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By: Ali Usuloglu Catching up with @Lets Grow Kids to entertain kids and highlight the importance...

Kids and Family Play Day

By: Ali Usuloglu

Catching up with @Lets Grow Kids to entertain kids and highlight the importance of early childhood!

This past Saturday Lets Grow Kids came down to ECHO to partake and facilitate some interesting and fun activities.

Their aim was to entertain kids while teaching and spreading the importance of early learning to parents. The event was a way to tell parents about Vermont's shortage of high-quality, affordable child care.

The events such as the Parachute Play and the Lets Grow Kids: Brain Dance were widely received positive by the young-lings. Furthermore , this event isn't the only collaboration between ECHO and Lets Grow Kids. Back in February, ECHO's recently opened latest exhibit Champ Lane was a collaboration with Lets Grow Kids; an exhibit designed to offer Vermont's youngest children, fun and high-quality time of early childhood activities and events.

By Brendon Johnson/ECHO  Photos: Brendon Johnson/ECHO Spring camp season kicked off at E...

A Day at Wild Weather Camp

By Brendon Johnson/ECHO 
Photos: Brendon Johnson/ECHO

Spring camp season kicked off at ECHO last week with Wild Weather, proving to be one of the science center’s most exciting times of the year. Each day children tackled a different hands-on activities that explored the wacky world of weather.

The five days of camp brought unique themes to participants, including Monday’s “On Cloud 9,” an exploration of what clouds are made of and how they are made. Tuesday featured “Make it Rain,” where students created rain sticks and learned about the rain cycle while experimenting with ECHO’s stream table. Wednesday was all about one of the prettiest parts of weather “Over the Rainbow” an exploration of the science of rainbows and color. Thursday was  “Kick Up a Storm,” a lesson about how storms are created. The week wrapped up with “Tornado Alley,” an investigation into the awesome, powerful, and magnificent forces of nature.

Sitting down to shadow a day of this camp was an incredible scientific journey. The day’s lesson was “Over the Rainbow” and it started like all days do, with a group circle. The lesson was led by ECHO’s STEM Education Coordinator Chris Whitaker, who brought his pure sense of dedication and love of science to this group of about ten students in grades K-5.  

In group circle Whitaker spoke about the colors of the rainbow and how humans see color. Music was incorporated into the lesson in the form of “ROY G. BIV,” a song by alternative rockers They Might Be Giants. This song captured the campers’ attention and focused their energy on learning and discussing color and rainbows.

After a brief lesson by Whitaker it was time to move to something more hands-on, and the lights in the room flipped off. The kids were given used CDs, and flashlights were passed around. They were about to examine how white light reflects into the colors seen in a rainbow. The room was illuminated with color as campers reflected their lights around the room. Whitaker then posed the question to students: now that they saw light turn into color, is it possible to turn it back?

This was the introduction into the morning's first activity, the creation of color wheels, which,  when spun, would make the rainbow circles on them appear as white again. This involved campers coloring the colors of the rainbow on white plates and attaching them to a string. As they manually started to spin them they could see the changes start to occur, not quite to the effect that Whitaker intended.

Whitaker brought the activity one step further. Not quite satisfied with only “kind of” being able to see the color wheels turn to white as they spun, he broke out his drill. With a little bit of tape, sticks, and creativity he rigged it onto his drill to really be able to show the kids the transformation for the colors as it spun on the automated motor of the drill.

Between science activities, the students had the chance to burn some pent-up energy with outdoor activities in the park before they returned to ECHO for an exploration of the museum itself.

When the second science activity rolled around, Whitaker set out to uncover why the colors seen in rainbows were muted. Whitaker tasked the kids with engaging some of their engineering skills to make their own bubble wands using straws, connectors, and pipe cleaners. They were challenged to use their creativity and create a wand that was more than the traditional circle wand or even one that could create multiple bubbles. After about 15 minutes, there was a huge spectrum of different bubble wants of different shapes, sizes, colors, and designs that were created. It was time to finally put them to the test.

The campers all lined up and headed outside once again, bubble wands in hand ready to test their new creations. The testing took place at Hoehl Park and one by one the kids dipped their bubble wand in the secret bubble solution. It was a windy day so half of the work was done for them. As soon as they lifted their bubble wands the wind took the almost instantly filled the park with bubbles of varying shapes and sizes. After each child got to try out their bubble wand it started to become a game of who could pop the most bubbles after they were created.
As soon as the bubble activity was over, it was time to burn off some of that extra energy before the end of the day by playing some lawn games. Campers began to play dodgeball in the park while others took a more quiet choice of reading about some of the naval history of Lake Champlain on some the monument at Hoehl Park. Another busy day at camp has come to a close.

