Monday, April 11, 2016

You are invited! #STEMExpo16

The 5th Annual Maury Think Tank and STEM Expo

Over 60 scientists, engineers and STEM professionals will engage your child in many exciting activities! You and your child will be able to....
Use night vision goggles!
Get up close with dry ice!
Become a beekeeper!
Take a balloon rocket challenge! 
Investigate the sun!
"Ride" in a canoe!
Build with snap circuits to power a program!
Control objects with your brain!
Talk with Einstein, Woodsy the Owl and much, much more!

                                                       When: May 5, 2016 from 5:30-8:00pm                    
                      Where:  Maury Elementary School, 1250 Constitution Ave NE, Washington, DC 20002
                                                                  Who: Open to all ages!

                                                 FREE and right off the D6 bus line!

How do I learn more about the organizations exhibiting?
Click on the links below to see who will providing hands-on, engaging STEM activities for you when you arrive? Click on each link to go to their website... and get excited! 

     *  Optics and Night Vision Lab
George Mason University: 
* Perception and Action Neuroscience Group

                                                     WHAT SHOULD I EXPECT?
Designed like an exhibition hall, experts from over 25 STEM organizations will engage students, families and community members in activities that represent their work.  Check out last year's event here! The Expo is designed to make STEM accessible to ALL learners, from preschool up! This event is completely free and most  organizations also bring items that visitors can take home with them.  If you have any questions, feel free to contact Vanessa Ford at or @maurythinktank . You can also look at last year's Expo HERE!


Do you have fliers I can print to give to my school or community members?
YES! Email me at and I will send to you!

Are you planning to attend but not a Maury family?
Yay! I'm thrilled you will join us! Please consider emailing me at to help me make an estimate of how many people are coming! I want to ensure I have enough "Swag Bags" and other goodies for all our visitors!

How do I get updates about the event?
I will update this blog post as organizations confirm so bookmark this! You can also find updates by following me on Twitter @maurythinktank for updates on our program!

See you soon!

-Vanessa Ford

Wednesday, March 23, 2016

Save the Date!

Another blog post will be coming soon sharing the amazing work students have been doing in Think Tank but in the meantime...

                                              SAVE THE DATE!

WHEN: May 5, 2016 from 5:30pm -8:00pm
WHERE: Maury Elementary School, 1250 Constitution Ave NE, Washington, DC 20002
WHAT: Dozens of amazing STEM leaders ready to share their work in hands-on exhibits. Check out last year's event here!
WHO: Open to all DC students ages 3 and up with their families!**

** Fliers will be available to distribute to school communities by the week of April 11th. If you would like a copy to distribute at your school please email with "Expo Flier" in the subject.

Tuesday, January 5, 2016


Petting Obediah the Screech Owl!
WHOA! November and December flew by in a flurry of learning and exciting projects! In an effort to share our learning and not get further behind on updates, I wanted to share some of the grade-level highlights.

                              JO SANTIAGO AND THE U.S. FOREST SERVICE

One of the highlights to the year is when Jo Santiago, Wildlife Biologist with the US Forest Service visits with her amazing Birds of Prey. This year she brought Freedom the Bald Eagle!


In addition, Simon Carswell, reporter for the Irish Times (and Maury dad) did a great report on her visit. Take a look at his awesome piece here!



Our young learners turned our classroom into Space! Early childhood students created "Space" to explore themselves and went on "moon walks" using the app Moon Globe. 


 Kinder and 1st graders used the Engineering Design Process to create the ideal International Space Station. They watched videos from the ISS to determine the needs of the astronauts, tweeted questions ( and got answers from!) real astronauts and created final group designs.

Students also completed the Project Lead the Way "Sun, Moon and Stars" lessons surrounding tracking the sun throughout the day.

One of the students' favorite activities was using "mystery beads" to explore UV Rays! These needs change color when exposed to ultraviolet light!

It was very cloudy on the day we tested... but the bracelets changed color! Molly in 1st grade explains her findings:

Kindergarten and 1st grade are finishing up this unit in January by designing a playground that can keep students cool and protected from UV rays!

                                                      VARIATION OF TRAITS!

3rd grade is finishing a unit on variation of traits. Using the Project Lead the Way unit as a base to this study, students began by completing a traits surgery of their class, graphing their data and forming questions from it.




After recording this data, they went on to test how traits are passed down through generations. Using Wisconsin Fast Plants, students predicted which traits would pass down through two generations of plants. We received the "children" of two parent plants:  one with green stems and one with purple stems. These "children" produced ONLY purple stems. Where did the green stems go? Our students investigated. They cross-pollinated them and grew seeds for the next generation. The question will soon be answered: will green stems return in this generation?
Class predictions
Recording predictions
Pollination Day!

