Archive for Thursday, September 21, 2006

Mad science

Students learn importance of teamwork

September 21, 2006

Elementary students in the Basehor-Linwood school district have an opportunity to spend their afternoons with mad scientists.

The Kansas City franchise of Mad Science, a science enrichment program for children based out of Montreal, Canada, is run by president and owner, Bill Wei and about a dozen other instructors. They offer their services at after-school programs, school assemblies, summer camps and birthday parties.

"The time to get kids interested in science is in the pre-teen years," Wei said. "We want to just spark their imaginations."

This is the fifth year the Kansas City franchise of Mad Science has been teaching and entertaining elementary school children in the Basehor-Linwood district. All three elementary schools in the district offer the hourlong after-school program. Parents can choose to pay a fee for their child to participate in the program, which is offered once a week during two, five- to eight-week sessions throughout the school year. Students are broken up into a primary group made up of first- and second-graders and an intermediate group of third-, fourth- and fifth-graders.

"The schools in this area have been really good supporters of the business," Wei said. "We really see that the parents in this area view science as important and that's really great."

Students at Basehor Elementary School enjoyed their second week of Mad Science Tuesday afternoon. Wei focused the primary group on electricity in one room while another instructor, "Tectonic" Tony Lawson, engaged the intermediate group in earth science experiments in another room.

"What is the smallest particle that we know?" Wei asked the students. "It starts with an A."

The students quickly answered, "atom" as Wei set up plasma balls in front of the each group of students. Students made observations and hypotheses about how the plasma ball worked and tested different objects against the plasma ball to see which conducted electricity and which did not.

Later, the students created electric circuits with batteries and wires. Their goal was to light a light bulb and sound a small buzzer simultaneously. They found that working together as a team helped them achieve their goal much faster.

"How many of you found that working together was better?" Wei asked. "That's like a lot of things in life. Teamwork is better."

Students in "Tectonic" Tony's room worked on identifying minerals through tests, such as the color of a streak that the mineral left on a white piece of tile and if it could be scratched with a fingernail or a penny.

"You guys have been doing the work of geologists," Lawson said.

Fourth-grade teacher Cyndi Kenton said the Mad Science experiments are an extension of what the students will learn in the classroom during a regular school day.

"It gets kids excited about science and they have fun with it," she said.

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