The cafeteria at Verity Middle School was either a playground or a laboratory — or both, judging by the students who were there Tuesday evening.
Some of them were bouncing balls and predicting how high they would go. Others were twisting pipe cleaners around popsicle sticks to make balancing gizmos.
Still others were making tops out of sticks, paper discs and pennies.
Fiddling around with the contraptions was the fun part. At the same time, they were learning some science principles: inertia with the tops, center of gravity with the balancing toys, potential and kinetic energy with the balls.
The idea behind Verity’s first Family Science Night was to make science fun and show students that there are rules of physics governing every move they make and every toy they play with, said Lisa Wallin, a curriculum coach at the school.
Not incidentally, it also was part of Verity’s plan to keep parents involved with their children’s education into the middle school years. Seventh-graders and their parents were the target.
For some reason, Wallin said, parents tend to back away from school participation once their kids get to seventh grade. “We have a lot of trouble with parent involvement,” she said.
One parent who appeared to be engaged with the activities was Michelle Adkins, whose son, Shawn, is a seventh-grader. Shawn said he doesn’t care all that much for science, even though he is an A student in the subject.
His mother, on the other hand, said: “It’s cool. I’m interested.”
Cheryl Stamper attended with her son, Joshua Miller, who is in seventh grade. The activities would appeal to Joshua’s style of curiosity, she figured. “He just likes to explore. That’s what science does, it lets you use your imagination,” she said.
Eighth-graders Jordan Steele and Montana Sparks were there to help explain some of the activities to their younger schoolmates. Using toys for teaching works, Jordan said. “It’s almost like something clicks. It makes doing experiments fun.”
The night’s activities stemmed from a program called “Teaching with Toys” sponsored by Marathon Petroleum. Wallin and other area teachers attended a workshop where they learned to use everyday items to teach chemistry and physics.
MIKE JAMES can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (606) 326-2652.