EastpointeAugust 22, 2012
MISD camp links science and literacy with hands-on fun
By Sara Kandel
C & G Staff Writer
EASTPOINTE — It’s summer, but a group of elementary school students sit in a classroom at Pleasantview Elementary School.
The teacher asks a question, and a dozen hands dart up. The kids gathered here like answering questions. Their eyes light up when they know an answer.
They’re a teacher’s dream class — eager to learn, creative and courteous.
“These are all kids that like to learn,” Diane Peters says. “It’s summer, but they all still want to be here. They are choosing to be here learning. It’s wonderful.”
Peters is an East Detroit Public Schools teacher and one of the instructors at Linking Literacy, Science and Our Earth, a three-week summer camp program sponsored by the Macomb Intermediate School District for students entering grades three through six.
The MISD camp mixes reading, writing and technology with science through hands-on experiments and activities.
“A big part of this is learning from experimentation and problem solving,” Peters says. “Today we are doing solar ovens. We did an egg drop yesterday. We did a hot water heater last week. It’s the whole scientific process of making something work. We learn about something, then assist the kids in finding a way to make it work.”
“It’s us guiding them to those aha moments,” says fellow teacher and camp instructor Rachel Taras. “A lot of times we just put stuff out, and we tell them what we want them to do and give them guidelines, and then they have to go try to do it, and they learn through trial and error if it works.”
In the morning, they get a lesson on various science topics ranging from alternative energy to gravity. Each lesson involves a mix of reading, research and writing. Then in the afternoon they apply what they learned to a hands-on experiment like an egg drop or solar powered device.
“When we did the egg drop, we put materials out in front and then put other materials off to the side,” Tara says.
“We didn’t say they couldn’t use the materials on the side, but we wanted to see if they would ask to use it. Watching them get excited and realize that if they did a certain thing it would work better, and then coming to us and asking can we use the stuff over there. It was amazing.”
The kids are excited to show off their various experiments. When they talk about them, they not only explain what they did to make it work, but why they did it.
“Our lunar lander is kind of simple,” 10-year-old Abby Szpara says. “We used marshmallows at the bottom to cushion the landing and added three wings of folded paper held up by straws.”
“The third wing is supposed to make it spin as it lands,” 9-year-old Holden Brozowski adds. “It didn’t really work though. I’m not sure why.”
“We think it’s because our base is a flat square,” Szpara says. “I think if it were a circle or bowl shaped it would spin.”
The students worked in groups of two during each experiment, trying various methods and taking notes until they discovered what rendered the best success.
“We emphasize paying attention to see what works and what doesn’t work and what needs to be changed to make it work better,” Peters explains using the example to the solar ovens the students are currently using to melt smores.
“You take your experiment and you come outside, and you try this and you realize maybe you need more foil or your straws need to be higher. Then you go back inside and make adjustments, and see if they helped. It’s learning through the engineering process. It’s hands-on and it’s fun.”
For the kids though, on this day at camp at least, the real fun starts when their ovens are successful and their reward for hard work is a perfectly melted square of chocolate over a graham cracker with a marshmallow on top.
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