Library Events Support Chemistry, Physics, Forensics & More this Summer!

Statewide Summer Learning Programs Offer Developmental Advancement

This summer, libraries across the state are offering an innovative summer reading program to young readers. Titled Fizz, Boom, Read!, the program supports the development of reading and literacy skills, while also allowing participants to explore the intersection of science and the humanities. By combining science with reading, libraries are encouraging children to explore the world of non-fiction writing- opening up endless possibilities for learning and satisfying science-based curiosity. Read the rest of this entry »

Thunderstorms: Those Rumbling Science Shows

Summer Thunderstorms Inspire Folktales and Science Learning

The feeling of a summer thunderstorm is familiar to us all – the temperature drops, the breeze cools, bright leaves rustle endlessly louder, and a distant echo of thunder rolls across the darkening sky. Though they can be scary for youngsters (and anxious pets), thunderstorms are an important part of summer weather, bringing much-needed rain to the landscape and cooling the oppressive heat that hangs in July’s muggy air.

Thunderstorms remained quite mysterious for centuries, and cultures worldwide have developed a variety of folktales to explain their occurrence. Read about these follktales and science learning thunderstorms inspire

Maker Camp Makes Camp Come to You

Virtual camp brings a world of learning to kids in their own homes!

Held on weekdays from July 7th-August 15th, Maker Camp offers a new theme each week and, in addition to daily project tutorials, each week’s theme includes a virtual field trip or two.

This summer, Google and Make: are offering hands-on kids and teens an alternative to the traditional summer camp. Instead of following the typical camp structure that involves trails in the woods, friendship bracelet crafts, and canoe lessons, Maker Camp is totally web-based, and engages kids in creative and educational DIY activities in their own homes – and best of all, it’s completely free!

Offering six weeks worth of programming, the 2014 Maker Camp is filled with activities and virtual field trips that match the interests and abilities of an incredibly wide range of learners. Held on weekdays from July 7th-August 15th, Maker Camp offers a new theme each week and, in addition to daily project tutorials, each week’s theme includes a virtual field trip or two. Outlined on the Maker Camp schedule, themes include art and design, music, STEM skills, and fantasy, and field trips will take participants around the country and around the world to places like the workshop of Google’s self-driving car team and the birthplace of LEGO blocks in Billund, Denmark.
Read the rest of this entry »

Family Camping Grows Respect for Nature

Great American Backyard Campout invites families to camp outdoors, even if it is in their own backyard

Get up close and personal with nature with you family via camping…even if it’s just in your own backyard!

One of the most classic summertime adventures is a weekend of camping. Those of us who went camping as children likely have fond memories (or cautionary tales!) of sleeping in a tent, cooking over a fire or camp stove, and spending full days exploring outside, collecting treasures, and building forts and nature sculptures. It’s likely, too, that many of our readers have made a commitment to sharing these experiences with our children – taking them to sleep outside, teaching them basic survival skills, and giving them small-scale adventures similar to those we enjoyed as kids. And it’s a good thing that so many of us do so – studies have shown that people who are given the opportunity to explore nature as children are far more likely to grow up to have a respect for nature and to support environmentally conscious behaviors.

This month, the National Wildlife Federation offers families a chance to experience the magic of camping together, while also helping to raise money for the organization’s wild-life saving conservation efforts. This year’s Great American Backyard Campout takes place on June 28th, and calls for families to spend a night camping out together – even if it’s just in their own backyard. Read the rest of this entry »

Innovative Library Summer Reading Programs Stimulate Learning

Holistic and collaborative approach to reading programs boosts child’s summer learning experience

Children are stimulated to learn more about science through reading fiction and non-fiction books with this year’s nationwide reading program, “Fizz, Boom, Read!”

Once school days come to an end, children’s free time becomes seemingly endless. From a youngster’s perspective, the summer reaches on forever – nine or ten weeks can feel like an eternity when it’s impossible to imagine all of the things that will occupy the time between now and September. In addition to camp, family vacations, and endless outdoor adventures (swimming especially!) is another summer tradition – public library summer reading programs!

In Massachusetts – and across the country – public libraries participate in the Collaborative Summer Library Program. Each year brings a new theme to the program, and libraries work to incorporate educational programs, celebrations of learning, and constant reading in order to provide a comprehensive summer reading program that not only encourages families to read together, but allows participants’ reading to be supported by educational activities that relate to the program’s theme. Read the rest of this entry »

MASS MoCA’s “It’s Only Human” Illuminates Art, Science & Education

Art Using X-ray Scans Sparks Discussion of Body Image & More at MASS MoCA
Saturday, June 14, 2014 through Tuesday, May 26, 2015

MASS MoCA’s Kidspace kicks off the summer with a new exhibition and activity program. The exhibition, “It’s Only Human,” features work by British artists Nick Veasey and Marilene Oliver, who are both internationally recognized for their innovative uses of medical imaging technology in their art. Both artists’ works illuminate the complexities of human bodies and the systems by which they are regulated, and inspire dialogue about the inner beauty of all human beings, regardless of our outer appearances, and serve as a creative jumping-off point for discussions of anatomy, health, and wellness, as well as self-image. While this exhibition is on display at Kidspace, visitors of all ages – especially those interested in science and medicine – will find it engaging and educational.