By Jessie Forand/ECHO Editor’s note:  This is the third in a series discussing public art at ECHO...

Science Loves Art: Burlington High School Year End Study

By Jessie Forand/ECHO

Editor’s note:  This is the third in a series discussing public art at ECHO. This summer visitors along the Burlington Waterfront will witness art in action, with engaging pieces created by artists, sculptors, and students all with a strong point of view.

Photo Gallery by Photos: Jessie Forand and Chris Whitaker/ECHO 

About a dozen students from Burlington High School spent the last two weeks of the academic year at ECHO. The Year End Study program brings young minds off their campus and into the community, working with a wide range of experts to learn something new and, in this case, make something incredible.

The students were interested in ECHO after hearing that the offerings would be outside, that the subject matter would combine science and art for full day courses.

During their time with ECHO STEM Education Coordinator Chris Whitaker, the students imagined, developed, and created two engaging public art pieces, focusing on issues currently plaguing Lake Champlain – invasive species being the hot topic on their minds.

The students said they learned about the concept of “not in my backyard,” where people are less likely to take action unless something affects them directly, and based on that they chose to showcase with their public art pieces how the problems in Lake Champlain affect everyone in the region.

“This is our water source, it’s what we’re going to swim in,” said senior Eva Paradiso.

They also learned that while some invasive species pose only a nuisance, others are downright harmful.

They decided to use their work to make a lasting impact, they explained.

Part of the challenge was how to convey a message to a diverse audience, which took careful planning but was a lot of fun, said student Ena Ibrisimovic.

The two final pieces are as impactful as they’d hoped – one features three figures, each progressively more covered in harmful invasives and the other a sliding viewer to showcase a few of the species themselves.

As the two weeks went on, the projects evolved a great deal.

“It was nice to see the progress we’ve made,” said Kaysi Herrera‐Pujols, who explained the students began with the concept of a tree and ended up with something completely different.

Plus, she said, “I like painting and drilling things.”  

In addition to their time with Whitaker, students worked with Generator to use the creative space and its innovative tools to construct their art pieces. They even ventured onto the lake with the University of Vermont Rubenstein Lab, in the research vessel the Melosira.

An in-progress public art piece by students from Burlington High School (Photo: Jessie Forand/ECHO)
See the students’ artwork at ECHO’s terrace and in Hoehl Park, but free spaces open to the public.

This project was made possible in part by the Institute of Museum and Library Services MA-20-15-380.

Editor’s note:  This is the second in a series discussing public art at ECHO. This summer visitors...

Science Loves Art: Tyler Vendituoli

Editor’s note:  This is the second in a series discussing public art at ECHO. This summer visitors along the Burlington Waterfront will witness art in action, with engaging pieces created by artists, sculptors, and students all with a strong point of view.

Artist Tyler Vendituoli stands before an still-in-progress "Bait Ball" at Conant Metal and Light.
(Photos: Jessie Forand/ECHO)
Those driving on Pine Street in Burlington might have seen a structure being built at Conant Metal and Light. Called “Bait Ball,” this piece of public art from Tyler Vendituoli is now positioned front and center, greeting guests as they enter ECHO.

Created in just two weeks, the concept came from the materials. Vendituoli had a large ball frame and a wheel attached on the bottom.

The final product is simply incredible – metal fish, appearing to continuously move in a swarm. 

Cutouts and attachments create depth and a kind of positive and negative view.  The size of the sculpture draws in passersby.

Each fish is slightly different, but related, Vendituoli said.

His inspiration came from a National Geographic documentary about bait balls, the instances of fish sticking closely together to deter predators from trying to eat them.

ECHO's Steve Smith and artist Tyler Vendituoli examine the newly installed "Bait Ball" Wednesday.  
There is no doubt that Vendituoli falls into the “maker” distinction. He makes things. A lot. You can find him working at Conant on a myriad of different pieces, and he finds the STEM/STEAM education concept interesting because he said he has always made things.

With a contractor father, Vendituoli has long had access to tools.

“Making things for more is always part of who I’ve been and what I do,” he explained.

Asked how he might encourage others to follow in his maker footsteps, Vendituoli said those interested should take different elements and make them into something new; alter an object to create something from it, and absorb information heard and seen in the world, applying it into created pieces.

