High Tech Planetarium Takes Us to the Stars

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 mcr4@williams.edu. 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

10 Messy Summer Science Activities for Outside!

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 »

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

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 »

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 6th-August 14th, 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 2015 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 6th-August 14th, 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. Check the Maker Camp schedule for these weekly themes.
Read the rest of this entry »

Poetry of Science Contest

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 »

Holyoke Codes Empowers Youth with Free Workshops

STEM Fest For Teens With Science Quest at UMass

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 »

Holyoke Codes: Essential Skills of Computer Coding Through Community Based Education

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 »

UMass Lowell’s Cool Science Contest

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 »

Connecting Math Education to Real Life Scenarios

Statistics Have More Meaning When Pulled From A Greater Context

How many potatoes will Britons eat over the next 3 minutes?

Have you ever wondered how much humans consume, how far we travel, or how long we spend on certain activities? If you’ve ever driven by a landfill or watched a trailer of food getting unloaded at a grocery store, you certainly might wonder about the amounts of things being transferred, consumed, and perhaps eventually recycled or discarded. Families who have traveled on planes or trains may have wondered at times about the speed at which they’ve moved or the amount of fuel that it takes to transport them.

Quantifying all of these questions (and countless others) is a fantastic way to provide context for children’s budding math skills. Encompassing all four mathematical operations (addition, subtraction, multiplication, and division), basic statistics and data collection allows children to understand not only how to calculate rate and collect information, but provides them with a meaningful context for the mathematical concepts that they learn. By embedding math skill development in studies of everyday life, we can provide children with a reason to learn to understand when to divide or multiply, and when to add versus subtract. Read the rest of this entry »

Spark!Lab Lights the Fire of Invention

Think Outside the Box at Spark!Lab in the Berkshires

Everyone is an inventor in the Berkshire Museum’s exciting new Spark!Lab, opening to the public on Saturday, October 11, 2014, in Pittsfield, Massachusetts. Spark!Lab provides opportunities for children and families to explore their inventive creativity — by designing, innovating, collaborating, and problem-solving — because these experiences empower kids to develop the skills and confidence they need to succeed today and in the future.

Developed at the Smithsonian Institution by the Lemelson Center for the Study of Invention and Innovation at the National Museum of American History (NMAH), the Berkshires’ very own Spark!Lab is part of a nation-wide initiative to engage youngsters in the act of invention and innovation. Here is a sneak peek of Spark!Lab at the National Museum of American History:

The Berkshire Museum’s Spark!Lab will be the third in the country to open! Read the rest of this entry »

Autumn Leaf Collecting Supports Art & Science

The Art & Science of Autumn Leaves

Leaf collecting can alert children to the presence of many types of trees in their neighborhood, and provides them with some beautiful and all-natural materials with which to craft and create nature art!

With the end of summer comes back-to-school season, a time when notebooks, crayons, and homework planners can take over the place that flowers, tall grass, and vegetable gardens hold in our daily routines during the summer. As lush green plants change hues, it can be easy to let the change of seasons happen without engaging with the new exterior design that Mother Nature provides. The change of colors and landscape is, though, the perfect reason not to let early fall pass by unnoticed…

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Science Cafes Provide Unique Community-Based Learning Opportunity

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 »

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 »

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 in late June, 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 »

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


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


  • 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!

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