Budding scientists get serious at Siersma

By: Maria Allard | Warren Weekly | Published November 10, 2015


WARREN — Sitting at tables inside the Siersma Elementary School cafeteria on the afternoon of Nov. 3, the intersessions students got busy on their experiments.

Wearing lab coats and working in teams, they lined up their rulers and magnifying glasses to measure the length and width of several gummy bears.

Once they jotted down the measurements in their science journals, the students placed their gummy bears in vinegar, tap water, baking soda and salt water. The “Yummy Gummy Bear Experiment” would determine if the candy would change in the different solutions over a period of time. It did. Some bears grew a little bigger, others shrunk, and some lost a bit of their coloring.

During the week of Nov. 2, 37 students from Siersma and Holden elementary schools attended intersessions while the year-round calendar was on break. Science was the theme.

This is the third school year for the year-round program in Warren Consolidated Schools. While the students were on break, district officials offered the intersessions program from 8:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. Mondays through Fridays.

“It’s a hands-on enrichment and intervention opportunity to learn through doing,” intersessions teacher leader Michele Babbish said. “Our hope is that this additional time of exploration and application will increase their motivation and interest for this topic in particular. We have been able to spend more time on vocabulary and provide real-world experiences. They can apply things they see in everyday life.” 

Although students are not graded during the intersessions, the curriculum they learn during the school year is reinforced. Students are surveyed about what they would like to study during intersessions. Teachers also have input in the themes.

“Science is always a big interest,” said Babbish, who during the school year teaches a first- and second-grade split class. “It’s hands-on experiences and it’s engaging.”

Most of the students came from Siersma and a few from Holden. The younger students were paired up with an older student who served as their mentor.

Siersma teachers Carrie Blake-Gatson and Ginger Krzeminski and student teacher Samantha Farthing had plenty of science-related activities ready. For each experiment, the students had to come up with their own hypothesis of what they thought might happen.

The students, for instance, completed biography reports on different scientists. With cornstarch, water and food coloring, the students also made Oobleck, which contains properties of both a solid and a liquid. In another experiment, staff and students placed an ear of corn in the microwave to watch the corn pop. On Nov. 4, the students enjoyed a field trip to the Michigan Science Center in Detroit.

“We’ve always had a good turnout,” Babbish said. “Parents trust us. Kids want to come, and we’re seeing the benefits of that extra time.”

“It’s great. You get to do really fun activities,” said fifth-grader Owen McGuinness, who attended with his twin brother, Sean McGuinness. “If I could rate it one to five stars, I’d rate it a five.”

“We’re learning about how to make stuff,” fifth-grade student Nathan Weingust said. “They have really good activities.”

The older students also liked being role models for the younger kids.

“It’s pretty good,” said Sean McGuinness. “We’re teaching them.”