Vendituoli hopes those walking along the waterfront and visiting ECHO alike will feel bemused engagement; it’s not heavy and maybe not thought-provoking, he said, but it is there for visual enjoyment, to make people smile.

Other pieces from Vendituoli can be seen around town – balloons at the Burlington International Airport, a jaguar on Lakeview Terrace, a posing form near the Winooski River, and of course at Conant Metal and Light.

Learn more at

Fish cutouts featured on "Bait Ball." 

By Jessie Forand/ECHO Editor’s note:  This is the first in a series discussing public art at EC...

Science Loves Art: Robert Hitzig

By Jessie Forand/ECHO

Editor’s note:  This is the first in a series discussing public art at ECHO. This summer visitors along the Burlington Waterfront will witness art in action, with engaging pieces created by artists, sculptors, and students all with a strong point of view.

Artist Robert Hitzig installs his piece "Box of Courage" outside ECHO Tuesday afternoon. (Photos: Jessie Forand/ECHO)

Montpelier artist Robert Hitzig on Tuesday constructed just outside the building his piece “Box of Courage,” a colorful shape consisting of wood, paint… and a strong message for passersby.

This is meant to be interactive, Hitzig said – it becomes art only when someone is inside the structure. The box creates courage and security for those inside, and the mere act of climbing inside in fact takes courage, a sort of childlike inhibition.

"Box of Courage" sits, partially installed, at ECHO. 

In order to overcome what scares someone, Hitzig explained, they must think like a kid.

The artist hopes those walking by on the waterfront will engage with the piece, getting inside to truly experience the feeling of becoming a part of the artwork, and to feel the courage it is meant to inspire.
Hitzig’s spirit is precisely what ECHO hopes to stir in its guests. He is a doer. A creator.

“I’m a maker – I just make things every day,” he said.

For more information about Robert Hitzig and his work, visit,, or

Hitzig's provided artist statement: 

Box of Courage is an interactive work of art designed to engage the public. The title refers to the effect boxes have on us. The act of climbing in boxes give us a feeling of safety which, in turn, gives us courage. Additionally, though children are uninhibitedly drawn to boxes, and climb in without hesitation, adults tend to repress the urge. As a result, the title also refers to the courage it takes to let that uninhibited child within all of us express itself. Theoretically, that courage would then become self-reinforcing, generating more strength, safety, and security by being inside the box. Consequently, the work is not complete without human interaction. The art isn't just the box, rather, it is the box with courageous people of all ages inside, popping their heads out of the holes, and having uninhibited childlike fun. I hope you enjoy!

Artist Robert Hitzig. 

Phelan Fretz, executive director of ECHO, Leahy Center for Lake Champlain, addresses the crowd gat...

ECHO's Executive Director Speaks at All Souls Interfaith Gathering

Phelan Fretz, executive director of ECHO, Leahy Center for Lake Champlain, addresses the crowd gathered at the opening event of Lake Brite data visualization project. (Photo: Jessie Forand/ECHO) 

On May 22, ECHO Executive Director Phelan Fretz joined the congregation at All Souls Interfaith Gathering, a Spiritual Center in Shelburne playing an integral role in the Voices for the Lake 2 project.

If you haven't heard of it, Voices for the Lake 2 and this partnership together create a rich conversation - one that honors faith and science-based environmental stewardship perspectives. Through the ongoing project, we are harnessing the passion and commitment of people who respect the Lake Champlain Basin’s web of life, and are working on meaningful system change to create a culture of clean water. Below is the full text of his talk, please read and reflect on your own love of water: 

All Souls Interfaith Gathering
Gathering of the Waters
Homily - For the Love of Water
May 22, 2016, 5 pm

First Reading

Margaret Atwood, part of the Canongate Myth series (the Penelopiad)

Periboea, a Naiad water nymph, wife of King Icarius of Sparta, and mother to Penelope, spoke of a life lesson before her daughter’s wedding to Odysseus.

Here is what she said: 

“Water does not resist. Water flows. When you plunge your hand into it, all you feel is a caress. Water is not a solid wall, it will not stop you. But water always goes where it wants to go, and nothing in the end can stand against it. Water is patient. Dripping water wears away a stone. Remember that, my child. Remember you are half water. If you can't go through an obstacle, go around it. Water does.”

I marvel at the properties, impacts and uses of water.  Here’s a few wonders...
Water is the only substance that expands when frozen and contracts when heated 68.9% of freshwater is trapped in glaciers 400 billion gallons used daily in USA, ½ to generate electrical power Water can dissolve more substances than anything else. It takes 6,800 gallons to grow food for family of 4 for a day.

