Discovering the fun of science

Hands-on, interactive activities include the entire family

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“I enjoy seeing parents getting into the activity as much as their child, trying to figure out how something works.”

— Darcy Hickey, Cape Horn-Skye Elementary School teacher

Nearly 700 Cape Horn-Skye Elementary students, parents, staff and volunteers explored hands-on science activities at Family Science Night.

“My goal for science night was for families to enjoy science together,” said teacher and event organizer, Darcy Hickey. “Kids are natural scientists. You ask a kindergartener if they like science and most will tell you ‘yes’ because that is their world. They are so curious and explore things daily, trying to figure out how things work.”

Activities centered around chemistry experiments, physics activities and engineering family challenges.

“Students and parents worked together on projects such as making lava lamps, creating silly putty, solving engineering problems as a team and blowing up balloons through a chemical reaction.

Oregon Museum of Science and Industry was on hand with their OMSI Centers learning stations and the Reptile Man brought crates of snakes, lizards and turtles to be seen and touched. The evening also included displays of fifth-grade science projects, free fruit smoothies and a bake sale.

"I enjoy seeing parents getting into the activity as much as their child, trying to figure out how something works."

-- Darcy Hickey, Cape Horn-Skye Elementary School teacher

Cindy Coons, kindergarten teacher, helped organize the “Engineering Challenge,” portion of the evening.

The challenge involved families taking apart and reassembling six ink pens. They did this three different times. The first time they disassembled and assembled any way they wanted to while being timed. The second time, they were given an opportunity to discuss ways to become more efficient with their time and were asked to use an assembly line technique with each family member given a specific task they had to carry out. The third time, participants were again given time to discuss how to increase their efficiency while decreasing their time, but they still had to use the assembly line technique with each family member given a specific task.

Each family that went through this experiment improved their time, and it was really rewarding to see them talking and strategizing on how to decrease their time as well as increase their efficiency.

The winning family was able to disassemble and assemble the pens in 43 seconds.

According to Hickey, there were many people who helped make the evening a success, including the Boosters, and most of the teaching and classified staff who volunteered that night.

“I did not let anyone volunteer who has school-age kids, so they could be out enjoying science with their family,” Hickey said.

Third-grader Connor McCormick, his twin sister Gabby and dad, John, enjoyed the night of science.

“I’m always up to try new experiences,” Connor said. “And this was really fun!”

The week of the event Hickey had numerous parents jump in to help organize supplies.

“There is no way we could hold such an event without everyone’s help,” she said. “So many parents donated supplies. This community is amazing. You present a need and they step up and fill it.”

Hickey has hosted annual Family Science Nights, starting when she first taught at Gause Elementary School in Washougal. Last year she asked Mary Lou Woody, Cape Horn-Skye principal, if she could do one for the entire school.

Presenting science in a fun way to younger students is an important step in instilling a love of science, Hickey noted.

“As students get further along, science work becomes more complicated with more reading and tests,” she said. “That can really turn a student off to what science truly is about. You can’t just read about science, or perform experiments or activities that teachers design where students just follow the steps and do what they’re told. Science should be about exploration, solving real world problems, figuring things out on their own.”

Hickey’s favorite part of the evening was the engineering activities.

“I love seeing parents getting into the activity as much as their child, trying to figure out how something works,” she said.

According to Hickey, engineering allows students to fail.

“At Science Night, it’s not about getting the ‘right’ answers; it’s about trying and trying again,” she said. “Failure is key. You can’t teach students how to be perseverant without first teaching them how to fail. I think that these engineering activities at our event allow children to see their parents fail, try again, fail, try again, and they begin to see that this is a part of life, even when you’re an adult.”