April 27, 2016 at 12:00 pm (Citizen Scientist, Hampden County, Hilltown Families, Science, Suggested Activity)
Tags: BioBlitz, Biodiversity, Biology, Citizen Scientists, Environment, Nature Based Learning, place-based education, plants and animals, Science
Biodiversity in Your Neighborhood
Elms College is throwing a Bioblitz on Saturday, April 30, 9am-3pm at Chicopee Memorial State Park. Teachers, students, parents and friends of all ages are invited to team up with scientists to identify as many of the park’s living creatures as possible in a single day. This is a wonderful opportunity to meet people working in scientific fields and ask them questions about science in general or about their careers specifically. Participation can get community members interested in the biodiversity of their local lands, and as a result make them more invested in conservation efforts. Documenting of local species can give scientists clues for further research. You never know what you’re going to find until you look! Please register online at the Elms College website. 570 Burnett Road, Chicopee, MA. (FREE)
In the past twenty years, childhood in the United States has moved indoors. The average American child spends about thirty minutes of their day in unstructured, outdoor play, and more than seven hours in front of a screen (see this report for more information). Most people intuitively understand the connection between time spent in nature and positive well-being. Fresh air and exercise keep our bodies in shape and our minds focused. But did you know that time spent outdoors in childhood also is correlated with better distance vision? If you and your child pair your time spent outdoors with species identification, this may sharpen your visual skills even further as you try to spot birds, plants, insects, and mammals which may be small, or may dart away at the sight of you. This kind of activity also teaches patience and focus.
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April 18, 2016 at 12:00 pm (Hilltown Families, Poetry, Science)
Tags: Chemistry, ecosystems, Poetry Contest
Ecology Themed Illustrated Poetry Contest Accepting Submissions
From the yeast and sugar used to rise a loaf of fresh homemade bread, to the microbial life that multiplies around your tea kettle or takes hold of your family during flu season, we have many ecosystems within our own homes (and our own bodies!).
When you think of the word “ecosystem,” does your mind automatically travel outdoors, imagining a nature scene with lots visible life? Sometimes humans forget that our own habitats, our man-made houses, also contain ecosystems of life forms besides ourselves. Drinking unfiltered water contains microbial life. Bacteria thrive in hot water areas such as a tea kettle. In fact, although they don’t pay rent and in fact you can’t even see them. You have several billion microscopic housemates!
There’s no need to overthink these facts or jump to worrisome conclusions. Bacteria is not always harmful and in fact, some of these microscopic beings play helpful roles in our lives. Even though humans have built complex systems of shelter and storage, we are natural beings and we live in a biological world. Your kitchen sink, your computer screen, your bedroom doorknob- each one could potentially be analyzed as an ecosystem.
This year, in honor of Earth Day, the American Chemical Society is challenging young people to rethink their homes as ecosystems, and use this as inspiration for artwork and poetry. What does science have to do with poetry and artwork? A lot, actually. Poets, artists and scientists are all highly inquisitive observers, seeking to make sense of the world around them, whether they do it with words, images, experiments, or some combination of the three. Read the rest of this entry »
March 29, 2016 at 12:00 pm (Hampshire County, Hilltown Families, Nature Based Education, Science, Suggested Activity)
Tags: entomology, Insects, Nature Based Learning, Photography, tracking
Exhibit Features the Tracks and Sign of Insects
When we think of tracking in nature, our minds generally drift to following the footprints of somewhat sizable creatures – generally mammals, and sometimes birds. Some of nature’s most fascinating and beautiful tracks and sign are, however, left behind by the smallest creatures of all: insects! Insect tracks and sign can be found in abundance and in many forms – if you know where and how to look.
