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SCI Blog

At the Science Center of Iowa, our goal is to be a quality community resource for informal science learning where children, families, school groups and individuals of all ages come to explore science and technology.

To continue the learning outside our building, we bring you the SCI blog! Our knowledgeable staff, along with special guests and local scientists, will give you a behind-the-scenes look at SCI activities, in-depth information about science events and STEM connections in the Des Moines area.

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  • Four local organizations team up to give a classic composition a modern makeover

    In one room at the Des Moines Art Center, water swirled in recycled bottles, creating tiny tornadoes. Next door, mini meteorologists painted mini jars, each one a piece of a DIY barometer project. Down the hall, a violin solo echoed all the way to the stage, where dancers embodied spring, summer, fall and winter through a blend of ballet and modern moves.

    Antonio Vivaldi’s classic composition “The Four Seasons” is getting a modern makeover, thanks to four prominent Des Moines organizations.

    The Science Center of Iowa, the Des Moines Arts Center, the Des Moines Symphony and DanzArts Studio are teaming up this spring in The Four Seasons Project, an innovative showcase of science, music, dance and art presented by area students. The project culminates in a group performance and exhibition May 27-28 at the Temple for Performing Arts in Downtown Des Moines.

    Project invites students to embrace new disciplines

    Late last summer, the Des Moines Symphony and its partners introduced the idea for a collaborative experience that would give accomplished fine arts and science students the opportunity to share their skills and explore disciplines beyond their area of expertise.

    Though each organization will contribute to the May performance in a distinct way, all four are committed to a student-driven approach, said Joshua Barlage, managing director of the Des Moines Symphony Academy. When the students from all four organizations first met in March, early nerves quickly gave way to a lively learning environment.

    “‘The Four Seasons’ is the perfect catalyst piece for a cross-disciplinary learning experience,” Barlage said. “Students could learn about disciplines that may not be their primary focus. It was a great opportunity to try a new art form.”

    Modern dance gives classical music a new edge

    DanzArts students incorporated an unexpected art form in their interpretation of the beloved violin concertos: modern dance.

    Though “The Four Seasons” was composed in 1720, studio director Paula McArthur and her students choreographed a dramatic combination of modern dance and ballet.

    “This project has provided a variety of opportunities to think outside the box. How do we take a classic piece like ‘The Four Seasons’ and bring it into the 21st Century?” McArthur said. “The music really lends itself to contemporary work. When I told the dancers we’d be performing ‘The Four Seasons,’ they were surprised it wasn’t all ballet.”

    SCI students demonstrate science of changing seasons

    Art and nature are intertwined for the 11 students from the Science Center of Iowa. They’re designing experiments to illustrate the physical phenomena at play in the four seasons.

    SCI Education Specialist Jolie Pelds is encouraging her students to journal throughout the project and capture the process.

    “They each bring their own expertise,” she said. “They can learn something new and can teach other students something new.”

    Performance artwork features Des Moines landmarks

    The Des Moines Art Center students are creating four backdrops — one for each season — featuring four iconic Downtown Des Moines destinations: “Nomad” at the Pappajohn Sculpture Park, the State Capitol, the Crusoe Umbrella at Cowles Commons and the bridge at Gray’s Lake Park.

    Runway-ready looks inspired by “The Four Seasons” will be on display in an adjoining exhibit hall during the May performance.

    Michael Lane, an educator at the Des Moines Art Center, said working with each organization has changed his students’ approach to art.

    “It’s been a lot of fun to work with people from different viewpoints and perspectives and experience art in new ways,” Lane said.

    Don’t miss The Four Seasons Project’s final performances

    Students from all four groups will present their work at The Four Seasons Project Culminating Performances Wednesday, May 27, and Thursday, May 28, at 7:30 pm at the Temple for Performing Arts in Downtown Des Moines.

    The performances are free and open to the public, but registration is required. Registration forms will be available at dmsymphony.org and desmoinesartcenter.org.

  • SCI Volunteer Spotlight: Get involved as a community group

    For SCI’s group volunteers, ULTIMATE Spring Break wasn’t about the ULTIMATE Dig Pit, ULTIMATE IMAX or Ultimate Dinosaurs — it was about the ultimate combination of teamwork and community service.

    Throughout the year, companies, organizations and educational institutions from across the Des Moines metro volunteer their time at SCI, boosting employee camaraderie and presence in the community. In the past year alone, groups from Principal Financial Group, Nationwide, Wells Fargo, Wellmark Blue Cross Blue Shield, Happy Medium and more have engaged SCI participants in an out-of-the-ordinary team experience.

    “It helps build teams and helps us work together and bond as a company,” said Ann Kindwall, a business analyst at ITA Group in West Des Moines. “And we get to help the community at the same time.”

    Volunteer time is built into staff schedules at ITA, providing opportunities for service during the workday. During SCI’s ULTIMATE Spring Break in March, ITA team members helped future paleontologists excavate bones with real tools at the ULTIMATE Dig Pit.

    “It’s our culture at ITA to volunteer and serve the community, so that’s really cool,” said Jarod Trecker, an ITA quality assurance analyst.

    For Wells Fargo employees, spring cleaning took on a whole new dimension at SCI’s ULTIMATE Spring Break, as a group of volunteers from the company washed windows and beautified the playground at the SCI Preschool.

    “I think the biggest thing is that our community knows we’re out here and willing to help,” said Matt Miller, Wells Fargo loan administration manager. “It’s a really, really positive experience here.”