I’ve had students building little speakers like the ones in this video back in the lab this year, but maybe I need to add more options for the diaphragm… like really thick potato chips! Great TED Talk about making stuff – check it out:
Over the last week and a half or so, most students learned a little bit about comets in general and comet PANSTARRS in particular during Planetarium class. I showed students how to find it, but warned them that it would be tricky. Turns out that it is tricky enough that I haven’t been able to find it myself! We always seem to have low clouds hanging over the marshland in at Loxahatchee preserve, Lake Okeechobee, and the Everglades, pretty much blocking the lower 5 or 10 degrees of the Western sky at sunset, so you only have a small window of time to see it. It’s not too large or bright as it is, so finding the comet is a bit challenging!
If you want more information about the comet, check out the PANSTARRS pages at Astronomy or Sky and Telescope magazines. If you don’t find it, worry not. Another comet should be passing Earth in late fall, and it promises to be bigger, brighter, and easier to find!
The image below shows where PANSTARRS will be at about 7:45pm on March 16th- note that the sky then will still be in twilight, much lighter than in the image. The comet will get a little higher and move a little bit towards the North each night after the 16th. It will probably also get a little dimmer each night.
Two weeks ago I got a phone call from NASA Johnson Space Center… you know, “Houston.” ”Mission Control.” Yeah, that Johnson Space Center. It was a phone call to let me know that my team of teachers from Poinciana and nearby Atlantic High School had been accepted to participate in the MicroGravity eXperience program. We are one of 7 (I think) teams from around the country to get to do this during this round.
What is it? We proposed an experiment where gravity was the variable and explained how we would use the experiment to help teach our students. Now we get to, with advice and help from NASA, build this experiment, run it with our kids this spring, then bring it to Houston ourselves this summer and FLY WITH IT IN THE NASA MICROGRAVITY TRAINER!!! Yes, I’m talking floating around inside of a 727 as it dives at an extreme angle over the Gulf of Mexico! Flightsuits, 0g. OMG.
Our first bi-weekly online class was Monday, and so I think that it’s all just sinking in that it is happening. I’m pretty excited as is the rest of the team of teachers. Aside from the whole 0g thing, two other aspects of this experience have me pretty excited as well. The first is the potential to do some “real” science with my students. I’ll write up a detailed post about the experiment itself in a few weeks as I get into building the apparatus, but what it is doesn’t matter as much as the process and experience that the students will get from it. Kids can tell “real” from canned. I don’t know what is going to happen and will be learning too, and that fact always seems to bring out more learning from my students.
The second thing is the involvement of the rest of the Poinciana community and some of the surrounding professional engineering community. One of Poinciana’s parents, Dan Cane, owns a local software company called Modernizing Medicine. He is involved in the local engineering community and has recruited some of his employees and employees from other companies to help out with building the experiment – help I very much appreciate. Beyond this project, I am hoping that this may be the beginning of a stronger relationship with local STEM related industries and Poinciana. I need help to get more of our kids into programming, electronics, and general Making stuff as they are doing in various Makerspaces around the world and through projects like Mozilla’s Webmaker Program and CoderDojo. I’m hoping that the relationships built through the MicroGravity program may extend on to even bigger and better things.
We have been learning about Orion in Planetarium Class the last few weeks. Here is an article from Discovery all about the stars that make up Orion that would be great for parents to read with younger students, or for older students to read on their own.
5:30 Update: Yes! Skies are clear, scopes are out! Now we just need the sun to set and Astro Night is a go! Hope to see you out here 6:30 – 8:30! Remember to park in the main parking lot and use the Aftercare door to get in.
If you can’t make it, no worries… we will have more Astro Nights in February.
Ok, I spoke too soon last week when I called for clear skies a few days ahead. Lesson learned – stay quiet Mr. Swanson. It’s Friday though, and things are looking really good for tonight… maybe as beautiful as it was last night.
We should have a beautiful waxing gibbous moon, a clear shot at Jupiter, and the Orion Nebula all in our sights! Looking good, check back at 5:30 – 6:00 for final update!
Breaking News! I’m happy to announce some special Astronomy Nights the Week of March 11-15th to observe Comet C/2011 L4 (PANSSTARS) which should be visible and brightest that week. It may even be visible without a telescope, but should look even better with one. We will likely setup on the redtop this week. More details on exact nights and times (it will be early, soon after sunset) will come in the next month or so. Comets are very unpredictable which makes planning for them difficult… but they are also lots of fun!
Astronomy Magazine is sponsoring an essay contest for kids under 17 on the theme “What I Love Best About Astronomy”. We have so many amazing writers at Poinciana, you should all give it a try! The winner and a parent will be flown to an amazing Astronomy Conference in New York later this year!
Click here for entry information. Good luck!
6:10pm : I held out hope, but the clouds will not relent! No Astro night tonight, lets cross our fingers for next week.
Please check the post below – if skies are clear and you feel like a drive you can check out some stars out in Canal Point!
4:38pm: The cold front has weakened and the clouds are rolling in. Not good! Forecast is now for partly – mostly cloudy. I’ll stand by and keep checking, final update with “go” or “no-go” will be at 6:00pm or earlier. Check back before you come to school!
Check out the link below for an amazing opportunity! The SFWMD is hosting a star party on January 19th and February 2nd out at the DuPris Management Area in Canal Point. No cities, no streetlights, lots of stars! You might even be able to see the Milky Way!
Here is the press release:
The next Astronomy Night is this Friday, January 13th. The long term weather forecast looks very good! A cold front is moving through Friday morning, leaving behind lots of cool dry air. We should have excellent views of Jupiter and our Moon, as well as some amazing deep space sights.
It is getting darker later, so Astro Nights will be from 6:30 – 8:30 for the rest of the year. Remember to park in the main parking lot, and enter through the Aftercare on the North side of the building, next to the K-1 playground. No other doors will be open!
Check back here for updates on Friday afternoon / evening!
This gallery is my attempt at a time lapse of our project to build our entire school inside of Minecraft. Next time I’ll build myself a platform so that all the shots are taken from the exact same place! We are almost done – the celing and lighting systems are about finished, and we are starting the roof today. I’ll miss being able to look down into the school to see everyone working, but it will be great to be finished!
The fourth and fifth graders from Mrs. White’s class did an amazing job at this project, working on it on and off for the past few months. I look forward to our next phase, where they will have a little more creative freedom to build the city of Boynton Beach around us the way the students would like to see it! Mrs. White and I have certainly learned a lot along side of our students, always the sign of a successful learning adventure. Great Job everyone! Stay tuned for an update soon on the completed school!