Exploring science

OMSI festival includes hands-on, interactive demonstrations

Whether it was constructing a dinosaur skeleton, “digging” for fossils or exploring how magnets worked, there was plenty to do at the OMSI Science Festival at Hathaway Elementary School.

More than 250 children and their caregivers came out to the last free summer event at the school, which was one of five held during July and August. In addition, children up to age 18 could eat a free lunch in the Hathaway cafeteria as a part of the school’s summer lunch program.

Keegan Schroeder, 9, of Vancouver, kept busy with the spinning discs, while dad, Tim, looked on.

“I really like it,” Keegan said. “It’s a lot of fun.”

Added Tim, “This is awesome for kids and really cool.”

It is the first year of the summer programs, which have included visits from Reptile Man, the Oregon Coast Aquarium, Jugglemania, Smarty Pants Theatre Program and OMSI. “OMSI filled the gym with interested and engaged community families,” said Lisa Young, early learning technician for Washougal Community Education. “We definitely plan to continue this outreach of enrichment activities to the public each summer.”

She added that the activities support the “Community Visioning” component of the Washougal School District.

“Families from throughout the area benefit from these educational events that bring a variety of people and multi-generations together,” Young said.

The events are funded through a public-private partnership, which includes local churches and the Community Foundation of Southwest Washington, which also supports the district’s “Ready, Set, Kindergarten,” summer school program.

Overall, feedback from the summer programs has been positive.

“Families are excited to know these events are available in their own community,” she said.

Krissy Barlow of Washougal is one of them.

“I think this is excellent,” she said. “We’ve never been in a school district that offered this. It’s really nice, especially on hot days, to come here to the air conditioning and spend some time inside.”

Her son, Jared, 7, kept busy constructing a dinosaur skeleton.

“It’s pretty fun,” he said. “I really like science and building stuff.”

The greatest benefit of offering these free events is that those who might otherwise not have the opportunity to travel to Portland and Newport, Ore., to see the attractions, can do so in their own community, according to Young.

“The events are varied in theme and offer ‘hands on,’ engaging learning for students and parents together,” she said. “These reinforce that learning is interesting, fun and exciting.”