Families can explore the miniature world of insect tracks through a special photography exhibit at the Westhampton Library featuring the work of Charley Eiseman, one of the country’s best entomologists and inhabitant of the Connecticut River Valley. Co-author of Tracks and Signs of Insects, Eiseman has explored the insect world extensively, and his photographs show not only attention to detail and beauty, but deep knowledge of the habits of insects, whose sign can easily go unnoticed by the untrained eye. Read the rest of this entry »
March 28, 2016 at 12:00 pm (Citizen Scientist, Hampden County, Nature Based Education, Science, Suggested Activity)
Tags: BioBlitz, Citizen Science, Collaborations, collaborative consumption, Community Experts, Community Service, Diversity, Natural Science, Nature Based Learning, Science-Based Learning
BioBlitz 2016 Spotlights Citizen Science and Biodiversity in Hampden County
Organized by Elms College, BioBlitz 2016 offers an important opportunity to engage in citizen science in Chicopee! Designed to identify and record as many species of living things as possible, the BioBlitz provides experiential learning opportunities for novice naturalists!
The local landscape is filled with so much life, to locate and identify it all would take the work of many – luckily, that’s exactly what a bioblitz is for! On Saturday, April 30th, Elms College hosts BioBlitz 2016 at Memorial State Park in Chicopee from 9am-3pm. Pairing the knowledge and expertise of scientists, naturalists, and college students with that of children, families, and community members, the event is equal parts citizen science, community service, and community collaboration, and offers unique experiential learning opportunities as a result.
Used in locations far and wide but originating here in Massachusetts, the BioBlitz is a community event used to identify and record any and all species of life found in a specific geographic area. The purpose of such events is to gather information about the populations that locations can support, and to assess the health of an outdoor space. An additional use for BioBlitzes is to educate, allowing citizen scientists to learn about the complex ecosystem in which they live. Read the rest of this entry »
February 22, 2016 at 12:00 pm (Hilltown Families, Science, Suggested Activity)
Tags: DIY Movement, fablabs, hackerspaces, hackspaces, Maker Space, MakerSpace
Maker Spaces and Meet-Ups Provide Local Hub for STE(A)M-Based Learning
Filling the need for spaces in which to combine art and science, maker spaces and meet-up groups are popping up all over western Massachusetts! Offering community-based opportunities to think, make, do, learn, and share, these intergenerational groups and gathering spaces can be valuable to young makers!
Lying in the space between ideas and their physical manifestations, makerspaces cater to the creators amongst us, providing spaces within which to combine science, technology, engineering, art, and math (a combination widely known as STEAM) in order to produce… who knows what! Makerspaces share some similarities with artists’ studios, but differ from the traditional studio model in that they encompass digital making as well as physical making. Makerspaces either offer tech-based resources to makers or welcome makers to bring their own tech tools, allowing technology a home within the realm of creation. Locally, makerspaces and maker meet-ups are popping up everywhere, providing opportunities for youth to engage in the process of creating within supportive, community-based, intergenerational environments.
Read the rest of this entry »
January 18, 2016 at 12:00 pm (Art, Science)
Tags: Creative Free Play, Handmade Valentines, Making Valentines, STE(A)M, STEM, Valentine Making
Put Some STE(A)M into Your Valentines!
This Valentine’s Day, spread friendship and kindness throughout your community by participating in Hilltown Families’ 8th 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…
November 9, 2015 at 12:00 pm (Community Based Education, Hilltown Families, Science, Suggested Activity)
Tags: Astronomy, constellation, Integrative Learning
Using Math to Map Constellations Deepens Sense of Place in the Universe
Combining science, math, and even human history and culture, studies of stars and constellations is a community-based resource that’s accessible to everyone and a great nature-based way to integrate learning. Families can track changes in the night sky using basic math skills, and can deepen their sense of place within the universe by doing so.
In the first stanza of John Lennon’s wonderful song, Imagine, he sings “above us only sky.” While it is certainly true that above us is sky, it may not be fair to say that it is “only” sky. Looking at what’s above us is an accessible way to spark sky-based learning that connects to the development of skills in math, science, and even history and culture! In examining the night sky specifically, families can gain a greater sense of place within the universe, and a deeper experience-based understanding of the movement of the earth in relation to the expansiveness of outer space.
