Tag Archives: STEM

The New England Quilt Museum

The New England Quilt Museum, a repurposed bank shaped in a triangle

The New England Quilt Museum, a repurposed bank shaped in a triangle

Sue and Mom at lunch in the Greek restaurant

Sue and Mom at lunch in the Greek restaurant

Laborers built a series of canals in Lowell.

Laborers built a series of canals in Lowell.

The shuttle and loom

The shuttle and loom

If you close your eyes you can imagine all the noise and activity coming from these mills.

If you close your eyes you can imagine all the noise and activity coming from these mills.

My mother, my friend, Sue and I went to Lowell Massachusetts to see The New England Quilt Museum and their exhibit called “Silk”, because it was closing at the end of the weekend.  It had been a few years since we went to the museum and we enjoyed the exhibit and the expanded gift shop.  Sadly, because of the museum photo policy I can not show you any of the beautiful quilts which were on display.  Many were log cabins, a few were crazy quilts, including one which had spectacular embroidery work on it, and a few were contemporary in design.  Most were very old, ranging from the 1700s to one’s created within the last decade.

In my opinion the best part of the show were six modern quilts which had been transformed by the Luminarium Dance Company to “take on the concept of threading motion” where dancers interacted with each quilt projected on to a backdrop.  It is rather hard to explain, but the videos were very creative and I do hope this group continues to create this innovative art to highlight quilting with such a spectacular display of videography.  My favorite was a quilt that included a vertical line with short horizontal lines projected onto the dancers back.  As the dancer moved the quilt moved just like a spinal cord would move.  It was fantastic to watch.  The director’s portfolio can be viewed at:  http://www.merliguerra.com/HOME-bio.html

The museum includes a quilt research library as well as a lending library for quilt books.  With membership you can use the library database and the librarian will send you any book they have in the lending library via the US mail, no matter where in the US you live.  Check it out!  http://nequiltmuseum.org/neqm-library.html

Lowell was at the forefront of the Industrial Revolution and the US Park Service has incorporated a major section of the city into a national park.  My quilting friends, who visit Lowell, should not just go the quilt museum but explore this mill town’s history for a full understanding of how women and technology made this historic change happen in America.

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Teacher movie night at the Smithsonian

My sons and I went to IMAX movie night at the Smithsonian’s Natural History Museum this month.  Each teacher was allowed to invite one guest and William, who teaches 4th grade, invited his brother Thomas.  I invited my husband, but he was in California judging a VEX robotics competition.  So, the three of us met at East Falls Church and took the Metro to Federal Triangle and walked over to the museum.

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Outside the Natural History Museum

Before the movie they had some of the mobile cart exhibits in the foyer.  One had some very neat ocean fossils which we were allowed to touch and explore and another had insects from the insect petting zoo

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Fossilized vertebrae of a whale

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Rows of shark teeth waiting to take the place when one falls out

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Petting a hissing cockroach

Learning about the tomato cutworm/sphinx moth

Large grasshopper

Large grasshopper

The first movie was “The Ultimate Wave Tahiti”, an exciting 3D movie filmed in Tahiti showcasing two famous surfers, Kelly Slater and Raimana Van Bastolaer.  The movie skillfully embedded lots of knowledge on how and why waves form.  It would be a great film for the upper grades, especially those studying landforms or the ocean.

During an intermission we were invited into the Ocean Hall to explore the exhibits.  It was very cool to be in there after the museum has closed and we had this huge space practically to ourselves.

Looking up at the whale exhibit

Looking up at the whale exhibit

Many displays are interactive including this one with pull out drawers to show collections

Many displays are interactive including this one with pull out drawers to show collections

The next movie was my favorite and was “The Flight of the Butterflies”; also in 3D.  It felt like you could reach out and touch the butterflies as they flew about.  It highlighted the history of the Citizen Science Project and the discovery of the monarch winter hibernation grounds in Mexico through the story of Dr. Fred Urquhart who developed a monarch tagging system to discover where they migrated to each winter.

I highly recommend going to see either of these movies.  If you are a teacher, your admission is free-any time, any day, for any Smithsonian IMAX movie that is not a feature film.  Here are some places to get more information about teaching migration, ecology, biodiversity and the process of scientific discovery through the study of monarch butterflies.