Veasey’s work is often focused on the human skeleton and inner structural elements. He is famous for creating one of the largest X-ray scans in the world – of a Boeing 777 airplane! – and this exhibition at Kidspace features a similarly gigantic X-ray of a bus filled with passengers. Do you think you will be able to distinguish the structure of the bus from the skeletal structures occupying it? Veasey has also X-rayed a person on a motorcycle. What can you infer about his choice to scan vehicles used for human transportation, including their passengers? Why might this be significant? Why it is important to be able to identify the structures embedded within everyday objects and people? Read the rest of this entry »

Yo-Yo School Can Unlock Secrets of Physics!

Yo-Yo school encourages understanding of physics alongside tremendous manual dexterity

The yo-yo sleeps for now but this simple object, containing two discs, one axle and long string, is an instrument for gravity-defying trickery, which requires some grounding in the principles of physics.

Not many toys can boast over 2,500 years of use worldwide, but the yo-yo has enjoyed consistent use in hundreds of cultures for nearly three millenia. Seemingly moved by magic, the yo-yo is little more than a well-designed tool to demonstrate basic principles of physics. Consisting essentially of a spool and a string, yo-yos (when in the hands of a skilled operator) can spin, jump, hang, and bump in patterns that are so graceful and speedy that they seem almost impossible. And for those of us with few yo-yo skills, they may feel impossible to perform, too!

Luckily, folks who want to learn to better understand the physics and physical movements behind yo-yo tricks have numerous resources available to them – including both weekly classes and a world class championship right in western Massachusetts’ Pioneer Valley! Popular education-based store A to Z (located on King Street in Northampton) hosts Yo-Yo School three times a week inside their store, and their teachers are true masters. Amongst the crew of talented yo-yoists are a world champion and a world class competition judge! A visit to A to Z Yo-Yo School ensures expert instruction and access to a wide variety of yo-yo styles and colors – if you don’t have a yo-yo at home, you’ll be able to pick out a favorite before class begins.

Read the rest of this entry »

STEM Opportunities at The Great Holyoke Brick Race

The Great Holyoke Brick Race: June 7th, 2014

Intergenerational collaborations can provide young students with hands-on lessons in the basic science of physics and principles of design at the 4th annual Great Holyoke Brick Race happening on Saturday, June 7th!

Take on the coolest gravity based physics experiment around at the Great Holyoke Brick Race!  Similar to the Boy Scouts of America’s traditional Pinewood Derby, the event requires that participants create their own miniature car to race down a specific track.  However, unlike Pinewood Derby, the cars are not wooden – the main piece of material is a brick!

Sponsored by Paper City Studios and the Massachusetts Cultural Council, the race is open to participants of any age and from anywhere in the world (No need to be a Holyoke native!).  Entries can be created by individuals, or by teams of any size, allowing for lots of intergenerational collaboration and knowledge pooling.

Read the rest of this entry »

HFVS Science & Education Episode with Danny Weinkauf of They Might Be Giants (Radio Show/Podcast)

Hilltown Family Variety Show

Science & Education Episode with Danny Weinkauf of They Might Be Giants

LISTEN TO PODCAST:  

Danny Weinkauf guest DJs this week, demonstrating though song examples and commentary his love of science and education, and how it has influenced his favorite songs and personal writing style. − www.dannyweinkauf.com

Saturday from 9-10am & Sunday from 7-8am
May 10th & 11th, 2014
WXOJ LP – 103.3 FM – Valley Free Radio
Northampton, MA

Featured video:   “I am a Paleontologist” from They Might Be Giants album Here Comes Science.


 Archived Podcasts Radio  Facebook Twitter

PLAYLIST

  • The Beatles – “Help!” (Help!)
  • Danny Weinkauf – “Archaeology” (No School Today)
  • Fountains of Wayne – “Hat and feet” (Fountains of Wayne)
  • They Might Be Giants – “Meet the Elements” (Here Comes Science)
  • The Okee Dokee Brothers – “Haul Away Joe” (A Mississippi River Adventure Album)
  • Danny Weinkauf – “Champion of the Spelling Bee” (No School Today)
  • Queen – “Lazing on a Sunday Afternoon” (A Night at the Opera)
  • Danny Weinkauf – “ice Cream” (No School Today)
  • They Might Be Giants – “Alphabet Lost and Found” (Here Come the ABCs)
  • Justin Roberts – “Recess” (Recess)
  • The White Stripes – “My Doorbell” (Get Behind Me Satan)
  • They Might Be Giants – “Electric Car” (Here Comes Science)
  • Danny Weinkauf – “Marsupial” (No School Today)
  • Caspar Babypants – “Kangaroo” (I Found You)
  • Laurie Berkner – “Fireflies” (Laurie Berkner Lullabies)
  • Lincoln “To Build a House” (Lincoln)
  • The Ramones ” I Want to be Sedated” (Road to Ruin)
  • They Might Be Giants – “I am a Paleontologist” (Here Comes Science)

