Tuesday, October 6, 2015

Bubble Solution & Wand Testing

Today at one of our school site CSWs, kids followed 3 different recipes for bubble solution.

They then made polyhedral bubble wands (which is surprisingly calming - so much focus!!) With 15 minutes left in the workshop, we tested out each solution, students finally stood behind their favorite and explained why.

We realized each of the three lines had different criteria for 'good bubble solution'; some were happy with the super bubbliness of #1, others pleased with the multitude of mini bubbles produced by #2 and some preferred the enormity of bubbles from bubble solution #3.

Students then discussed what they liked about their hand-crafted bubble wand, how well it worked or didn't work, and if they had more time & materials, what they would do differently. Good stuff.

Air pressure mobiles

We've been busy getting this year's CSWs started up. Last week we talked about air pressure & made balloon cars - it was cool to hear students explain why the knew the air would deflate out of a balloon. Sometimes it's difficult to explain things that we just know to be true; but it leads for some interesting conversation.

As I was prepping for the lesson, I couldn't find my pvc cutters (small pieces of 1/2 inch pvc fit inside the mouth of a balloon & can be wedged into a piece of cardboard to fit snugly.) As I was contemplating my options, I found a party noise maker in my garage & found that it fit even more perfectly inside the mouth of a balloon AND that not only can it help power a balloon car but it makes a kickin noise to boot! Just one more reason I dare to live outside the boundaries of organization - creative inspiration.

Sunday, May 24, 2015

GAK! Back for More

We just wrapped up our second year making Gak with students at John Muir. Approximately 400 students, TK - 5th grade made and explored the fascinating Non-Newtonian fluid. Class discussions included examples and descriptions of liquids, solids and gases. Upper grades also talked about polymers, molecules, elements, chemicals, and chemical reactions. 
The science workshop at John Muir is a program of the New Leaf Collaborative, a 501c3 nonprofit, and is paid for through grant funding. This year, lessons on watershed stewardship and water catchment systems were sponsored by the City of Martinez, who funded our educational components on water quality, conservation and rainwater harvesting. Supplies are currently paid for through a grant from Martinez Community Foundation.

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Fun with MakeyMakey

Students at John Muir played a Scratch piano with play-dough and a MakeyMakey. My 4th grade student helper suggested we make a CSW account for Scratch so that anyone at the workshop can use the common account to create content. She made this for me... she even took and uploaded the picture so the background would be realistic. I think it's pretty awesome.

Here is the LINK to sign your student up to participate in the John Muir Science Workshop on Wednesdays from 1:30 - 3:00.

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

John Swett Scribblebots

John Swett workshop goers in March worked in groups to make robots that scribbled - affectionately called scribblebots. Students were challenged to add switches or change the direction of their bot. My goal, to keep all students tinkering, thinking, laughing or otherwise meaningfully engaged throughout the duration of the workshop - was easily met. I even learned something new from a curious young tinkerer; when a brown Mr. Sketch pen is attached to the end of a spinning motor, your friends - and everything else within several feet wind up freckled.

Upon the request of this young engineer, I shared the video with his mom, and now with you as well.

Stomp rockets

Thursday, March 26, 2015

Thursday, March 19, 2015


Today was awesome. A few students were making paper plate hovercrafts last week & we just weren't that impressed with the outcome. I asked the director over at Excelsior Science Workshop for some tips, & he pointed me to a much larger version of the hovercraft. Thanks Sol.

Quote for the day: "I am going to be an engineer." 

Thank you Martinez Community Foundation for making projects like this possible! Also thanks to Martinez Home Depot for donating your scrap wood. We appreciate it.

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Tinkering at Vicente

I am thoroughly pleased to say that we had a successful tinkering session at Vicente this morning. Students chose to be there, decided what to work on and when they were done; everyone stayed engaged & creative and cleaned up their work spaces to boot. Tools & supplies were abundant thanks to our principal Carol Adams who has worked so hard to create engaging opportunities for her students. I'm still working on models for inspiration but this didn't seem to be a problem today. Students were working on paper circuits, a few battery & solar powered cars, a hovercraft in the making & a flashlight.

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

Castle Design Challenge

We started today's workshop off by reading Yurtle the Turtle, discussed team work, had a side chat about the similarities between Yurtle and some older siblings. .. and then circled back around to the challenge: design a castle that included a tower where Yurtle would have an unobstructed 360 degree view of his land and include 2 other features as well. Each team looked at pictures of castles and sketched out their ideas, once they had a design they got their materials & went to work.   I was impressed how creative & different they all were. One had a pretty elaborate tower complete with cork knights, another had a dungeon & a working drawbridge, they all were unique & each group presented their project at the end of the workshop. Thanks Rich & Cathy at Shell for all the cardboard we can use & thanks to Ms. Hardesty for bringing a bag full of corks.  I love how this designer is evaluating their plans against their model. 

Wednesday, March 4, 2015

Apple battery

Vicente CSW was held outside on the lawn today, other students experimented thermal, wind & solar energy. Science in the sun.

Thursday, January 15, 2015

Paper circuits

John Muir Workshop goers made paper circuits on Wednesday using copper tape (slug tape), surface mount LEDs,  3v cell batteries, tape, paper & crayons. Proud of these kids for their persistence, working with copper tape & those teeny tiny lights gets tricky!  Thanks high-low tech for the idea.

Friday, January 9, 2015

JMSW electromagnetic wall additions

These Wednesday workshop goers worked on some clever & crafty additions to our electromagnetic wall, Others made magnet toys, some made lava lamps & some were fascinated watching all the living creatures in our pond. Everybody was working on something they chose, it was slightly chaotic and harmonious all at the same time.

Tuesday, January 6, 2015

Family Science Night - WOBBLE BOTS!

MUSD's Latino family community braved what some dubbed the "storm of the decade" to come out and play at the John Muir Science Workshop last month. Families worked together to build some superbly creative wobble bots. (Yes, that one there on the right is a house bot.) What? What's a wobble bot? Well you'll have to build one to truly appreciate it's magic. Check out the Instructables below to build your own or schedule a family science night for your friends, school or community. A big shout out to Jeanie Jones for the batteries, Sam for writing up Instructables , Sol, Director of the Excelsior Science Workshop for his infinite wobble bot wisdom and of course to Dan, Director of the Mission Science Workshop for the battery packs.