Sci­ence club of­fers stu­dents hands-on ex­pe­ri­ence

Kent County News - - FRONT PAGE - By LEANN SCHENKE lschenke@thekent­coun­tynews.com

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.

PHOTO BY LEANN SCHENKE

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.

CON­TRIB­UTED PHOTO

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.

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