Science made fun for elementary kids

Published 9:26 pm Saturday, April 14, 2007

On Friday from 8:30 to noon a whistle blew, a homemade cannon roared every four minutes at Nicholson Elementary, wooden cars with rubber band engines raced, glass bottles defied gravity, the smell of vinegar permeated a corner of the cafeteria turned into Science Project City. What these things had in common were simple science concepts. Simple, but oh so priceless when they promote science as fun and understandable to elementary students.

Dr. John Hunt, professor at Mississippi College in Clinton for 48 years and his wife, Cathy, who was a school principal for many years began this 15 years ago and it’s still making an impact in the lives of children. They touch the lives of 4,000 students every year. He teaches Teacher Science, middle school and elementary, at the college. He and Cathy have been to schools all over Texas, Louisiana and Mississippi.

They use a simple concept that incorporates volunteer high school students, parents, grandmonthers, aunts, and anyone else who has a vested interest in the science education of the children to facilitate science principles in simple projects.

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Groups of three and four students line up at several science stations. A whistle blows signaling the beginning of the round. Every four minutes the whisle blows and that means each group moves to the next station. At the end of three hours every child has visited every station and hopefully learned a practical science concept at each station. Each facilitator asks a question or two to make sure the children understand the concept being taught.

“P.E.A.R.L is a workbook designed by me and 100 graduate students over a five year period,” Hunt said. It stands for Providing Engaging Activities for Real Learning, Science for Children grades three through eight. It includes video discs produced by our own Billy Edwards of Picayune. The videos show in detail how to set up each science project, and what concept is being learned.

The lessons build upon each other, and incorporate and utilize language arts, social studies, drama, health, child literature, math, music, P.E. and technical attributes which is called scaffolding in education training lingo.

It was originally developed to motivate kids to not just learn science, but to have fun learning. The goal is to motivate them to want to learn more, to understand that science isn’t as hard as they think it is, and to motivate the teachers to explore exciting ways to present science concepts to their students.

The Fair turned into a family effort at Nicholson because Maureen Politz’s, Nicholson’s teacher to gifted students, sister and mother were manning science stations. Hunt said everyone was encouraged to particpate in the event regardless of relationship..