100+ Science Books to Support STEM Learning at Home & in the Classroom

Science Books to Support Self-Directed Learning & Interests

Experience is always the best teacher – and this is especially true for children! However, when kids are eager to learn about a topic, the experiences available might leave some space for supplementation. After you’ve explored the woods, caught critters, messed about with materials, and exercised all five of your senses together, it might be time to turn to print materials in order to help kids add specific language and detail to their understanding of scientific topics. And, in addition to being filled with lots of useful and fascinating information, science-themed books give children valuable practice reading and interpreting non-fiction material – a skill that will allow them to develop strong skills for self-teaching and answering their own questions.

Whatever topic children are learning about, there are age- and reading level-appropriate materials available. And, thanks to the creativity of children’s authors and illustrators, they’re not only informative but engaging and filled with photographs, diagrams, drawings, and other visuals that children in comprehending text. Read the rest of this entry »

Children’s Literature & Resources that Support Math

Children’s Literature Can Make Math Fun!

Children’s literature can make math accessible and fun!

It seems as if the connections between children’s literature and topics within many academic disciplines are endless. Captivating stories introduce fascinating historical eras, animal tales for young readers share basic concepts of biology, and stories of community teach children about interacting with new people and building relationships. However, somewhat elusive within children’s literature are math concepts. Perhaps the most challenging academic subject to integrate smoothly into your family’s everyday life, math has often been taught through memorization and drilling rather than through curiosity-driven exploration. However, despite it’s elusiveness, math is very much present within children’s literature, and there are numerous resources to support families in exploring math together… and making it fun!

We asked Beryl Hoffman, assistant professor of Computer and Information Technology at Elms College in Chicopee, and a homeschooling mom living in Florence, what children’s literature she would recommend for families wanting to supplement learning (and a love) of math at home.  She had several great picture books to recommend for children that playfully explore math concepts within a story… Read the rest of this entry »

Put Some STE(A)M into Your Valentines!

Put Some STE(A)M into Your Valentines!

This Valentine’s Day, spread friendship and kindness throughout your community by participating in Hilltown Families’ 6th annual Handmade Valentine Swap! Participation is easy – all you have to do is sign up, make ten handmade valentines and drop them in the mail, and you’ll receive ten handmade cards in return. Not only is the event an opportunity for families to connect with others in their community, participation allows families the opportunity to be creative together – an activity that can lead not only to creative-free play, but can also offer hands-on learning in fields like physics, chemistry, geometry and cultural studies!  Read on…

Science & Fun of Chain Reactions

Dominoes, Popsicle Sticks & Rube Goldberg Machines
The Science (and Fun!) of Chain Reactions

There are lots of concepts that children learn that involve chain reactions. The interrelatedness of nature is, for example, entirely dependent on an intricately woven set of relationships. When one thing changes – the availability of a resource or the population of an animal, perhaps – everything else is affected. Human populations experience a similar phenomenon – such relationships are all around us! However, the abstract nature of interrelated relationships can be hard for kids to grasp. Explaining difficult concepts using metaphor or visual representations can he helpful, but what about something that kids can touch and see themselves – something that perfectly illustrates the idea of interrelatedness and chain reactions, but happens much more quickly than chain reactions do in nature or within human society?  Read more (and see) about chain reactions… you’ll be amazed!

Sing About Science and Math

University of Washington’s Sing About Science and Math Project: Songs for Teaching, Learning & Fun

For many young learners, rhythm and repetition can be a very effective way of learning new words and remembering the names of things. Children easily learn commonly sung songs with lyrics of all kinds, and we use their ability to learn lyrics as a way to share information. Take the ABC’s for example – it’s a song that we use to teach the letters of the English alphabet, it’s fun and easy to sing, and matching the names of letters to different parts of the rhythm helps to support children in remembering the order that the go in.

Songs don’t just have to be used to convey basic ideas to the youngest of learners, though – there are educational songs for kids of all ages and about all kinds of things! The University of Washington’s Sing About Science and Math Project offers an online database of over 7,000 songs that cover an immense variety of topics in technology, biology, environmental science, physics, chemistry, math, engineering, and medicine. The database, which has been growing since 2004, includes tunes for kids of all ages – meaning there are songs about the periodic table for kindergarteners, high school sophomores, graduate students, and grandparents, too, like this one by They Might Be Giants:

The site’s search function allows for parents and educators (and older students) to search by more than just topic… Read the rest of this entry »

Montague Soap Box Derby: Making Math and Science Fun!

Montague Soap Box Derby for Youth
Sunday, Sept 22nd, 2013

Wondering what a Soap Box Derby is? According to Wikipedia, it’s “a youth soapbox car racing program which has been running in the United States since 1934.” Read about the history of the Soap Box Derby on Wikipedia.

