Choose Your Own Science Adventure
Lower Schoolers explore chemistry and physics with their buddies.
Sounds of delight fill the Lower School during the annual Science Festival. “This is so cool!” “Hey, come try this!” “Bzzzzzzz!”
Held in the fall, the festival is a way for students to explore different aspects of chemistry and physics in a fun environment. Equally important, says Lower School science teacher Sam Frances, is that “everyone is engaged, having fun, trying something new, and learning that they can teach and help each other.”
Older students pair up with younger buddies for the morning and move through the activities as they please. According to Sam, “The whole point of the Science Festival is to give Lower School students a chance to learn and explore with their buddies. The 3rd and 4th graders are so conscientious about making sure the younger students get to explore and have choices.”
Each year, students can try out 12 different activities. Since 2004, Sam has had 43 different activities at the festival. Some, like color chemistry and carbon dioxide rockets, run every year, while others rotate in and out of the lineup.
The activities are designed to encourage students to hypothesize about possible outcomes. For the carbon dioxide rockets, which are powered by a chemical reaction between vinegar and baking soda, students fill one rocket with a lot of vinegar and then a second one with less vinegar. Parent volunteers quiz students about the process, asking them to guess which rocket will fly higher.
Catapults are another crowd-pleaser. Students aim two different balls and see which is easier to launch: a ball made of crumpled up newspaper or a small plastic ball. As one 4th grader discovered, “When you’re using catapults, you want it to be heavier. The heavier it is, the better.”
Some activities focus on individual creativity. Students decorate coffee-filter butterflies to see what happens when the color gets wet, or they craft sculptures out of cornstarch. At another station, students build and decorate kaleidoscopes, learning about mirrors and angles.
Other activities are collaborative efforts. This year, students built aqueducts out of bamboo in the sandbox and, in the Make-It-Work Zone, added onto a ball ramp made from cardboard boxes and materials lying around Lower School.
In addition to being fun, the Science Festival is eco-friendly. Says Sam, “Most of the stuff that students make at the festival are from recycled materials!”
When asked to pick a favorite activity, many students found the carbon dioxide rockets irresistible, because “they exploded and it was fun to catch them!”
A special thanks to the parent volunteers who make each activity run smoothly!