Monday, December 23, 2013

Latino Family Literacy Night

On Thursday, December 19th, the Latino Family Literacy families made electromagnets together during their visit to the Workshop. Jeanne Jones and Lillian Savilla who co-teach the class thought it would be fun to host their last class of the 10 week session at the Workshop. I was very excited at the opportunity to show parents what their kids have been doing on their Science Fridays. I loved having families there together, building models & investigating the microscopes, pendulums, circuit boards & all the other fun exhibits around the room. Hopefully this was just the first of many more family nights at the Workshops.

Thursday, December 19, 2013

Wednesday Workshop - mini zoetropes

Yesterday's Workshop involved making mini zoetropes - little spinning motion pictures. Most of them were successful but next time I attempt to do this I need WAY more black electrical tape & pre-made templates for the younger learners. Most kids got their zoetropes spinning flawlessly by the end of our Workshop but only a few had a picture sequence that worked well. Fortunately that part is an easy fix requiring only a 10.5" x 1" piece of paper with 1.5" frames. Each frame should contain a progressively changing image. Darker, more precise drawings work better but since we have an abundance of crayons at the Workshop, and not enough markers or colored pencils for everyone to use, some picture strips didn't quite turnout dark or precise enough. This, moms & dads gearing up for two weeks with your young geniuses at home, would be a fun project to master over break!

Wednesday Workshop - cardboard automatas

Last Wednesday, our Workshop goers made cardboard automatas - simple mechanical sculptures that playfully introduce simple machine elements. I'd like to try this again with group workstations that each have a wider variety of materials to use and examples of more intricate movements. Everybody completed an up, down, round and round motion Exploratorium Cardboard Automata cam examplesimilar to this one here but with the axis in the vertical cam slightly off center, pushing the horizontal cam up and down as well as around. Some still needed some tinkering but most automatas were properly functioning mechanical sculptures by the end of the Workshop. I encouraged makers to experiment at home by adding cams and three dimensional sculptures to maneuver. Anyone interested in trying this at home can get some ideas by clicking the cardboard automata link to the Exploratorium how-to page or checking out Makerspace. If you search Google images for cardboard automatas you'll see some fun spins on this project as well. -pun intended!

Thursday, December 5, 2013

Packed House

Wow. Astronomy Night was a huge success, and the John Muir Science Workshop was PACKED! Families streamed in to Room 20 tonight for two hours straight, either to escape from the cold after telescope viewing or to come check out the Workshop - either way, I'll take it. Dads & kids got pretty serious about the Touchdown Challenge (kudos to Design Squad / NASA for the idea) while others made constellation viewing tubes and Keplar Star Wheels. Some worked at the Make-It table and others were fixated on designing a successful flier to launch out of the wind tube.

I loved seeing everybody there - so many John Muir families, my friends and family that came just because I asked them and the teachers that stayed to help and clean up. The most memorable part of this crazy night was when a girl named Katie shyly came up to me and apologized to me for what she did to my door. After some lengthy Q & A between us, I found out that she had taped up a sign on the door thanking me for making the Science Workshop. She wasn't sure if it was vandalism and she was really sorry. Sadly, I never saw her sign but assured her it wasn't vandalism, thanked her for her sign & told her she is so very welcome. In return I got a big hug before she left. Bliss.

Big thanks to Colin Barnard and John Muir PTA for putting on Astronomy night, Amanda Tamo, Ms. Hussey, Ms. Jones & Ms. Kenyon for all the help, Melvy & Alex for all the cardboard cutting & my family for all the support. Astronomy Night / JM Science Workshop open house was a hit!

Monday, November 25, 2013

Wonder-full Faces

Last Friday was our last rotation of classes designing and creating flying machines. Give or take a few absences, approximately 380 kids have come into our John Muir Community Science Workshop and have built and launched flying machines, studied plants or animals on the screen of a digital microscope, tinkered with circuit boards, manipulated magnets, pendulums, balancing sticks, bubbles, simulated tornadoes, and generally 'played' with science. These wonder-full faces are watching their first flight launch. I love my Dad for building our magnificent wind tube with me and if I ever need reassurance that I'm doing exactly what I'm supposed to, I can look at this awesome picture, and know. 

