties of their bridge! #bpschat

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More successful bridge building in Mrs. B's room! #bpschat

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Along the way, teachers assess student understanding of the thinking engineers need to do before partaking in construction projects like bridges by asking them to share their thinking about which materials they chose to use and why. Students later evaluate whether or not the bridge meets the expected “engineering solution criteria” (Was it long enough? Did it hold the animals?) before documenting their bridges and learning in their Explain Everything digital notebooks.

Successful bridge, documented with Explain Everything! #bpschat

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The Science Center is excited to see students engaging in this kind of learning being built into each and every new science unit across our K-5 schools and classrooms. Keep an eye on this blog for future updates on what new investigations and challenges our students are embarking on!

Summer Robotics Students Launch into a World of Programming and Engineering July 29, 2016

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The Burlington Science Center’s summer robotics program has found its rhythm in its third year of operation. A mix of incoming third, fourth, and fifth graders joined the second session of summer programs at the Memorial Elementary School from July 18th – 28th.

Day 1 of our summer robotics program. Assembling the bot to NASA specifications! #bpschat

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During the first week, students engaged in a series of challenges as NASA Jet Propulsion Lab engineers charged with constructing the next Mars rover. Robots were built to exact “NASA specifications” before being programmed to travel precise distances, take tight corners, use touch and ultrasonic sensors to navigate unexplored terrain and light sensors to detect signs of valuable minerals or follow pre-constructed paths on the colony grounds. Each challenge was scaffolded to challenge the engineers to design robots and programs of increased levels of sophistication.

Team Red: Nick and Alan complete the Red Line Challenge! #devilbotz2876 #bpschat

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Along the way our students engaged in questions about what roles could and should robots play in our world both now and in the future. Students created and shared Explain Everything presentations illustrating their imagined worlds in which robots completed chores and cleaned up the environment, expressing both the benefits of a robotized society and the challenges (such as jobs and “money loss” that would be faced as a result.)

Mrs. Snyder's robotics crew taking in a quick read on the variety of ways robots play a role in our lives. #devilbotz2876 #bpschat

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Our students’ progress and accomplished feats were documented along the way on the Burlington Science Center instagram page. Check it out directly to see all of the fabulous work captured by our students!

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Kindergarteners “Protect the Popsicle” in Engineering Challenge June 14, 2016

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Mrs. Duncan and Mrs. Parnell are wrapped up their year long investigation of weather and temperature with a challenge putting students engineering skills to the test! Our newly developed “Protect the Popsicle” challenge pits students love for these summer treats against the ultimate source of light and heat energy, the sun!

Students in both classes investigated how heat causes many kinds of matter to melt before investigating the many kinds of shade shelters humans already use to stay cool, particularly in the summer sun!

Protecting the popsicle with our shade structures. What materials do we need? #elNGSSchat

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Students then designed and constructed solutions to the challenge of keeping a popsicle frozen in the sun with the help of a shade shelter. Students then considered how to test the shelters, ultimately deciding it would be best to put them out in a sunny spot outside because “we want to be challenged.”

Finally have a nice day for Mrs Duncan's students to test their shade shelters and protect the popsicles!

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The results were analyzed both qualitatively and quantitatively. Teachers poured what had melted after roughly 10 minutes into a graduated cylinder and kept the frozen contents in the plastic sleeve before asking students to consider how they could tell which shade shelters worked the best. Students were able to determine that their shelters worked well because “more freezepop was left in the plastic” than Mr. Musselman’s control popsicle left out in the sun. Then students counted up from their amount of melted popsicle to Mr. Musselman’s with the help of unifix cubes and other counters to determine the difference between the sunny and shaded popsicle!

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Thanks to Mrs. Duncan and Mrs. Parnell for working on developing and piloting this new kindergarten engineering challenge! We are excited to share it with all of the Kindergarten teachers next year! Check out Mrs. Duncan’s blog post for even more information and pictures on how the challenge went.

The Scientists Behind Science Education: Our Teachers! May 28, 2015

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Teachers are well known to be life-long learners, so it should be no surprise that a number of teachers in the Burlington schools are working with organizations like the Museum of Science to improve their practice and the state of science education as a whole! At Fox Hill, Mrs. Jaffe and Mrs. Snyder have been participating in an experiment being conducted by the Museum of Science’s Engineering is Elementary division. Over the past two years their classrooms have acted as “guinea pigs” using materials and curriculum provided by the MOS for one of their science units. In Mrs. Snyder’s class students have been studying structural engineering as a part of their Rock & Minerals unit while Mrs. Jaffe’s classes have been acting as electrical engineers as a part of their Electricity unit.

