Pacific Science Center visits Discovery Elementary

May 4, 2014

By Neil Pierson

New May 4, 3:16 p.m.

Students in the Eagle Club at Discovery Elementary School aren’t just set loose to play before and after school – they’re also given time to work on the same academic skills they practice in the classroom.
As part of the Eagle Club philosophy, students got a visit April 23 from Pacific Science Center instructor Nicolette Neumann, who brought lessons from the center’s Science on Wheels program.
Science on Wheels has been operating for roughly 40 years, Neumann explained, ever since the 1973 gasoline crisis forced the science center to change its educational model.
“Rather than having schools come to the science center for field trips – it was expensive to get buses and gas – the program was developed to go out to the schools and bring field trips to the kids at the schools,” said Neumann, who has been working with the Pacific Science Center for three years.
Science on Wheels runs throughout the school year, she said, and 12-15 staff members travel across Washington, Oregon and Idaho to provide lessons. The lessons are aligned with Washington’s curriculum standards in math and science.
The program has reached more than 1.5 million children and adults over the past decade. A full-day visit to a school includes 30 interactive exhibits at a central location, and up to 15 individual classroom visits from science center instructors.
The subjects are designed for elementary- and middle-school audiences, and include Mathfinder, a lesson involving probabilities and gravity; Space Odyssey, which uses inflatable planetariums to study the qualities of light; and Blood and Guts, an anatomical lesson on human skeletons and skin.
The Eagle Club – one of the before- and after-school care programs at each of the Issaquah School District’s 15 elementary schools – didn’t bring in the full Science on Wheels experience.
Instead, students go to work with Neumann on some scaled-back lessons designed specifically for smaller groups and shorter time periods.
Kindergarteners and first-graders learned about engineering. Neumann showed them photos of different structures – farms, teepees, skyscrapers and football stadiums – and explained that engineers must design a building based on whether they’ll be used for living, playing or working activities.
The students were then given a blueprint and built their own structures from foam blocks and wooden connector pegs. They tested the structures’ strength by shaking it and pushing it, simulating real-world engineering tasks for dealing with high winds and earthquakes.
Students in grades 2-5 learned about gears. Neumann said gears are typically circular and have teeth, and can be found on bikes and cars, and in windmills and turbines.
Students were given hand-held mixers and ice cream scoops and asked to identify how many gears each item had. The scoops were a bit tricky, since one of the two gears looked more like a bike chain.
Gears can help reduce the amount of work people put into a task, Neumann explained to the students.
“You get to put in less effort cooking than if you were whisking by hand,” she said of the hand-held mixers.

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