Cub Run Elementary third-grader Kyle Grabulis placed a handful of tiny, plastic bears in a miniature boat in a tub of water. He then watched eagerly to see if they'd stay afloat.
"It's to give the students the idea of buoyancy and surface area," explained Air Force Maj. Scott Diezman, an NRO volunteer helping out recently during the school's 12th annual Math/Science Carnival. (The NRO is Cub Run's business partner).
"They build a boat out of aluminum foil and predict how many toy bears it will hold before it sinks," he continued. "Then they use plastic boats and learn about the importance of weight distribution, too."
Kyle was among all 614 Cub Run students wending through six activity stations in the cafeteria during the three-day event. "I learned that a flatter-surface boat with a bigger area worked best," he said. "It was good because I got to get my hands wet, and I liked putting the bears in the boat."
FOURTH-GRADE teacher Barbara Smith coordinated the event and praised the invaluable help of the parent and NRO volunteers. "We're fortunate to have such a good, supportive community," she said.
Instead of working on science-fair projects, said Smith, "We like more hands-on activities, and we change the specific activities, each year. It's the discovery method, and sixth-graders work one-on-one mentoring kindergartners."
"She puts a lot of energy into this," said parent Brenda Conrad. "She does a wonderful job." Conrad manned the Buried Treasure station where children learned which items are and aren't attracted to magnets.
"We teach them that, once an object is attached to a magnet, the magnet's flow continues and the object that wasn't originally magnetized — for example, a nail — now is and can pick up a screw," she said. "The kids think this part is totally awesome."
Conrad said the math/science carnival is terrific because "kids learn more from hands-on experience than from lectures." At her station, she said, they also discovered what's metal and what's not.
Students experimented with ping pong balls, rubber bands, pencils, twist ties, keys, screws, dimes, batteries, pennies and paper clips. Said Conrad: "The key was silver, but wasn't metal, so it couldn't be picked up by the magnet. This surprised them."
Third-graders Rachel Keller and Haley Koeninger thought the whole thing was neat. "It's really fun, because we can find metal," said Haley. "We learned that, if there's something metal, it'll stick to the magnet." Added Rachel: "I liked working with the magnets."
Standing by a row of computers, parent Heather Huling guided students at the Stained Glass Windows station. "They're experimenting with dimension and animation," she explained. "They select a color to fill in certain shapes and then they design a stained-glass window. And they can use a kaleidoscope feature to animate the design."
"It's fun because you can go into different colors and make your design move," said Alex Cole, 8. "I'm learning that I might want to be an artist when I grow up." He said the math/science carnival was "cool, because it's sort of like recess. And you're doing things, instead of just sitting down and reading a book."
At the Calculator vs. Pencil station, students had to add up the prices of items — using a pencil and using a calculator — and determine which was faster. "Sometimes, the tool may or may not be a better thing," said NRO volunteer Rad Robb. "These kids may not be as adept at using a calculator, yet, and don't yet depend upon it," he said. "But they're pretty quick in their heads."
He said he enjoyed lending a hand at Cub Run. "It's good to get away from the desk and meetings and help kids out," said Robb. "I'm interested in math and science, and this encourages kids to be interested in them, too. And this way, they see beyond their day-to-day work."
PARENT VOLUNTEER Daniel Tsung said students found out "they're using their brain better and faster than the calculator. I was surprised. I thought the calculator would be faster." Third-grader Amber Kalaf, 8 1/2, said the pencil was quicker and "easier to use." Classmate Jessica Barrow, 9, liked "getting to do different things at each station."
At the Fingerprints table, students made thumbprints and examined the differences in the ridges. They also brushed black powder over their prints and learned that it's the same way the police and FBI find fingerprints on objects.
"We put them in ink and see which pattern it matches — whorl, arch or loop," said Meredith Wingo, 9. "Mine was a whorl." She then powdered her thumb and held a cup so that her thumb would leave a print on it. "It was cool because you got to see what your thumbprint actually looked like," she said.
At the Mirrors/Symmetry station, students placed small mirrors above alphabet letters to see which ones, such as A, O, M and X, were symmetrical. They then created symmetrical words. "I was surprised that only capital letters are symmetrical," said Zachary Gore, 9. Meanwhile, Greg De Peri, 9, said the whole event was great because he wants to someday be a scientist "and this helps me get better skills."