The 4th annual Montague Soap Box Derby is coming up!  The event will take place on September 22nd on 1st Street in Turners Falls, at the top of the Unity Park hill.  There are three age brackets (8-12yo; 13-19yo; 20+yo.), and participants should race homemade cars with a minimum of three wheels and no motorized propulsion.

Designing, building, and racing a car can provide a multidisciplinary hands-on learning experience for kids, making math and science fun and would be an excellent project to work on this summer! Designing a car requires some basic math, engineering, and design skills, and executing a plan means learning how to use basic tools.  The race itself is a physics lesson – racers will learn how to utilize the slope of the hill paired with the size and weight of their car to accomplish the fastest speed possible.

Western Reserve Public Media in Ohio has made available a comprehensive teacher’s guide (pdf) designed for 5th & 6th grades called Masters of Gravity which could serve as a curriculum tool for the Soap Box Derby in Montague, MA.

For more information or to register, call 413-320-5336 or visit montaguesoapboxraces.comDeadline to enter for this year Sept 2nd!

STEMBite: Bite Sized Videos Supporting STEM Education

STEMBite: Snack-Sized Science Videos

Add some science to these hot summer days with STEMBite, a YouTube channel that offers snack-size videos focused on topics in science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) and the things in our everyday lives that they are related to. Most of the videos are between one and a half and two minutes long, and are shot from the perspective of the narrator using Google Glass, who explores a different topic, item, and/or surroundings in each one.

Interesting topics include the form and function of animal adaptations and evolution (Form, Function, and Chickens), the physics of sound waves and the concept’s application to shower time singing (Physics of Singing in the Shower), the science and design behind the barcodes found on mass-produced items and price tags in stores (Barcodes), and many others STEM topics.

While most of the topics addressed in the videos are best for older students (grade 4 and above), the videos are short and use fairly simple terms to explain each idea. Younger students may absorb less than an older student would while watching, but that doesn’t mean that they won’t learn at all! Perusing the channel might be a great way to help kids develop curiosity in parts of science that they may not discover on their own – like simple machines or light diffusion. The narrator’s fun tone and the sometimes silly activities that he does help to draw kids in, and the examination of everyday objects helps to provide ways for students to see how each topic applies in their own lives. Try viewing videos related to some of the topics that your child studied in school last year, or ones covering some of the topics that they might encounter once they return in the fall. Not sure what they might be learning? Contact your school for a copy of the district’s curriculum frameworks, or access the Massachusetts Curriculum Frameworks for science online at  www.doe.mass.edu/frameworks/current.html.

Science in the Parks this Summer

Science in the Parks in Pittsfield
A Remedy to Summer Slide

Go on a hunt for frogs and the insects they eat at Science in the Parks. Through closer examination, kids can learn the importance ecology plays in the lives of animals in various habitats , like the way this frog is camouflaged among leaf litter and woodland flowers.  (Photo credit: Sienna Wildfield)

Public parks are accessible green spaces families can visit in the summer months to both observe and explore nature. Whether they be well-manicured or allowed to grow wild and free, our local parks offer a lot to learn and explore in terms of ecology, natural & local history, and creative free play.

Science educator Lisa Provencher is holding a Science in the Parks event every Saturday from June 22-August 17 from 10am-12noon this summer, an great opportunity for young students to use their local parks to further their understanding of ecology through science based methods.  Kids of all ages can come to four different parks around Pittsfield, MA and learn about watersheds and their impact on local ecology at this free program.

Participants will have the chance to do activities like test the pH of water, identify aquatic plants, and participate in a hunt from insects and amphibians.  They will also get the chance to identify invasive species and meet some live animals up close!

Read the rest of this entry »

Passport to Chemistry Adventure for Kids at Mt. Holyoke College, 2013

Passport to Chemistry Adventure at Mt. Holyoke College

[Photo credit: Sienna Wildfield]

Experiment with science at home, and work towards a chance to participate in a special chemistry adventure day at Mt. Holyoke College in South Hadley, MA.

Families can sign out chemistry kits from their local library and do experiments at home. Participating libraries include: South Hadley Public Library; Wilbraham Public LibraryEmily Williston Memorial Library (Easthampton);  Edwards Library (Southampton); and Mount Holyoke College Library (South Hadley).

There are kits available for K-2nd & 3rd-6th grades. Participating library patrons get a stamp on their “chemistry passport” for each kit they complete, and after accumulating five, they can apply to be part of a special chemistry event!

On Saturday, June 1st from 2-4pm, the college is hosting 2013 Passport to Chemistry Adventure – and the theme is energy! To apply, kids must submit a Chemistry Visa application by May 15th, using their chemistry passport stamps as proof that they are armed with enough chemistry knowledge to participate!

After applying, families will find out what time their activity will take place. Kids participating will get to take part in a fun, investigative activity that allows them to learn basic principles of chemistry. To sign up, visit www.mtholyoke.edu.

Citizen Scientists Wanted for Swarmageddon as Magicicada Emerge from the Warming Earth

After 17 Years, Cicadas Scheduled to Emerge from the Earth Along the Eastern Seaboard. Will They Be Emerging Here in Western MA?

