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First-ever Science Day this month, to showcase hands-on STEM projects

Barby Little, Science Teacher, and the PBS Science Team

The Gazette is Phillips Brooks School’s weekly parent newsletter. Each week, the lead article from the Gazette is cross-posted here on the PBS Blog.

At the end of the month – on Friday, January 26 – PBS students are in for a treat: the first-ever Science Day. We can’t wait to share with you all of the exciting details of what we’ve got planned. The science team has been working all year to follow-up on the suggestions that arose out of the 2017 Curriculum Deep Dive on science, which included increasing integration and visibility of science ideas throughout the school. We brought a STEM showcase to the MPR in the fall, and we've tried to have something special in science at least once per month. But January’s Science Day is sure to take the cake. We’ll cover physics, life science, engineering, environmental science, and a lot more!

The day will start with GATHER, as usual; Dr. Daniel Heischman of the National Association of Episcopal Schools will be the guest speaker.

Engineering with Marshmallows

After GATHER, students will go to their classrooms for Morning Meeting and will then assemble in their Family Friday groups to start Science Day off with an engineering challenge: Construct the tallest, free-standing tower possible with only uncooked spaghetti noodles and small marshmallows. The trick will be to work together to create a strong foundation and find out which building shapes are sturdiest in order to make a tall structure. The PBS Family that builds the tallest tower will receive a prize from Dr. Erickson!

Wizard’s Lab

For the rest of the day, students will be split into East and West classroom groups. While the Easts are in their grade-level experiences (see below), the Wests will be in the Wizard’s Lab, and then they’ll switch places.

The Wizard’s Lab is a traveling science show run by the Lawrence Hall of Science at the University of California, Berkeley. Here’s what they say about it: “A ball floats and spins in midair, fingers pass through a seemingly solid object, words whispered into a metal can are heard over 10 feet away—these are just a few of the weird, wondrous, hands-on exhibits found in the Wizard’s Lab! As ‘science wizards,’ students explore the almost magical properties of matter and energy, participate in high-voltage and subzero experiments, and figure out how things really work in the fun-, fact-, and phenomenon-filled world of physics.”

Grade-level Experiences

Each grade will have a different science experience during the day:

Insect Discovery Lab (Kindergarten)

“Incredible Insects! Explore the fantastic lives of beetles, millipedes, tarantulas, walking sticks, whip scorpions and more! We'll bring our hands-on Insect Discovery Lab to your class or next event. Our presenters will introduce your group to the extraordinarily diverse world of insects and other arthropods and teach you about their key role in the web of life.” –offered by

Make it Move (1st Grade)

“Students engage in problem-solving as they make inventions using simple hydraulic systems. They think like engineers as they design, build, test, and redesign their models. Open-ended investigations with specialized materials and tools focus students on cause-and-effect relationships and inspire them to create innovative solutions.” –offered by the Lawrence Hall of Science

Kelp Forest (2nd Grade)

“Students study the structure of kelp, and about the rich community that depends upon kelp forest habitat. They touch live animals and explore artifacts that demonstrate the importance of kelp both ecologically and for human uses.” –offered by the San Francisco Bay Marine Science Institute

Giant Jenga (3rd Grade)

“Students learn about forces, center-of-gravity, and the importance of a wide-base in this hands-on game of supersized Jenga. Kapla blocks are used to explore design options that promote stability and further emphasize forces at work.” –offered by Schmahl Science Workshops

Detective Science (4th Grade)

“Discover how science is used to solve real crimes! Watch as the classroom is transformed into a crime lab for this exciting exploration of the fundamentals of forensics. Children will take home their very own Child Identification Kit. It's so much fun, it's criminal!” –offered by Mad Science

Engineering with Hydraulics (5th Grade)

“Students are introduced to engineering and properties of fluids as they envision and build a hydraulic contraption. This experience focuses on students’ defining problems, designing and evaluating solutions, and taking the time to assess, discuss, and redesign their creations. Their projects are recycled for the next group, but students take the experience and ideas home with them.” –offered by the Lawrence Hall of Science

Barby Little has taught students from Kindergarten through college, and topics from art to math and science. She came to PBS only 2 years after its founding and has been a cherished member of our community ever since. Barby is supported by the rest of the PBS science team, Associate Teacher Erik Romano and consultant Lisa Dettloff, a lifelong science educator with experience at Lawrence Hall of Science, Nueva School, Al Gore’s Climate Education Project, and Microsoft’s Next Media Research Lab.

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