Hands-on projects make science fun for kids

Youngsters work in teams to construct ‘robots’ using a plastic cup, some tape, four felt markers, a battery and insulated wires during a ‘Go! Science’ workshop at the Martensville library on Friday, August 10

Science is a blast!

That was the consensus of about 30 youngsters participating in the “Go! Science” workshop at the Martensville Library on Friday, August 10.

Kelsey Paton and Vivian Heinrichs, two university students hired by the Saskatchewan Science Centre in Regina for the summer to conduct Go! Science workshops across the province, brought their entertaining brand of education to several communities in the region this week, including Martensville, Langham, Aberdeen, Waldheim, Duck Lake and Rosthern.

“It’s fun for the kids, and it’s even more fun for us,” said Heinrichs. “We get to hang out with a bunch of really neat kids and make science cool.

“Plus we get to see the province,” she added. “It’s beautiful. I didn’t realize it was so big until we drove to all these places.”

Youngsters from Kindergarten to Grade 6 learned about electrical currents by making their own “robots” using a battery and a small electric motor, some insulated wire, a plastic cup and four felt markers. When the electrical circuit was connected, the “robots” moved on their own and the tracks left on paper by the felt markers created unique artwork that the kids took home after the workshop.

Other hands-on exercises helped the youngsters understand the fundamentals of chromatography, of building a solid structure that won’t collapse under pressure, and the basic functions of the body’s digestive system.

Physics, biology, and chemistry: that’s a tall order to cram into a three-hour post-graduate university symposium, let alone a children’s workshop.

“Yeah, we don’t waste a lot of time,” said Paton. “We’re pretty efficient and we move things along quick. It keeps the kids from getting bored, that’s for sure.”

Paton and Heinrichs, both university students majoring in a branch of the sciences, have been on the road with the Science Centre program since early May.

“In May and June, we do workshops in classrooms that are more geared toward the curriculum,” said Paton. “When you have a bunch of kids all the same age, the workshops focus on one or two specific topics.

Kelsey Paton (left) and Vivian Heinrichs conduct a Go! Science workshop at the Martensville Library on Friday, August 10

“But in July and August, when there’s a bigger range of ages, we try and keep it more general and throw in more activities using ordinary household materials.”

Heinrichs said the goal is to stimulate children’s interest in science and encourage them to pursue it on their own.

“The best way to do that is to make it relevant, to relate it to things they know, like superheroes,” she said. “We take things we know kids are interested in and show them another side of it. Once they see that it’s fun, they light up and have a good time; and they come away with a different perspective.”

Paton said teaching the workshops over the past four months has helped her own understanding of scientific principles and concepts.

“They always say you don’t know something until you can teach it,” said Paton. “The toughest section for me was electricity. My dad’s an electrician, and for the first couple weeks I was calling him on the phone and getting him to help me out. But I’ve got it down pat now.”

Martensville head librarian Marla Skomar said this is the second year the Go! Science workshop has been held in Martensville.

“It’s a great opportunity for the kids to do science, and it ties in with our summer reading program theme very well,” she said. “The theme this year is “Geeking Out” – and it’s aimed at science-type stuff.”

Skomar said the Martensville branch hit 500 registrants this month, the most ever for its summer reading program.

The library is busy all summer,” she said.