WVR's Science Spot

Welcome to The Science Spot!

Weaver Lake Elementary has a rigorous STEM curriculum aligned with both Minnesota state and national standards. Our key focus is on value added learning opportunities for each student. Technology is seamlessly integrated throughout the curriculum and the use of innovative instructional strategies is evident in every classroom.

Learn more about our Value Added Projects!


Critically Low Monarch Population in California

If you are a lover of Monarchs, as many Weaver Lake Community members are, you might be interested to know that their population in California is dropping.

There is a new report about California Monarch populations from the Xerces Society. According to the Xerces Society, "We currently have preliminary count results from 97 sites, which includes many of the most important overwintering sites. In 2017, these sites accounted for 77% of the total monarch overwintering population, hosting approximately 148,000 monarchs. In 2018, the same sites have only 20,456 monarchs. This represents an 86% decline since last year. "

Scientists are not expecting more butterflies to appear as Monarch counts have been low all summer. To make things worse, in terms of numbers, "Over the past two years, we have seen that New Year’s counts in early January are 40–50% lower than Thanksgiving counts in November. " Based on this, we can expect numbers to drop over the winter.

The article also explains, "If the rest of the Thanksgiving Count data show the same trend as the preliminary data, we anticipate seeing less than 30,000 butterflies overwintering in California this winter. In comparison, there were more than 192,000 butterflies counted in 2017, more than 1 million were estimated in 1997, and Schultz et al. (2017) suggest that there were at least 4.5 million monarchs overwintering in California in the 1980s. While a true minimum population size is unknown until we see a migration collapse, 30,000 butterflies is the average quasi-extinction population size (the number of adult butterflies needed to ensure persistence of the western monarch population) explored in a population viability analysis based on expert opinion of a viable western migratory population size (Schultz et al. 2017). "

If you want to help Monarchs and pollinators, what can you do?

  • Look for milkweed, monarchs, and especially monarch caterpillars, and report them on MLMP.
  • Plant nectar resources which bloom throughout the season—especially species which bloom during spring and fall migration. Check out Xerces’ monarch native nectar plant guides for plant guidance.
  • Plant native milkweed species.
  • Reduce or eliminate pesticide use, particularly insecticide use.
  • Support agricultural producers who minimize pesticide use and provide wildlife habitat.

Don't rear Monarchs in your home - here's why the recommendation is to Keep Monarch's Wild.

Please check out the full article for more information.

What are you processing today? Have you been following the recent Mars landing? I wonder if you noticed how different the control room looked from the control room used for the original Moon Landing. Were you ready to watch the rocket launch today, only to find it postponed? Apparently food for the mouse in one of the on-board experiments was moldy. We are in history making times!!! How will you influence the world? Are you interested in traveling to space? What is on the horizon for your generation? What experiment would you send into space?

Hi! I hope you were able to come to the STEM in Action Fair this year! Channel 12 news was able to come and featured our award winning STEM program on the news!! Check it out here: Weaver Lake Students Put Science into Action

Hi! Have you seen the book Innumerable Insects: The Story of the Most Diverse and Myriad Animals on Earth by Michael Engel? This book dives into insect diversity, and does not require you to be an entomologist to read it! Did you know there are roughly 1 million know species of insects? We study bees in fifth grade at Weaver, but there are many other intriguing ways that insects interact with and influence human life. It might just be a great option for the insect enthusiast in your life!! The best thing about the book, though, are the images!!! They include multiple life stages of an insect, host plants, examples of camouflage and biological mimicry. I can't wait to get my copy so we can talk about it together. If you share a love of learning about insects, let's connect and discuss this book!!!

Thanks to the District 279 Foundation Grant program, the Bell Museum Exploradome will visit Weaver Lake Elementary today and tomorrow. Every third, fourth, and fifth grader will have a chance to enjoy a program about space! Thanks, District 279 Foundation for making this great learning possible!!!

Hello, Weaver! I saw an article this morning in the Star Tribune, and just had to post it! It made me think of all the work our fifth graders do to learn about native Minnesota bee species. Honeybees are not native to Minnesota and some wonder if they out compete our native bees. What do you think about our human impact on the planet? What are you doing to make a difference? I just had a good friend send me a package of stainless steel straws so that I can stop using single use plastic straws. It's not a big step, but I am happy to make even a small difference in our impact on the planet! I bet you have lots of good ideas for how to do that too! Do you carry a re-usable water bottle? What other simple changes can we make?

Third Graders met a Barred Owl Today!!!

If you already know about Barred Owls, you know how special they are! For many of us, they are best know because of their distinctive call: “Who cooks for you? Who cooks for you-all?”

My favorite adaptation by far are their lovely brown eyes. We have seen this bird a few times in our school nature center, and every time it stops me in my tracks.

To learn more about them, check out the link to the Cornell Lab of Ornithology to the left! Of course our third grade ornithologists are also a good resource. It's possible they also dissected an owl pellet recently . . .

At Weaver, we always love to learn more!!

Family Engineering Night

Will you be there?

Thursday, February 1st, 2018 - 5:30 - 7:30.

Students, please bring a grown-up with you!

The Great Backyard Bird Count

From February 16-19, Weaver Scientists and Engineers can be part of the annual Great Backyard Bird Count (GBBC)!

You don't just have to count birds in your backyard! You can count birds in the park, your school, or anywhere birds are found! The GBBC is a project of the Cornell Lab of Ornithology, the National Audubon Society, and Bird Studies Canada.

