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Science Center Launches First Round of Curriculum Aligned to Revised MA Science, Technology, and Engineering Standards August 30, 2016

Posted by Sean Musselman in Science Center.
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The beginning of every school year is generally marked with excitement and nervous anticipation. Among the many “to-do’s” teachers meet new students, tweak their curriculum, and develop routines to improve their practice and meet their new students’ needs. This year is no different in Burlington elementary classrooms, particularly as the Science Center rolls out new units (and phases out some older ones) in the first year of a multi-year roll curriculum overhaul designed to align our science curriculum with the Revised Massachusetts Science, Technology, and Engineering Standards.

Numerous teachers have spent hours consulting and collaborating  with Miss Pavlicek and Mr. Musselman to “backward design” each unit, pilot investigations and lessons, identify small group reading material and beyond. The results are units designed specifically for Burlington, complete with digital teacher guides, rubrics, and student notebooks importable to student devices and open for community review.

The units are available for anyone to view and use (with a few exceptions to materials with subscriptions purchased solely for Burlington teachers). They can be found by clicking on the tab above on the Burlington Science Center homepage titled, “K-5 Science Curriculum“. As you will see, there are still a number of units to be rolled out. Teachers and administrators can expect this year’s focus to be on receiving and responding to feedback, making necessary changes to the new curriculum to better meet student learning goals, and mindfully developing curriculum for the 2017-2018 rollout.

“Our Trash, Our Choices” Resources March 7, 2016

Posted by Sean Musselman in Burlington Community, Science Center.
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The Burlington Science Center’s show, “Our Trash, Our Choices” is coming to each of the Burlington elementary schools over the course of the winter. During the show students will get a full look at the amount of trash they produce on a daily basis in their school’s cafeteria. The goal of the show is to get students thinking more critically about their trash and the opportunities missed everyday to reduce the amount of waste we create each day.

The resources posted below can help educators and families extend the conversation into their classrooms and homes.


Meet the Greens, a family working hard to make sure they make the right choices for the environment. Through the family’s animated adventures (each containing a great environmental message) children and adults will learn about recycling, protecting animals, and more. The site includes an interactive blog where your kids can have discussions about the programs.

EEK! Environmental Education for Kids is an online magazine that is for kids. They have articles about the environment and other issues, and great activities for your kids to enjoy online.

Recycling for Kids and Teachers, produced by the Massachusetts Office of Energy and Environmental Affairs includes links on recycling and composting, curriculum for teachers, and links just for kids to additional MA based green sites.

National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences’ Kids Page shares more ways YOU can eliminate waste and protect your environment! Includes great info and games.


Sid the Science Kid: Recycling!

BrainPOP: Humans and the Environment (subscription needed)

Reading Rainbow: “How Trash is Recycled” with LeVar Burton (YouTube)

ReCommunity: How Recycling Works (vimeo)

Improving Paper Recycling – American Forest and Paper Association (YouTube)

Composting for Kids with Peppa Pig (YouTube/ads)

How to Compost at School – Center for EcoTechnology/ MA EPA (YouTube)

Composting for Kids – Highfields Center for Composting (vimeo)


Common Ground: The Water, Earth, and Air We Share – A simple story of our planet’s natural resources with jewel-like paintings by Caldecott Honor author Molly Bang. Through the example of a shared village green and the growing needs of the townspeople who share it, Molly Bang presents the challenge of handling our planet’s natural resources. Full color picture book.

The EARTH Book – Explore the important, timely subject of environmental protection and conservation in this eco-friendly picture book. Featuring a circular die-cut Earth on the cover, and printed entirely with recycled materials and nontoxic soy inks, this book includes lots of easy, smart ideas on how we can all work together to make the Earth feel good – from planting a tree and using both sides of the paper, to saving energy and reusing old things in new ways.

Thanks to Memorial teacher, Elizabeth Guttenplan for sharing these titles!


Recycle Round Up – Help clean up the park! Your job is to sort the stuff people throw away and put it in the proper bin. Is it recycling, compost or trash? Created by National Geographic.

Recycle This! – Use the “airburst” tool to guide the recyclables into the proper bins before they fall into the trash. Created by NASA Kids.

The Magic Makeover, Superhero Training, trivia and more at the Kids Recycling Zone. Created by the Association of Plastic Recyclers.

The United States EPA list of “green games.”

Program for School Projects:

TerraCycle creates waste recycle programs for previously non-recyclable, or difficult-to-recycle, waste. The collected waste is then converted into new products, ranging from recycled park benches to upcycled backpacks. To get started, participants select a chosen recyclable and form a collection station. Teams earn points by sending away their trash (TerraCycle pays for shipping) which is converted into points, valued as money that can be donated or used for other goods.

Science Center Presents New Science Standards Implementation Plan to MA Education Leaders February 5, 2016

Posted by Sean Musselman in Burlington Community, Science Center.
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Miss Pavlicek and Mr. Musselman had the recent honor of presenting at the Cambridge College Science Colloquium.  Following the adoption of new state science, technology, and engineering standards, Miss. P and Mr. Musselman were charged with sharing how the Science Center and several Burlington elementary school faculty members are working together to implement changes to their science classroom instruction.

Miss Pavlicek shared how the Science Center has been facilitating professional development to interested faculty through after school short courses and Science Center / classroom teacher partnerships to makeover current curriculum to better meet the new expectations put forth by the standards. Mr. Musselman shared about how the Science Center has plotted curriculum implementation that rolls out new curriculum over several years, improving over time through elementary teacher feedback and work over the summer with elementary faculty. He also shared some of the many resources the Science Center has drawn from and curriculum collaboration networks both he and Miss Pavlicek have been participating in.