So if it’s not only sky above us, what is all of it? For young observers of the night sky, the obvious focal point of studying the sky is stars – the brightly glowing burning balls that seem to be an absolutely impossible distance from earth. Learning to identify constellations can help budding astronomers begin to learn how to get their bearings while looking at the night sky, and integrating studies of constellations with mapmaking guided by the coordinate plane can create opportunities to engage in meaningful hands-on learning filled with lots of careful work and critical thought. Read the rest of this entry »
October 19, 2015 at 3:00 pm (Hilltown Families, Science, Suggested Activity)
Tags: Halloween, Halloween Science, Science, STEM
In the spirit of the creepy, gruesome, and vaguely terrifying elements of the Halloween season, why not engage in some similarly creepy, gruesome, and relatively terror-free hands-on science experiments! From candy chromatography and glowing drinkables to flying ghosts and gooey eyeballs, to follow are 8 Halloween science ideas which connect to numerous science concepts and promote hands-on learning. Read the rest of this entry »
September 30, 2015 at 3:00 pm (Hilltown Families, Nature Based Education, Science)
Tags: Nature Based Learning, Science, Science Experiments, Season-Based Learning
Fall-Inspired Hands-On Science Inspires Outdoor Experiments
Crisp fall days are a great time for outdoor hands-on science! Using fall-harvested crops and the natural phenomena of autumn as inspiration, families can explore everything from weather prediction to animal tracks. These engaging outdoor science projects can be enjoyed by scientists of all ages, and require few materials – the learning inspired by each project will come naturally thanks to participants’ curiosity and ability to observe! Read the rest of this entry »
September 29, 2015 at 3:00 pm (Berkshire County, Hilltown Families, Science, Suggested Activity)
Tags: Astronomy, Science, Space Studies, STEM, western massachusetts
Williams College Host Planetarium Show this Fall
Williams College in Williamstown, MA, invites families to experience the wonders of our universe at their Milham Planetarium, located inside the Old Hopkins Observatory at Williams College. Astronomy students at the college will host free shows for the public on Friday evenings at 8pm, October 2, 9, 16, 23, 30; November 6, 13, 20; and December 4, 2015
The Hopkins Observatory, built in 1836-38 by the first professor of astronomy at Williams College, Albert Hopkins, is the oldest extant observatory in the United States.
Audiences will be treated to shows from the high-precision Zeiss Skymaster ZKP3/B opto-mechanical planetarium projector, installed in April 2005.
The Zeiss Skymaster is capable of demonstrating phenomena including: retrograde motions of the planets, phases of the moon, the varying temperatures/colors of stars, locations of neighboring galaxies, the mythological figures and zodiacal signs ascribed to constellations, the southern hemisphere’s sky, comets, artificial satellites, and much more.
Fall 2015 shows will be hosted by Williams College students Rebecca Durst ’17, Sarah Stevenson ’17, Brett Bidstrup ’17, and Glen Gallik ’18. Jay Pasachoff, Field Memorial Professor of Astronomy, is the Director of the Hopkins Observatory.
The Hopkins Observatory, built in 1836-38 by the first professor of astronomy at Williams College, Albert Hopkins, is the oldest extant observatory in the United States. Shows will last about 50 minutes.
For reservations (recommended) contact Michele Rech at 413-597-2188 or email email@example.com. Others will be admitted as space permits. Large groups should call for special appointments.
The Hopkins Observatory is on a small hill on the south side of Main Street east of Spring Street in Williamstown and just east of Lawrence Hall Drive, on which planetarium patrons share parking with the Williams College Museum of Art. A campus map showing the Hopkins Observatory’s location can be found on the www.williams.edu/map or at 829 Main Street, Williamstown, Mass., in http://maps.google.com.
