Now what is a scientist… really

Three amazing scientists from ESPCoR visited our Flynn first graders for a second year.  They thought that the first visit was such a huge success that they would come back again!

When you ask a first grader what a scientist is you get a wide range of answers ranging from:

  • a person who wears a lab coat.
  • a person that makes potions.
  • or my favorite this year;  a person that carries handcuffs.

So in order to promote our wonderful study of science and debunk all the myths of what scientists really are, we brought three female scientists in to teach us.  They taught us that:

  • yes, we wear lab coats, but not that often.  We usually wear ripped jeans when we’re doing field studies.
  • we collect water samples and bug samples to check for the health of the lake.
  • we use many tools, such as magnifying glasses, microscopes and vials.
  • and we get to travel to other countries, like China and parts of the South American continent.

We also had some amazing ideas and questions come from our students about:

  • zebra mussels
  • blue/green algae

We will visit these questions and ideas in future STEAM classes.

Thanks EPSCoR!!




And we’re off! (with lots of exciting projects to come!)

What an amazing summer we had in Burlington this year!  I don’t think I remember weather quite as good in the 15 or so years I’ve lived here.

Last Wednesday we had our first day of school and what an exciting and happy day it was!  Students poured into our hallways with smiles and cheerful exchanges with both students and teachers.  During STEAM we engaged in games that connected to our skills and practices that we will focus on during the school year.  For fifth and fourth graders it was collaboration, while first, it was making observations.  It was so good to see all those bright and shining faces again!

This year we have some exciting projects in the works.  A few of these are:

  • a fifth/third grade collaboration creating programmed weather stations with staff.
  • creating and learning about vermiculture.
  • lots of outdoor work and exploration time
  • an integrated classroom/STEAM project with Generator

Enjoy your last few summer days!




Fourth Graders and our Earth’s History

As part of our blossoming partnership with the Community Sailing Center, fourth graders were visited by CSC’s educator Dayna McRoberts who taught an interactive lesson on geology and the evolution of Earth in connection with their water and land unit.  Together, students created a timeline of the Earth’s history and learned many new important facts about their planet, rocks and the importance that land and water makes in our existence.  The fact that surprised most students was that after the Big Bang, it rained on Earth for 500 million years!  

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Jen Guimaraes, director of CSC, Dayna McRoberts, Graham Clarke and myself have been working continuously on CSC curriculum this year to ensure that lessons coming out of CSC are integrated with the science units of fourth and fifth graders.  These units will be taught in all elementary schools throughout the entire Burlington School District.  I thank Jen and Dayna for their dedication and hard work to bring STEM lessons and lake experiences to the students of BSD.  

What’s Been Going on in STEAM Class Lately??

Quite some time has passed since I last blogged so here’s a quick rundown of some of the exciting things that happened in STEAM this spring!

First grade:  In connection with their math content from class, students discussed geometry and the connection of shapes in building design.  They then created three dimensional shapes with gumdrops and toothpicks to test their strength.  We discussed various building designs around the world, such as the One World Trade Tower, the Burj Kalifa, the Shanghai Tower and even ancient buildings such as the Pyramids of Egypt and the Parthenon in Athens, Greece.  Students were challenged to create and test shapes for their strength.

Fifth Grade:  One of our community partners, the Community Sailing Center, has been to Flynn multiple times this spring to bring curriculum connected to the NGSS standards we teach and a goal of inspiring increased lake stewardship for our students.  Dayna McRoberts, educator of CSC, allowed students to test various water samples, some out of our faucet, and discuss what pH, phosphorus, salinity, dissolved oxygen, and turbidity is.  These scientific ideas were easy for students to grapple with as they did similar tests with EPSCoR earlier this year and during their ecosystem unit with Ms. Pecor.  As a class Dayna discussed the implications of high turbidity in water or elevated phosphorus levels and what actions students can take to improve lake health.  

Even more exciting, a few weeks after, all fifth grade students made trips to the Sailing Center to sail, test pH, turbidity and take the temperature of Lake Champlain.  I was lucky to join Ms. Pecor’s class on the lake and was impressed by the knowledge they held about the lake.  I said to one of our fifth graders, “Wow, you know so much about science!  It’s incredible,” to which she replied, “We learn it all in your class Ms. Asaro!”  I certainly can’t take full responsibility for the breadth of their knowledge, but it is remarkable to see how much of our integrated teaching is paying off.  


I was really impressed with our fifth graders last week when each class completed the last challenge that aligns with our submersibles unit.  Before entering into this challenge, they had to investigate and grapple with the idea of mass and volume in relation to sinking and floating. Some students even began to understand the concept of density.

Every team was able to complete the first challenge of creating a floating submersible with different density vials that served as the submersibles “instruments”.   Almost every team after that, was able to complete the challenge of retrieving three different packages from our “sea floor”.   In the end, I was impressed that most students were able to understand mass and volume in relation to sinking or floating.  These concepts can prove confusing for students.  Our fifth grade proved that when engaged and challenged they persevere and can learn complicated scientific understanding.




Up, Up and Away!!


Here are some photos from our final parachute design challenge.  It culminated with a drop off the roof with the help of our custodian Mustafa.  It was a breezy day and one of our lucky groups had the benefit of a gust sending their well designed parachute over the playground staying in the air for 13 seconds.  Longest time yet!  Over the next few weeks we will study air resistance and how it played a role in our design’s success.

Photos from the winning parachute.  It got lifted off across the schoolyard.  Can you find it??

Designing Walls

It’s amazing the way of the minds of children work.  A few weeks ago we started a STEM project about designing walls.  I began by showing them the pictures of walls from around the world and asking about how they were made and why people use walls.   The conversations we ended up engaging in were so rich, question provoking and personal.  Two students, who had never shared about their homeland before, elaborated on how the walls in Nepal were built and what is was like to live in a refugee camp.  One described the rain and how they bathed and rejoiced in it when it came.  It was such a treasure for our students to engage in real conversations and first hand accounts about other countries and hear about experiences they may never had even imagined were possible before.  I was so proud that these two students shared and the others listened.

The photos below are of students engaging in the science of the lesson.  Earlier in the year, these second graders engaged in a matter unit that focused on properties of different types of matter in their homerooms.  We built on this knowledge, making observations of three different earth materials and recording their properties.  They then made claims based on the evidence of their observations as to which earth materials would be most suitable for a strong and durable wall.   The investigation culminates with students creating their own 3 inch tall walls that we test for strength with a “wrecking ball”.