Did you know that Flynn and ECHO have been piloting a science professional development outreach program this year? Well, we are and making great progress!
The Leahy Science Center, otherwise known as ECHO, has a newly established goal to provide rich STEM PD to rural communities in Vermont, based on our Next Generation Science standards and practices. Chris Whitaker, STEM coordinator and teacher at ECHO, has been working with our first grade team on their light unit. He uses the model, “I do, We do, You do.” So far, he has brought engaging lessons and materials to Flynn and has helped strengthen our teachers science teaching. We look forward to working with he and his team next year as well!
After our holiday break, our amazing scientists from EPSCOR, Livia and Janel, visited with a stated choice activity for our fifth grade students. This is an activity that was actually given to Burlington residents to find out what they valued most in terms of our lake and land use. The information, in turn, was used to provide information to lawmakers on big decisions in our area.
Fifth grade has been immersed in their watershed and ecosystems unit for the past few months and this lesson that EPSCOR delivered complemented their learning nicely, and allowed them to share their personal voices and values in thinking about choices we make that impact our lake.
Janel explained that we all have choices in life and sometimes that choices impact our environment. Students had to consider these three choices:
- Land use (forest, city or farm)
- Beach closures
- Fish consumption
Students had rich conversations with one another while engaging in the stated choice activity. What a great activity to do with fifth graders who are just starting to discover their own identities and personal preferences! They had to circle which of the aforementioned choices they preferred and find patterns to see which of the choices they felt most strong about. Some students were passionate about fishing, and keeping the ability to eat the fish out of Lake Champlain; while others, found as vegetarians, preferred keeping our forests large, water clean, and safe for animals.
The following week we revisited the issue of mercury content in fish. Students were full of questions about eating mercury and how it impacted humans, where it came from and if fish from grocery stores had mercury in it and were safe to eat. One student, analyzed the pictures in our State of the Lake pamphlets and came up with the easy explanation that we should eat less large fish than small and found that was true of both ocean and lake fish. This was one of my favorite lessons so far. Thank you EPSCOR!
One of my very favorite subjects is the concept of biomimicry, or in layman terms, science copying nature to solve problems and design products. First graders recently learned about how science uses the amazing ways of nature both in plants and animals to make products for humans. They used this idea to design shoes, yes shoes.
Watch how science has copied nature here.
The challenge is to design a pair of shoes that mimics an animal’s foot in the rainforest, enabling them to be able to live, and do as that animal does in it’s habitat. Now, will these shoes work as intended? Probably not, but they are prototypes; out of the box ideas for new designs and solutions to problems. Take a peek at the kids working on their shoes below. I will add more photos as they finish their projects.
A few other teachers and I decided to take one of Harvard’s Zero Project’s online courses named “Thinking and Learning in the Maker-Centered Classroom”. As part of this course, we are collaborating on a shadow puppet play that involves the disciplines of science, music, art and the script skills of some of our English Learners.
One of the tasks of the class was to have students take apart something and look closely at the pieces. We, as teachers, did it first by taking apart an old pencil sharpener. My students are working with the theme of light for the shadow puppet play so to connect with that theme we took apart flashlights. Here are some of their discoveries:
We started off this year with a challenge involving our Sphero robotics. Students had to stay within a material budget of $15 and create a watercraft that could deliver 10-20 pennies across our pool and back. Students that were able to complete the challenge had to consider the scientific properties of the materials they were using and consider how to best position the Sphero to maximize their ability to move through the water. Here are some photos of our trials and our final challenge. It proved to be more difficult than the students thought it would be! It would be interesting to try this again at the end of the year and see how they fare…
Teaching new and innovative classes tasks some risk and also is a bit of balancing act for teachers who take on these very important ventures. Last year, I split my time between Flynn and the Burlington Technical Center. At BTC I was tasked with creating a new pre-tech program and also creating a maker space. Below are some pictures from the space and a write up done by Lucie Delabruere who used the space for her summer maker class.
Lucie´s blog post about Studio B can be found here: http://createmakelearn.blogspot.com/2017/08/learning-about-maker-spaces-in-our.html
We had an exciting year last year with many integrative and engaging projects for our students at Flynn. Below is a bit of a visual mash up of these projects.
The highlights of the 2016-17 school year was a collaborative mosaic project, inspired by local artist Peter Katz, with Generator, 5th grade team, Art and STEAM. The students each created a beautiful wooden mosaic that exemplified their understanding of their ecosystem unit. Also, we created an Arduino (external hard drive) controlled weather station to gather data about weather right on Flynn campus! You can see it on the south side of Flynn´s roof. You can access our live weather data here: https://www.wunderground.com/personal-weather-station/dashboard?ID=KVTBURLI32#history