'Mad Scientists' take over school gym

Silver Ridge Elementary teachers work as
Silver Ridge Elementary teachers work as 'mad scientists' during a family night at the school. The pair taught students about static electricity by rubbing balloons on wool.
— image credit: Seraine Page

There's no better way to prepare for a science fair than to practice, practice, practice.

On Jan. 16 during Family Night, the Silver Ridge Elementary gymnasium turned science lab for students allowed for early experimentation for the upcoming science fair.

"I think it's a good education piece because it's leading up to the Washington State Science Fair," said Dawn Thompson, family night chairperson. "It's our goal to get the kids to participate at the school and at the district and state level. We're hoping to produce the next Albert Einstein."

Students were invited to participate in at least four labs with the incentive of a cupcake after completion. For the overly curious, two additional labs were available. Parents and students crowded around every table to learn something from the 'mad scientist' teachers in white lab coats. Each had a parent assistant to help along the way.

"Wanna play with some germs?" one parent volunteer asked.

Immediately, every student at the table stuck out their hands for a squirt of lotion. After rolling their hands in glitter, which acted as "germs," students were given various ways to rid of it, including baby wipes.

Ultimately, students were sent off to scrub their hands with soap and water for 20 seconds. Lesson learned? Clean hands keep germs and sickness away.

Jonah Jellison, 9, enjoyed inflating balloons with baking soda and vinegar.

"I really enjoyed that," he said. When asked why he thought science was important, Jellison remarked, "so we can do cool things like go to the moon."

Thinking about the experiments of the night, Jellison said discovering new things was exciting for him.

"Being able to discover new things and do experiments -- even if they go wrong -- you can still have fun with them most of the time," he said.

He wasn't alone in his observation.

Through trial and error, students discover new ways of doing experiments and doing them better, said fourth grade teacher Julie Dammarell.

"I love it," she said. "They try and persevere to get it to work."

Dammarell worked with students on learning about static electricity by rubbing balloons against their heads, wool and other textured items. She even learned a thing or two from students, she said.

"I think what else is really cool is we have whole families coming out and learning together," Dammarell said.

If they weren't looking over their child's shoulder, parents stayed busy snapping photos of their student with balloons sticking to their heads.

Leslie Lukas stood back while her children worked on their experiments, observing their excitement and wonder.

"Both of them are into science. They didn't know about static electricity, so they were pretty excited about that," she said. "I like them to have fun, but if they're learning at the same time, that's a bonus."

While having fun was the goal, other students were thinking far into the future about how science would benefit them.

"I think it's enjoyable," said Hayden Thompson, a Silver Ridge fourth grader. "You can teach other people what you know so you can get a good college degree and get a great job."

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