Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Education in Action Around the Bay

Today I sat outside in a circle with 6 third & fourth grade kids at the Mission Science Workshop, who were testing out how many solar panels it would take to sound a buzzer and run a motor. I sat in on part of a 9th grade Physics class at Mission High School where a very intelligent, witty and enthusiastic teacher was SHOWING his students how Michael Faraday discovered the electric motor. They all were able to SEE the galvanometer respond to the electric current when he passed a magnet through a copper coil. I left before they got to convert AC to DC currents & watch the waves change on the oscilloscope.  I finished the day by heading over to Lighthouse Charter school in Oakland to visit their Maker Studio & saw kids building craft stick towers, soldering circuit boards and working with Rasberry Pi to build robots. I'm so excited to try out some of the new ideas I learned today at our Workshop. Next up for the John Muir Science Workshop is definitely a 3D printer!

Come join us on Thursdays from 2:45 to 4:00 for open make sessions! 

Friday, March 14, 2014

Thursday After School Workshop

 Two of these upholstered chairs left the Workshop on Thursday... leaving a few bent nails in their wake, but the furniture builders were persistent and proud to leave with their projects. The balloon powered zip line has been an exciting challenge and is always fun to watch zoom through the room. Other kids had fun with chemistry guessing the perfect combination of glue, Borax and water ratio to make a great polymer blob of Gak. The other project that is now on week 3, is the making of a Lego/cardboard Rube Goldberg machine. This quiet third grade engineer dressed mostly in pink is patient, focused and determined and I can't WAIT to see her finished project.

Monday, March 10, 2014

Science of Fossils

 Collections of rocks, shells & fossils were arranged in the center of each table during our Science of Fossils workshop. Students made observations about what they saw & just loved just touching everything! They were asked to sort out the shells & rocks from the fossils. Older kids were given a few fossilized shells to decipher as well. After sorting, students were left with Miocene - Pliocene Fossils from the Central Valley of California (8 - 15 million years ago 'mya'), Eocene fish fossils from about 50 mya and trilobite fossils from about 550 mya! Depending on each class's age & interest, we talked about the Earth's timeline, how remains of plants and animals can become fossils, paleontology, geology, dinosaurs, Pangaea & of course trilobites. We also marveled at the fact that these water creatures were found in Utah, 1000 miles away from the nearest body of water... "so, do you think the Earth has changed over the past 550 million years?" A resounding "YES!" every time. Students were asked to think like a paleontologist while observing their fossils & draw what they thought the animal looked like when it was alive in it's environment. Older students made their own fossils by creating shell molds out of Plaster of Paris. Special thanks to Meg Delano, Dan Sudran of the Mission Science Workshop and to Lisa White, PhD of the Museum of Paleontology and the Department of Geosciences at San Francisco State University for the donations of fossils, rocks & shells that made this hands-on Workshop lesson possible!

Monday, February 17, 2014

UC Berkeley's Expanding Your Horizons

Expanding Your Horizons conferences are designed to introduce middle and high school girls to careers in science, technology, engineering and mathematics, (STEM). The UC Berkeley EYH is an annual career conference specially designed for girls in grades 5 through 8 from local school districts. The conference encourages girls interest in science and mathematics and provides positive female role models in science, math, and engineering careers. Registration is now open.

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Genes in a Bottle

5th graders at John Muir all extracted their DNA with the help of a Bio-Rad scientist who took time out of his busy scientist life to come to our school and share his knowledge. Try saying Deoxyribonucleic acid 5 times fast.


Saturday, February 8, 2014

SF Bay Area STEAM Colloquium Resource Fair

John Muir CSW represented projects in STEAM education at the Bay Area STEAM Colloquium on Friday. The wind tube was a big hit with the more creative folks that came by our table at the Showcase Gallery. We displayed projects that students and interns made and had our wind tube and supplies ready for making flying machines. Our New Leaf interns enjoyed the experience and were a huge help both at our booth and to Dr. Rona Zollinger, the final key note speaker. Her speech was (according to one of the interns) "by far the best talk of the day". It was deeply inspirational for me to hear her speak publicly about New Leaf, what's been accomplished so far, and our plans for the future.  One of the interns opened Rona's talk with a breathing session for the entire auditorium & another intern closed it with a visualization of the difference each individual would make in the lives of their students and throughout their community. I was honored to be a part of such an insightful, spirited and fun crowd.

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

Tinkering Takes Practice

After nearly three months of open-ended tinkering sessions, I think we've finally got this down. Today was another full house, we had 21 kids come to the workshop & for the first time, I didn't have to help anyone to find something to work on; they all got busy right away.

We had a lot of 5th graders today & since we just finished up exploring with circuits during their class visit, they went right to our circuit section & started tinkering with motors. One kid took a train & hooked it up with a motor and battery to make it go, a couple others were working on making cars out of wood & bottle cap wheels with motors and lights attached; they were all very creative. I could tell that the craft of making wheels (bottle caps, hot glued to either end of a stick, with a straw covering the middle of the dowel to make the wheels spin freely) has caught on and was the basis for lots of projects today. Lots of vehicles were made, a very cool looking toy made from colorful bottle caps, nails and rubber bands, a few flying machines, some craft stick art & probably more I didn't see.

Some kids made colorful cards with dyed shaving cream & tooth pics and two of our littlest tinkerers were fixated on propping up train tracks and setting up a long line of blocks so that when the train derailed, it would hit the blocks and cause a domino effect to hit a pyramid of red legos - it looked like a super cool Rube Goldberg machine in the making!

Here is a picture from last week's pond scum imaging day. In addition to snapping pics of pond scum, some kids found flowers and other things around outside to look at under the microscope and snap up close photo art. I like this one Sadie took: