Citizen Science Kids Can Do at Home

Today marks the 55th day since schools closed in California. Although state and local governments are working to put a reopening plan into action, schools are going to remain closed for the rest of this 2019-2020 school year, and summer programs are likely going to have difficulty reopening too. So what are kids to do? We have all these children with sharp eyes and brilliant minds, and not much to use them on apart from video games. Enter Citizen Science! As citizen scientists, kids can use their mental energy (and Internet bandwidth) to work toward furthering a good cause like studying wildlife in remote regions of the globe, tracking climate change, learning about distant galaxies, or discovering underlying causes of diseases to move researchers closer to finding treatments.  So today I gave a webinar highlighting my personal favorite citizen science projects for kids to try. There are thousands of projects out there, and I must have played at least a few dozen of them before

Exploring the Night Sky: Astronomy Festival for All Ages

On Thursday, February 27, we had a special astronomy festival for the whole family! People of all ages got to learn something new and inspiring about the way our understanding of the universe has grown, and also the ways that you can help scientists track changes in night sky visibility. Globe At Night Neighborhood Science Kit When Los Angeles Public Library got a grant for bringing Neighborhood Science to other libraries, Pasadena was chosen as one of the first libraries to get their Neighborhood Science kits. There are currently five Neighborhood Science kits  at Pasadena that you can check out and use to conduct observations and collect data that will help scientists understand more about the way our climate is changing, our air and water quality is changing, etc. The Globe At Night kit  includes a Sky Quality Meter for measuring the darkness in your area, and other tools and information. You can use a Sky Quality Meter to get a reading of the sky's level of darkness, and t

George Washington Carver for Kids by Peggy Thomas: a book review

What rock have I been living under, that I had no idea George Washington Carver , the scientist whose name is forever linked in my mind with peanuts, was also an accomplished  painter ? That he loved music and paid for piano and voice lessons with his paintings? Talk about putting the "A" in STEAM! He, in fact, had so many interests that one of his friends commented: "Whoever heard of any one person doing half so many things?"   Who, indeed! And that isn't all. I didn't know he built his own sod house on the frontier. I didn't know much about his many, many experiences of racism. I didn't know that he pulled himself up from nothing to put himself through college with unbelievable drive and sheer will, living in horrible, subhuman conditions, scrubbing clothes to pay his tuition. And despite all his hardships, he still comes across as just the most pleasant, inspiring, hardworking, and mindblowingly talented person you could ever me

Computer Science for Good: AI Lesson

Yesterday, to celebrate Computer Science Education Week , we focused on learning about one of the newest trends in computer science: machine learning artificial intelligence. We discussed how artificial intelligence can help humanity and the Earth, by making it easier to operate prosthetics, create tools for assisting people with disabilities, identify diseases and tackle environmental issues. But it can also be used for harm, such as to trick people into believing they are talking to a real person when they are not, or to trick people into believing they are watching a famous person say something they never really said. And this is just the start. That's why it's so important to learn how artificial intelligence works, so that we can harness its power for good and ethical purposes. has a site offering resources about Computer Science for Good , and yesterday we tried out their cool AI for Oceans activity . This activity teaches kids how machine learning computers

Roller Coaster Ski Jumps

I'm trying to catch up on my blogging... Back in summer, as part of our STEAM 2018 year of STEAM programming, we did a fun engineering project making roller coaster ski jumps out of pipe insulators for marbles to "ski" down! I've been meaning to share the photos and videos and finally had time today. Here are the supplies I got: Pipe insulators Marbles Masking Tape I had to cut the pipe insulators in half, and did that from home. So you also need a strong knife, like for cutting meat but maybe sturdier than that. Then you have the kids get in groups of 3 or 4 and give each group of kids some insulator tubes and tape and some props and have them go to town! Each group will need a large space to work in, and one pitfall was kids trying to build their roller coasters around the other groups. That got hard sometimes, and they're kids, so they had difficulty navigating that in a polite way sometimes. I really wish I had provided more simple pr

Scratch Cards for Teaching Basic Animation

Right now we're doing a four-week class on making animations with Scratch. Last week, we introduced the kids to the Scratch interface and some of the key blocks they would need. They animated a simple sprite that had multiple costumes already built. One of the challenges of doing a program like Scratch coding is that if you have the kids code a predetermined project step by step, they may learn more tools but they don't have as much opportunity to think critically or creatively. I used to teach Scratch with tutorials where I told the kids, step by step, how to build the code. Now I don't do that as much anymore. Instead, I want the kids to follow a set of instructions but figure out the blocks to use on their own. Kids like individuality. They don't want their project to come out looking exactly like everyone else's. They want options. So I created some cards, inspired by the Scratch Cards on ScratchEd . I gave each kid a challenge, like "Make a Bat Fl

Archaeology Program: Dig for Ancient Treasures

Recently one of my colleagues in the Youth Services department, Marie Plug, and one of our pages from Support Services, Luz Mejia-Ramos, put together an amazing science program for kids--an archaeological dig! I'm sharing Marie's blog post about it and reprinting it with her permission. It was such a cool program, giving kids a chance to dig in sand to find "artifacts" like broken pieces of a clay pot, bones from a replica human skeleton, and a replica of a papyrus from Ancient Egypt. But without further ado, I'll let Marie tell you more... Dig for Ancient Treasures: Archaeology By Marie Plug Twenty seven budding archaeologists participated in Pasadena Central Library's first archaeological dig. Fortunately for them our Library has a "resident" archaeologist on staff - Luz Mejia-Ramos. Luz works for the Support Services Department at Central Library but during her time off she travels the world to participate in archaeological digs. Luz ob