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Interweaving Pollinator Art into our Life Science Curriculum June 14, 2017

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Beautiful flower artwork on display in the Memorial Elementary hallways.

This year Burlington took a big step toward aligning with the new K-12 Massachusetts Science, Technology, and Engineering Standards by introducing plant and animal structure and function units to the first and fourth grades. The process of pollination, and how the structures of plants and animals work together to help one another survive has been the focus at the fourth grade level, with students examining internal and external parts of the organisms to grasp their function. Along the way, the BPS Art Department was inspired to bring this exploration into their own work, and coordinated closely with Miss Pavlicek to interweave their own art standards and aspirations with the science curriculum.

Two teachers in particular have stood out that we would like to recognize. Art teacher, Donna York at the Memorial School became so inspired by the new curriculum that she dedicated a large portion of her year to the pollinator theme, having students from all grades construct artwork that captures pollinator shape, color, and function. When the work was published this spring through the Memorial hallways the work was absolutely breath-taking!

Art Teacher, Courtney Fallon took students in a different, but equally wonderful direction by piloting a pollinator performance unit to be shared with her fellow elementary art teachers in hopes they might produce something similar in their own schools. Students incorporated costume art, models created on “pollen” to demonstrate new learning, and an interpretive dance that got different pollinators mixing it up to share learning around their given pollinator type.

We are so impressed at the wonderful work these teachers have produced with their students! Special thanks again to Donna York and Courtney Fallon as well as Art Department Team Leader, George Rakevitch for their dedication and vision to make these imaginative projects a reality for their students.

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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“Superfish” Explores Aquarium Creatures Parts and Functions with Kindergarteners January 26, 2016

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Memorial kindergarteners observing the octopus suction cups during their Superfish show! #bpschat

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Every year before Burlington Kindergarteners venture to the Aquarium, Mr. Musselman visits the school to explore the many different creatures special features in a show known as “Superfish.”

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Students learn that all animals can be broken down into two groups, those that have a backbone and those that do not. These creatures are known as vertebrates and invertebrates.

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Mr. Musselman highlights creatures students will want to stay on the look out for, and asks students to imagine how their different parts help each creature survive. Students share how the mollusks shell provide protection, as do the exoskeletons of the horseshoe crab and lobster. One lucky volunteer gets to observe first-hand how the suction cups of a seastar keep them safely glued to the rocks of our shorelines.

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The “Superfish” comes out toward the end of the show as Mr. Musselman describes the different parts and functions that all fish share. A great white shark jaw fossil makes for great intrigue, but is outdone when students line up at the end of the show to examine an octopus close up (before seeing a live one at the aquarium later in the week.)

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!

Flamingo Experts Visit Memorial First Graders April 1, 2015

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When Mrs. Panagiotopoulos’ writing chose flamingos as the subject of their research project, Mr. Musselman put in a call with some friends at the Stone and Franklin Park Zoo. The Stone Zoo is home to one of the most successful flamingo hatcheries in the United States! Fast forward to this afternoon, when zoo educators Miss Marley and Miss Caitlin came to visit Mrs. P’s class and share some feathery facts with the curious first graders.

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Miss Marley with video from the flamingo hatchery at the Stone Zoo.

 

Miss Marley and Miss Caitlin started by sharing some video filmed by the chief flamingo curator talking about some of the special things zoo keepers do to keep track of the flamingos and their offspring, set to hatch next month. They put little bands with different colors on the flamingos’ legs to indicate whether they are male or female.

Because the shrimp-like krill flamingos eat can be expensive, zoo keepers feed the local flamingos a mix of nutrients that flamingos need in a mix they call “flamingo chow.” Students got to look at the flamingo chow using magnifiers.

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What do we find in “flamingo chow”?

 

Flamingo feathers come in pink, white, and black. Students got to touch the feathers and feel the difference between the soft underside and smooth outside of the feathers.

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Flamingo feathers are beautiful!

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Observing the soft side of flamingo feathers.

Students also got to touch a replica flamingo skull and real pieces of flamingo eggs. They were much larger than the baby chick eggs hatching in their classroom right now!

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The flamingo egg was very fragile!

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Checking out the flamingo skull.

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Flamingos are filter feeders. Their beaks help them catch krill in the water.

 

We would like to thank the zoo educators, Marley and Caitlin for coming out to Burlington and visiting our classroom and the Science Center!

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Miss Marley with a baby chick from the Science Center!

 

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!

Exploring Oobleck March 7, 2014

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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!

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Students exploring oobleck.

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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.

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“The oobleck can be stretched into different shapes!”

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“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.

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“Oobleck can break into many parts.”

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“Oobleck takes the shape of the cup!”

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!

 

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!

Pumpkin Science Shows October 4, 2013

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Does a pumpkin float or sink in water?

Does a pumpkin float or sink in water?

Mr. Musselman has been busy this past week sharing “Pumpkin Science” with Burlington’s second graders. Students have been enjoying learning about the anatomy of a pumpkin, predicting whether a pumpkin floats or sinks, and then following up with some halloween investigations around the science of fire.

The Fire Triangle

The Fire Triangle

Will the fire stay lit?

Will the fire stay lit?

To send the students away with a bang, Mr. Musselman has been sharing an impressive chemical reaction demonstration he likes to call “Pumpkin Vomit.” The chemical reaction is better known as “Elephant Toothpaste” across the YouTube world. It can be done safely with some home friendly ingredients… the most important being the dish soap!

Pumpkin Vomit!!!

Pumpkin Vomit!!!

When the reaction begins, oxygen is created and heat is released. Since oxygen is a gas at room temperature, the gas begins to rise out of the mixture… but not before the dish soap creates bubbles ensnaring the oxygen! With so much gas being released, the bubbles quickly overcome the size of their container and the giggles from curious onlookers start to spill over too!

Thanks to Memorial teachers, Erica Farrand and Barbara Nelson for taking these excellent photos!