Science club offers students hands-on experience
GALENA — Building rockets and rafts, or learning about fish and 3-D printers are activities not out of the ordinary on Wednesday evenings at Galena Elementary School. The GALES Science Club, now in its third year, offers students of all ages the opportunity to explore the concepts they learn about in their science classes, but in a more hands-on atmosphere. The club was founded by parents Sam and Sarah Merrell, whose children have since graduated from GALES, along with teacher Tracy Hodge. The club began as an after-school extracurricular club. It now meets from 6:30 to 8 p.m. every Wednesday during the school year. This year, the reins have been passed on to parents Aaron Capp and Kenneth Walters. Both have been involved in the club for two years. “We meet almost every Wednesday night until late spring. On average, we have about 15 to 20 young people participating each week,” Hodge said. “Students come and go as they see fit.” Previous meetings have included a visit from falconer Molly Bryden, who brought a red-tailed hawk with her. In the same meeting, Nancy Martin, president of the Kent County Bird Club, also paid a visit to ready the club for an excursion to Turner’s Creek, where students identified 20 species of birds in an hour. Hodge said subjects range from computer science to astronomy and even concrete design. What subject is taught depends on who is available to come in and share knowledge with the students. Hodge joins Capp and Walters Sundays or Mondays to discuss a flexible lesson plan for the students who attend the Wednesday evening club meetings. “I think our initiative is an example of collaboration on a large scale in Kent County. The school, which I represent, the parents, the children and the larger community come together so that kids can engage in fun, inspiring science activities every week,” Hodge said. “’It takes a village,’ as they say. Kent County’s resources grow exponentially when people pull together.” Capp said one of the biggest benefits of the club is giving students the opportunity to explore all types of sciences. The club provides exposure at a young age to
science and software that Capp said he did not learn about until he entered high school. “It’s educational and a fun thing to do,” Walters said. “When it’s fun, it keeps kids coming back to learn more.” Walters said usually about 10 to 15 students and their parents stay for the full meeting. The only times attendance decreases are before sports end in the summer and when they start in the spring. Capp said the club also gives parents the opportunity to learn about what their children are studying. For the March 7 meeting, about 10 children gathered to learn about fish with the Department of Natural Resources’s “Hooked on Fishing” lesson. The DNR’s Susan Sanger led the club. Students learned about the different parts of fish and how to use those features to tell species apart. They also learned how native fish have evolved to fit the environment on the Eastern Shore. After a lesson in fish anatomy, the students were divided into groups that participated in activities such as learning how to use a fishing rod. They even dissected some of the fish Sanger brought with her. Sanger taught the students about what working for the DNR involves while also showing the insides of a fish. The dissection was a hit with most of the students with some taking a fascination with the fish’s eyes while others were not overly thrilled with the smell. Hodge said the group shows the willingness for organizations to collaborate with public schools as well as parents’ willingness to be involved in their children’s education. “This is a committed group that cares about their children and it is truly a joy to be a part of it,” Hodge said.
Ben Hinton watches as Susan Sanger, left, dissects a fish as part the Galena Elementary School Science Club’s “Hooked on Fishing” lesson March 7.
Galena Science Club students learn about cement by making their own. After the cement dried, the students tested how much weight their mixture could hold.