Miss P. and Mr. Musselman’s slides can be seen above. A link from BCATV (who were kind enough to film the event) as soon as it is published.


Shifting to the Next Generation of Science in Burlington Elementary Schools August 28, 2014

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BScience Next Generation

The Science Center opened the 2014-2015 school year with grade level presentations outlining the coming changes to the entire elementary school science curriculum. The changes outlined are a result of the Massachusetts Department of Early and Secondary Education’s release of their draft revised standards for Science, Technology, and Engineering, expected to be finalized and moved forward for public adoption during the 2015-2016 school year.

During this presentation Ms. Pavlicek outlined the reasons for the DESEs move to revise the standards and the significant changes the new standards will require to the way science is taught across K-12 classrooms. Mr. Musselman then outlined the five year plan designed to introduce new units one at a time, while providing professional development for teachers to better prepare them for the type of “science practice” work expected to be done with students in their classrooms. During the curriculum development and review process, the Science Center will be including teachers in the process of identifying key learning goals, developing curriculum to reach these goals, and assessments that teachers will be able to use to determine students mastery of the standards or “performance expectations.” Modifications have been made to each grade level’s curriculum, year-by-year, starting in the fall of 2016 to ensure that students do not experience gaps in their science learning and that a well.

Also introduced to the teachers was Science A-Z, a resource associated with Reading A-Z that will provide teachers with leveled readers across the curriculum and for their grade level. The Science Center and Mobile Learning teachers Diana Marcus and Jenn Scheffer will be helping teachers integrate these resources into their 1:1 classrooms.

The fifth-grade presentation has been embedded into this blog above. To see the presentations shared at every grade level follow this link to the Burlington Science Folder sharing the August PD presentations.

What’s In Your Backyard? May 8, 2014

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photo 4

Students observing a beaver chewed log

One of my favorite acitvities with my elementary students is called “What’s In Your Backyard?”  Our third grade students learn about plant and animal habitats as part of the life science curriculum.  We start of the lesson by talking about what kinds of things scientists do (ask questions, discover, explore, create, build, and observe). Then students talk about what it means to “observe” something and how they use their 5 senses as part of their observation skills.

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As a class, they brainstorm and make a list of animals that are found in their bakyard (the habitat they are most familiar with).  I ask the students “how do they know that particular animal lives in your backyard?”  We list the clues or evidence that animals can leave behind in nature that cues us in to the fact that they are around.

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There are several numbered stations spread out around the classroom, which include artifacts or evidence that nature has left behind in their backyard (examples include feathers, footprints, antlers, nests, scat, acorns, woodpecker holes in a tree, trash).

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Woodpecker holes in a tree

The students then observe each object, record data about this object and answer why they think the item was left in their backyard.

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Footprints station

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Deer tail station

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Skull station

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Students observing antlers, scat and trash

At the end of the lesson students share their answers and have group discussions about why they think the object was in the backyard.

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Students decide a turtle had passed away due to the observation of seeing the backbone on the inside of the shell

This activity helps students with observations skills, brings nature indoors and changes the way a student looks at the outside world.  An exttension for this acitvity is taking the class ouside for a nature walk to look for similar clues or items in their schoolyard.

Ms. Pavlicek named “Teacher of the Month” for Pitsco Education May 5, 2014

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Congratulations to our K-5 Science Director and “Rocket Girl” as Ms. Pavlicek was named “Teacher of the Month” for Pitsco Education!  Read about on Ptisco’s website here!


Wood Frog Eggs and Life Cycles! April 16, 2014

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Every spring as the temperatures rise and the local water resources thaw, local wildlife starts to emerge and prepare for reproduction.  Amphibians travel to areas of the forect floor that have filled with water from melting snow.  These pools of water are called vernal pools.   Vernal pools provide a great food source and a safe place to lay their eggs.  They are a wonderful habitat for viewing unique wildife. photo 1 Every year Ms. Pavlicek travels to local vernal pools in search of amphibian eggs to share with her elementary classrooms.  They are used for a variety of science curriculum connections including life cycles, characteristics of living things, adaptations and amphibian units.  Each interested classroom receives 10 eggs, food and an information packet.  The classrooms will raise their tadpoles and release them back into the vernal pool shortly after. 

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Wood frog egg masses attahed to plants

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Wood frog egg mass

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Garden snake in the forest

Be sure to check out the Science Center’s video on this egg collecting excursion here.

Mrs. Anderson’s second grade class working on their observation amphibian journals.







May the FORCE be with you! January 7, 2014

Posted by Sean Musselman in Science Center.
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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!


Enjoy Holiday Mood Cards from the Burlington Science Center! December 13, 2013

Posted by Sean Musselman in Burlington Community, Science Center.
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This week all Burlington K-5 students will be coming home with a special holiday science experiment from the Burlington Science Center. The holiday mood cards may seem magical but the “thermochromic” properties of the liquid crystals they are made from will lead to plenty of science investigations!

Watch this video to hear a brief explanation from Miss Pavlicek and Mr. Musselman about the many ways you can explore heat energy with the mood cards over the holiday break. The Burlington Science Center wishes the entire Burlington community a joyful and safe holiday break. See you in 2014!

Happy Holiday Experiment: Solar Beads! December 17, 2012

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This week all Burlington K-5 students will be coming home with a special holiday science experiment from the Burlington Science Center. They may just look like a few plain white plastic beads, but bring them outside and students will see the full beauty of these solar beads!

Watch this video to hear a brief explanation from Miss Pavlicek and Mr. Musselman about how solar beads work. Then you’ll be introduced to a science experiment for all students to try out over the holiday break.