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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.

Pine Glen’s Bridge Engineers February 3, 2017

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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!

We used wood because it was strong and rigid! We used cups to lift the bridge over the gap. #bpschat

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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.

Pine Glen engineers sharing the properties of their bridge! #bpschat

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More successful bridge building in Mrs. B's room! #bpschat

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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.

Successful bridge, documented with Explain Everything! #bpschat

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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!

Pine Glen Science Night 2016 October 13, 2016

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Edison takes in the Science Night crowd from his perch on Miss P.

Last week, Science Center staff and volunteers welcomed students and their families to Science Night inside the Pine Glen gymnasium. The Science Night proved to be the best yet, with several takeaways including oobleck, straw rockets, and “sound sandwiches” as well as guided tours of the StarLab!

Students also explored the spectrum of invisible, “infrared light” with the help of the Science Center’s infrared camera! Many students danced and played, watching their colorful outlines projected on the gymnasium wall while Mr. Musselman presented heat energy experiments to them through the use of ice cubes and students’ own insulating jackets!

As always Miss Pavlicek and her incredible cadre of Science Center volunteers were sharing fascinating nocturnal animals with those willing to get up close in the live animal exhibit! Mrs. Hogan, pre-service teachers from Cambridge College and former Science Center Director, John Papadonis also facilitated several learning stations.

Pine Glen Science Night was proudly sponsored by the Pine Glen PTO and marks the fifth Science Night hosted by the Burlington Science Center. Miss Pavlicek and Mr. Musselman intend bring Science Night to a new school every year with Memorial up next in the four year rotation! Thanks to Linda McNamee and Principal Lyons for sharing their photos with us.

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See you next year, Memorial!

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.

Up in the Clouds with Mrs. Hoyt’s Kindergarteners November 19, 2015

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Kindergarteners offer answers as to why predicting the weather is so important.

On Tuesday Mr. Musselman visited Pine Glen Kindergarteners in Mrs Hoyt’s class to take part in her “Everybody Reads” series! He brought along one of his favorite books as a child, “Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs” by Judy Barrett. Mr. Musselman tied in the imaginative story of wild weather in the land of Chewandswallow with students own “Weather Wednesday” investigations. The class discussed why it was so important for the people of Chewandswallow to predict (make a thoughtful guess in Kindergarten speak!) what the weather would be like and how they would prepare for the weather each day.

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cumulonimbus cloud can bring heavy rains, wind, and even lightning!

As a follow up, Mr. Musselman came in again on Weather Wednesday to share with students how clouds can be used to predict the weather. Students examined different kinds of clouds and shared what kinds of weather they would have to prepare if they saw these clouds outside their window. Mr. Musselman wrapped up the presentation by showing students how to make their own cloud, stopping at each ingredient to give students time to think about where on Earth they would find heat, water, and cold air to construct the much larger clouds in the sky!

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Our cloud is so thick we can’t see through it! Warm water, cold air, and a little dust and smoke was all it took!

 

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Our classroom cloud even came with its own rain! It’s “stuck” to the bottom of the cold pie pan but could fall on us at any second… watch out!

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!

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.

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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

Burlington Teachers and Students Present at National Science Teachers’ Association Conference in Boston April 6, 2014

Posted by MrMusselman in Burlington Community, Science Center, Student Work.
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Learning in Burlington was on full display at the National Science Teachers’ Association’s National Conference in Boston over the past weekend. Third grade teacher, Jane Lynch teamed up with Science Specialist, Sean Musselman to share her incredible model of social studies and science curriculum integration in a workshop for teachers titled, “Connecting STEM and American History Through Water Wheels.”

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To help manage and facilitate the workshop, Mrs. Lynch invited three of her Pine Glen students to attend, Liam Gillian, Jenna Lyonnaise, and Thomas Gallagher. Before the workshop started the students received their presenter badges and browsed the vendor booths and all of their incredible scientific instruments, gadgets, and demonstrations. The students then helped Mr. Musselman and Mrs. Lynch move the many boxes of engineering materials to the workshop room, greeted attendees at the door and shared their classroom experience with the lesson during the opening presentation. Once attending members were given the green light to begin planning and constructing water wheels of their own the students provided expertise and construction know-how to teachers interested in picking their brain.

The workshop was a huge success, with local teachers from Newton, Brookline, Rutland, and many others from across the nation delighted by the engineering challenge and excited to bring the experience home to students of their own. For parents and teachers interested in learning more about the workshop check out this link to the google doc shared by Mr. Musselman during the presentation.

Connecting STEM and American History Through Water Wheels February 12, 2014

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water wheel 2014

Across all of the Burlington elementary schools, third graders visit the Boott Cotton Mills at Lowell National Historic Park as a keystone piece of their social studies curriculum. While there the students learn about the conditions that made Lowell such a great place to cradle the American industrial revolution and get a chance to see and feel what living in and around the mills at the time would have been like.

With Social Studies and Science sharing a block of time, the teachers at the Pine Glen school used the Lowell Mills experience to develop a relevant engineering challenge for their students: constructing water wheels that work!

In the week following the students trip to the Mills, Mr. Musselman from the Science Center introduced the challenge by sharing a short video of the simple machines at work in the Boott Mills and a brief presentation explaining how they were connected to a system of canals and water wheels beneath the mills. The following days were spent using the design process in to accomplish the students engineering goals of developing a water wheel that would rotate many times under the flow of a two-liter bottle of water.

Students impressed with a variety of water wheel designs, some that worked better than others. While students worked independently to create their first water wheel “prototype,” students watched one another’s test runs to glean valuable knowledge and experience about which design flaws to avoid, and which to emulate in their own water wheel improvements.

Many of the products were held on to and stored by the Science Center to use during this year’s National Science Teacher Association’s conference in Boston where Mrs. Jane Lynch, Mr. Musselman and a few Pine Glen students will be sharing their experience with fellow science teachers from across the state and country as they challenge themselves to build water wheels of their own and bring the experience back to their classrooms!