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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  • SCI Volunteer Spotlight: Get to know Jim Covey

    Paper rockets fill a cardboard box, each one distinct in its design. Some lack a nose cone, the pointed tip that guides a rocket through the air. Some have multiple fins. Some have no fins.

    Whatever its design quirks, each rocket is an invitation for SCI volunteer Jim Covey to say, “Let’s do a science experiment!”

    As Covey demonstrates his time-tested rocket design — one he spent two years perfecting — he encourages participants to question, hypothesize and most importantly, experiment.

    While there’s a “Wow!” factor in building a high-flying rocket, Covey’s goal isn’t to build a dream machine every try.

    “It’s not necessarily the best rocket every time,” Covey said. “It’s about the process of teaching participants along the way.”

    Covey’s career as an SCI volunteer and resident rocket expert started in 2005. He quickly found a home at the rocket table, honing his building technique over the next two years.

    Along the way, Covey has built lasting relationships with participants of all ages, interests and skill levels. Whether he’s engaging university astrophysics students, families or elementary school groups, Covey targets the conversation with the “why” in mind.

    “Which rocket will fly farther?” he’ll ask, inspiring participants to test their inventions and own the experience. And though he’s already honed his own design, Covey returns to When Things Get Moving every Tuesday with his box of rockets and a curious attitude.

    “The joy of the participants as they watch a rocket fly… That’s a reward for me,” Covey said. “Those are the things that keep me coming back.”

  • 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.