                                                                    HOUR OF CODE!

Maury took on the Hour of Code in all classes this year! What a great experience!  Just look at this video of our 5th graders' complex codes!

Students made their own apps, learned to code Star Wars games and got inspired to try this amazing area of STEM.  Even the PreK students got into it. 

Parent volunteers joined us and Maury students completed tens of thousands lines of code!

As we head into 2016, we start a number of new, exciting studies. From robotics to solar ovens, landforms to oceans, many new studies are on the horizon!

Stay tuned and keep on thinking!
-Mrs. Ford

Sunday, November 1, 2015

Think Tank is BUZZING!

Over the past 6 weeks, Think Tank has been a BUZZ with all things bees. From our partnership with DC Beekeepers to our Wisconsin Fast Plants unit, Think Tank learning about the partnership between honeybees and plants is in full bloom! Take a closer look at what our 3rd and 2nd graders have been up to!                   

For the second year in a row, 3rd grade partnered with master beekeeper Toni Burnham and volunteer Barry Hayman of DC Beekeepers to complete an intensive, 10 week honeybee unit. Each class is an in-depth look at a very specific part of honeybee survival. This year, we focused strongly on structural and behavioral adaptations as this is an important 3rd grade NGSS concept. Honeybees truly are our insect partners!   Take a look!

Class #1: Why are pollinators important, and why do we work with only one kind, the honeybee?
Students dissected lilies and diagrammed the reproductive parts of the flower. They explored how these parts worked in conjunction with the honeybee in the process of pollination.
Class #2: Who lives in a beehive?
Students looked at the family and physical structure of honeybees. They used an observation hive of life, working bees as well as dried honeybees to look closely at bee behavioral and structural adaptations.

Class 3: What is a beehive and what do beekeepers do?
On this day, Toni brought in a modern hive. Students took it a part and explored the way it was constructed. They compared it to the hives found in nature and looked at the reasons behind various structures. She also shared the clothes beekeepers wear to protect themselves. Always remember to put those socks over the bottom of your pants!


Class 4: Bees or Wasps or Hornets?
In this class, students explored the ways that these insects are different from one another. They looked at the structural and behavioral adaptations that each needed for survival and reinforced that the honeybee has no desire to sting us! (Did you know that if a honeybee stings it will die?)
Class 5: Are Bees in Trouble? (Hint: YES!)
Students looked at the biggest issues harming our honeybee population. Students also used math to tell the story of the bee population troubles.Take a look what these numbers show.... it's frightening!

They then learned what was contributing to the colony issues. Construction, monoculture, mass-pesticide use and disease are all killing honeybees faster than beekeepers can keep up with. They took their ideas and made posters to show how they think we can save the bees!


Class 6: What are the products of the hive and why do bees make them?
After learning about why the bees make certain things we love (honey) and use ( beeswax), students tasted raw pollen and made their own beeswax candles. 

What comes next??
When spring arrives, students will wrap up this partnership with 4 week unit putting their learning into action! Lessons include building a hive, making native pollinator nests, seed balls and harvesting their own honey!

For more information or access to this amazing curriculum, please contact Toni Burnham at . She is an amazing resource and has this entire unit ready for any teacher to use!

For 2nd grade,  rockin' classroom teachers Ms. Hipps and Ms. Fox completed completed the awesome Engineering is Elementary unit "Designing Hand Pollinators" as part of their Quarter 1 cornerstone. Students explored the issue of lack of native pollinators in various places around the world and then designed hand pollinators that worked with a variety of different plants. You can check out some pictures from their study on the class Twitter feed @maury2ndgrade !

To build on that knowledge, student then came to Think Tank where they planted, grew and tended to Wisconsin Fast Plants. As part of this process, they pollinated the plants with real, dried bees and saw the real-life outcome of pollination. While we are now in the waiting phase for our pods to dry and collect our seeds, take a look at the process we went through to get there!
Students followed a specific procedure for planting.

Each week they observed and measured and recorded data about their plants.

Plants must be kept under grow lights 24h a day.
 When the flowers bloomed, it was time to pollinate!

Students used real bees ( dried and glued to sticks) to pollinate their flowers. They identified the flower structures and make observations about the transfer of pollen too!

A week later our pods are fully forming! Petals fell off ( they are not needed to attract pollinators anymore) and students can see the seeds inside. Did you know that every seed was once one grain of pollen?


Students are now just waiting for their pods to dry out so they can collect the seeds. Next year's 2nd graders will then have seeds to do the same project! So cool!

Even though this blog post is all about these two grade levels, rest assured that exciting Think Tank units are happening in all others! All grade levels begin new units this week! 

Make sure to follow our thinking on Twitter @maurythinktank and I'll be back with a blog post about our Project Lead the Way units in the coming weeks!