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Chanet Stevenson, Staff Reporter

February 4, 2012

Along a hallway in Harrah Elementary School, a little boy chases a stray marble as it continues to roll away from him. On the wall, children build their own marble coasting ramps that they were able to try out once they finished placing each piece where they desired on the wall.

For 8-year-old Arturo Sanchez, third grade, and 7-year-old Chance Abrams, second grade, building the ramps on the wall and racing their marbles down them was their favorite part of the family science night held at Harrah Elementary School last Wednesday evening.

“It has been a huge team effort,” said Dan Estock.

Estock, a fifth grade teacher at Harrah Elementary for six years, said the idea behind organizing the family science night was to encourage kids and community members to become more interested in science.
Estock is also the district science committee chair, and collaborated with WATERS Project members to make the science night possible.

The WATERS Project, which stands for Watershed Activities To Enhance Research in Schools, is a National Science Foundation program dedicated to implementing science and research into school curriculums from kindergarten through high school. Graduate students in chemistry, geological sciences, biological sciences, and resource management complete their masters in science degree by conducting and incorporating their research projects into class curriculums at the school they are assigned to work with.

Along with WATERS, undergraduate clubs including physics, astronomy, chemistry, geology and science education also participated in conducting projects at the family science night. Volunteers from the Civic Engagement Center also helped in planning and conducting the science night.

Children and parents roamed the hallways, working their way through each of the classrooms and participating in the abundance of projects offered. In total, 18 classrooms, along with the gym and cafeteria throughout Harrah Elementary School, were all decorated and set up for an array of different science projects and themes. There were also trivia questions posted outside each classroom door pertaining to the theme of the room, which allowed for both children and parents to test their knowledge in each scientific theme.

Themes throughout the classrooms included a lava tube, volcanoes, reptiles, insects, water science, astronomy, music, human and plant cells, chemical reactions and explosions, and many others. Each station included an interactive project, which allowed for students to take part in conducting an experiment. Among these projects was a Battle of the Builder’s station.

Melissa Barnett, a kindergarten teacher at Harrah Elementary, explained how the purpose of the project was for each child to build their own structure from gummy bears, marshmallows and toothpicks. Each structure had to be at least eight inches tall, and the idea was to compare which structures were the strongest by experimenting with the different building materials.

Another interactive experiment that became an attraction to many of the children present at the science night was the human hockey puck experiment. The human hockey puck, conducted by the physics club, allowed for kids to sit atop and ride on a round wooden board that was lined with rubber along its bottom side. Air was pumped through a hole cut into the board causing the entire board to hover above the ground much like that of an air hockey table does.

Community members and local organizations, including Yakima Nation Fisheries and Wildlife and the Yakima Basin Environmental Education Program also took part in the effort to build interest in science. One such person was Catharine Reed, a wetlands specialist for the Department of Ecology. Reed has worked for the department for 28 years.

“To me education is the key to the future. It’s how we change things for the better,” Reed said.

As a wetlands specialist, Reed demonstrated how wetlands and soils improve water quality by displaying jars filled with different soils and water.

Over the course of the evening, laughter and excited chatter among both parents and children alike could be heard throughout all of Harrah Elementary School. The prominent smiles across the many faces of all those in attendance served as a good sign of the sheer enjoyment and amazement that was to be had at the family science night.

Oh what a night for science


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