– Submitted by Noelle Lemoine
September 7, 2015 at 3:00 pm (Hampshire County, Hilltown Families, Science, Suggested Activity, Technology)
Tags: Coding, digital technology, NERD, NERD Summit, New England Regional Developers, Technology
NERD Summit: Helping to Raise the Next Generation of Innovators, Creative Thinkers, & Technologists!
NERD Summit is back! All are welcome to a free weekend of workshops, training sessions, presentations, youth activities, and more, September 11th-13th at UMass Amherst’s Conference Center.
Want to learn CSS or HTML? Ready to turn your app idea into a real app? Perhaps you’ve been wanting to make 3D drawings using SketchUp or itching to learn about LEGO EV3 Robotics? Look no further than the NERD (New England Regional Developers) Summit, a 3-day learning camp focused on helping people build coding, web design, and related skills, and to welcome everyone into this interesting industry.
Many sessions at NERD Summit are intended for self-directed teens and life-long learners; and there are lots of great FREE facilitate workshops for kids at the NERD Summit 2015.
Read the rest of this entry »
September 1, 2015 at 8:00 am (Community Based Education, Hilltown Families, Science, Suggested Activity)
Tags: Astronomy, Citizen Science, constellations, outer space, outerspace, planetarium
Astronomy Resources for Budding Scientists!
Being accessible to everyone, everywhere, at all times, the sky is the ultimate community-based educational resource! Using a wealth of resources from books to apps, citizen science to local planetariums, families can explore outer space together and learn experientially about the sky above us.
Studies of outer space can be intriguing to young minds – particularly due to their mysterious nature. In plain sight all day and all night, the sky is filled with fascinating things both big and bright that are impossible to touch and nearly impossible to experience (there aren’t a lot of job openings for astronauts these days).
In order to support young Earth-bound astronomers in their pursuit of learning about all things outer space, families can utilize online resources, books, and – best of all – numerous community-based learning opportunities and resources!
Read the rest of this entry »
August 10, 2015 at 12:00 pm (Hilltown Families, Science, Suggested Activity)
Tags: Science, Science Experiments, Science Project, STEM
One of the best ways to engage in hands-on science learning is by simply messing about. When children’s play leads them to make observations about the things around them and the ways in which they interact with each other, they learn powerful lessons that they’ll remember for years to come. Luckily the time of year messy science learning can be done outdoors! Below are ten suggestions for hands-on science activities that families can engage in both to learn about a specific topic and to encourage self-directed “messing about” with safe science materials once formal experimentation has been done. Read the rest of this entry »
July 22, 2015 at 3:00 pm (Food, Local Food, Science, Sustainability)
Tags: Fermentation, food chemistry, Local Food, pickling, reskilling, Sustainability, zymology
The Art & Science of Fermentation: Lessons in Local Food Preservation
There’s lots of space for learning about food science when you turn your kitchen into a fermentation station!
This time of year, it’s so easy to forget how badly we longed for crisp pickling cucumbers and fresh local tomatoes during the winter – sometimes, it all comes in at once, and it’s all we can do to keep the bounty of our gardens and farm shares from going to waste. Gardening is, of course, a great way to expose kids to cycles of growth and the joy of producing your own food, and the cooking that eventually follows. A solidly planted garden brings with it a myriad of other kitchen-based learning experiences (measuring math, recipe literacy, and lots of fine motor skill development for small folks). But what do you do when you’ve cooked all you can eat and your self-sufficient kiddos have already mastered the ins and outs of your kitchen? Start fermenting! Read the rest of this entry »
July 21, 2015 at 3:00 pm (Citizen Scientist, Ecology, Hilltown Families, Science, Video)
Tags: Citizen Scientists, Lepidoptera, Lepidopterists, moths, National Moth Week
Explore Night Time Nature
During National Moth Week
July 18-26, 2015
Did you know that there are over 11,000 moth species in the United States alone? More than just an evening version of butterflies, moths provide necessary biodiversity to ecosystems all over the world!
