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Emily Starr

Phenomenon for the Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS) – 3-LS4-4

 Posted by on December 8, 2020  Phenomenon Ideas  Comments Off on Phenomenon for the Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS) – 3-LS4-4
Dec 082020
 

3-LS4-4 Make a claim about the merit of a solution to a problem caused when the environment changes and the types of plants and animals that live there may change.

If you are teaching the Next Generation Science Standards and are looking for phenomena ideas, you’ve come to the right place! I like to think about phenomena as lesson starters. They are photos or videos showing an observable event in the universe and are used to get kids thinking, asking questions, and discussing their prior knowledge. For more information about using phenomena, there is a handy printable guide and video here:
https://www.nextgenscience.org/resources/phenomena

And now, on to our environmental phenomenon!

The red dots show the locations of lionfish in 1995 and 2015.  What do you notice as you compare the two maps?  What do you think caused this change to happen?

Lionfish are native to the warm, tropical waters of the South Pacific and Indian Oceans. Today, many of them can be found off the coast of Florida and nearby in the Caribbean Sea. They were first brought to Florida as an aquarium fish years ago. People thought they looked interesting and wanted to watch them in their fish tanks.  The story goes that a hurricane came through and tipped over aquariums with lionfish. They made their way into the ocean near Florida. Now that the lionfish are in a new environment, they’re causing trouble.                                                                           

Why? First, lionfish are considered to be an invasive species. They are not native to the habitat near the U.S. and in the Caribbean Sea where they now live. The problem with lionfish is they have no natural predators in this new habitat.  In their native habitat, sharks, cornetfish, groupers, large eels, frogfish, and scorpionfish eat lionfish.  In their new habitat, nothing does! Just one female lionfish can also spawn, or lay, up to two million eggs every year. These two factors mean there are now millions of lionfish in places where there used to be none!

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This excerpt is from the text: The Problem With Lionfish by Sarah Wassner Flynn.  The Problem With Lionfish is found in, StarrMatica Texts:  Science Your Way, a collection of informational texts written specifically to address every K-5 NGSS Performance Expectation.  All texts in the collection are written at six different Lexile levels, so all students can read the same content at their reading level.  You can find out more about StarrMatica Texts: Science Your Way here: http://www.starrmatica.com

Phenomenon for the Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS) – 1-ESS1-2

 Posted by on November 14, 2020  Phenomenon Ideas  Comments Off on Phenomenon for the Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS) – 1-ESS1-2
Nov 142020
 

1-ESS1-2 Make observations at different times of year to relate the amount of daylight to the time of year.

If you are teaching the Next Generation Science Standards and are looking for phenomena ideas, you’ve come to the right place! I like to think about phenomena as lesson starters. They are photos or videos showing an observable event in the universe and are used to get kids thinking, asking questions, and discussing their prior knowledge. For more information about using phenomena, there is a handy printable guide and video here:
https://www.nextgenscience.org/resources/phenomena

And now, on to our daylight phenomenon!

These pictures were both taken at 4 o’clock in the afternoon. 

How is that possible?

The sun rises in the morning.

The sun sets in the evening.

This happens every day.

But not at the same time every day. 

The sun rises and sets at different times in different places. 

How much daylight do you see?  It depends on where you live!

The sun rises and sets at different times during the year in the same place.

How much daylight do you see?  It depends on the time of year!

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This excerpt is from the text: Rising and Setting by Sarah Wassner Flynn.  Rising and Setting is found in, StarrMatica Texts:  Science Your Way, a collection of informational texts written specifically to address every K-5 NGSS Performance Expectation.  All texts in the collection are written at six different Lexile levels, so all students can read the same content at their reading level.  You can find out more about StarrMatica Texts: Science Your Way here: http://www.starrmatica.com

Did You Know? Fun Facts for the Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS) – 4-PS3-4

 Posted by on September 23, 2020  Phenomenon Ideas  Comments Off on Did You Know? Fun Facts for the Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS) – 4-PS3-4
Sep 232020
 

4-PS3-4 Apply scientific ideas to design, test, and refine a device that converts energy from one form to another

As we create informational texts for each of the Next Generation Science Standards, there are tons of amazing, interesting, and just plain weird facts we are learning. I thought it would be fun to share some of them with you, so I hope you enjoy these facts about wind turbines…. and sheep!

Wind turbines are usually very large machines: Sometimes as tall as the Statue of Liberty! The larger the turbine blades, the more wind it picks up. This means more energy can be generated.  To generate a lot of energy, huge groups of turbines are bunched together.  These groups are called wind farms.  We usually think of farms that produce food for people to eat.  Wind farms produce energy for people to use.  Wind turbines need a lot of space, but that doesn’t mean the land around them is useless.  It can also serve another purpose as is shown in the photo above.  This land is used for two purposes:  grazing sheep and producing energy!

