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Pine Glen’s Bridge Engineers February 3, 2017

Posted by Sean Musselman in Student Work.
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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!

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.

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.

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!

Exploring Oobleck March 7, 2014

Posted by Sean Musselman in Science, Student Work.
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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!


Students exploring oobleck.


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.


“The oobleck can be stretched into different shapes!”


“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.


“Oobleck can break into many parts.”


“Oobleck takes the shape of the cup!”

Exploring Changes in Matter January 30, 2014

Posted by Sean Musselman in Science Center.
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Mrs. Visocchi’s fourth graders took on an ambitious new challenge from the Science Center over the past week. Students were asked to explore a variety of physical and chemical changes and determine if new substances of matter had been created or whether the matter there had simply changed form.


Students were first challenged to share what they knew about changes in matter around their home and school. From there, investigations were underway as students observed what happened when different types of matter such as ice, chocolate, salt water, and kool-aid were heated up. Many students realized these changes did not create new substances, but others were less sure and curious about the mysterious gases rising from some of the different pans of melting material.


More investigations were run the next day as groups of students moved from station to station exploring the changes in color between cabbage juice and many home cleaning fluids, the “reaction” between alka-seltzer and water in a rapidly expanding plastic baggie, and the observable decomposition of an apple left out for several days.

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All the while students recorded their observations and shared evidence with one another of whether new substances had been made or not. For a grand finale, students observed the change in sodium polyaclorate and water to form “instant-snow” and designed experiment to see if a new substance had been made or if the water could somehow be extracted from the powder again. A few experiments were put to the test, with some powder left out by the window sill over the weekend and others put to the test by Mr. Musselman and his closed system of pipes and graduated cylinders designed to capture the mysterious gases rising from the snow (which were discovered to be water!)



All in all the week long investigation was a huge success, with student performing hands-on investigations, using persuasive evidence to support their claims of new substances being made (or not) and digging deeper into matter, its forms, and its properties. We thank Mrs. Visocchi for allowing her class to be a “guinea-pig” for new lessons from the Science Center we hope to bring to other schools in the future!