This year, for the first time since 1996, a Magicicada brood will emerge from the ground all across the eastern United States.  This special species – unlike other cicadas – emerges every 17 years with the entire species growing and developing at the same time,  creating synchronized cycles of growth, reproduction, and death.  These insects go through a complicated and specialized series of stages of development as a group, taking 13-17 years to grow into adult cicadas and emerge from the ground.  They will lay eggs for the next generation simultaneously, continuing their synchronized cycle of regeneration.

Much like frogs and salamanders, the cicadas will emerge from the ground only when the temperature is right!  Magicicadas require a soil temperature of 64 degrees Fahrenheit, extending as deep as eight full inches into the ground – meaning that cicadas will show themselves much earlier further south, while southern New England soil continues to warm up.  Families can track and predict the burst of bugs by monitoring the temperature of the soil in their backyard – while western Massachusetts isn’t expected to have a huge number of cicadas (check out the web site: Massachusetts Cicadas), their existence is quite likely given that Connecticut and the Hudson River Valley in New York are both home to Magicidadas.

In order to predict the bugs’ appearance in your yard, track the soil temperature using a basic thermometer, which can be purchased online or at a gardening specialty store.  Families can also build their own cicada detectors, which will not only measure soil temperature, but will track the creatures’ movement!  Families with older students can learn valuable STEM skills by building a detector, and can use the data that they collect to contribute to cicada tracking and research.  RadioLab, an online resource for STEM-related projects and information, offers instructions for building and operating your own cicada detector, and also has information about submitting collected data.  Follow the instructions to become amateur entomology researchers, and help contribute to the recording of an unusual scientific phenomenon!

Girls Connect: An Introduction to LEGO Robotics for Pioneer Valley Youth

Learn how to build and program LEGO robots!

Girls Connect

Girls Connect takes place March 9th in Holyoke and April 6th in Amherst. Pre-registration required. Girls ages 8-13 are invited to attend in teams of 5 to be part of the Western MA Girls Connect event. This cool all-girl introduction to FIRST LEGO League matches you up with coaches and professional engineers to learn how to build and program LEGO robots to do real-world tasks.

The idea of robots can seem like very sophisticated machines, created by highly trained robotics specialists.  However, robotic machines don’t have to be very complex – and even kids can learn to make them!

There are two opportunities coming up in the Pioneer Valley for youth to experiment with LEGO robotics. The FIRST LEGO League is offering two introductory workshops just for girls to learn about participating in the FIRST LEGO robotics competitions.  Called Girls Connect, the workshops are open to girls ages 8-13 living in Hampshire, Hampden, and Franklin counties.  The workshops will match teams of girls (5 per team) up with coaches, professional engineers and computer scientists in order to tackle the challenges presented.  Teams will use a variety of LEGO parts to program their robots to complete everyday tasks, similar to the challenges presented in regular FIRST LEGO League competitions.  The workshops will end with a friendly competition, and awards will be given to teams based on their finished products and their hard work in creating them.

Participation in the workshop can help girls learn about FIRST LEGO League and ways to apply basic principles of math, science, and engineering.  Participation in engineering activities can be empowering for girls, and can help them learn how useful the scientific and mathematical ideas that they learn in school can be.

The workshops will take place on Saturday, March 9th at the Massachusetts Green High Performance Computing Center in Holyoke, and on Saturday, April 6th at the University of Massachusetts in Amherst.

Karen Sullivan writes, “Teams may attend either date, but not both. In order to receive registration materials, one adult member (teacher, parent, Girl Scout troop leader, afterschool program staff) of your team must join one of the following brief informational conference calls on Wednesday, February 27th at 7:30pm or Thursday, February 28th at 3:00pm (April 6th event only). Join the call by dialing 1-218-339-2699 Access Code 354432. Note, this is not a toll-free number; long-distance charges apply.”

To apply or receive more information, please go here.

Federal Fish and Wildlife Services’ Junior Duck Stamp Program

Supplement Habitat Studies with the Junior Duck Stamp Program

The Junior Duck Stamp Program offers an educational arts and science curriculum which educators can use for incorporating science, art, math and technology into habitat conservation studies. (Photo credit: Sienna Wildfield)

Western Massachusetts is home to a wide variety of duck species.  These beautiful birds make their homes in wetland areas, a habitat in need of conservation.  Students can learn about duck species and help to promote wetland conservation by participating in the Federal Fish and Wildlife Services’ Junior Duck Stamp Program!  This contest calls for students to create their own stamps, featuring a specific duck species portrayed in its habitat.  Students should learn about their species of choice, so as to make the best and most accurate depiction possible!  Their design should reflect the group’s goal in creating the stamp – to share the beauty and importance of the species of the duck depicted.

Students should learn to understand the relationship between the duck and its specific environment, and should understand why the duck has such specific habitat requirements.  Students can also study other stamp designs to learn what makes a good stamp!