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This fun fact and more are found in the text: Harnessing the Wind by Sarah Wassner Flynn.  Harnessing the Wind is found in, StarrMatica Texts:  Science Your Way, a collection of informational texts written specifically to address every K-5 NGSS Performance Expectation.  All texts in the collection are written at six different Lexile levels, so all students can read the same content at their reading level.  You can find out more about StarrMatica Texts:  Science Your Way here: http://www.starrmatica.com

Meet Michelle Negron Bueno

 Posted by on August 27, 2020  Reading Resources, Teacher Features  Comments Off on Meet Michelle Negron Bueno
Aug 272020
 

Hello! I am Michelle Negron Bueno and I love writing for StarrMatica!

From a young age, I have been enthralled with stories. It comes as no surprise that many years later, my whole life surrounds reading and writing. I was born and lived for many years in Spain, a place extremely rich with history. I also lived in Germany where I went to boarding school. Years later, after reading the Harry Potter series, I would remember how lucky I was to attend boarding school, but would also wish it could have been Hogwarts. I would have loved to have learned magic and known Professor Dumbledore!

In college, I studied anthropology. I wanted to discover stories from both the ancient past, as well as cultures in the present. In the years after college, my love for writing merged with my passion to make the world a better place. I joined the communications department of a non-profit organization specializing in community development in El Salvador, where I had moved to a few months after getting married. I began to write stories of people living in extremely poor communities and how they were courageously and creatively changing their lives.

During my time in Central America, where El Salvador is located, I raised three children who are now both Salvadoran and from the United States. In El Salvador, I also wrote for magazines and began to write stories of my own. Eventually, I completed a Master of Fine Arts in Creative Writing and Children’s Literature from Hollins University.

While I was at Hollins, I learned about StarrMatica. I began to write fiction stories for StarrMatica at first and then began to write both science and social studies texts. While I did not think I was particularly good at science growing up, I found with research and a little help from experts, I could learn amazing things! I also found writing both fiction and nonfiction was still all about stories.  

Even though I still work as the Head of Communications for the same nonprofit and am a writer for StarrMatica, I continue to research and write my own stories. My current project is a novel taking place in El Salvador in what is known as the Balsam Coast in the 1930s. The main character is a young woman who is both Maya-Pipil (two indigenous groups who still live in Central America today) and a descendent of the renowned profiteer, Sir Francis Drake, who spent time in the Balsam Coast region while on his voyages around the world.

I love that no matter where my life takes me, whether a new country or a new job, I can always read, write and discover new stories. It is what makes my life always new and always fascinating.

I’m on the left in this photo. The person on the right is my sister, Elizabeth Baldwin. She also writes for StarrMatica!

Phenomenon for the Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS) 5-ESS1-2

 Posted by on August 12, 2020  Phenomenon Ideas  Comments Off on Phenomenon for the Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS) 5-ESS1-2
Aug 122020
 

5-ESS1-2 Represent data in graphical displays to reveal patterns of daily changes in length and direction of shadows, day and night, and the seasonal appearance of some stars in the night sky

If you are teaching the Next Generation Science Standards and are looking for phenomena ideas, you’ve come to the right place! I like to think about phenomena as lesson starters. They are photos or videos showing an observable event in the universe and are used to get kids thinking, asking questions, and discussing their prior knowledge. For more information about using phenomena, there is a handy printable guide and video here:
https://www.nextgenscience.org/resources/phenomena

And now, on to our shadows phenomenon!

Do you see a caravan of black camels crossing the desert in this photo? At first glance it might seem so. But take a closer look and you discover that what you are seeing are the camels’ shadows. Since the photographer took the photo from above, you can only see the small, white tops of the camels!

Why do you think the camels’ shadows are so large? Have you ever seen other really long shadows? Have you ever been playing outside in the evening and noticed that your shadow is really tall like a giant? Have you ever noticed that at other times of the day your shadow is closer to your size or hardly there at all? Why is that?

The changes in the length of our shadows have to do with the position of the sun. Assuming you are standing still outside all day long, the sun would appear to rise and set. When the sun’s light is blocked while it is low on the horizon, either in the morning or the evening, your shadow will be longer. As the sun approaches midday, shadows become shorter and shorter until the sun is overhead.

Shadows also change in direction throughout the day. When the sun is behind you, your shadow appears in front of you. When you are facing the sun, your shadow trails behind you. If the sun is to your left, then shadows form on your right. If the sun is on your right, shadows appear on your left.

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These excerpts are from the text: Keeping Track of Your Shadow by Michelle Negron Bueno.  Keeping Track of Your Shadow is found in, StarrMatica Texts: Science Your Way, a collection of informational texts written specifically to address every K-5 NGSS Performance Expectation.  All texts in the collection begin with a phenomenon photo and are written at six different Lexile levels, so all students can read the same content at their reading level.  You can find out more about StarrMatica Texts:  Science Your Way here: http://www.starrmatica.com

Meet Polly Peterson

 Posted by on July 23, 2020  Behind the Scenes of StarrMatica  Comments Off on Meet Polly Peterson
Jul 232020
 

Polly has been working with StarrMatica as our voice over (VO) artist for over a decade. Soon after graduating in Art at Iowa Wesleyan University, Polly started her career at two radio stations in Mt. Pleasant, Iowa.

​“To bring words to life with how they are intended to be said, as well as achieving the intended results has been what drives me to work harder on different sorts of VO projects.  This is a fun and rewarding field.  A VO artist is a voice actor and in this case, a teacher,” Polly explains.

Her passion and commitment to excellence has helped her throughout her career. Polly has been the voice over artist opening for the David Copperfield shows, and she was the official voice of San Francisco’s Whole Foods Market for nearly two years! “It has been extremely exciting! I even got a call from Don Anthony to try out for the weather girl position on Rick Dees’ (The Weekly Top 40) show,” she remembers.

While on-air, Polly turns her experience into a practicum course, finding her path as a writer and producer for radio, television and commercials, as well as documentary work. As a production manager at KDWD in Burlington, Iowa, she enjoyed having total control over writing, assigning and directing her work.

Her love for learning something new every day earned Polly an Addy Award for production and voice over in the Green Bay Market while on-air at WROE in Neenah, Wisconsin. To this day, Polly helps develop talent and coaches voice over artists, because it is so important for to her to give back!

Working for StarrMatica plays into another passion for Polly: “To assist with the educational reads designed for elementary kids to learn online in addition to what they learn in the classroom is rewarding, because many of my relatives also teach and have even been principals. I am immensely proud to be a part of such a powerful project!”

Meet Tricia (PJ) Hoover

 Posted by on May 19, 2020  Behind the Scenes of StarrMatica  Comments Off on Meet Tricia (PJ) Hoover
May 192020
 

Hi! My name is Tricia (PJ) Hoover and I’m one of the writers here at StarrMatica. Growing up, I never wanted to be a writer. I actually wanted to be a Jedi. After all, who wouldn’t want to be able to travel in space, use telekinesis, and do cool mind tricks? But seeing as how that wasn’t going to happen, I instead spent my summers reading science fiction and fantasy books (some of my favorites were J. R. R. Tolkien, Roger Zelazny and Isaac Asimov) and teaching myself to program in BASIC on my Commodore 64. I also fell in love with mythology in sixth grade thanks to the book Mythology by Edith Hamilton. In high school, I spent many nights staying up late watching reruns of Star Trek and The Twilight Zone.

When it was time for college, I headed off to Virginia Tech where I got a degree in Computer Engineering. At the end of four years, I decided I wanted to be an archaeologist, so I stuck around and got a History degree. But then I thought about it and figured engineering might provide for a better future, so I continued on to get my master’s degree in Electrical Engineering.

After a fifteen year bout as an electrical engineer designing computer chips in Austin, TX (working at Motorola and Intel), I went through a turning point in my life. I wanted more. I wanted something different. But I wasn’t sure what. First, I learned to solve the Rubik’s Cube. Then I memorized Kublai Khan by Samuel Coleridge. Finally, I decided to take my own stab at creating worlds and started writing science fiction and fantasy books for kids and teens.

People tend to think engineering and writing are different, but I don’t agree. Getting through engineering school requires discipline and organization. Writing a book requires discipline and organization. Designing computer chips takes quite a bit of creativity. And yes, writing a book takes creativity, too. Computer code is a lot like a book. You write. You test. You revise. You test some more and you keep on revising until you get it right. Sure, you might find bugs, but no computer chip is perfect. And neither is any book.

When I am not writing, I spend time practicing kung fu, solving Rubik’s cubes (including 2×2, 3×3, 4×4, and 5×5), playing Wizard101 and watching Star Trek. I have two crazy puppies and two Sulcata tortoises, King Tort and Nefertorti, who will live to be 180 years old.

A few fun facts:

1) I collect Smurfs, Bicentennial quarters, Star Trek Christmas ornaments and antique bricks. If you find an old brick with words on it, please let me know!

2) I have a 4th degree black belt in Kung Fu.

3) I can solve a Rubik’s Cube in under 2 minutes (including with my eyes closed!).

4) I plan to hike on the Great Wall of China someday. And I’d love to go on an archaeological dig!

5) Jobs I’ve had include Donut Seller, Car Assessor, Dorm Security Monitor, and of course, Chip Designer.

For more information about P. J. (Tricia) Hoover, please visit her website www.pjhoover.com.

Phenomenon for the Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS) 2-LS2-2

 Posted by on May 6, 2020  Phenomenon Ideas  Comments Off on Phenomenon for the Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS) 2-LS2-2
May 062020
 

2-LS2-2  Develop a simple model that mimics the function of an animal in dispersing seeds or pollinating plants.

If you are teaching the Next Generation Science Standards and are looking for phenomena ideas, you’ve come to the right place! I like to think about phenomena as lesson starters. They are photos or videos showing an observable event in the universe and are used to get kids thinking, asking questions, and discussing their prior knowledge. For more information about using phenomena, there is a handy printable guide and video here:
https://www.nextgenscience.org/resources/phenomena

And now, on to our pollinator phenomenon!

When we think about pollinators, most of us probably think of bees.  But did you know many other creatures pollinate plants including bats, butterflies, and hummingbirds, and lemurs?  Lemurs are the world’s largest pollinators!  In fact, they are the main pollinators of a type of tree in Madagascar, an island off the coast of Africa. They pull open the tree’s flowers and stick their long snouts inside. As they gobble up the flowers, lemurs collect pollen all over their faces and bodies. They then leap to another flower, transporting the pollen along the way.

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This information is from the text: Powerful Pollinators! by Sarah Wassner Flynn.  Powerful Pollinators! is found in, StarrMatica Texts: Science Your Way, a collection of informational texts written specifically to address every K-5 NGSS Performance Expectation.  All texts in the collection begin with a phenomenon photo and are written at six different Lexile levels, so all students can read the same content at their reading level.  You can find out more about StarrMatica Texts:  Science Your Way here: http://www.starrmatica.com/index.php?/main/texts

Engineering Resources

 Posted by on April 27, 2020  Science Resources  Comments Off on Engineering Resources
Apr 272020
 

Right now, I am safe at home with my three-year-old and five-year-old.  Like many of you, I feel the challenge of balancing at-home work with full-time parenting.  I know many of your school districts are doing an amazing job of providing distance learning resources.  Yet, I wanted to share a few STEM resources you can put in your own personal toolbox for those times when you just need to get something done and your kids seem to be bouncing off the walls! 

The resources below can make you feel good about allowing your kids to use their devices, because they help kids develop their engineering skills.  Did you know STEM-related jobs are expected to grow at 17% compared to 9.8% for non-STEM jobs?  Projections indicate the United States will experience a shortage of engineers.  Some projections look like there may be as many as one million more engineers needed, than our education system will produce at its current rate.  So, letting your kids have fun with the engineering design challenges below will help you, help them and potentially help all of us!

Design different machines to help the ball reach its goal:

https://invention.si.edu/tinker-ball

Put on your engineering hats to design a course to guide a ball to an ultimate goal:

https://launchball.sciencemuseum.org.uk/

Adjust the Rube Goldberg machine, so lunch can be served:

https://www.gamesloon.com/free-educational-27/goldburger-to-go-33707.html

Design a structure to help the hamster reach its food:

https://pbskids.org/ruff/structures/game

Find the parts to complete each machine:

https://iowa.pbslearningmedia.org/asset/741049e7-165c-4437-9146-ce2b5f9c35f3.asset/EN/

Use simple machines to design a solution to complete each task:

https://www.msichicago.org/fileadmin/Activities/Games/simple_machines/

Join forces with the Fidgets to solve four engineering challenges:

https://pbskids.org/designsquad/games/

Important Note:  Many of these resources require Flash, so make sure you have it enabled in your browser or you may not be able to see the resource.

Elizabeth Baldwin

 Posted by on April 20, 2020  Behind the Scenes of StarrMatica  Comments Off on Elizabeth Baldwin
Apr 202020
 

Hello!  My name is Elizabeth Baldwin and I am a life-long learner!  I love to read and research things that happened in the past, things happening right now and things that might happen in the future!  Whether it is in the field of history, science, fiction or nonfiction, I find our world very engaging.  At this moment, I have 5 books stacked on my night-stand next to my bed!  One is a fictional story set in the early 1800’s, one is a memoir, one is a biography, one is inspirational, one is to practice Spanish and I usually have a science fiction book lying around somewhere!

I have been married for 25 years and have two wonderful children, who are both in college.  I studied music and elementary education in college and have been a teacher for most of my adult life.  I love to sing and I play a few instruments. I am in the process of writing my first children’s novel.  When I first started writing for StarrMatica, I was studying reading in graduate school.  I wrote fiction and non-fiction reading texts for multiple grade levels.  One of my favorite texts was about truffles and why they are expensive.  At this moment, I am writing texts for social studies.  While I was researching plastic, I discovered how I could change my behavior to make a difference in the world.

We can learn so much from our world!  We can learn from animals and nature.  We can learn from history and try to be better for it.  The creativity of people is amazing!  What if we did this?  What if we tried that?  Those are some of the questions that keep me wanting to learn.  I hope with my writing, I can inspire kids to learn and ask questions for themselves.