Budding Chemists Celebrate Earth Day through Art & Poetry

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 »

Rainforest Adventure in Western MA

Rainforest Adventure in Western MA
Springfield Museums: Jan 25-May 11, 2014

Rainforest Adventure is a multi-sensory exploration of one of our planet’s most precious resources. Through a variety of interactive experiences and hands on displays, visitors will learn about the amazing diversity of life in rainforests and the many challenges they face today. Using vests, flashlights, and binoculars provided, young visitors can explore a gorilla nest, climb a kapok tree, and identify endangered species they find along the way. Perhaps the most appealing aspect of Rainforest Adventure is that it is designed for both children and adults, allowing families to share in the enjoyment of learning together.

Craving an outdoor adventure that doesn’t involve icicles, snow banks, and layers of cold weather gear? If you can’t flee to a warmer corner of the globe anytime soon, enjoy an indoor version of such an adventure at the Springfield Museums! From January 25th through May 11th, 2014, the museums will be home to an exciting new exhibit – Rainforest Adventure.

True to its name, the exhibit brings real excitement to the museums and offers families a rainforest adventure without the travel. While exploring a gorilla nest or climbing a kapok tree, families will be able to learn about the amazing species diversity found in our planet’s rainforest and will work to identify endangered rainforest species. Backpacks, flashlights, and special adventure vests will be provided for intrepid explorers to use while adventuring on a multisensory expedition through the exhibit, and kids and adults alike will enjoy the experience and the useful information gained by visiting… Read the rest of this entry »

Citizen Scientist Opportunity: IceWatch

IceWatch: Citizen Scientist Project Exams Ecosystems via Ice

In addition to the sophisticated data that climatologists collect, some of the most valuable information helping to inform studies of climate change can be collected by citizen scientists! By helping scientists to identify changes in the beginning and ending of the coldest part of the winter, citizen scientists can become a part of studies of the climate changes taking place in regions all over the country.

This winter, families can contribute to climate studies by participating in IceWatch, a citizen science initiative that works to collect information about the ice-in and ice-out times of various bodies of water across the continent. By regularly observing a lake, pond, river, or bay, families can help to inform scientists about the length of the cold season which, when compared to data from past years, can help to determine the amount by which climate change has progressed regionally.

In order to participate, families of citizen scientists must first identify a local body of water to observe. The best places to observe are areas that are largely unaffected by human interference, such as dams, industrial outlets, or agricultural operations (such as large-scale livestock watering or fish farming). Here in western Massachusetts, many rivers and streams are dammed, but not all are actively being used for hydropower – meaning that they may still be suitable for observation. A little bit of research into the role of a dam up or downstream from your desired observation point can help to determine whether or not the body of water is affected by human interference while gaining a better sense of your local surroundings… Read the rest of this entry »

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