In both cases the teachers have been collecting pre and post curriculum data on student understanding and sending their results to the MOS to be more carefully analyzed for the effectiveness of their units. The real-life science experiment has been a win-win, as Mrs. Jaffe and Mrs. Snyder have both enjoyed modifying their curriculums to include the application of the engineering design process.

The Science Center is proud to support these teachers with the extra preparation needed for some of the engineering activities. We have also been watching with earnest at the wonderful work students have been doing and hope to include units and lessons like these in our coming curriculum changes over the next few years. More details to come on that!

Science Center Animal Anarchy? Fox Hill Fifth Graders to the Rescue! November 26, 2014

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Last month Mr. Musselman visited the Fox Hill fifth graders to beg for their help. Total anarchy had swept the Science Center after our mischievous had escaped and ruined many of their homes. With students recently wrapping up a unit on animal characteristics and classification, there was no better group of students to put their knowledge and talents together to engineer new shelters for the Science Center animals.

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After a review of the engineering design process, students were given the opportunity to select a science center animal to design and build a new critter cage for. Students had to first review what they knew about the creature and do additional resource to have a better understanding of the types of conditions the animal preferred. Students then got to designing elements of a model enclosure that would provide the basic necessities for their selected critter. Ultimately, every group made sure the food, water, shelter, and enclosure conditions for exercise and comfort would be met.

 

On the Wednesday before Thanksgiving the model enclosures were on display for fellow classmates, third graders (studying habitats over the year), and Mr. Musselman were on hand to witness the fabulous work students had done while taking in presentations performed by the enclosure engineers.

Special thanks to Mr. Norman and Mrs. Jaffe for their excellent work with the students through the entire design process and the great evidence of work documented throughout. Mrs. Pavlicek and Mr. Musselman will surely be using some of these designs in future animal enclosures at the Science Center!

Burlington Knights of Columbus Donates 3D Printer to Burlington Science Center September 16, 2014

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On Monday evening of September 15th, the Burlington Knights of Columbus voted and agreed to donate over $4000 to the Burlington Science Center for the purchase of a new 3D Printer and accompanying hardware and software. The generous donation is a boost to the school system that has already had some success using 3D printers at both BHS and the Marshall Simonds Middle School.

The funds will go to the purchase of a Makerbot Replicator and a Microsoft Surface PRO computer equipped with the necessary 3D printing software required to use the printer. The printer will be installed at the Marshall Simonds Middle School under the helm of science teacher, Jourdan Marino, whose work with students last year to create a 3D printed arm for a Medford child born without one brought local attention to Burlington and caught the eye of Knights of Columbus members within the local organization.

Makerbot Replicator

The Science Center would like to personally thank Knights of Columbus members Charles McLean and Arthur MacDonald for their personal involvement in procuring the funds and interest in the work being done at the Burlington schools using 3D printers. The Science Center will share more information on 3D printing developments at MSMS and BHS along with many other engineering and technology initiatives across the district.

Burlington Teachers and Students Present at National Science Teachers’ Association Conference in Boston April 6, 2014

Posted by MrMusselman in Burlington Community, Science Center, Student Work.
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Learning in Burlington was on full display at the National Science Teachers’ Association’s National Conference in Boston over the past weekend. Third grade teacher, Jane Lynch teamed up with Science Specialist, Sean Musselman to share her incredible model of social studies and science curriculum integration in a workshop for teachers titled, “Connecting STEM and American History Through Water Wheels.”

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To help manage and facilitate the workshop, Mrs. Lynch invited three of her Pine Glen students to attend, Liam Gillian, Jenna Lyonnaise, and Thomas Gallagher. Before the workshop started the students received their presenter badges and browsed the vendor booths and all of their incredible scientific instruments, gadgets, and demonstrations. The students then helped Mr. Musselman and Mrs. Lynch move the many boxes of engineering materials to the workshop room, greeted attendees at the door and shared their classroom experience with the lesson during the opening presentation. Once attending members were given the green light to begin planning and constructing water wheels of their own the students provided expertise and construction know-how to teachers interested in picking their brain.

