Wednesday, October 22, 2014

The Beauty of a Challenge

 Looking for inspiration for projects that work best for K through 5, I reached out to the Excelsior Science Workshop in SF and talked to Michael, who said his go-to was a challenge - the egg drop is the best he said. He was right. Thanks Michael! I had 20 kids today and every single design was completely different. Each team had one bag, newspaper, one piece of string, cardboard and tape. At the end of the day, we miraculously only had 3 broken eggs. Theses were from teams who had successful first drops and tried something different the next time around. As always we had some kids that just wanted to tinker and make their own creations and that's fun too, but I'm definitely bringing back the challenge next week. Good times today a the John Muir Science Workshop!

Monday, October 20, 2014

Tinkering Basics

Today, our after school tinkerers made science journals, sewed finger puppets, took apart a 5 disc CD changer, made a few flying machines, played on our electromagnetic wall, checked out some bones and one persistent 2nd grade girl was determined to finish a creepy crawler - video below. One student declared to me he was going to be a scientist when he grew up.

Thursday, October 9, 2014

Sewing Journals

 Everybody should learn how to sew. Simply by threading a needle & stitching material together you can MAKE (bags, toys, books, costumes), REPAIR (socks, shirts, stuffed animals, whatever) all while giving your brain a shot at being CREATIVE. Sewing is a really fun way to tinker so I thought I'd kick off this year's Wednesday Workshop by introducing needles & thread. We made Thinking Journals, for ideas, projects, notes, mind maps or doodles  - following this basic design instructable  courtesy of English Drawings. It took a while but theses kids were persistent and really just couldn't wait to decorate their journals, count the pages & talk about what they'd write in them. Some secured their journals using magnets and I sent one girl home with a watch battery, a red LED & some paperclips so she can wire a circuit so the red light will go off when someone opens her journal.
We're going to keep this theme going for a bit and see where our ideas take us.

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