Mad about science

Published 9:22 pm Monday, November 7, 2011

From left, second-grader William Parker, first-grader Owen Rawls and third-grader Evan Rawls put together a cube using balls and rods, only to knock it down, as an experiment with force at Nansemond Parkway Elementary School’s Mad Science club Monday.

Pinching a piece of twisted aluminum foil between their fingers, second-graders Kasidy Boldizar and Myah Yancey pulled as hard as they could in opposite directions.

As the foil ripped in half, they tripped backward, having to catch themselves.

The girls had overestimated the amount of force it would take to break the foil.

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They tried the experiment again, using other materials — cotton, paper, raw spaghetti and string covered in wax.

Through their experimentation, Kasidy and Myah found the wax string was the strongest, because it could withstand force the best.

Force is just one of the many concepts the girls and 33 other Nansemond Parkway Elementary School students are going to learn about in the Mad Science club – a new after-school activity for first- through fifth-graders.

“It’s a really great program,” said Rachel Chegini, the second vice president for the school’s PTA. “It’s fun, hands-on learning.”

During the next six weeks, the students will meet once a week after school to learn new concepts and see how they work.

The PTA set up the program, and the Hampton Roads branch of Mad Science, a Montreal-based company that focuses on delivering hands-on science experiences for children, is running the program.

The group does after-school programs, summer camps, preschool programs, in-class workshops and birthday parties.

Although Mad Science has gone to schools in other Hampton Roads cities, Nansemond Parkway is the first school in Suffolk to get the experience.

Chegini said the PTA has been working for a year to get Mad Science as an after-school activity at Nansemond Parkway after the group did a presentation for the entire school.

“We worked really hard with Mad Science and the school administrators to bring it here,” she said.

PTA president Barbara Sinclair said she was thrilled with the response they got when they asked for students to sign-up.

“It’s great that we got this turnout,” she said. “This is something to help supplement what they are learning in school.”

Sinclair said she wants to do another session of the program in the spring.

Jennifer Marcus, the marketing director Mad Science Hampton Roads, said the programs are designed to get elementary schoolers excited about science.

The group has a variety of themed programs, but the students at Nansemond Parkway are participating in “Funky Forces and More,” which focuses on physical science and covers concepts such as air pressure and aerodynamics.

Marcus said the principles that students learn cover several of the Standards of Learning for science, and even if the student hasn’t covered a certain topic yet, the lesson will prepare him.

“They are kind of getting a sneak peek of things they are going to do later in school,” she said.

Through the lessons, which all include hands-on experimentation, Marcus said, she hopes the students can gain an appreciation and love of science that will stay with them in middle and high school, where science isn’t always as interactive.

“We know not all students are going to be scientists, but maybe some of them will,” she said. “We can show these students that science is fun.”