Wednesday Sep 30 2009
Placer Elementary's science day an electrifying experience
By: Joyia Emard, Loomis News Staff Writer
Loomis school offers hair-raising education
Shocking and hair-raising are words that describe what some local school children re-cently experienced. They didn’t seem to mind, though. In fact, students at Placer Elementary School were downright electrified during their first Mad About Science Day. Teachers wearing white lab coats lectured at each grade level about different science topics, such as electricity and weather, before students conducted their own hands-on experiments. “The price to pay was to sit and listen. Then they got to do the fun stuff,” said instructor Todd Wright. Wright’s seventh- and eighth-grade classes used an electrostatic generator to electrify themselves. “We learned that electricity can send static waves through your body and then there’s a discharge. Then you get a shock. It makes your hair stand up,” said seventh-grader Paige Smotherman, 12. Some school kids experimented by sharing shocks. “It scares you when you get shocked. It only hurts a little,” said seventh-grader Taylor Schumann. The Van der Graaff generator was a big hit with the kids. The electricity it generated made their hair stand on end, replicating the “bed head” look. “Science day has been great to address subjects outside the standards. It gives me an ex-cuse to let them explore and have fun with science,” Wright said. Placer parents Sonia Bergin and Yvonne Miller spent time with the second-grade class and helped them learn about rocks and soil during the school-wide science day. The women said the little ones sorted rocks by size and determined how rocks of various sizes could be used. They also sorted rocks by shape. Meanwhile, first-graders were learning about wind, air and weather by making pinwheels and anemometers. Shanna Pratt, 6, was not only able to pronounce the word, she could also explain what it does. “I learned that an anemometer can tell if it’s windy or sunny,” Shanna said. According to fourth-grade teacher Dana Swain, her class studied shrinking habitats and a parent, who is a working geographer, brought in his measurement tools that students were able to use to measure distance and circumference. “What makes this all so real is when they get up out of their seats and act out what they are learning. Being able to use tools that are not normally available in our curriculum really stretches their thinking,” Swain said. Third-graders studied light reflection and refraction using various colors of light. Fifth-graders learned about life science by examining the life cycle of plants and organic farm-ing. Sixth-graders used metric measurements to measure and compare. Mad About Science Day was the brainchild of Placer Principal Carolyn Cowles, who has a passion for science and is a self-proclaimed “math and science geek.” “One day a month we put a school-wide emphasis on science. We spend the good portion of the day on direct science instruction on concepts, then students apply what they’ve learned,” Cowles said. Cowles said the young learners have to tap “into the depth of their knowledge” and “stretch their brains.” She said that before an experiment, they have to form a hypothesis or prediction on what will happen. Then, the junior scientists test their hypotheses with experiments. She said it’s not impor-tant if their hypothesis is correct or not. She explained the goal is for students to improve their “critical-thinking skills” – their ability to analyze, evaluate and put the information they have together to test new ideas. Cowles said each trimester will culminate with various grades having their own mini, science fairs at school.