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Protect that Popsicle! Sun Shade Engineering June 14, 2017

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On the hottest day yet this year our Francis Wyman Kindergarteners were furiously planning, collaborating, and building their sun shelters to protect Mr. Musselman’s popsicles! As the year winds down all of the Kindergarten classes will be partaking in this challenge… just as long as the sun stays out! Thanks to Mrs. Duncan for sharing these photos of her classroom’s constructions!

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Using Models to Investigate Forces & Motion September 27, 2016

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Students at Memorial using force and motion simulations! #bpschat

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In anticipation of Rocket Day 2016, fourth graders all over Burlington have been exploring forces and their effect on an objects motion. In a new twist on a tried and true “Tug-of-War” lesson, Mr. Musselman introduced PhET models to classrooms at the Francis Wyman and Memorial schools. Using their iPads, students were able to access the free models and explore the cause and effect relationship between the forces being applied by the tug-of-war participants and the effect on the large cart of candy in the middle. Check out these student pictures and videos to see how students constructed their own understanding of forces and motion through this very cool simulation!

Constructing explanations for how different forces effect the cart's motion. #bpschat #ngsschat

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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.

Girl Scouts Perform Energy Audit at Francis Wyman February 9, 2016

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Girl scouts from Troop 88060 performed an energy audit of the Francis Wyman Elementary School on their way to earning their “Investigate Award.” To help them find points of heat (and therefore energy) loss the scouts commandeered the Science Center’s infrared camera and explored their classrooms using its dual visible-infrared camera interface to identify points of energy waste.

The scouts were surprised to see that not only did their exterior walls and windows lose heat, but their electronic devices left idle were using lots of energy too! The experience gave all the scouts appreciation for turning off electronic devices along with the lights at the end of the school day.

The Science Center applauds these scouts on their way toward informing their community about ways to save energy while becoming better energy consumers themselves. We also thank Mrs. Schultz at the Francis Wyman School for volunteering as their fearless parent leader! The use of the IR camera was made possible through the Burlington Education Foundation and benefits all Burlington classrooms and organizations interested in using the tool. Please contact the Science Center to learn more!

Investigating Light and Sound at Francis Wyman January 20, 2015

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Before holiday break, all the first graders at Francis Wyman were busy investigating light and sound energy.

All along Ms. Farmer was good enough to take photographs of the students experiments, observations, data records, and science diagrams. Thank you so much Ms. Farmer! Her blog with all of her unit photos can be found here.

There was lots of fascinating science phenomena on hand as students explored how sound waves traveled through different types of matter and observed how objects of different shapes and sizes created different sounds.

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While exploring light, students used special glasses to decode hidden messages in the scramble of letters. This led students to realize that some light flows through objects better than others, which led us to experiment with even more materials to determine which ones blocked light, bounced light, or allow light to pass through the best.

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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!

Anita Mason honored with “Exemplary Science Teacher Award” May 2, 2014

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Last night, third grade teacher, Anita Mason of Francis Wyman Elementary School was honored by the Science Center and the North Shore Science Supervisors Association (NSSSA) with the “Exemplary Science Teaching Award.”  This award was presented during the NSSSA’s end of year banquet at the Danversport Yacht Club.  The Burlington Science Center is a member of the NSSSA and nominated Anita for her outstanding hard work and attention to the sciences as a classroom teacher. We are so proud of her!  The Science Center appreciates her passion for teaching and her dedication to the students of Burlington Public Schools! It is our goal to nominate and honor more of the amazing teachers from all the Burlington schools in future years.

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Fifth Graders Become Consumer Scientists April 8, 2014

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With teen years fast approaching, fifth graders everywhere are on the precipice of becoming the next generation of consumers. With ads inundating students on television, radio, and even inside apps and their favorite games how will they make informed decisions about the purchases they make?

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How will we determine which paper towel absorbs the most water?

The paper towel experiment is a good first step. Students are briefed on what “Consumer Reports” is and introduced to the challenge by being told that they are about to try their hands at being consumer scientists, testing how absorbent different brands of paper towels are, including the well known “quicker-picker-upper,” Bounty and the thoroughly detested school paper towels!

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Carefully measuring the weight of the dampened paper towels. Look at the concentration on that balance needle!

Fifth graders are broken into small groups, and asked what they already know about the brands as a way to collect information in order to form a thoughtful hypothesis. Groups are then challenged to plan and design a repeatable experiment that can be performed on three different paper towel brands. Few instructions on how to design such an experiment are provided, though students are limited by the tools provided and 50mL of water per paper towel test.

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Materials: pan balances, graduated cylinders, funnels, cups, weights, and beakers.

Across Burlington the experiments are rarely identical. As students record their data and determine if their hypotheses are correct, they also share their information on a class wide data table to see how their results compare to those of their classmates, just like collaborating scientists do like those at Consumer Reports.

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Student collaborative data table. What does the data tell us about the paper towels’ absorbency?

The goal of this experiment is not to turn students on to a career at Consumer Reports, but to give them an opportunity to practice using a variety of scientific tools including, graduated cylinders, pan balances, and metric weights. Developing their understanding about what makes an experiment “fair” is also an important result of this activity as students begin more and more to explore “variables” in both science and mathematics while the demand for more student-driven experimentation and thinking increases.

While a handout is distributed to all students, some teachers use the handout as a script that students complete and later use to direct their own Explain Everything presentations they can share on their digital portfolios.

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Student work on the experiment worksheet

Curious Minds Search for Answers in Francis Wyman’s “Curiosity Club” April 3, 2014

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For the past month, fourth and fifth graders at Francis Wyman have been busy after school in Mrs. Lynch’s classroom. There, the Curiosity Club has been meeting each week, learning first about how scientists investigate their world and then taking on the challenge of designing, executing, and sharing the results of an experiment of their own creation.

Questions to answer varied wildly. What paper towel was most absorbent?  How does wind influence different kinds of balls? What is the best design and paper type for paper airplanes? Students worked hard to create fair experiments that tested their question and could be repeated multiple times. Once the experiment were designed test trials were run, data collected, and then analyzed by students and their partners. This past Tuesday wrapped the club up with students communicating their results to parents and a “panel of scientists” there to check out the young scientists’ work and honor them with award superlatives.

To see all of the blog posts written by Curiosity Club Coaches, Kim Lynch and Anne Rigby check out the link to Kim’s page 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!