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The Solar Eclipse is Nearly Here! August 17, 2017

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Mr. Musselman trying out his solar glasses. Even when the eclipse is over these glasses will still let you observe the sun safely!

As you have undoubtedly heard, a partial solar eclipse will be visible in Burlington on Monday, August 21st. Roughly 60% of the sun radiating on Burlington will be blocked by the ‘new moon’ directly between the Sun and Earth between 1:28 p.m. EDT and 3:59 p.m. The maximum partial eclipse will be visible at 2:46.

Solar and Lunar eclipses can be incredible sights! Even though solar eclipses occur as frequently on Earth as lunar eclipses (when Earth’s shadow is cast on a full moon), only people in the small band of Earth’s shadow can see the solar eclipse. They are also shorter in length, making them more rare to see in any one location.

When viewed properly, solar eclipses can be incredible sights! Below are some common myths dispelled along with information and support from NASA Solar Eclipse educator, Charles Fuco.

Myth #1:  “The Sun is more dangerous during an eclipse.”

An eclipsed Sun is no more dangerous than the “everyday” Sun. However, because the intense radiation of the sun is diminished our eyes do not “alert” our brains as effectively and we can be more inclined to look toward the sun… which can still do damage to the sensitive layers of light sensing tissues in our eyes. Therefore, its important to know how to view an eclipse safely which brings us to myth #2…

Myth 2:  “There are no safe ways to view an eclipse.”

There are many proven, safe ways for to observe an eclipse: young children can cross-hatch their fingers to make little pinhole cameras and stand with their backs to the Sun while they project the solar image through their fingers onto the ground—no equipment needed! They also will enjoy seeing the myriad undulating “mini eclipse” crescents on the ground under a leafy tree while remaining safely under its cover; older students can construct a solar viewer, which also satisfies an NGSS Science & Engineering Practices requirement. Anyone can hold a pasta colander as another way to project crescents on the ground; and one can look directly at the eclipse using certified-safe solar glasses (on a non-eclipse day as well). In Burlington, we will not be experiencing a total solar eclipse, so it is never appropriate to look directly at the sun without solar glasses.

Myth #3:  “You can see it better on TV.”

I can remember the first time I ever experienced a solar eclipse as a young elementary age child in Melrose. My brother and I used Cheez-its to observe the shadow on our front porch! It’s hard to imagine this experience would have left such an indelible mark on my memory if I had merely been watching footage on TV or via YouTube (assuming it existed then!) While I strongly encourage everyone to check out later footage of the eclipse totality, be sure to take the time to experience the eclipse first hand in your own backyards and playgrounds. This myth is spoken by those who have never experienced an eclipse live, seeing the dimming of the light in the sky, the sudden cooling of the air, and how our Earth’s wildlife seems to prepare for night to come… in the middle of the day! Experience this rare opportunity with your child today, so that they might reflect on it when the next partial eclipse comes our way another eight years from now!

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

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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.

Summer Robotics Students Launch into a World of Programming and Engineering July 29, 2016

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The Burlington Science Center’s summer robotics program has found its rhythm in its third year of operation. A mix of incoming third, fourth, and fifth graders joined the second session of summer programs at the Memorial Elementary School from July 18th – 28th.

Day 1 of our summer robotics program. Assembling the bot to NASA specifications! #bpschat

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During the first week, students engaged in a series of challenges as NASA Jet Propulsion Lab engineers charged with constructing the next Mars rover. Robots were built to exact “NASA specifications” before being programmed to travel precise distances, take tight corners, use touch and ultrasonic sensors to navigate unexplored terrain and light sensors to detect signs of valuable minerals or follow pre-constructed paths on the colony grounds. Each challenge was scaffolded to challenge the engineers to design robots and programs of increased levels of sophistication.

Team Red: Nick and Alan complete the Red Line Challenge! #devilbotz2876 #bpschat

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Along the way our students engaged in questions about what roles could and should robots play in our world both now and in the future. Students created and shared Explain Everything presentations illustrating their imagined worlds in which robots completed chores and cleaned up the environment, expressing both the benefits of a robotized society and the challenges (such as jobs and “money loss” that would be faced as a result.)

Mrs. Snyder's robotics crew taking in a quick read on the variety of ways robots play a role in our lives. #devilbotz2876 #bpschat

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Our students’ progress and accomplished feats were documented along the way on the Burlington Science Center instagram page. Check it out directly to see all of the fabulous work captured by our students!

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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.

Shadow Show at the Burlington Early Childhood Center April 15, 2016

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Is Mr. Musselman’s hand really this big???

Mr. Musselman recently brought the Science Center’s shadow theater to the Burlington Early Childhood Center for a morning of exploring how shadows form, how shadows can change in size, and where we can find shadows both indoors and out. Students wrapped up their light and shadow explorations by working together to trace and illustrate one another’s shadows! Check out the fantastic work done by these Cub Cadets and Kinderstars!

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Working together to trace our shadows!

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Taking our time to trace our shadows just right!

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Time to add my features!

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

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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.

Websites:

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.

Videos:

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)

Books:

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!

Games:

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

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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.

 

Exploring Earthquake Science with MSMS 6th Graders January 26, 2016

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The Science Center stretch into Marshall Simonds Middle School last week to share the science behind earthquakes with the MSMS 6th graders.

Mr. Carroll was kind enough to take pictures and video during the presentation and share them on the MSMS blog. After the show, Mr. Musselman set up the Burlington Science Center seismograph in the learning commons for all MSMS students to observe and investigate. Mrs. Richardson’s class tried it out today with earth-shaking results! Thanks to Library Media Specialist, John Carroll at the MSMS Learning Commons for sharing and posting these great pictures and videos!

 

“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.)