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Below The Surface

Sunday, February 27, 2011

Snow Structures

With winter on it's last leg, the E-Team took advantage of the waterfront's still abundant snow by participating in a friendly snow structure build-off. The challenge was to build a snow bridge a foot high and three “normal steps” long within a half hour. The only tools provided were two recycling bins that could be used to make snow bricks. And with only an hour of daylight remaining, the teams we’re off!

Team 1: Elizabeth, Maja, Faisal, Henry and Erika

It may look like playing, but building snow structures is an art of survival. If you’ve been to ECHO Lake Aquarium and Science Center lately you might have noticed the milk jug igloo that is underway! The milk jug igloo is built to replicate the homes built by the indigenous people of the Arctic. To better understand igloos, we let the E-Team have a shot at building their own snow structures. By using snow bricks, the teams began to know the strength of different shapes. Like at the “Raise the Roof” exhibit, the kids used their understanding of structures to try and build the strongest foot bridge they could out of snow.

When the time was up, both teams had finished their bridges and anxiously awaited judgment. Judgment was based on if a) three steps could be taken on it, and, b) if the bridge had at least clearance of 1 foot. Both teams’ bridges passed the test, however now the teams were in a stalemate. The deciding factor in the competition was now all down to the “jump test”! To see which the better snow structure was, both bridges were to be jumped on, and whichever bridge still remained would be the winner. The teams silently awaited the jump, each hoping theirs would hold. Kirsten lined up, despite her fear of heights atop of the first bridge, and took a jump…


Neither of the bridges could stand up to the rigorous jump test, but nonetheless the E-Team members were all winners in this competition, and now are fully aware of the skills and expertise necessary to build a traditional igloo. If you’re ready to build your own structure, E-Team recommends that you brush up on your skills at ECHO by visiting the Raise the Roof exhibit!

By Pat Alcott UVM ‘14

Friday, February 25, 2011

Great Conversations about Creative Construction

In the world of learning research, there is much talk about the power of conversation. Rather than just learning from books and lessons, people learn about the world when they engage in casual conversations together by sharing observations, expressing ideas, and making personal connections to content. Here at ECHO, we’re always looking for opportunities for engage visitors in conversations about science and the world around us.


This week, families have been talking up a storm during our Daily Design Challenges. Each day at noon we’ve hosted an open-ended construction activity, which challenges groups to think together and build a sturdy structure using a limited set of materials. Activities draw on ideas from our Raise the Roof exhibit, which is all about buildings—what holds them up, what keeps them standing and what knocks them down. Design Challenges have invited groups to build a tower out of straws and tape that can hold a raw egg for 20 seconds; to construct a chair using just newspaper and duct tape that can hold a person; to create a tower out of 2 sheets of newspaper that can withstand a “book-quake;” and to build a bridge out of dry noodles and glue that can support the weight of a mini “car.”


The results have been amazing!
The room has been abuzz with conversation about how to work together, what makes a sturdy structure, and how to use simple materials creatively. Teams of Girl Scouts, grandparents & grandchildren, and families of just about every combination, have plotted, debated and laughed together while constructing and testing their designs. They’ve concocted bridges, towers, and chairs of just about every sort imaginable in under an hour. And, most importantly, we at ECHO have learned a thing or two about how much learning is possible when you combine simple materials and great family conversation!

Each day, Design Challenge winners are posted in our “Hall of Fame” on ECHO’s first floor and on our Facebook Page. Please join us for the final four Design Challenges scheduled this week:

Saturday, February 26: Create a Pasta Bridge
Sunday, February 27: Build a Newspaper Tower
Monday, February 28: Construct a Straw Tower to hold an egg
Tuesday, March 1: Create an Upcycled Chair


Thursday, February 24, 2011

A Day in the Life: E-Team

What does it take to be an E-Teamer? Behind the scenes here at the ECHO Lake Aquarium and Science Center, the E-Team is much more than meets the eye. While you may have met some of them at the Sea Tank, or while making buttons or frog masks, underneath that green E-Team shirt lays more than just a teenager. Having the pleasure to work with them, I can tell you that these are not average kids. Dedicating 6 hours a week to ECHO takes more than bribery to get a teenager to volunteer, it takes passion and understanding of a greater good, which is why these kids are more than average; they are environmental all-stars.

But what is it that they actually do here? We give them the space to explore their own interests and to challenge themselves. Every shift starts in the E-Team lounge where we meet to talk about what we think would be the most fun and entertaining way to teach and engage guests. Doesn’t narrow it down too much does it? No worries, because there is no limit to what the E-Team is capable of doing. They pick from an overwhelming variety of activities, from enlightening guests on the elusive and mysterious nature of the Moose, to sending frog masks to orphans in Korea. Every day the E-Team is offered the opportunity to learn a new topic by teaching it to others. “It’s a real opportunity to be able to learn with others and help others understand, it’s a great experience,” says Henry Sadler a sophomore from Vermont Common Schools. For example, how many kids can tell you the difference between a Plastron and a Carapace on a turtle? (See picture)

The E-Team is something we here at ECHO are very proud of. Because of their dedication, they are bridging the gap between generations to enlighten our youth to the wonders of the Lake Champlain Basin, and our responsibility as stewards to it.

-Pat Alcott UVM '14


Thomas, Emma and Faisal teach their families all about turtles

Friday, February 18, 2011

Inquiry Science in the Schools

Students from Saint Michael's College, Champlain College and now, University of Vermont, have provided over 400 hours of science instruction to Burlington, Winooski and Milton students in grades 2,3, and 5 in the past two years.The ISS program will be completing Year Two (Cycle 5) this spring semester. When all is said and done they will have reached 1,348 elementary students in 68 classrooms. The momentum of this program is driven by growing partnerships with the education departments in our local higher education institutions. The program is designed to increase pre-service teachers’ confidence in teaching science content through inquiry process skills – critical to developing a scientific mind. The ISS project has been possible through grants from the Institute of Museum and Library Services, the A.D. Henderson Foundation other local contributions and is managed by Tracy Truzansky, ECHO Assistant Director of Education. “This project has provides critical benefits to new teachers entering the workforce while providing a successful science partnership model for school district administration and classroom teachers struggling to provide in depth, relevant science to students with local environmental applications,” says Truzansky.

“Through inquiry in the classroom students are always left wanting more. As a future teacher it is my hope to provide the most [science] inquiry I can in my class. I want students to be able to really ‘get to know’ science and how it pertains to their everyday lives.”
– Olivia, St. Michael’s College Pre-service Teacher

- Photo - Sydney, St. Michael's College Pre-service Teacher dressed as a wetland scientist

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Turtle love

If you're out snorkeling or scuba diving somewhere in the Lake Champlain basin and a Painted turtle swims up to you, hovers in the water near you, extends his front legs in front of his head and flutters them to and fro sideways, you should be flattered, you're being courted by a turtle. A belated Happy Valentines Day from the world of turtles (turtles do everything slowly... one cannot expect them to be on time with their Valentines).