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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!

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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!

Science with Mr. Musselman at Camp EagleFox September 25, 2015

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With roughly a classroom’s worth of students between Memorial and Fox Hill fifth-grades choosing not to attend Camp Bourndale, Mrs. Olshaw and Mrs. Walsh brought their students together to create “Camp Eagle-Fox.” Mr. Musselman joined the campers on their first day to facilitate an exciting morning of science investigations and activities.

A squid dissection immediately had students buzzing with excitement as they explored the exterior adaptations of their squid specimens before taking their first snips with surgical scissors into their squid’s interior.

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Once inside, students examined the squid’s gills, hearts, and ink sac while learning about their function and the role they play to help the squid survive. Students particularly enjoyed removing the “pen” that gives the squid its long, pointed structure to write their names with the ink found inside the sac!

Writing our name with ink from the squids ink sack!

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Students wrapped up their investigation by removing the beak and eyeballs from the head of the squid. Students were surprised to find just how small the eyeball was and how similar the two-part beak of the squid was when compared to birds of prey like hawks and falcons!

After cleanup students were treated to an exciting round of “Mountain Lion Hunt” where they were introduced to the concept of a habitat’s “carrying capacity,” the maximum number of organism a habitat is able to sustain. Students played the role of mountain lions hunting squirrels, rabbits, beavers, and deer in order to obtain enough food to survive for the month. Some students were burdened with additional challenges, including an injured leg and the need to care for two additional mountain lion cubs!

Hunting our prey in a model carrying capacity activity. #elemsci

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When the game was finished, several of the mountain lions had been unable to gather enough food to survive while others had plenty. Ideas were shared about how to make the process more fair so that everyone was able to eat leading to some mathematical calculations about just how many mountain lions could survive on the food available.

Just 17 mountain lions could survive in our model habitat. Eventhough there were only 16 mountain lions playing the game, only 7 survived when left to fend for themselves!

Just 17 mountain lions could survive in our model habitat. Eventhough there were only 16 mountain lions playing the game, only 7 survived when left to fend for themselves!

Students were prompted with tough questions. Do you feed yourself or your mountain lion cubs first? What if all the rabbits died of disease and there was not enough food to go around for even half the mountain lions? Finally students were left to ponder how well this game could be applied to humans on Earth. Students noted that humans had a much more diverse diet than mountain lions, but also recognized that problems such as the amount of water in California, and the hungry found in our own neighborhoods had some similarities. Great food for thought as our students grow and become even greater consumers!

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!

Burlington Science Center Exhibit: Patterns in Nature! January 12, 2015

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In science classes, teachers often focus on specific content areas to drive their science curriculum. Topics such as Light & Sound, Rocks & Minerals, or Animals and their Habitats are particularly popular with students. But there are also science concepts that cut across all science disciplines. This year the Science Center decided to showcase one such concept through their bi-annual touring exhibit: Patterns in Nature.

Younger students are first can find patterns in their everyday lives by observing the natural world around them. As they grow older, students can use patterns to sort and classify objects in their world. They can begin to use patterns to make thoughtful predictions about scientific phenomena. Students even come to use patterns as evidence to support scientific explanations about the world they observe around them.

Our patterns exhibit explores several natural phenomena and the patterns they exhibit.  This charges students to think critically about what the patterns can tell us about the world around us and what they suggest may be to come in the future! Several stations illustrate patterns we can see clearly (such as stripes that help tigers hide in the grasslands) while others reveal patterns that may not be visible without careful data collection for a year (seasons and constellations) or thousands of years (earthquake locations) at a time!

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Check out all the different stations we offer in this exhibit by exploring the pictures below, or come see the exhibit for yourself when it visits your child’s school! The exhibit is currently on display for two weeks at the Memorial School. It will then travel to Pine Glen, Fox Hill, and the Francis Wyman where it will also be on display for two weeks at a time.

As always we love to hear your feedback. Please let us know what you think about our exhibit by email or through the comments section below!

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!

Investigating Craters April 15, 2014

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For thousands of years humans have looked to the sky and told tales of the moon. Invoked by patterns on the moon’s surface, the stories of the man on the moon and the rabbit of immortality hold special places in different cultures across the earth. But as second graders at Fox Hill have been learning, the images of these creatures have been made over billions of years by the moon’s exposure to asteroids and the craters they leave behind.

 

Crater 01

Students drop everyday classroom objects into the baking soda “moon surface” and record qualitative and quantitative data about the crater that forms.

Mrs. Sheppard and Mrs. Lewis’ class recently investigated how craters are made. Why do craters take the shape that they do and what causes a crater to be wide or narrow or shallow or deep. Mr. Musselman recently joined them in their investigation, bringing model moon surfaces (baking soda) and a variety of crater makers (batters, balls, markers, and just about anything else from the storage cabinet) to explore how different craters are made and how to measure each crater using centimeters from the metric system and rounding to the nearest half.

crater 02

Which crater made the widest crater? Which crater made the deepest crater? Did any craters surprise you? Why?

Students were delighted to form their own craters and tested objects over and over to ensure similar results were made after dropping the same “asteroid” over and over again. The rounding to the nearest half and recording of mixed numbers proved a challenge to second graders, even before recording their results, but as patterns developed in the data collected on their data tables, students began to understand how different craters were being generated on the moons surface by a variety of different asteroids of different, shapes, sizes, and masses.

This lesson has been adapted from Peggy Ashbrook’s “Seeing the Moon” lesson from the January 2012 issue of Science and Children magazine. For access to the printable worksheet seen in this activity and produced by Mr. Musselman at the Burlington Science Center click here.

May the FORCE be with you! January 7, 2014

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This year the Science Center took the Burlington elementary students on an out-of-this-world investigation of the forces that surround us!

Gravity, Newton’s laws of motion, friction, and electromagnetism were all on display as students offered predictions, shared explanations, and volunteered to be a part of the many demonstrations Miss Pavlicek and Mr. Musselman shared through the hour long show.

Students predicted whether balls of different weight would fall at the same or different speeds, replicating the legendary experiment by Galileo on the Tower of Pisa. Students were amazed by the strength of the force of friction between the pages of two phone books that could not be pulled apart. They laughed at the “Loco” Motion Swing as it rolled in the opposite direction of the swinging volunteer, demonstrating Newton’s Third Law of Motion ! But what really stood out to students was the amazing force behind the pencil cannon during the grand finale!

Our hearts were warmed by the wonderful thank you letters written and illustrated by Mrs. Coates class. It’s clear they enjoyed watching the show as much as Miss P. and Mr. Musselman enjoyed performing it!

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Thanks to teachers Kim Cook, Carrie Casey, Kelly Floyd, Patrick Murphy and Stephanie Smith for taking these great photos and film of our show. Keep an eye out for the show in its entirety on BCATV later this month!