Thursday, November 21, 2013

Toys from Trash

On Wednesday, 11/20/13, we had 22 kids show up at our Workshop! A pretty significant increase from 6 kids the week before. Earlier in the week, I had the pleasure of visiting with Mission Science Workshop's incredibly talented & awesome instructors Sam Haynor & Aaron Martin, who both gave me plenty of fun ideas to share with students. First I observed Aaron show a class of first graders about solids, liquids and gases. I didn't realize how many cool ways there are to experience states of matter - the kids & I really enjoyed the lesson. Afterwards, I sat down with Sam who gave me idea after idea after idea for fantastically fun science experiments and observations. I could've watched that blue ice cube melt into little blue blobs sliding through oil for a lot longer...except Sam started showing me all the toys you can make from stuff like straws, cardboard, plastic bags - whatever's around; my favorite being the straw oboe, which pales by comparison to the one Mr. Gupta demonstrates in his TED talk embedded below. Sam had recently visited with Arvind Gupta in India to learn first hand of his gift for making science learning materials out of anything you have on hand. Sam also shared a very empowering philosophy; he doesn't answer student's questions, but encourages them to make their observations. He said if you tell a curious student the answer, they become satiated and may feel like they've mastered that idea so they stop investigating further.
Fresh with a few new ideas, I devoted our Workshop to making 'toys from trash'. Out of a few plastic bags, string, tape and cardboard, some very cool catapult parachutes were made - which were excellent to watch as the kids launched them through the wind tube. 

Thursday, November 14, 2013

Sound Looks Beautiful

"Music sounds AND looks beautiful!" - announced a boy who saw what his voice looked like as sound waves on our oscilloscope. Six kids found their way to the first open hours at the Workshop yesterday. Some kids saw what the world looks like through a bug's eye. One girl was fixated on the water table learning how water moves through pipes, not as fast as she expected it to. Our youngest visitor was captivated by what pond water looks like under a microscope - it's ALIVE.... and we all think it's super cool to mix oil and dyed water with alca-seltzer - thanks Ken Wesson for the idea. Some kids worked on the marble wall while two seasoned Workshop students parked at the Make-It table, engineering their next cardboard creation. There's something unsettling and exciting about unscheduled, open-ended learning.

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Our First Science Friday!

Today was awesome. We had 150 kids come through the doors of the John Muir Community Science Workshop. After I gave my “Welcome to your Workshop and What is Science?” opening, I told the students we were going to make flying machines and launch them through our wind tube. For K-2 graders, I asked them to name things that fly and asked whether or not it was made by people or nature. We talked about different reasons for flying machines and their different shapes. For 3-5 graders we talked about the wind tube and how the air flowing through it was a type of fluid, just like at the water slides how the water pushes you through a tube or a slide, the wind will push up a flying machine. Gravity is pushing down at the same time so we talked about characteristics of the flying machines and the forces at play; we also talked about thrust, wingspan and aerodynamics. Each class spent about 10-15 minutes designing and building their creations. Once during the 4th grade class I had to step out for a minute and when I came back several students were using scissors. The kids with scissors were much more creative with their designs and also had a lot more mess to clean up. The best design was a cylindrical tube with a flat surface on the bottom and wings - just like a rocket - go figure. They had a half piece of construction paper, some string, pipe-cleaners, craft sticks masking tape and crayons. 
It worked well to keep them busy for most of the time they were there. Some kids were able to go outside in the back of the Workshop and explore the water table, the bubble tray, the marble wall and to look for bugs under a magnifying glass. Some kids just zoomed their rockets around outside. 
We had two extra interns from New Leaf come to job shadow to see if they are interested, so we had 3 high school interns to help all day and they were terrific. We also had the help of our New Leaf graduate/ intern coordinator and wind tube operator as well as a parent volunteer. So considering we had 6 people plus the teacher to help - the day went smoothly. 
It was the most fulfilling day I remember having in a really long time. There were so many happy faces excited about the space and everything in it. This was really, an incredible day - feeling blessed.

