Cool science

Enrichment classes combine learning with fun, hands-on activities

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Mad Science of Portland & Vancouver provides kids' science classes in Oregon and Southwest Washington. Mad Science workshops include enrichment programs at schools, Girl Scout programs, birthday parties, corporate events, churches, parks and recreations centers, community centers, libraries, summer camps and day care facilities. Interactive science workshops can be customized for any venue.

The next series of Mad Science classes begins Wednesday, March 4 through Camas Community Education and in April for Washougal Community Education. For more information, visit www.camacommunityed.org or www.washougal.k12.wa.us/wcer.

Mad Science of Portland & Vancouver provides kids’ science classes in Oregon and Southwest Washington. Mad Science workshops include enrichment programs at schools, Girl Scout programs, birthday parties, corporate events, churches, parks and recreations centers, community centers, libraries, summer camps and day care facilities. Interactive science workshops can be customized for any venue.

The next series of Mad Science classes begins Wednesday, March 4 through Camas Community Education and in April for Washougal Community Education. For more information, visit www.camacommunityed.org or www.washougal.k12.wa.us/wcer.

Lindsay Rogers, or “Kid Nature,” as she is known, hands each group of students a box with several items, including land line phones.

“Can you text on this?” a student asks.

“How do we make it work?” another said.

It’s early release Wednesday in Washougal and Camas, and several elementary school students are participating in Mad Science, a popular after-school class offered through each school district’s Community Education office.

Rogers, a Mad Science instructor, patiently listens to the students’ questions.

“We are focused on communication today,” she says. “You need to figure out how to connect these phones using a power source, phone jack and some cords.”

Rogers has a degree in microbiology and has worked with the Mad Science organization since April. She also manages its Portland warehouse.

“I just really enjoy science and teaching the kids,” she said.

Kathy Douglas-Evans, Washougal Community Education coordinator, notes that Mad Science classes offer a wide range of topics and include a take-home science project.

The classes are typically very popular among children and often have a waiting list. Additionally, they meet national and state science curriculum standards.

“It sparks the imagination of children,” Douglas-Evans said. “The classes are fun, inquiry-based, hands-on programs that cover a wide range of science topics. The instructors are trained and highly qualified, and have professional lesson plans, unique equipment and original materials.”

Camas Community Education has offered Mad Science courses since 2009.

“It is very popular,” said Mary Weishaar, community education director. “Our classes generally fill up and we have waiting lists.”

The hour-long courses are typically themed around a particular area of science such as rocketry, magnets, polymers, science toys or molecules.

In Camas, instructor Julie Meleski, “Professor Richter,” talks to students about the different states of matters, notably how dry ice can turn from a solid into a gas without first becoming liquid.

“That’s sublimation,” she said. “That is a really big word I want you to learn.”

She said her goal is to get as many children interested in science as possible.

“I like getting the kids excited about it,” Meleski said. “If you get them involved, then we will have more scientists someday.”

Aubrey Schultz, a first-grader at Dorothy Fox Elementary, is taking her second series of Mad Science classes.

“Last time, we got to make our very own slides,” she said. “I am going to be a scientist when I grow up so I want to learn more.”

Emma Sadewasser, a fourth-grader at Dorothy Fox, enjoys anything science related.

“I just think it is really cool,” she said. “That is why I wanted to take the class.”

Reef Kjerting, a third-grader at Grass Valley Elementary, said he was looking forward to “everything” about the class.

“The last one was pretty fun,” he said. “I don’t want to be a scientist but I enjoy doing that stuff every once in awhile.”

Getting students engaged in fun, hands-on activities and discovering the “fun” behind science is what it is all about, noted Weishaar.

“It excites them about science and STEM (concepts),” she said. “It’s imaginative learning and gives students a chance to see how cool science can be.”

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