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  • Iowa’s oldest oak makes SCI its new home

    The oldest oak species in Iowa is coming to SCI in the form of a giant tree slice that took more than five years to prepare.

    Animal Specialist Mark Rouw teamed up with the Iowa DNR, the Army Corps of Engineers, SCI staff and private land owners in 2012 to harvest a slice of the 442-year-old oak, which blew down in a storm near Hartford, Iowa, in 2005. Preserving the wood was the next step — one that required years of patience and, of course, science.

    After a trip to the sawmill to cut the specimen straight, Rouw sanded the surface and applied a wood-stabilizing chemical to the tree slice and let it dry for more than three years.

    “It’s all about how slow it dries,” he said. “We had some setbacks along the way but adjusted the chemicals as we went.”

    Three years later, the tree slice will soon move into its new, permanent home in SCI’s upper level experience platform What On Earth? on February 13. First, though, it’s being outfitted with a custom circle frame to hold the wood together.

    After years of work, Rouw said he’s excited to have a historic piece of Iowa’s environment at SCI.

    “I’m looking forward to seeing the finished piece,” he said.

    Visit SCI this spring to see the finished product in What On Earth?, and don’t miss other upgrades throughout the exhibitmade possiblein partthroughsupport from the State Historical Society of Iowa, Historical Resource Development Program.

  • The Math of Making STEM Connections

    1,624 containers of Play-Doh, 203 sewing machines, 406 rolls of duct tape… And that’s just the start. It all adds up to SCI’s Making STEM Connections kits for educators across the state.

    Making STEM Connections kits have transformed classrooms and libraries into dynamic makerspaces, complete with a variety of innovative materials. The Iowa Governor’s STEM Advisory Council selected SCI’s Making STEM Connections for the 2016-17 Scale-Up Program, giving educators access to hands-on, interactive program for grades K-8.

    From building a robot that can draw to creating textiles, Making STEM Connections works with educators’ existing curriculum to enhance STEM skills and reinforce the Maker mindset through interactive problem-solving.

    SCI Education Specialist Jolie Pelds has managed the project – from purchasing materials to leading professional development trainings at schools.

    “Making STEM Connections has given the Science Center of Iowa the opportunity to help educators all across the state create a makerspace in their learning environment,” Pelds said. “The combination of professional training and a tool cart with materials provides a platform to build on hands-on experiences that ignite students’ interest in STEM.”

    So… What do Making STEM Connections kits for more than 430 educators in 101 Iowa cities look like?

    • 406 rolls of duct tape
    • 1,218 MaKey MaKey invention kits
    • 203 sewing machines
    • 896 books
    • 2,030 felting needles
    • 6,090 Lithium button cell batteries
    • 1,624 containers of Play-Doh
    • 1,015 packages of zip ties

    Volunteers and staff contributed more than 100 hours packaging all the kits, creating memorable makerspaces for classrooms in the Des Moines metro and beyond.

    For Pelds, the impact of Making STEM Connections lasts long after all the tool carts are shipped to schools across the state.

    “It has been so exciting to hear from teachers on all the ways that they have been able to enrich their existing curriculum with the Making STEM Connections program,” she said.

    At Lamoni Middle School, science teacher Liz Carpenter said Making STEM Connections kits have given her students new opportunities for project-based learning.

    “My kids were so excited when the tool cart arrived and I started showing them the supplies,” Carpenter said. “One of my girls was looking in all the drawers and said, ‘Oh, I can hardly wait to start my project!’ We have been using the drill, saw, tools, batteries and other items from the kit since about a day after it arrived.”

    Learn more about Making STEM Connections and SCI professional development for teachers www.sciowa.org/makingstemconnections