Entries in the contest will be judged in four different age groups, and the winning entry will be made into a stamp and released in June.  The contest is an opportunity for students to learn about local biodiversity, and to work on their understanding of the interrelatedness of species and their habitat.  Students can also work on their art skills, working carefully to clearly portray their duck.  The contest deadline is March 15th. For more information visit www.fws.gov/juniorduck.

Online resources for educators:

A Look at the Girl Scouts: Science Curriculum & Healthy Relationships

The Girl Scouts: So Much More Than Cookies

Have you checked out the Girl Scouts recently? What an impressive institution! They are celebrating their 100th anniversary and they are better than ever. You probably know that the Girl Scouts support growing girls by encouraging responsible citizenship, generosity, and camaraderie. You might not realize, though, that there is a strong academic component to the organization.

The Girl Scouts have an actual curriculum with engaging and interactive materials. It is known as the Journeys (National Leadership Journeys) curriculum and it covers a lot of the same ideas considered in science class, but it is much more fun. Each scout gets a cheerful, but appropriately challenging, book full of activities and projects. One Journey, for example, is called “Power it Up.” In this Journey, according to the Girl Scouts website, “Girls learn about electronics and circuitry through a series of hands-on investigations. They explore Snap Circuits, learn about basic electronic components, and build different kinds of circuits. Rounding out this unit, girls develop soldering skills and make circuits that they can take home.“ Yes, Girl Scouts are wiring the world!

Another journey is called “ThrillBuilders,” in which girls explore the fundamental concepts of mechanical engineering to produce their own model circus. The ThrillBuilders curriculum comes with a box full of materials ready for a group of girls to explore.  In this video four hands-on activities girls complete with this program-in-a-box are illustrated:

Girl scouts have always worked to earn badges. The requirements for all of the badges have even been correlated by grade level, to state and national educational standards. What an asset to teachers and meticulous home-schoolers! More information about the state standards is available here: Program Connections to State (and National) Curriculum Standards.

The Girl Scouts, as an organization, are aware of the big picture. While the girls are learning about electricity, the Girl Scout Leadership Institute is thinking about things like: Real to Me: Girls and Reality TV (2011), The Resilience Factor: A Key to Leadership in African American and Hispanic Girls (2011), Beauty Redefined: Girls and Body Image Survey (2010), Who’s That Girl: Image and Social Media Survey (2010). They are actively working to understand the challenges that girls are facing! Furthermore, the Girl Scouts encourages all of this learning while also emphasizing the development of healthy relationships, the prevention of bullying, and the creation of peacemakers.

If you are interested in learning more about the Girl Scouts, meetings and troops are forming right now in Western MA. The Girls Scouts even have a program for girls who want to be “virtual” members and are seeking a safe place to be online. The Scouts are always seeking new troop leaders and there are many other ways to volunteer with the organization.  Here are some useful links to learn more about the Girls Scouts of Central and Western Massachusetts and the programs they offer that are unique to this council:

UPCOMING EVENT: November 16, 2012

100th Anniversary Reception of the Girl Scouts of America

Girls enjoy Camp Bonnie Brae in Otis in the 1940s. Camp Bonnie Brae is one of the two Girl Scouts camps in the Berkshires; pictures and items from it and the other Girl Scout camp, Camp Marion White in Richmond, are part of an exhibit currently on display at the Stockbridge Library’s Museum & Archives. The exhibit also includes local historical uniforms and other memorabilia in celebration of the 100th anniversary of Girl Scouting. (courtesy photo)

The Stockbridge Library Museum & Archives has partnered with the Girl Scouts of central and western Massachusetts to present an exhibit on the more recent history of scouting. This exhibit, A Century of Girl Scouting, includes photographs, manuals, and other memorabilia associated with Girl Scouting.  Camping, which has long been a part of scouting, will be highlighted.  Numerous uniforms worn by the different levels of scouts also will be on display.  In connection with this exhibit, the hope is gather more information about the history of local troops.  Former scouts and friends are invited to a reception on Friday, November 16, 2012, from 6-8 pm.  They are also are interested in capturing local memories on tape as part of the Museum & Archives’ Oral History Collection; please contact Curator Barbara Allen at 413-298-5501 or ballen@cwmars.org to set up an appointment.  The Stockbridge Library is located at 46 Main Street,  Stockbridge, MA.


ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Theresa Heary-Selah — Theresa is a teacher and a freelance writer, making her home in Greenfield, MA and Wright, NY with her family.  She teaches at S.H.I.N.E. (Students at Home in New England), a social and academic support program for middle school students in the Pioneer Valley, and writes about home-schooling and technology.  Theresa’s interests include home-schooling, gardening, cooking, hiking, and dancing.