National Moth Week will take place this year from July 18-26, and provides an opportunity for families to learn about and help to document the many different moths found in their surroundings! There are Moth Week events planned nationwide, but the most exciting part of the celebration is the opportunity to help contribute to scientific research on moth species and populations.
Moth Week supports numerous organizations in their research efforts, and families are encouraged to contribute accurate data of any type that they collect. By searching for moths, families can learn about the many different species who live in the environment surrounding them, as well as the role that the moths play within the local ecosystem. For more information on how to submit data and ways to search for and identify moths, visit nationalmothweek.org.
The Lepidopterists’ Society can provide K-12 students, teachers and parents resources on butterflies and moth awareness either in the classroom to enhance your educational curriculum, or for your own personal interest and enjoyment. Check out their projects at www.lepsoc.org.
April 21, 2015 at 9:00 am (Hilltown Families, Poetry, Science, Suggested Activity)
Tags: illustration, Language Arts, poetry competition, science education, STE(A)M, STEM, writing
Chemists Celebrate Earth Day 2015 Illustrated Poem Contest
Combining science with writing and visual creativity is such a refreshing way to approach a complex topic. American Chemical Society is now seizing the day and holding an innovative poetry competition for kids that will drive them to explore different avenues in science.
Calling all young, creative-minded budding scientists! The Connecticut Valley Local Section of the American Chemical Society invites youth ages 5-18 years old to participate in the Chemists Celebrate Earth Day 2015 Illustrated Poem Contest! An annual event combining science with writing and visual artistry, the poetry contest encourages young writers to process their knowledge related to a scientific topic in a very non-traditional way. Unlike most science-based writing, writing created for the Illustrated Poem Contest won’t be centered around the task of explaining a concept or theory. Instead, entries in the contest will combine creative writing skills and scientific understanding to create a piece that is both beautiful and informative. Read the rest of this entry »
March 29, 2015 at 3:00 pm (Art, Citizen Scientist, Community Based Education, Ecology, Hilltown Families, Mass Appeal, Nature Based Education, Science, Suggested Activity, Volunteer Opportunity)
Tags: 22News, 22News Mass Appeal, Community Based Education, Mass Appeal, Sense of Place, Vernal Pools
Hilltown Families on Mass Appeal: March Segment
Vernal Pools: Natural Habitats & Local Species as Community Resources
Hilltown Families and Mass Appeal (a weekday, hour-long lifestyle program on NBC) have teamed up to offer a live monthly segment on WWLP 22News! Each month, Hilltown Families’ Founder & Executive Director, Sienna Wildfield, joins Mass Appeal hosts, Ashley Kohl and Seth Stutman, to talk about ways to engage in your community while supporting the interests and education of your children (and yourselves!).
This monthly segment continued on Thursday, March 26, 2015, highlighting how local habitats and native species can be used as a catalyst for learning. Through the lens of Vernal Pools and the animals that depend on them for survival, Sienna shares three methods of engagement as a way to support interests and education via Vernal Pools:
Vernal Pools: Methods of Engagement that Support Community-Based Learning
When looking for community-based resources that support learning via the lens of vernal pools, consider nature center, conservation organizations and your local library.
Phenology-based activities coincide with the natural changing of our seasons (our ultimate accessible community-based educational resource) and are great catalysts for learning through community engagement. Maple syrup season, filled with delicious community activities and opportunities, is our most recent seasonal activity here in Western MA. But can you name other seasonal events coming our way as winter transitions into spring? The one we want to highlight this month is Vernal Pools!
As the seasons transition and habitats and animals respond to the change in weather and climate, Vernal Pools begin to emerge and come to life based on the timing of this change and the relationship plants and animals have with their environment! Taking advantage of these changes and getting out into your community to participate in nature-based learning activities will support the development of skills and integrated learning in a wide variety of subjects.
Methods of engagement as they relate to Vernal Pools can include nature-based learning, service-based learning and citizen scientist, and the embedded learning families can extracted from these engagement opportunities can range from ecology to natural history, entomology to zoology, scientific process to art!
