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BHS Helpdesk Senior Constructs BEF Funded “Augmented Reality Sandbox” June 23, 2017

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After two years of planning, designing, and construction successes and setbacks the BEF-sponsored “Augmented Reality Sandbox” has become a physical reality! Several students from the BHS Helpdesk have put their efforts towards this project, a tool designed to engage and support student learning around earth systems, watersheds, topography, and geologic hazards just to name a few. It has been the work of graduating senior, Eddie Reiss that has brought the project from pen and paper to fruition. During his time in the fall as a HelpDesk member Eddie “speced out” the necessary hardware, investigated different style projectors and sandbox sizes before ultimately falling on the design featured above. In the closing weeks of his tenure at BHS he took on the construction of the project as an individualized learning “internship”. The completion of this project means that with some minor additional work to be completed over the summer hitching the computer to the base of the portable sandbox and running cables up one of the posts, the sandbox will be ready for classrooms in the 2017-2018 academic year! The sandbox will also be featured at the 2017 MassCUE annual conference in the fall.

The Burlington Science Center would like to thank LeRoy Wong for overseeing Eddie’s work over the school year and most importantly the Burlington Education Foundation, or “BEF” for their support of this grant and several other grants over the years that have allowed us to continue to bring innovative tools and curriculum to our K-12 students. To learn how you can volunteer or financially support the BEF visit their website: www.burlingtonedfoundation.org

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BHS HelpDesk and Science Center partner to build “Augmented Reality Sandbox” December 9, 2016

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Students, Eddie Reis and Jinzhen “Hugo” Hu have been furiously working to bring a Science Center BEF grant vision to reality. As the holidays approach we checked in with these students to see how far they had come with the future Science Center crown jewel, the Augmented Reality Sandbox!

As you can see, the kinks are still being worked out and the entire project is not yet mobile, but we are confident this project will come to full fruition in the coming months as the technical and structural glitches get worked out. Eddie and Hugo also plan to add in the watershed and precipitation features to the software. The AR Sandbox will be on display and available for students to explore during the Hour of Code week scheduled for the week of December 12th.

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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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.

“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.

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!

 

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!

SummerSTEM: Engaging Students through Programming and Robotics July 18, 2014

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Today marks the end of a wildly successful pilot of the Burlington Programming/Robotics SummerSTEM camp, spawned after the well received “hour of code” earlier this year by me and Francis Wyman’s IT Specialist, Ben Schersten. With the focus on learning basic strategies and methods applied by computer programmers and robotics engineers, our two-week course primarily utilized “Hopscotch,” an iPad app using “Blockly” computer language, and a dozen Lego NXT kits funded through a grant a few years ago at the Francis Wyman Elementary.

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Mr. Schersten sharing the html code of his website.

With relatively little direct instruction students went from being relative novices in computer language and coding concepts, to mechanical and software “engineers”, problem solving everything from coding miscues to optimal gear placement on the robots axles. Many students integrated the use of sensors to build robots that avoided walls while attempting to maneuver balls from one side of the room to the other. Receiving only rough, open-ended guidelines for much of the camp, students seemed to work tirelessly on their projects, some even groaning when recess or snack brought a “mandatory” break and in some cases coming to camp 10 to 15 minutes early to get a little “extra time” with their Hopscotch program.

To emphasize the importance of robotics and computer science in their community, we spent one day on the second week on a field trip to two robot companies in the area, Harvest AI and iRobot. Their kids were wowed as the Harvest prototypes, “Shaq” and “Skip” endlessly carted potted plants to their watering and sunlight destinations. Our hosts were kind enough to show us the electrical wiring inside one of their other bots and the display sharing the hundreds of lines of commands being used by the bots as they made their way around the warehouse. At iRobot we received a historical tour sharing the evolution of iRobot’s most popular models and learned about how robots were best used when doing jobs people classified under the “Three D’s: Dull, Dirty, or Dangerous.”

Along the way students also dabbled in Scratch, exploring how different coding platforms still use the same skills and concepts. During the first week students also participated in a few Computer Science Unplugged activities, teaching students about how computers use binary numbers to compute numbers, compress image files, and debug programs where the code is translated in error.

With the Burlington school system further investing into its LEGO Robotics infrastructure, Ben and I are looking forward to expanding the robotics camp and programming opportunities available to our students in the future!

Mr. Musselman and Mr. Schersten would like to thank Harvest AI and iRobot for graciously hosting us, and our student volunteers from the high school and middle school who volunteered their time and talents to share and work with our students!

Investigating Craters April 15, 2014

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For thousands of years humans have looked to the sky and told tales of the moon. Invoked by patterns on the moon’s surface, the stories of the man on the moon and the rabbit of immortality hold special places in different cultures across the earth. But as second graders at Fox Hill have been learning, the images of these creatures have been made over billions of years by the moon’s exposure to asteroids and the craters they leave behind.

 

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Students drop everyday classroom objects into the baking soda “moon surface” and record qualitative and quantitative data about the crater that forms.

Mrs. Sheppard and Mrs. Lewis’ class recently investigated how craters are made. Why do craters take the shape that they do and what causes a crater to be wide or narrow or shallow or deep. Mr. Musselman recently joined them in their investigation, bringing model moon surfaces (baking soda) and a variety of crater makers (batters, balls, markers, and just about anything else from the storage cabinet) to explore how different craters are made and how to measure each crater using centimeters from the metric system and rounding to the nearest half.

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Which crater made the widest crater? Which crater made the deepest crater? Did any craters surprise you? Why?

Students were delighted to form their own craters and tested objects over and over to ensure similar results were made after dropping the same “asteroid” over and over again. The rounding to the nearest half and recording of mixed numbers proved a challenge to second graders, even before recording their results, but as patterns developed in the data collected on their data tables, students began to understand how different craters were being generated on the moons surface by a variety of different asteroids of different, shapes, sizes, and masses.

This lesson has been adapted from Peggy Ashbrook’s “Seeing the Moon” lesson from the January 2012 issue of Science and Children magazine. For access to the printable worksheet seen in this activity and produced by Mr. Musselman at the Burlington Science Center click here.