6 Resources for Learning at Home During Frankenstorm While the Lights are On!

Hurricane Sandy and Halloween Offer Learning Opportunities Online

Hurricane Sandy might have schools closed while we await her arrival, but the learning can continue at home (so long as you have power!). Check out these online resources to brush up on math, chemistry, physiology, language arts and world & local history:

MATH

After you’ve battening down the shutters and have prepared your home & family for Hurricane Sandy (and still have power), let’s to use this event for real-world applications for learning. One online resource is “Math in the News” who takes current events as seen through the prism of mathematics every week. They are currently looking a probability maps for Hurricane Sandy.  Take a look with your kids at Math in the News and practice math skills:

CHEMISTRY

Who has Halloween candy laying around right now from events this past weekend or for passing out on Halloween night? Did you know you can use candy to conduct science experiments in the kitchen with your kids! Experiments include Acid Test using Pixy Stixs, Chromatography using M&M’s, Density experiment with Skittles, and many others!  Check out our post from last year, “Science Experiments with Candy” for ideas.

WORLD HISTORY

Here’s a succinct video about the history of Halloween produced by the History Channel: “Straddling the line between fall and winter, plenty and paucity, life and death, Halloween is a time of celebration and superstition. It is thought to have originated with the ancient Celtic festival of Samhain, when people would light bonfires and wear costumes to ward off roaming ghosts. In the eighth century, Pope Gregory III designated November 1 as a time to honor all saints and martyrs; the holiday, All Saints’ Day, incorporated some of the traditions of Samhain. The evening before was known as All Hallows’ Eve and later Halloween. Over time, Halloween evolved into a secular, community-based event characterized by child-friendly activities such as trick-or-treating. In a number of countries around the world, as the days grow shorter and the nights get colder, people continue to usher in the winter season with gatherings, costumes and sweet treats.”

PHYSIOLOGY

Are your kids all about Zombies this Halloween? In this animated video from TEDed, Tim Verstynen & Bradley Voytek apply the various human medical possibilities that make zombies…zombies. Find out the physiology behind what’s happening in their brains to make them act as they do.  After watching this video check out the full lesson.

LANGUAGE ARTS

H-A-Double L-O-W-Double E-N spells Halloween! Remember that song when you were a kid just learning to spell? Here’s a cool video for this song for your young kids to watch for a fun way to learn how to spell Halloween

LOCAL HISTORY

Are your kids learning about or interested in the Salem Witch Trials?  National Geographic has an interactive resource on the Salem Witch Hunt, Discovery Education has tips for teachers and home educators on the Salem Witch Trials for grade level 5-8, the National Teacher Training Institute offers lesson plans on the The Salem Witchcraft Trials and The Crucible for grades 5-12, and Historian Elizabeth Reis uses primary sources in an education video on the history of the Salem Witch Trials at Teaching History.  The History Channel offers this short video to help tell the tale of this event in Massachusetts history:

Science Quest at UMass for Teens

UMass’ Science Quest
Saturday, October 27th

Science Quest is an exciting opportunity for high school students to visit the UMass Amherst campus and engage in hands-on science activities, demonstrations, and guided lab tours. All presentations are organized by UMass faculty members and designed for high school-aged students. Science Quest is a one-day free event happening on Saturday, October 27th in Amherst.

Students learn about a wide variety of STEM topics in school – everything from the periodic table to the Pythagorean Theorem – but often aren’t shown the interesting, practical, and often surprising ways that STEM topics can be applied to real life!

High school aged youth are invited to UMass’ Science Quest, an annual free event that offers students the opportunity to learn firsthand about science research, the practical applications of science knowledge, and the creativity that STEM work sometimes allows!

At Science Quest, students can take a tour of the school’s physics lab, to see how nanoscales are made; learn about both the political and technological sides of biofuels, solar energy, and fuel cells; and see crazy (but science-based) demonstrations of peanut butter being turned into a powder, ice cream made using nitrogen, and more!  The event will also include a panel discussion with current UMass students pursuing degrees in a variety of STEM-related fields, as well as a Q+A with UMass faculty and staff on the university’s programs and studies of STEM in higher education in general.

Registration is required – students may attend as part of a school or homeschool group, or on their own.  Science Quest will take place on Saturday, October 27th from 9:30am-4:30pm at UMass’ Integrated Science Building (661 North Pleasant St.) in Amherst, MA, and includes free registration, parking and lunch. Limited travel funding and PDPs for teachers is also available. For more info visit  www.umass.edu.

Women in Engineering Career Day at UMass

UMass Hosts Women in Engineering Career Day for Local High School Students
Monday, October 29th, 2012

Open to young women in grades 9-12, Women in Engineering Career Day will take place at  UMass Amherst on Monday, October 29th from 8:30am-1:30pm. Activities include: hands-on engineering and computing activities; demonstrations of state-of-the-art technology, information about career opportunities; lunch chats with college students, professors, and engineers; and optional tours of engineering and computer science labs.

Historically, the field of engineering has been male dominated.  Today, however, women are breaking into engineering, computing, and other science-related professions more and more.  To promote women’s pursuits of science, technology, and engineering, UMass’ Society of Women Engineers and Women in Engineering Program host Women in Engineering Career Day!