The following methods of engagement and events highlight these community-based resources and the embedded learning you can extract from participation: Read the rest of this entry »
February 18, 2015 at 12:00 pm (Hampden County, Hilltown Families, Science, Suggested Activity)
Tags: Coding, Holyoke Codes, Robotics, STEM, Technology
Holyoke Codes is offering free STEM based youth workshops at the Massachusetts Green High Performance Computing Center in March. These two exciting workshops include Scratch for Girls and Alternative Energy Robotics: Read the rest of this entry »
February 3, 2015 at 9:00 am (Hampshire County, Science, Teen)
Tags: Amherst, Science Quest, STEM, Teens, western massachusetts
UMass’ Science Quest
Saturday, April 11th, 2015
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, April 11, 2015 in Amherst. — Space is limited, so register early!
Students learn about a wide variety of STEM topics in school – everything from the periodic table to the Pythagorean Theorem – but all too frequently 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 offering students the opportunity to learn firsthand about science research, the practical applications of science knowledge, and the creativity that STEM work sometimes allows!
Students in grades 10-12 who are interested in science, technology, engineering, and math can engage in hands-on science activities, demonstrations, and lab tours at UMass Amherst’s Science Quest event on Saturday, April 11, 2015 from 9:30am-3:40pm in the Integrated Science Building (661 North Pleasant Street, Amherst, MA).
Students can choose from a variety of classes, demos, and tours, including ones on topics like food science, physics, biology, nanotechnology, astronomy, alternative energy, chemistry, animal sciences, and engineering. High school students can become more engaged in the sciences through this free event, which promotes hands-on learning and participation. In addition to these activities, UMass undergraduate science students will be present to talk about their experiences as science majors and an admissions representative will be on hand to discuss preparing for college and applying to UMass.
Read the rest of this entry »
December 1, 2014 at 9:00 am (Hampden County, Science)
Tags: Artbotics, Community Based Education, computer class, computer coding, Computer Science Education Week, Holyoke Codes, Hour of Code, html, SCRATCH, ScratchJr, STEM
Families Can Learn Basic Computer Coding During Computer Science ED Week
Families who are curious to learn about the basics of code can take part in Holyoke Codes, a week-long local event held as part of this year’s Computer Science Education Week.
Children who use computer-based resources for learning may have begun to wonder how the websites, search engines, apps, and programs that they use work. As they learn to navigate the ins and outs of each program, they’ll likely notice that there’s a pattern to how each one works. Just like conversations between people have patterns, a computer program’s conversations with itself have patterns, too. And each and every one of these patterns is based in code!
Families who are curious to learn about the basics of code – and to try it out themselves! – can take part in Holyoke Codes, a week-long local event held as part of this year’s Computer Science Education Week. Taking place from Monday, December 8th through Saturday, December 13th, Holyoke Codes offers opportunities for community members of all ages to explore robotics, animation, music, and games – all while learning the basics of computer coding and the language and patterns that computer operations are created with.
Holyoke Codes’ exciting week of events includes: Read the rest of this entry »
November 24, 2014 at 9:00 am (Art, Community Based Education, Hilltown Families, Science, Take Action)
Tags: Art Contest, Climate Change, Community Based Education, Cool Science, Environmentalism, Science, STE(A)M, STEM, UMass Lowell
Power of Public Art Drives Critical Thinking in Community Based Learning
Public art is designed to make us think. Whether it’s about local history, traffic safety, or our cultural heritage, public artwork sends a message. Children have the opportunity to create public artwork to send a message about climate change by participating in UMass Lowell’s Cool Science contest! Young artists can learn about climate science and art with a purpose by creating entries, and winners might get to see their art made public. Entries are due by Dec 1, 2014.
Public art plays an important role in communities throughout western Massachusetts. Murals, sculptures, chalk drawings, and installations in public spaces help to share history, culture, and new ideas with everyone who sees them. Public art is, perhaps, the most accessible of all art forms – viewing does not require intentionality, it simply requires eyes to be open to the world. One of the best parts of public art is the power that it has to spread meaningful messages – to remind us to love one another, to make us think about how we treat public spaces, and to even make us look twice before crossing the street.
