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Open House: Weds. Aug. 27th, 1-5pm and 7-9pm

on Sun, 08/24/2014 - 14:01

Welcome to Worcester Think Tank! On Wednesday, Aug. 27th Think Tank will open its doors to visitors curious to see the facility and meet with its directors. The open house will run from 1:00-5:00pm and then again from 7:00-9:00pm. Refreshments will be available. Spread the word and we hope you can make it!

Sprinkler Factory Studios, 36 Harlow St., Worcester MA 01605, 508 757 8265


Students in Guatemala: Con Los Ojos Abiertos (With Eyes Open)

on Mon, 06/30/2014 - 05:18

Twelve teenagers departed last Tuesday (6/24) to participate in an extraordinary travel abroad program to Guatemala. Roger Bourassa of Perduco Education has now brought teenagers to the country for three years in a row. His program includes travel throughout the country, engagement in hands-on service learning projects, studying Spanish with the Guatemalan based Homeschool Spanish Language Academy and teaching English to youth in La Escuela Esperanza (School of Hope). Think Tank director, Lauren Monroe, is proud to participate and teach within this program for her second time, and is also proud for awarding a scholarship and recruiting one of her own students to the program. Think Tank student, Jeanelle Wheeler, is a part of this group and in her own words: "I am incredibly excited and grateful to culminate my Think Tank and high school experience with a trip to Guatemala.  There I will be immersed in another language and culture and finally put human faces to the social problems of developing countries...This trip is an opportunity to feed my inner dreamer, explorer, writer, and activist.” 

Students began their Guatemalan adventure in San Miguel Escobar to volunteer with a coffee cooperative called De La Gente. De La Gente organizes fair trade and profit opportunities for local coffee farmers while also building awareness to the efforts required to cultivate coffee, from the seed to cup. Students visited a coffee farm in Volcano Agua, helped farmers weed around plants and learned the processes of harvesting and preparing beans for roasting and brewing.

The adventure continued as students visited communities around Lake Atitlan. This lake, a result of a volcanic eruption 84,000 years ago, is in the Guatemalan highlands and revered by many as one of the most beautiful lakes in the world. In addition to hiking, boating and zip lining in the nature reserves, students also learned about the traditional Maya cultures still present in the area and visited with elders who are survivors of the Guatemalan civil war.

Continuing on their journey and nurturing friendships amongst themselves, and three accompanying teen aged Guatemalan girls, Maira, Cristina and Juana, students begin an adventure this week (6/30-7/4) in Antigua. In Antigua students will learn Spanish with the Guatemalan based Homeschool Spanish Academy and teach English at La Escuela Esperanza (The School of Hope). 

This trip is offered annually to teenagers ages 13-18. Applications are necessary and a maximum of 12 are chosen each year. Congratulations to this years CLOA participants and we look forward to hearing more about the adventure soon!

Top: Students hike, and go by horse, to a coffee farm owned by local farmers, Miguel Jeronimo Vasquez and Mercedes Perez Gonazalez in San Miguel Escobar, Guatemala.

Right: Students prepare English lessons for their classes at La Escuela Esperanza (The School of Hope).

Bottom 1: Students boat across Lake Atitlan to reach a nature reserve.

Bottom 2: Think Tank student and scholarship awardee Jeanelle Wheeler gets her hair prepared by Juana. 

Unique Forms in Sculpture Physics

on Wed, 03/12/2014 - 21:38

Recently, grateful students (and staff) were a little sad to see the end of Sculpture Physics, a new 5-week workshop offered at Think Tank this semester. Instructor Samantha Minter developed and taught a brief, highly engaging art class which had each student creating original work. Over the course of the workshop, students worked on four separate projects, all of which took inspiration from the various properties of physics such as gravity and light. For instance, one project's goal was to create a sculpture which suggests that gravity is amiss. This was achieved by shaping a wire-frame base to which clay was then applied and sculpted. The finishing touches required some detail painting to help bring ideas like an upside down tree and floating figures to light.

Another project involved cutting identical paper shapes using the ROYGBIV color spectrum, then bending and affixing them to a wire axle on a stick, creating a functioning pinwheel. The pinwheel, when spun via wind energy, demonstrates how these colors blend together into a white blur, indicating that white is the essence of all the colors. The pinwheel project eventually led into a separate work where students were tasked to create an abstract sculpture consisting of wire and colored foil that moves and interacts with wind.  

Photos: (Above)Samantha gives Josh some pointers while Rebecca adds clay to her wire tree frame. (Right) A ROYGBIV pinwheel.

See more images from the Sculpture Physics workshop HERE.


The Art of Science Learning Needs You!

on Wed, 02/26/2014 - 20:27

Beginning March 1, 2014 through January 2015 an exciting new program is being implemented in Worcester.  Funded by the National Science Foundation, 100 participants will be testing a cutting-edge curriculum that links arts-based and STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math) learning and will apply this information to develop new transportation solutions for our city.  Most meetings/workshops are scheduled on Saturdays to take place in locations in greater Worcester and range from 4-7 hours in length consisting of seminars, hands-on interactive workshops, and professional panel discussions.  

Volunteers are needed for general support before, during, and after sessions in areas such as taking attendance, passing out, and/or collecting curriculum materials, etc.  We are looking for volunteers to be part of an exciting initiative that will make a difference in our community.  The volunteer application process is currently underway and available online   More information can also be found at:
Klaire Reis uses petri dishes and reflective epoxy polymer to show off colors and patterns that can be found in natural cellular reactions.