Flight of the Butterflies

Maryland Science Center

Monarch Larva Monitoring Project

Monarch Watch

Journey North

Our GEMS learn about crystals

At the beginning of GEMS this year, the girls wrote one sentence about what they would like to do in GEMS (Girls Excelling in Math and Science) and many said “study gems”. Perhaps we did not do a good job explaining what the acronym GEMS meant.  Even so, one week we decided to focus on the topic of crystals.

The science fields of Minerology and Gemology are closely linked which is why we started with crystals. We had two stations and rotated the girls through after they made a GEMS journal which was a handmade “burrito style” book.  After working at the two stations the girls could free write in these journals.  I was so pleased to see the amount of drawing, writing and detail they put into their work.

GEMS journals writing in their new GEMS journals

One station was making their own rock candy.  We watched a youtube video to learn how and then each girl made their own.  We had to be patient and wait until next Saturday to see the results but we can check on them during the school week.

The second station was a “mining” activity.  Last summer my family went to Moat Mountain in NH and picked up rocks with smokey quartz inside.  You can read the blog post from August 21 to find out more about our trip.  The girls took these rocks which were about the size of two adult fists and cracked at them with hammers and chisels to get out some crystals to view with the camera microscope we have.

Moat mountain smokey quartz sample

Moat mountain smokey quartz sample

Earthquake in the STEM lab

GEMS club designed and tested earthquake resistant buildings today.  We engineered our “buildings” with toothpicks and mini-marshmallows built on a foundation of Jell-O.  Once constructed we wiggled the Jell-O to simulate S waves and pounded on the base of the jello pans to simulate the compression and primary waves of an earthquake.  Here are the directions we used and some pictures of our activity: http://www.teachengineering.org/view_activity.php?url=collection/cub_/activities/cub_natdis/cub_natdis_lesson03_activity1.xml

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Incline planes

At Herndon Elementary School the primary grade students are using engineer design skills to build ramps from Keva Planks in the STEM lab.  They are introduced to the design process, new vocabulary, and have fun all at the same time.  Our hope is that when they get to the science unit on simple machines they can recall this activity.  This will give them a head start on understanding an incline plane of which a ramp is an example.

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Newspaper tables

4-6 grade students in the STEM lab made newspaper tables this week following the design process and using directions from the PBS website/show Design Squad Nation .  They had available to use: 8 2-sheet spreads of newspaper, masking tape and one pink foam cafeteria tray (recycled).  The table had to support a dictionary.

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Excitement was in the air

Every single day in our new STEM lab is all about sharing exciting moments with kids and staff members.  Two weeks ago we had two Monarch caterpillars which made chrysalis’.  That was exciting in and of itself but today when I went in to work I was delighted to see this in the net cage.

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Her wings were so soft and pristine looking, she really was a beautiful sight.  And yes, I got some good photos for making thermofax screens.  And to think of all that time I spent chasing butterflies at the garden center this summer…

Part of me was just thrilled that the butterfly was alive.  Last weekend I had taken the cage home in case they emerged from the pupa over the weekend.  This past Friday I had forgotten and it was a three-day weekend!  When I remembered on Sunday I felt awful, especially since my family will tell you I don’t have the best of track records with taking care of animals although I maintain that some of the loses were truly tragic accidents over which I had little control.  But I digress.

Because we had nothing to feed the butterfly I figured it was best to let her go soon in the day.  After the morning mass of kids who stop by the STEM lab had all had a turn at seeing the butterfly we had a third grade class come for a lesson at 9:30.  They had studied butterflies last spring and I know their second grade teachers would have been thrilled to hear all the things they remembered.  A second grade class sneaked by to all take a look and what a great prompt that will be for them next spring when they study butterflies and can remember back to seeing the cycle from caterpillar to butterfly this fall in the STEM lab.

It was a cold and overcast morning but I figured mother nature knew what she was doing when I found those caterpillars in my yard three weeks ago!  So, outside we went with the cage to let the butterfly go.  It was reluctant at first to leave the cage and I had to put my hand in and let it climb on and then it still would not fly away.  I finally went to a nearby bush to place it on the leaf where it was happy to suck in some morning dew.

I know it was an experience I won’t forget and I hope the kids enjoyed it too.  Happy flight to Mexico little butterfly.