       Takes 20 gallons to produce a pint of beer and 250 gallons to produce a bottle of wine

        Leaky faucet of 1 drop per second results in 3000 gallons per year

        Unsafe water kills 200 children per hour

        Jellyfish and cucumbers both are 95% water

        Same amount of water on earth as there was millions of years ago

         In USA, we drink over a billion glasses of water a day

        There have been 265 recorded water conflicts from 3000 BC to now

        Over 90% of the world’s freshwater is in Antarctica

        If we used 1 gallon less per shower, we would save 85 billion gallons of water a year

        We lose a cup of water daily when we exhale

  The list of the wonders of water can go on and on…


Classroom story

As an educator, here’s one of my favorite stories. I walked into the classroom.  They were expecting me, but I didn’t know what to expect.

Beautiful windows looked out onto downtown Burlington.  It was a sunny day.  

On each table, with clusters of 6th grade students, stood a microscope. The students stared at the scopes as if they were some type of foreign object - from China, or maybe Mars.

The class started with the basics. Where to look.  How to focus.   Be careful.

Then the scholars, that’s what my wife calls them, plucked a hair and spent, what seemed like hours, figuring out how to hold the hair under the scope, focus, drop, share, giggle, with friends.  There was the occasional gasp, as students discovered a tiny world.  A world they had no idea existed.  Some students began looking at other objects, paper, letters on paper, fibers from their shirt, dirt from their shoe.

Enough practice, now the real deal.

Ms Botte had them scrape some cells and saliva from the inside of their mouth.  Eew!!! - rang out across the room.  At the same time, clouds darkened the sun - almost as if the darker, more ominous room was planned as the students delved deeper into the microscopic world that unknowingly surrounded them.  Saliva was as much about touching body fluids as discovery under the microscope. Now we had two reasons for students to swirl.  You could see the momentum building as the reality of the power of the microscope began to take hold.  They ran between scopes and friends to share.

Many needed to explore the scope itself.  Looking up into the stage.  Where was the light coming from?  Going?  What did the objectives look like from the non-ocular end?  How did this thing work?  What made stuff bigger?, one student asked me.  

Unknown to the scholars, this was only the appetizer.

Sitting innocuously on the windowsill were three small dishes of water, slightly brown in color, with a few floaters.  No one had even noticed them.  Students were armed with eye droppers and told to go to the dishes and suck up enough water to fill the dropper half way.  They all practiced using the droppers first at their tables.

Post saliva and the novelty of the scopes, energy seemed to be waning.  Some students wandered a bit.  Two asked to go to the restrooms.  Three girls were distracted by one’s iPad image.  

Oh, I forgot to tell you.  The students had also figured out how to take ipad images of the enlarged hairs, dirt, and cheek cells.  With this tool, they could share the ephemeral images from their microscopes.  While the novelty of the ipads was a thing of the past, the new images were not.   

Now back to the brown water. With droppers full, the students returned to their table teams and began the process of placing drops on the slides, and placing a coverslip on top.  This took many scholars what seemed an eternity.

Then it happened.  There wasn’t any advanced notice.  The sunlight in the room was back.  Most of the students were struggling with the dropper, slide, coverslip.  They were all intent. Scarily so.  

First it was a shriek!   Probably audible down the hall, at least in the next classroom.  Then another.  Four now.  The latest not any quieter than the first. There seemed to be a delay of seconds, which seemed like minutes.  Some students had rallied around their shrieking friends.  Others were intent on their own.

The four students had seen what was in the water - diatoms, water fleas, daphnia, tiny beings swimming about in their little worlds - made huge with the power of a microscope.  Then the questions started - where did you get this water?  Are these in the lake?  In my tap water?  What about the puddle outside?  

The shrieks kept coming.  New animals and plants were discovered.  Some swam, other had “tails”, others looked like monsters - said the students.

I can only image what Van Leeuwenhoek said on October 9th, 1676 as he reported the discovery of micro-organisms. 

Now that’s education.  I hope they never look at water the same again.  We shouldn’t either.


