Almost 100 children, ages six and younger, crammed into the Village Green Day School in Great Falls to watch local fathers give hands-on learning demonstrations on magnetism, electricity, gravity and matter at the school’s first ever "Science Night" on Thursday, Nov. 15.
"It was great, it went wonderful and we had a wonderful turnout," said Village Green Day School principal Karen Misener. "We opened it up to, not only the children in the school, but to the community as well."
Organized by curriculum coordinator Paula Shapiro, and run by several Village Green Day School fathers, Science Night was an hour of educational demonstrations on fundamental scientific concepts. The children were introduced to three forces — gravity, magnetism and static electricity — as well as atoms, and three states of matter — solids, liquids and gas. Children ages 3-6 from public and private local schools attended the event with their parents.
"It was very hands-on," said Misener. "And it was so fun that it was the dads volunteering, because most of the time it’s the moms."
The Village Green Day School fathers hailed from Fortune 200 technology companies and leading patent law firms.
"They called themselves the ‘Geek Squad’ and they all had propeller hats," said Diane Oeipzig, Ph.D., Head of School at Village Green Day School.
EACH of the volunteer fathers served as co-leaders of the various learning sessions. The children rotated through four different rooms, participating in hands-on exercises in each one.
"They loved it," said Misener. "They clapped at the end and they didn’t want to leave — and it’s hard at night, especially when you’re dealing with three, four, five and six-year-olds, because they get tired."
The static electricity was one of the most popular demonstrations, and the children were elated when a plastic cup with Styrofoam popcorn pieces inside was placed on top of the Van der Graaff generator, sending the Styrofoam pieces flying all over the room. At the end of the night, the children were instructed to "act like molecules," another activity that was well received.
"The theme is encouraging parents to work together with their children, so it was not just to give the kids an experience with science, but the adults as well," said Oeipzig.
According to Oeipzig, Village Green Day School has made a commitment to increase science education in the classroom, and to encourage parents to incorporate science activities into their daily home life with their children.
"We have ‘Go Green for 15,’ which is for 15 minutes a day, we encourage the kids to explore with scientific material, and also to get out and explore nature," said Oeipzig. "There’s a neat book out there called ‘Last Child in the Woods’ and it talks about ‘Nature Deficit Disorder,’ and this year, since we have a gorgeous four acres of campus, we just want to make sure the kids take advantage of it."