Currently, students have the opportunity to submit artwork into a public art contest. UMass Lowell’s annual Cool Science artwork competition asks students in grades K-12 (or homeschool equivalent) to create works of art inspired by their learning about climate change. Winners of the contest will have their artwork displayed on clean fuel-burning city buses in Lowell, providing young artists with the opportunity to have their message-sending masterpieces turned into mobile public art. Read the rest of this entry »
September 8, 2014 at 9:00 am (Community Based Education, Hampshire County, Science, Suggested Activity)
Tags: collaborative consumption, Community Based Education, grassroots movement, science cafe, science cafes, STEM
Non-traditional Setting makes Science Accessible
Science Cafes, a grassroots movement to open science to everyone and to bring presentations and engaging conversations into casual community settings, have come to Western MA. Here we feature two that take place on Mondays in the Pioneer Valley…
For families living in western Massachusetts, there are lots of opportunities to learn about science topics present within our communities. Local museums offer endless science-related exhibits, and explorations of the biodiversity and natural history present within our local landscape take place year-round (we’re hardy in these parts!). However, opportunities to interact with actual scientists – the experts and researchers who make discoveries – are far fewer and further between. But now, thanks to two local Science Cafes, students can do just that!
In Hadley, the OEB Science Cafe brings monthly events to Esselon Cafe on Mondays. Run by graduate students and faculty of the Organismic and Evolutionary Biology program at UMass (hence the OEB title), the cafe’s topics follow along the theme of evolutionary biology and teach participants about topics ranging from the similarities between ants and humans to the way that a bird’s brain learns songs. Though the cafes are designed with adults in mind, self-directed teens and tweens with an interest in biology are welcome and can certainly learn lots by attending. Each OEB Science Cafe takes place from 6-7pm, and is free!
In Amherst, the SciTech Cafe meets at Amherst Brewing Company on the 4th Monday of each month. Covering topics within the realm of science and technology – a vast field, the cafe’s next two upcoming topics are the science of alien worlds (also known as space technology) and the science of sleep. Each event will include a talk by an expert, as well as time for questions and even a game!
Read the rest of this entry »
August 12, 2014 at 12:00 pm (Citizen Scientist, Science, Video)
Tags: Citizen Scientist, monarch butterfly
Monarch Butterflies: Migratory Patterns & Citizen Scientists Opportunities
Monarch butterflies make perhaps the most epic of all migratory journeys. Though their long trek can sometimes take up to four generations to complete, it spans an almost unbelievably large portion of North America. The butterflies begin high in the mountains of southwestern Mexico, and, come springtime, gradually work their way as far north as Saskatchewan, Canada and as far east as Maine and the southernmost parts of New Brunswick. The distinctive black-and-orange butterflies lay their eggs along the way, and depend on the availability of milkweed-filled habitat throughout their journey. While no one butterfly makes the round trip from Mexico to Maine and back again, the pattern of monarch movement across the continent is incredibly sophisticated and, at times, beautiful.
Because the monarch needs such specific habitat – young monarch caterpillars eat only milkweed – the opportunity to stop and lay eggs has become much more limited than it once was. Due to human development of land and genetically engineered farming techniques, meadows with milkweed can be rare, and the butterflies must try much harder in order to complete the full cycle of their journey. In order to track the changes in population and the preferred landing grounds of monarchs, a number of Citizen Scientist initiatives have been developed. All around the United States (with the exception of states west of the Rockies), butterflies are being tracked and studied – and your family can help as a citizen scientist…
June 4, 2014 at 9:00 am (Citizen Scientist, Science)
Tags: bees, Bumble Bee, bumble bee watch, Citizen Scientist, community education, Photography, Pollinators
You’re Invited! Help halt the demise of these important pollinators!