The workshop was a huge success, with local teachers from Newton, Brookline, Rutland, and many others from across the nation delighted by the engineering challenge and excited to bring the experience home to students of their own. For parents and teachers interested in learning more about the workshop check out this link to the google doc shared by Mr. Musselman during the presentation.

Connecting STEM and American History Through Water Wheels February 12, 2014

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water wheel 2014

Across all of the Burlington elementary schools, third graders visit the Boott Cotton Mills at Lowell National Historic Park as a keystone piece of their social studies curriculum. While there the students learn about the conditions that made Lowell such a great place to cradle the American industrial revolution and get a chance to see and feel what living in and around the mills at the time would have been like.

With Social Studies and Science sharing a block of time, the teachers at the Pine Glen school used the Lowell Mills experience to develop a relevant engineering challenge for their students: constructing water wheels that work!

In the week following the students trip to the Mills, Mr. Musselman from the Science Center introduced the challenge by sharing a short video of the simple machines at work in the Boott Mills and a brief presentation explaining how they were connected to a system of canals and water wheels beneath the mills. The following days were spent using the design process in to accomplish the students engineering goals of developing a water wheel that would rotate many times under the flow of a two-liter bottle of water.

Students impressed with a variety of water wheel designs, some that worked better than others. While students worked independently to create their first water wheel “prototype,” students watched one another’s test runs to glean valuable knowledge and experience about which design flaws to avoid, and which to emulate in their own water wheel improvements.

Many of the products were held on to and stored by the Science Center to use during this year’s National Science Teacher Association’s conference in Boston where Mrs. Jane Lynch, Mr. Musselman and a few Pine Glen students will be sharing their experience with fellow science teachers from across the state and country as they challenge themselves to build water wheels of their own and bring the experience back to their classrooms!

Reverse Engineering Flashlights October 31, 2013

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With most of the Memorial School’s third graders turning themselves into ghouls, fairies, and superheroes tonight, the third grade teachers and Mr. Musselman recognized a perfect opportunity to integrate some STEM and safety into their halloween plans!

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Students “reverse engineered” simple flashlights to explore how they worked. Besides looking into the circuitry of the flashlight and how the parts worked together to make the flashlight turn on and off, students also explored the design properties of the “reflector” to better understand how the flashlight takes a light source like a bulb and focuses the light into one direction.

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At the end of the day students put the flashlight together and had a great tool to use tonight as they trick-or-treat through their neighborhoods!

Lighting the bulb!

Summer Engineering Camp 2013 August 2, 2013

Posted by MrMusselman in Burlington Community, Science Center.
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Thursday afternoon put an exclamation point on a fantastic first year for the Science Center’s summer engineering camp for Burlington third through fifth graders. From the smiles full of pride as students shared their projects at our “open house” finale to the impressive, thoughtful designs of the students’ self-constructed technology, it was clear the pilot program was a great success. Students were not only leaving the camp proud of their engineering marvels, but capable of speaking confidently about “insulators” and “filters” as they shared their projects with friends and family.

The two week program drew predominantly from three Engineering is Elementary units designed by the Museum of Science: Now You’re Cooking – Designing Solar Ovens, Water Water Everywhere – Designing Water Filters, and Catching the Wind – Designing Windmills. They provided a strong science instruction background on which students learned about everything from the different types of engineering jobs to the careful balancing act engineers play between effectiveness and cost (financially and environmentally!) Along the way students squeezed in time to reflect on their engineering experience, creating short Explain Everything slideshows sharing the challenge they undertook, the planning they carried out, and the results of their labor. Their work was then uploaded to a YouTube channel made especially for the program along with their digital portfolios.

I am so thankful to my co-teachers, Christine Sheppard and Elana Marsh, who jumped into this pilot program feet first and gave many more hours beyond those compensated (as so many teachers do!) In addition the program would not have run as smoothly as it did without the tremendous assistance from Burlington student (past and present) volunteers, Sharleen Varghese, Sarah Fleischmann, Marina Grasso, and Shinji Coram.

I’d also like to thank Norm Lavigne of the Mill Pond Water Treatment facility in Burlington for opening their doors and giving us a fabulous tour of how Burlington filters and distributes its water to their population. Students were in awe of the massive facility that used both conventional chemical and environmentally friendly filter techniques!

Keep a close eye out for information on next year’s engineering summer program sometime after April Vacation in 2014. We look forward to improving on this year’s achievements and creating an even more enriching experience for our Burlington students.