Archive for Wednesday, June 21, 2006

Local students dive into weird science

June 21, 2006

Making phlegm out of cornstarch, corn oil and water may not sound like a good time to most people. But for one group of local students, the more bizarre the experiment is, the better.

That's the motto of the "Icky, Gooey, Sticky, Sloppy Hands on Science" summer class at Tonganoxie Elementary School. The students enrolled in the class have spent the last week learning all about science, but they've been doing it in a way that is anything but normal.

"This definitely is weird science, isn't it?" Nancy Patton asked her students as they learned about static electricity by making their hair stand straight up using a Van de Graaff generator.

Karen Stockman, another teacher of the class, said it was important to remember that kids had different interests. The classes that were geared to what they liked were going to teach them more, she said.

This unique science class is just one of 15 other classes being offered as part of the Summer Enrichment Program, which the grade school organizes each year.

About 10 years ago the school started the program as a way to give the kids of Tonganoxie an activity to do during the summer, other than go to the local swimming pool.

"The main idea is to offer the kids classes that will teach them something they probably wouldn't have the opportunity to learn during the regular course of the year," said Jerry Dakoski, elementary school principal. "But also to have a lot of fun learning what it is they are going to learn."

From the very beginning, Dakoski said the program was extremely popular. On registration day each year, he said there usually was a line from the front entrance, down to the north gym. This year there were 197 students who signed up for the program.

"When we open the doors it's like the old Macy's going- -out-of-business sale," he said.

This year's program started May 30 and ran for three weeks. Enrollment was $25 for one week-long class. Students could choose to take only one class or to take a new class each of the three weeks the program ran. Class topics ranged from cooking and art to bowling and Spanish.

Stockman, a third-grade teacher at the grade school, said most teachers were limited with what they could do during the school year. The size of the classes and the expense of materials made teaching enrichment activities more difficult, she said.

"I think with being in a small group there is less intimidation," Stockman said. "Everyone has a very good opportunity to share."

Mara Bigge, 9, enrolled in the "Icky, Gooey, Sticky, Sloppy Hands on Science" class because she said science had always been one of her favorite subjects.

This is her second year with the program, but definitely not the last, she said. So far, she said she's been having a lot of fun learning "cool" experiments.

"Usually third graders don't get to see that stuff," Bigge said.

Stockman said a program like this benefits its students by allowing them to generate interest and experience different things.

She said it's obvious the students are learning from the class because many of them have taken the experiments they've done and expanded on them at home.

"They really seem to enjoy it," she said. "In fact, at the end of the week they don't want to go home."

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