While our surroundings continue to bloom, take advantage of the late spring blossoms and the creatures that they attract by participating in some citizen science projects! Pollinator species of all kinds are declining in numbers as a result of environmentally unfriendly practices (like habitat destruction and herbicide use, among others), and by helping to collect data about pollinators, environmentally conscious folks of all ages can contribute to current efforts to support populations and ensure that they continue to exist for years to come.
In particular, families can use their citizen science efforts to help study populations of bees. Loved and celebrated for their role in pollinating some food crops that we enjoy, bees play a crucial role in ecosystems all around the world. This summer, instead of fleeing at the sight of a bee, families can practice photography skills, learn to identify insect species, and contribute data to studies of bee population distribution and the causes of population decline.
May 26, 2014 at 9:00 am (Hampden County, Science, Suggested Activity)
Tags: derby, Engineering, physics, Science, STEM
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.
May 5, 2014 at 9:00 am (Reading Lists, Science)
Tags: DK Eyewitness Science, Dover Children's Science Books, Gail Gibbons, Jerry Pallotta, Learning, Let's Read and Find Out, National Geographic Readers, Petersen Field Guides, Science, science illustrations, STEM, The Magic School Bus
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 »
January 29, 2014 at 1:00 pm (Hampshire County, Science, Suggested Activity)
Tags: laws of physics, physics, time loops, Time travel
The Law of Physics and Groundhog Day
Science on Screen Series at Amherst Cinema
What does the tradition of Groundhog Day have to do with learning science? Well, when you throw in a classic Bill Murray film, the three things combine for an interesting examination of time loops and the physics behind such a concept!
As part of the Science on Screen series, Amherst Cinema will screening Groundhog Day on Monday, February 3rd at 7pm. A comedic classic, the film features Murray as a TV weatherman sent out on his least favorite annual assignment – covering the emergence of Punxsutawney Phil from his hole. Much to his horror, Murrary’s character gets snowed in after the event, and wakes to find himself in a time loop where he experiences Groundhog Day over and over and over. Eventually, he is forced to get creative with his extra lopping time and works to become more in touch with himself.
Along with the film, the event will feature a discussion with Amherst College physics professor Dr. Kannan Jagannathan. Using the film as a reference, Jagannathan will discuss time travel’s presence in fiction and the roots of such stories in physics principles (or not!). While there is a place in science for examining the potential for time travel, there is much more space for examining the rules of physics broken within plots that include time traveling adventures. Jagannathan will point out instances of such rule breaking in the film, and will help viewers to understand Einstein’s theory of relativity and the ways in which it applies to the instances from the film. Read the rest of this entry »
January 8, 2014 at 5:00 am (Science)
Tags: Chain Reaction, Science, STEM
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!
January 7, 2014 at 12:00 pm (Science)
Tags: Chemistry, frost, home studies, Homeschooling, Nature Based Learning, Science, Snow, snow flakes, snowflakes, winter studies
Snow Studies: Crystals & Frost
With chilly temperatures and icicles, we’re having the perfect winter for some great snow studies this year! The white coating that covers our landscape here in New England not only offers opportunities for winter sports, but it is also a great creative medium that can support science studies too! The chemistry behind snowflakes and frost are just waiting to be discovered!
Kids can use snow, ice, and frost to learn about crystals – a concept that they’ll eventually encounter when they study chemistry, but will understand much better if they have some firsthand experience with them. Snowflakes are a beautiful form of crystals, each one showing off a microscopic symmetrical design of spears, points, indents, and cutouts. Be sure to read the book Snowflake Bentley (by the talented Mary Azarian), a true story about the Vermont man whose curiosity about snowflakes lead him to be the first to photograph them! It would be pretty tricky to make snowflakes at home, but with a magnifying glass and a small square of black fabric, you can take a semi-close look at them when you venture outside. See if you can identify a difference between the shape and size of snow flakes and the snowy clumps that fall during each snowstorm we get… Read the rest of this entry »
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