Sunday, August 17, 2014

Bone Picking

Last month, I took my family to Pescadero to go to the beach... to collect whale bones.  Thanks to our friend Brian's sage advice we were prepared with boots, gloves and lots of Vicks for under our noses (to help lessen the stench). The humpback whale had been on the beach for about 4 weeks when we went down to gather up the first collection of bones. Another crew went down last weekend after the whale had washed out for a week or so and actually washed back up closer to the trail to the parking lot. As for our crew, neither of my kids will forget this particular, rather peculiar, trip to the beach this summer.

The first time I met Dan Sudran was when he brought the bones of a baby blue whale to my daughter's school for her & her classmates to re-assemble. The experience turned into whale week... and eventually, turned into the John Muir Science Workshop. I was excited to be able to help collect another set of whale bones, knowing it will be seen by so many curious kiddos, and not knowing what might come of it.
Below is a link to an article in the SF Chronicle about Dan and crew collecting bones of the Pescadero Humpback. My son, daughter, husband & I can all attest to the smell.

This past May, a Humpback whale carcass was found washed up near Pescadero, CA. Dan Sudran of the Mission Science Workshop organized permits and digs with the Greenfield and Watsonville Science Workshops to unearth the bones and add them to our traveling and workshop collections. The young humpback was about 25 feet long, and (sadly) was killed by a group of Orcas—but will soon have a new life traveling to schools around California! The process was broken into 2 separate days to get all the bones. *Note that special permission is required (and was granted to the Mission Science Workshop) in California to harvest from washed-up marine mammals.
Greenfield CSW video documenting the 1st dig:

Summer Science with EOBA

This summer I had the privilege of heading over to the East Oakland Boxing Association each Thursday to explore magnets and electromagnets with the awesome EOBA youth. Grades ranged from K through 9th grade and each group explored a slightly different side of magnets. The younger kids made guesses of what was magnetic & what wasn't, figured out the pushes and pulls of magnets with magnetic trains, & held magnet races. As groups got older, we explored or discussed magnetic fields, the Earth's magnetosphere, & electromagnetism. Some kids made electromagnets, some made compasses, some invented magnet toys and all made 'anti-gravity' paperclips - which by the way was fascinating to watch how it mesmerized kids from kindergarten up to 9th grade and even the teen & young adult group leaders. Tie a paper clip to a string, tape the other end of the string to a table, and pull the paper clip up with a magnet, or two, or more; then try to pull up the paper clip without touching the magnet to the paper clip. It'll keep you curious for a while.

Thursday, June 26, 2014

Community Building Days

Community Build Days are the best. On Friday, June 20th, the Mission Science Workshop & Excelsior Science Workshop hosted a community build day. 50 employees from Genentech volunteered their time to make exhibits for CSWs around the Bay. I was so excited that the John Muir CSW was included & so fired up to receive a Wave/DNA Model, a Lux-a-gon and a stellar set of  Pipe Chimes, all made with the hard work and modesty of Genentech volunteers. A huge thanks to Sam Haynor (CSW instructor/outreach/developer/ideation extraordinaire) for including me in this awesome day & a GREAT BIG THANK YOU to all the Genentech volunteers!!!

Inspired by Sam, and motivated by the experience, I hosted our own John Muir CSW community build day today. We were a small but mighty crew of 15 volunteers over the coarse of the 4 hour session. We accomplished so much in such a short time. Thanks to our super star community helpers we have 2 Table Top Supply Trees, 10 sanded, painted, nailed & in some cases googly-eyed boards (ready for soldering & then our Electromagnetic Wall on Wheels), 20 manipulative Marble Wall pieces, a painted box to hold the pieces & a craft stick box made to hold the pegs, a new & improved Water Table (also on wheels:), an IQ puzzle model, a ridiculously organized supply cupboard & work space for the Make-It & Take-Apart tables & some strategic planning on how to securely put up our Wave/DNA model. I have much appreciation for our litte CSW & our BIG hearted volunteers.

Thanks also to the MSW, the CSW Network & JM PTA for the donation for supplies - this is some serious stretching of your dollars going on here.

Volunteers, you make a big difference and I have the most sincere gratitude for your generosity. Thank you!

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

John Muir 5th Grade Design Challenge Derby Today at 2

The Derby will be held in the cafeteria at 2:00 today. The Derby entries will race first & then our Open Derby race, will be held right after. Open Derby is for those who tried their darnedest but just couldn't get their cars to work; they will be as creative as possible to get their cars to the finish line first without touching their car - I'm not sure what to expect but I'm looking forward to it!

Monday, June 2, 2014

5th Grade Derby Prep

5th graders are getting ready for their first annual Derby Design Challenge coming up on June 10th. Each team has been given a motor, battery, wire & material to design a car that will propel itself across the finish line first. There are several working models for them to look at and I've been offering suggestions and guidance as they work. The key is in the ingenuity of the propeller, the lightweight design of the car, and straight axles with the least amount of friction. It's been really hard for me to watch these kids get excited about their designs, and know they won't work... but where's the learning if I tell them how to do it right? I ask them how they think they can make it better, offer suggestions, and cross my fingers they don't give up.
I had to spend a few hours in my garage tinkering with different propeller designs just to make sure the motors I gave them weren't too heavy. I failed at least 4 or 5 times before one glorious design cruised across my garage floor. I'd hate to rob anyone of that feeling. 

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

GAK! The Non-Newtonian liquid plaything

GAK - 
Mix 1/4 c. white glue + 1/4 c. water.
Mix 1/4 c. water + 1/4 tsp. Borax.
Pour Borax solution into the glue solution or experiment with your own recipe. White vinegar helps with clean up - be sure not to pour any GAK down your drain. 

We just wrapped up our last Science Friday for this year at John Muir - 14 classes, K through 5th, lots of glue, a little Borax, a manageable mess & a ton of fun. Class discussions included liquids, solids, polymers, molecules, elements, chemicals, chemical reactions & the ridiculously fun thing we call Gak. Thanks for a great year! We're working on funding for this program for next year. If you'd like to ensure the return of the CSW, feel free to donate. Checks can be made payable to MUSD-NEW LEAF-COMMUNITY SCIENCE and sent to New Leaf Collaborative, ATTN: Ellen Concepcion, 614 F Street, Martinez, CA 94553. Also, stay tuned for a Community Building Day, tentative date set for Sunday, June 22nd.