“I complete my “For the Love of Water” with a few of my favorite quotes.
Plans to protect air and water, wilderness and wildlife are in fact plans to protect us.”  Stewart Udall
“We cannot see our reflection in running water. It is only in still water that we can see.”   Taoist Proverb
“The cure for anything is salt water - sweat, tears, or the sea.”    Isak Dinesen
“When you are in deep water, it's a good idea to keep your mouth shut.”    unknown
“How inappropriate to call this planet Earth when it is clearly Ocean.” Arthur C. Clarke
“We're at peak oil, peak water, peak resources, and so either we figure it out and let science lead or we head down a very bad, dark trail to where a lot of people aren't going to make it.” Henry Rollins
“Water is to me, I confess, a phenomenon which continually awakens new feelings of wonder as often as I view it.” Michael Faraday
“When the well is dry, we learn the worth of water.”  Benjamin Franklin
“We need a new global culture that finds the existence of millions of thirsty people thoroughly and immediately unacceptable.”  Jean-Michel Cousteau
And from Carl Sagan, in these challenging times…
“Anything else you’re interested in is not going to happen if you can’t breathe the air and drink the water. Don’t sit this one out. Do something. You are by accident of fate alive at an absolutely critical moment in the history of our planet.” Carl Sagan

Thank you for your time today.

Reading 2

Rachel Carson - The Sea Around Us (1951)
When they went ashore the animals that took up a land life carried with them a part of the sea in their bodies, a heritage which they passed on to their children and which even today links each land animal with its origin in the ancient sea. Fish, amphibian, and reptile, warm-blooded bird and mammal - each of us carries in our veins a salty stream in which the elements sodium, potassium, and calcium are combined in almost the same proportions as in sea water. This is our inheritance from the day, untold millions of years ago, when a remote ancestor, having progressed from the one-celled stage, first developed a circulatory system in which the fluid was merely the water of the sea. In the same way, our lime-hardened skeletons are a heritage from the calcium-rich ocean of Cambrian time. Even the protoplasm that streams within each cell of our bodies has the chemical structure impressed upon all living matter when the first simple creatures were brought forth in the ancient sea. And as life itself began in the sea, so each of us begins his individual life in a miniature ocean within his or her mother's womb, and in the stages of his embryonic development repeats the steps by which her race evolved, from gill-breathing inhabitants of a water world to creatures able to live on land.'

Good morning to everyone ; It is that time of the year again at ECHO where we have new and excit...

Exploring Run, Jump, Fly with ECHO's new Interns

Good morning to everyone ;

It is that time of the year again at ECHO where we have new and exciting activities and exhibitions planned for the Summer of 2016. As a new summer begins, so do the new interns and volunteers, join ECHO to become a part of our ever-growing community to inspire and learn from each other. My name is Ali Usuloglu and I am the new Graphic Communications Intern. Next to me is Vanessa Anderson who is ECHO's new Communications Intern. As a team , we are dedicated to bring new breath into ECHO with our activities and programs planned for the summer.

Ali Usuloglu

Age: 21

Sign : Gemini

Favorite Food : Kebab

I am from Istanbul , Turkey.I am a rising senior who majors in `Creative Media` ; focusing on visual arts and sonic arts. My goal is to breathe new fresh air to ECHO and become part of this dedicated goal-driven community and further extend the principles and ethos of ECHO by creating activities for the young kids and their parents who visit the aquarium.

Vanessa Anderson

Age: 20

Sign: Capricorn

Favorite Food : Avocados

My name is Vanessa Anderson and I am a junior Public Communications major at the University of Vermont, originally from Ithaca, NY. Growing up on Cayuga Lake I was immediately attracted to Lake Champlain after moving to Burlington. Which is one of the many reasons I am thrilled about being ECHO's new Social Media intern. This summer I am hoping to not only work on my writing skills, but also on my photography and videography skills.


Run, Jump, Fly is ECHO's newest traveling exhibit where children can but their skills to the test at a variety of action-packed stations. From the Flycycle Sky to the Kung Fu forest, each station is meant to showcase a different part of being active such as, strength, endurance, and balance.  Each visitor receives a "passport" when they enter to get stamped after they complete each activity and on the back of the passport is a checklist to encourage 60 minutes of physical activity every day encouraging the learning and more importantly playing to continue outside of ECHO. Interacting with this exhibit definitely made me feel like a kid again although I am nowhere near as good at the monkey bars as I once was in my prime (check it out in the video below). The exhibition offers younger kids an excellent way to learn more about healthy living while offering them a unique and fun way of interacting with different stations that are mentioned above. While visiting we saw that the rock climbing walls, slides, surfboards, and yoga stations intrigued visitors and parents alike. And a great part about this exhibit is that it adds a more active component to ECHO, not only do younger guests have a chance to play while learning how physical activity benefits their bodies and minds, they also get to let out some energy.

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