If you choose to participate, all you need to do is:

  1. Count birds for at least 15 minutes. Count longer if you want to!
  2. Report your bird counts using the checklist on the GBBC website by clicking on "Submit Observations". You can also use the free eBird Moblie app to submit counts.

How great to be a part of Citizen Science!!!!

Deep Look Videos by PBS

Have you heard about the underwater tape of the Caddisfly! Our fourth graders study macroinvertebrates. They can tell you all about adaptations! This Deep Look video explains the underwater tape of the Caddisfly. Check it out here!

Today is the Winter Solstice! Have you heard about the Sun Stop that occurs this month?

By keeping track of sunrise and sunset times, we notice that days get shorter before the solstice and lengthen after the solstice. We also notice that length of day barely changes for about a week before or after the solstice.

The word solstice means just that, sun stop! The sun appears to stop moving, but what is really happening is this:

  • The sun begins to set later a couple of weeks before the winter solstice.
  • The sunrise doesn't begin to get earlier until two weeks after the solstice.

As the second graders explained to me today, "This is because the Earth's axis tilts!" They are right, but it is also because our planet enjoys a slightly elliptical orbit.

Imagine what we all know just from watching and noting sunrise and sunset times! it's pretty amazing when you think about it!

Did you know that bees are attracted to the color blue?

Scientists have discovered that some flowers create a blue halo to attract bees. They learned that bumble bees can see the halos! To learn more, check out this article!

If you have been wondering about gardening for pollinators, one thing to consider is providing plants that bloom throughout the entire growing season. As climate change impacts bloom times and temperature, there are increasing periods of time where pollinators lack a food source. In some cases, spring flowers complete their blooming period long before summer perennials have caught up, cutting off a supply of pollen and nectar early.

As the Xerces Society notes:

"On the other end, an unusually warm October and strong winds this fall have left many monarchs stranded in their northernmost range. Not only will these monarchs need late blooming sources of nectar to maintain their strength until they are able to fly south, they may not be able to find enough late-season food sources along their migration route to fuel their flight back to Mexico."

You might also be interested in this Insect Flight video!

Dragonflies and bees move their wings very differently in flight. Here we can see in slow motion the way the bee and dragonfly wings beat in a 90 degree different direction with the same result flight!

Smoky Winged Beetle Bandit Wasp

What do you know about wasps? Most people know they have the potential to sting, but did you know that they help control insect pests, pollinate plants, and provide food for other wildlife? Really, wasps are pretty tame unless captured or bothered. Fifth graders at Weaver study bees, and likely know that bees and wasps are related. While bees get protein by collecting pollen, wasps are predators. Because they are predators, they can protect crops and gardens by eating harmful pests. One particular wasp, the smoky winged beetle bandit wasp (Cerceris fumipennis) hunts the Emerald Ash Borer. Scientists are using this wasp to help protect ash trees in Minnesota!

You might want to check out the Wasp Watchers program to find out more about wasps!

Hello, Weaver! Tonight is our STEM in Action Fair! November 9, 2017! I look forward to seeing you between 5:30 p.m. and 7:30 p.m. to share your great work!

I also want to note that tomorrow, November 10th, is World Science Day for Peace and Development. How amazing to think that some day your science or engineering work will contribute to the peace and development of the world!

We are proud to announce that Weaver Lake Elementary has been named a 2017 Magnet School of Excellence by Magnet Schools of America (MSA), the National Association for Magnet and Theme-Based Schools.

Weaver Lake Elementary: A Science, Math and Technology Magnet School provides a dynamic, inquiry-based learning environment for students in grades K-5. Weaver Lake’s program incorporates value-added, hands-on activities that focus on problem solving, analytical thinking skills, and are based on real life experiences. Our integrated project-based, thematic approach to teaching has increased academic growth in all areas. Community partnerships have enhanced student learning experiences. The young scientists, mathematicians, and technologists at Weaver Lake Elementary are a community of learners that continually Inquire, Discover, Explore, and Achieve—the big IDEA at Weaver Lake is to become lifelong learners.

“Magnet schools throughout the country are being awarded for their excellence in demonstrating student achievement, innovative and engaging instruction and curriculum, community engagement, professional development, and a commitment to diversity. This is a competitive process that awards only a small fraction of the magnet schools nationally. Schools that win our Merit Awards represent the best in education, innovation, equity and opportunity for all students in our nation.” says Magnet Schools of America Executive Director.

To receive a merit award MSA member schools must submit a detailed application that is scored by a panel of educators. There are two categories of merit awards: (1) Magnet Schools of Excellence, the top award given to a group of select magnet schools, and (2) Magnet Schools of Distinction, the second highest award of recognition.

To learn more about Magnet Schools of America’s merit awards program, please visit www.magnet.edu

Project Lead The Way is Here!

We are so excited to be starting Project Lead the Way at Weaver Lake! All grade levels are participating in PLTW engineering units. Fifth graders are exploring programming VEX IQ robots and kindergartners have new engineering opportunities tied to fairy tale stories. As we grow in our PLTW expertise, we look forward to adding more engineering opportunities throughout the curriculum.

Plant Milkweed!

I am sad to say that the current news about Monarchs is a bit dismal. There are frequent updates on their status at Journey North. Here at Weaver Lake, we are watching them closely. If you are wondering how you can help, please consider planting milkweed. Resources are available to make this easy. Currently there are about 20 milkweed species available as seed, though the availability varies based on location. Some nurseries also sell milkweed transplants or "plugs." If you are not sure where to find milkweed locally, check out this Milkweed Finder courtesy of the Xerces Society to locate a supplier near you.