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Kindergarteners “Protect the Popsicle” in Engineering Challenge June 14, 2016

Posted by Sean Musselman in Science Center, Student Work.
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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!

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.”

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!



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

Posted by Sean Musselman in Science Center.
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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.


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!


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!



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!

Pine Glen Students Play Meteorologists of the Future January 14, 2014

Posted by Sean Musselman in Student Work.
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The second grade students and teachers have been busy this past month learning about weather conditions, severe weather storms, and emergency preparedness for dangerous weather events.

Recently the fruits of their labors were shared with the Burlington Science Center. As second grade teacher, Mrs. Anderson writes, “[The] second grade students worked really hard with Miss Fallon and their classroom teachers to create weather forecasting videos. Mr. Callahan helped put it all together. Check them out below we are extremely proud of their efforts! Check out Mr. Callahan’s blog to learn more about how these green screen videos were made.

We couldn’t be prouder either! We here at the Science Center are always mindful of the tremendous work our classroom teachers put in to make our students’ science experiences go above and beyond! Check out each classrooms videos embedded below:

Mrs. Lane’s class

Mrs. Varrell’s class

Mrs. Anderson’s class

How Much Liquid Water in a Foot of Snow? February 10, 2013

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This past weekend’s blizzard covered New England with several inches of snow and will be remembered as one of the largest (and longest!) storms to coat Burlington in memorable history.

The snow could not have hit at a better time for our elementary schools though, as many of Burlington’s fourth graders are either wrapping up or just starting their science units on weather and climate!

A question often asked by students (and adults) is how much liquid water is there in a foot of snow? When learning about matter, students learn how matter contracts as it gets colder taking up less space, and expands as it gets warmer (taking up more space!)

But water is not like most matter. Thanks to water molecules electronegativity its molecules organize themselves into a special six-sided arrangement that produces a perceived hollow crystal interior. When ice and other forms of solid water are heated up, the arrangement breaks down, the hollow space collapses and the water “melts” into its liquid form. As you can see in the diagram below, liquid water ends up taking up less space than solid water and is therefore more dense than ice!

Water Molecular Arrangement

This phenomena has a profound effect on our Earth! Since ice floats the tops of Earth’s bodies of water freeze over while marine creatures live below. If ice was more dense (like most matter) ice would sink to the bottom, crushing marine creatures below and leaving our seas and rivers relatively lifeless!

Consider trying this experiment with your students or children and see if you get the same results! We are familiar with many different “kinds” of snow (light and fluffy, wet and sticky to name a few!) Do all of these snow types melt into the same amount of water? Does location matter? Allow your students and kids to explore the possibilities and maybe devise their own experiments!