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Workshop Prep - Layers of the Atmosphere

Students came to the Workshop Friday to help paint the wind tube. Our intern Eric (pictured here working hard to recreate the math game HEX) had the awesome idea to label the layers of the atmosphere on the way up the tube - so we start with what we see on the ground here on planet Earth - grass, trees and animals - then climb to the Troposphere, where we might find a hot air balloon, the Stratosphere where a plane might be, the Mesosphere where the shooting stars burn out, and the Thermosphere, where a satellite might be. We haven't added the Exosphere or the Pauses yet... and we've had suggestions to add distance between the layers in miles. It's a work in progress but coming along and the kids are all excited about it.

Thursday, October 17, 2013

High School Interns Check out the Workshop

Three high school interns from Vicente High School and one intern from the New Leaf Academy came over to the JM CSW last Friday to check it out. First I had them all walk slowly through the Workshop and right out the back door. I had them write down their first impressions.

 "It smelled like a wood-shop. At first, I thought there wouldn't have been as many stations, but there was." "It looked and smelled clean, it's a nice little place for kids. Some crazy stuff." "It looked like we're going to have a lot of fun with all the kids and the experiments. It was set up nice.""Magnets. Crazy Cool. Fun!" "Amazing" 
The interns had some great ideas to enhance the Workshop & some really great feedback on how to add on to some of the existing experiments. One intern drastically improved my bubble recipe as well & was producing some fantastically large bubbles throughout the day. It was a nice reminder that I'm on the right track & what I'm doing here is important.

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Stripped Down Motor Snack

 I wanted to do this experiment before my high school interns from New Leaf come visit the JM CSW this Friday. I'll bring enough supplies for a couple of them to try it if they want... it definitely took me longer than 30 minutes & I had 18-gauge copper wire rather than 20 & my paper clips were not cooperating. I think I got it though - although it does eventually slow down to a deep rotational spin... and I would think a proper motor or generator should be reliable not to slow down so I'll have to keep working on this until it's perfected! My daughter can help me when she gets home from school, she did a great job assembling our magnetic shielding exhibit yesterday. 
A big thanks to Electrical & Plumbing Incorporatedfor the copper wire!

Monday, September 30, 2013

DIY Wind Tube comes to John Muir CSW!

My crafty Dad engineered this awesome DIY wind tube for the John Muir Community Science Workshop. Kids will be able to design their very own flying machines out of recycled material & test them out in this top notch creation. It also works to show the Bernoulli effect, although I’ll take the tube out for that one. Thank you Dad & thank you to Home Depot for the generous gift card donated to the New Leaf Collaborative, your gift is hard at work.

Thursday, September 12, 2013

500+ mya Trilobite Fossil at John Muir CSW!

Thanks Dan Sudran of Mission Science Workshop for the extremely generous donation from his summer travels to rock quarries throughout Colorado, Wyoming, Utah and Arizona. He donated this 500+ million year old fossil of a Trilobite, three 50+ million year old slate slabs with Eocene fish fossils and several others including some volcanic rock to our John Muir Community Science Workshop! Thanks Dan!

For more Trilobite information check out this link to the American Museum of Natural History

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

MUSD Teacher Journeys to the Land of the Ice Bears

Martinez's own Dr. Rona Zollinger is back from the Arctic! As a National Geographic  Grosvenor Teacher Fellow, Rona went on a 10 day expedition, called Land of the Ice Bears: An in-depth Exploration of the Arctic Svalbard - watch the preview video here: Artic experience and friend New Leaf: A Sustainable Living Collaborative on facebook to see her remarkable pictures!

Congratulations Rona!

Friday, April 19, 2013

The beauty of a small, local venue

I haven't had the chance to check out the new Exploratorium yet, which I'm very excited to do. We're so lucky to have that kind of hands-on inspiration so close. This video highlights the equally important smaller venue for students to be able to access hands-on science on a regular basis.

Our first hands-on science workshop in Martinez will be the John Muir Elementary Community Science Workshop opening in the Fall of the 2013/2014 school year. We are turning the seldom used science lab into a hands-on exploratory science workshop encompassing the Next Generation Science Standards into interactive exploratory exhibits with elements of technology, engineering math and art.

I'm working with the New Leaf Collaborative to secure grants for materials and coordinate local science experts and enthusiasts as well as high school interns. I'm also blessed to have Dan Sudran, featured in this video, as a huge supporter and mentor. Stay posted for more information & please reach out to me with any questions or resources you'd like to share.