Ornithology Among The Trees

on Tue, 10/15/2013 - 15:15

Donning cloth security harnesses, helmets, sketch books, and the sheer will to explore, students of Art Biology class head to the EcoTarium's Tree Canopy Walkway for an interactive bird watching session. EcoTarium educator and ornithology enthusiast, Alex Dunn, leads the group along with WTT founder, Lauren Monroe, and resident art teacher, Jen Swan. After Alex guides us through safety protocol we set forth, one at a time, across the first bridge. The Walkway consists of three tree-house sized platforms, interconnecting bridges, and a plethora of tether cables which dangle and stretch like metallic vines.

The students spend some time exploring each platform, clipping their carabiners back and forth between the web of heavy cables, before we're asked to settle on a specific platform with sketch book and pencil in-hand. On one of the platforms, surrounded by a group of students, Alex holds up a small speaker attached to an iPod. Suddenly, the excited energy of the group begins to focus into a quiet calm as the speaker unleashes the sounds of Black-Capped Chickadees mobbing an Eastern Screech Owl. Within moments, actual Black-Capped Chickadees descend into the tree canopy.

Alex, who has been into ornithology since the 5th grade, explains how the recording of the birds mobbing the Screech Owl is like a call-to-arms; the chickadees hear trouble and come to aid their brethren. In our case, they simply perch on the surrounding branches perhaps wondering what all the fuss is. The commotion doesn't only stir the Chickadees- we soon see other species appear in the foliage such as the White-breasted Nuthatch, Downy Woodpecker, Yellow-rumped Warbler, Tufted Titmouse, and Blue-headed Vireo.

The students sit and lean attentively. Jen Swan encourages them to observe and illustratively document the birds even if the visibility is fleeting. In the coming weeks the students will implement some of what they learn in this experience to render 3d bird sculptures which they shape and paint themselves. It is a beautiful sight to behold, sharing this space with the students, teachers, and nature.

As Alex and I recounted the experience, I asked what was appealing to him about bird watching. “They don't stand still for you," he pointed out, explaining how he enjoys the challenge of the hunt.  Alex also appreciates how ornithology is "part of this larger story", acting as an entryway to studying a vast and complex ecosystem. I interpret this into how we have to be vigilant and perpetuate awareness in order to keep the practice alive, keep our thirst for such knowledge satiated. I can't help but draw a correlation between these words and the experience of teaching youth! Learn more about local ornithology on Alex's blog.

Telegram Article Spotlights Think Tank!

on Thu, 10/10/2013 - 15:25


WORCESTER — The teacher was barefoot and wore a tank top and shorts. Eight kids were crowded around two tables pushed together in a large room that had beat-up wooden floors, pictures painted on the walls, a world map on which south was up, and a collection of items that would seem about right in a science room. On one student's hand was a very large grasshopper. Before long, the teacher, Leo Spinner, brought out an Eastern millipede. 

Read the full article and view photos HERE!

Inspired Science!

on Tue, 04/23/2013 - 20:14

MCPHS grad student and PhD candidate, Steve Richards, ran a wonderfully successful genetics workshop at Think Tank this Spring semester. The workshop, titled Genetics: The Fly Room, was inspired by the work of Thomas Hunt Morgan, a famous scientist who played a crucial role in the shaping of modern genetics. Morgan established the Fly Room at Columbia University with a group of students in the early 20th century. The Fly Room served as a vital hub for genetic research that influenced every generation to follow. Morgan was known for his democratic and socially dynamic approach to academic science. He encouraged and nurtured the acceptance and collaboration of ideas regardless of degree or status. 

In a similar fashion, Steve encourages his students to ask questions and creatively investigate the object of study. He introduces the concept of his genetics workshop with the following excerpt from the class forums: 

Drosophila melanogaster is the most genetically well known, and most common model organisms in the science community. Their short lifespan, fast reproduction time, and degree of current knowledge that we have about them makes the flies perfect for the young geneticist. Over the length of the course we have identified many of the common phenotypes for genetic mutations of interest, and also took a look at some of the mutants we will be working with.

The flies we have been using are very much lab quality flies. What this means is that they are genetically designed to be able to carry desirable mutations. Since scientists often work on genes of interest that may not have a visually distinctive phenotype, we need another way to easily identify flies that have a specific mutation. This is where “markers” and “balancers” come into play. Without going into too much information many of the flies used in the lab are “balanced” and have “markers” built into their genes. This gives the flies easy to identify traits, and also ensures their genetic stability. 

Continue reading Steve's Fly Room write up HERE.


The Study of Information

on Tue, 03/12/2013 - 20:36

A variety of newspapers lay sprawled across the table as students of Is it Newsworthy? scan and scrutinize popular internet news sources and culture. Jennifer Ladner and Jessie Trowbridge of Screen Savvy Kids have taken on the important role of teaching media literacy to youth during a time where information sharing is predominantly digital and increasingly available.

Over the past few weeks students have been challenged to investigate the credibility of news sources, question potential bias, study journalistic styles, and employ their acquired knowledge in their own original news article. For their article, students were asked to choose a topic from and conduct their own investigative reporting.

Being granted a couple of opportunities to sit with the class, I've observed a valuable and unique dynamic between Jennifer and Jessie as they bring different perspectives that seek similar goals to a group of intelligent and knowledge-hungry students.