Stonewall opens doors, minds on Interactive Science Night
Author: Tammy L. Lane • First Posted: Wednesday, May 21, 2014
At Stonewall Elementary, the PTA’s annual Interactive Science Night offered a chance to step up and smell the formaldehyde, feel the torch’s heat and the tornado’s fury, and empathize with baby sea turtles. “We bring in experts in their field so kids can be hands-on with science,” said PTA mom Julie Beck, who organized the event.
The “Animal CSI” exhibit in the school’s music room drew curious kids and parents interested in veterinary science. Formalin-fixed specimens laid out on several tables included a 2-foot alligator, a cutaway of a horse’s head showing a facial deformity, goat fetuses and jars of heartworms and other parasites, to name a few. “These are things they might have read about in books but have never actually seen in person,” said Dr. Uneeda Bryant of the University of Kentucky’s Veterinary Diagnostic Laboratory, adding, “The main point is to expose the kids to a nontraditional career path.”
Career planning might not have been the priority for a pair of second-graders who attended that evening because “People just love science,” as Reese Jeter put it. “You get to study lots of stuff like bones and rocks,” she explained. Her neighbor Lynley Wathen was also eager to see what Stonewall had lined up since she recently visited a science museum in Louisville.
The girls were not disappointed. Nearly 20 sessions hummed simultaneously as groups and individuals rotated among classrooms and the gym. Topics ranged from how insects impact modern society (think video games and popular movies) to how water is filtered for safe drinking and how robots can improve lives. Science teacher Kim Sponcil, leading the “Turtle Hurdles” session, shared how people can help sea turtles survive after they hatch on the beach.
Down another hallway, students took turns sticking their hands into a tall, vertical machine that demonstrated how a tornado spins. Staff from LFUCG’s division of Emergency Management also touched on other types of hazardous weather, such as lightning and dangerous thunderstorms. “Part of our charge is community education. Preparedness is everybody’s responsibility,” said presenter Steve Jackson, who touted the usefulness of a weather radio and family disaster plan.
Beck’s husband, Matt, was among several engineers from UK’s Department of Chemical and Materials Engineering who set up experiments showing how properties can change from liquid to solid to brittle to bouncy, for instance. In one demonstration, they used a torch to melt a narrow glass tube. As a drop fell into a beaker of water, the material cooled quickly and solidified. They then exploded the so-called tadpole tail in a small glass jar by applying manual pressure that created an imbalance of forces. “The world we live in is made of materials. We think they’re fixed, but they’re not,” Beck said. “You can control how materials behave.”
Julie Beck said fellow parents who drop in on Interactive Science Night enjoy the activities, too. “It’s as fascinating for them as it is for the kids,” she said. “Science is fun. When you talk about science, there’s such a wide range available to encourage our students.”