A Celebration of Life XX—Wild Weather!

Summer Science Vacation
Summer Science Vacation

The African American Ethnic Academy and the BioPharmaceutical Technology Center Institute (BTC Institute), both 501(c)(3) non-profit educational organizations, have collaborated for twenty years in offering A Celebration of Life, a summer science program for upper elementary and middle school students. The program is open to all area students, with tuition reimbursement and transportation provided for those who need that assistance.

With supporting grants from the Wisconsin Space Grant Consortium, an educational arm of NASA, two summer science camps are offered this year – one for upper elementary and one for middle schools students. We just completed the first session, full mornings for two weeks for students entering 3rd–5th grade and have launched the second one, same format, for middle school students this week.

Needless to say, the theme of Wild Weather! lends itself to a wide array of hands-on, exploratory activities.  Here are a few of our favorites that you may wish to try out with the kids in your life.

Vortex Races

Materials:  2 empty 2-liter bottles, sink, 2 people.

1) Fill bottles to the same volume, about 2/3 full.
2) One person should swirl one of the bottles creating a vortex.
3) At the same time the water should be poured out of the vortex and no vortex bottles into the sink.
4) Who wins the race?

Active learning and hands-on science activities encourage students to explore science topics.
Active learning and hands-on science activities encourage students to explore science topics.

Tornado in a Bottle

Materials:  2 empty 2-liter bottles, water, food coloring (optional), duct tape.

1) Fill one bottle ½ full of water.
2) Add a drop of food coloring to the water in the bottle.
3) Duct tape the empty bottle to the bottle with water in it, taping around the mouths of both bottles.
4) Swirl the bottles, turn over and you have a…TORNADO!

Lightning on a Plate

Materials:  white paper plate, white plastic fork, black pepper.

1) Sprinkle a small amount of black pepper on to white paper plate.
2) Rub plastic fork in your hair to create static electricity.
3) Hold fork ~½ inch over the pepper.
4) What happens?

Helping students learn how to ask questions and design experiments to answer them.
Helping students learn how to ask questions and design experiments to answer them.

A long-term objective of A Celebration of Life is to increase the number of minority students who enroll in—and successfully complete—high school science courses, and who eventually choose to pursue careers in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM).  In addition to developing knowledge and abilities associated with scientific investigations in field and laboratory settings (e.g. formulating and testing hypotheses, utilizing problem-solving skills, learning and demonstrating correct techniques), students are challenged to develop their communication skills through teamwork, journals, and presentations to parents and family members. They are also encouraged to express and develop their creativity in numerous ways.

Information regarding African-American STEM professionals, historic and contemporary, is shared.  Role models of color are key players in program activities. This year, Professor Michael Morgan, UW-Madison Department of Atmospheric & Oceanic Sciences and Dr. Carol McCartney, Wisconsin Geological & Natural History Survey are providing talks and activities for both sessions.

Our elementary group was hosted by meteorologist Bob Lesh at Channel 3, WISC-TV our local CBS affiliate station in Madison, WI, USA on June 19th.  He showed us weather and broadcast equipment, and we got to watch and be part of News 3 at Noon!  Our middle school students will visit this Friday, July 3rd.

Visiting WISC-TV channel 3 Madison, WI to learn about wild weather!
Visiting WISC-TV channel 3 Madison, WI to learn about wild weather!

We’re having a great summer!

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Barbara Bielec
Barbara Bielec received her B.S. in Genetics from UW-Madison and her M.S. in Genetics from Texas A& M University. She has secondary teaching certification in Biology, Chemistry, and Math; and has taught science to students of all ages, in many different settings for over twenty-five years. She coordinated and taught a variety of K-12 programs at the BTC Institute including: the Youth Apprenticeship Program - Biotechnology, the Biotechnology Field Trip program, the African American Ethnic Academy (AAEA)/ BTC Institute science program "A Celebration of Life" and teacher workshops. This biotechnology outreach position includes grant writing, grant review, and presenting at national and state conferences. She is currently program assistant for the Master of Science in Biotechnology Program at UW-Madison. Memberships include the National Association of Biology Teachers (NABT), the National Science Teachers Association (NSTA), and the Wisconsin Society of Science Teachers (WSST).

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