Open to young women in grades 9-12, the event will take place on Monday, October 29th from 8:30am-1:30pm.  Included in the event will be a keynote speaker (Valerie Gordeski, a systems engineer with Raytheon, a major defense contractor), tours of the school’s engineering and science labs, hands-on computing and engineering activities, technology demonstrations, information about career opportunities and college pursuits, and a chance to talk with female students and professors of engineering.

No matter their background knowledge, Women in Engineering Day offers students a unique opportunity to learn about possibilities for their futures in an empowering, all-women environment.  Older students interested in pursuing STEM subjects at a women’s college may find the event particularly useful – they will experience firsthand what it is like to work with an all-female group to solve hands-on computing problems and piece together systems using basic engineering skills.  Space is limited and registration is required ($) – non-homeschooled students should register through their school guidance counselor.  More information at engineering.umass.edu/diversity/wepcareerday. Space fills up quickly!

MIT Launches Student-Produced STEM Educational Video Initiative

Original Short Videos Aim to Fuel K-12 Students’ Interest in STEM

Well-known education resource Khan Academy, a web site offering video-based learning to students, sparked a small revolution in the utilization of video in the classroom.  Videos, once reserved for rainy days or special activities, can now be an incredibly valuable educational resource.  Students are able to pace their own learning when using videos, as they can stop, repeat, and rewind as many times as they need to in order to understand, without feeling pressured to keep up with other students.

Well… MIT and the Khan Academy have teamed up to offer special videos on topics within STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math) created by their students!

MIT, home to 10,000 STEM students, holds a wealth of knowledge, and students have created videos on many unique topics – everything from flying robots to the earth’s rotation.  The project, titled MIT+K12, includes videos for students in any grade.  The videos are available on the project’s website and on YouTube – teachers, parents, and even kids can search the site for videos to help with tricky subjects or to learn about something they’re curious about!

8 Ways to Create Engaging Engineering Activities at Home

Engineering Projects for Children at Home

I continue to be amazed at the natural engineering instincts of young children.  Ironically, with all the technology available to kids today (television, computers, tablets, video games), overuse takes time away from building and creating, both of which can lead our next generation of ethical scientists and engineers to solving some of the problems overuse of technology causes. Read the rest of this entry »

Passport to Chemistry Adventure for Kids at Mt. Holyoke College, 2012

Passport to Chemistry Adventure

Recipe for Homemade Baking Powder

Recipe for Homemade Baking Powder

Experiment with science at home, and work towards a chance to participate in a special chemistry adventure day at Mt. Holyoke College in South Hadley, MA.

Families can sign out chemistry kits from their local library and do experiments at home. Participating libraries include: South Hadley Public Library, M. N. Spear Memorial Library (Shutesbury), Wilbraham Public Library and Emily Williston Memorial Library (Easthampton). There are kits available for K-2nd & 3rd-6th grades. Participating library patrons get a stamp on their “chemistry passport” for each kit they complete, and after accumulating five, they can apply to be part of a special chemistry event!

On Saturday, June 9th, the college is hosting 2012 Passport to Chemistry Adventure – and the theme is food and chemistry! To apply, kids must submit a Chemistry Visa application by May 15th, using their chemistry passport stamps as proof that they are armed with enough chemistry knowledge to participate!

After applying, families will find out what time their activity will take place. Kids participating will get to take part in a fun, investigative activity that allows them to learn basic principles of chemistry while using something they’re familiar with (local food!) as learning materials. To sign up, visit www.mtholyoke.edu.

[Photo credit: (ccl) Susy Morris]

Three Programs Kids Can Use to Learn How to Create Video Games

Kids Creating Video Games

Many kids today are great at playing (consuming) video games but who will create the video games of tomorrow?  I think it’s fine for kids to play appropriate video games in moderation.  See Common Sense Media for reviews and ratings for video games.  However, many kids today only consume content.  What we really need in the future is for the next generation to create interesting, appropriate, and constructive content.  That’s goes for television, movies, websites, apps, and games and other media we can’t even envision now.  This activity is great for encouraging interest in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math) subjects, as well as art.

Here’s three different ways kids can create video games at home or at school:

Read the rest of this entry »

Online Science Fair For Teens

Everyone has a question. What’s yours?
Google Science Fair 2012

Calling all curious kids!  Google is hosting their own science fair for kids ages 13-18!  Students who enter are asked to develop a project based on a question of their own, then design a website giving information about the project and create a video or taped presentation about their work!  Kids can enter alone or in groups of two or three.  The contest is just like a regular science fair, except that kids will be presenting their work online instead of in person.  The deadline is April 1st, meaning students have just over a month to develop their question, do research, and find concluding information.  Students can pursue any question they want, so long as they’ve developed it themselves!  The science fair provides kids a way to exercise creativity within the realm of science- an opportunity that isn’t often provided within a traditional educational experience.  Kids will learn to ask and answer their own questions, set goals, and carry out independent work and research.

Check out Lauren Hodge of Pennsylvania, who was inspired by dinner with her family to ask questions and develop a project for the Google Science Fair last year… and won!

To learn more about the contest, visit www.google.com/sciencefair.

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