Evansville Science Club offers hands-on learning
EVANSVILLE — The best part of Raimi Liebel and Karac Hanson's hand-washing station was the white bottle of simulated germs they got to squirt onto other students' hands.
"We just gave you germs!" Raimi proudly declared with a big smile after squeezing a dollop of white cream into a student's hand. "That's my favorite line."
The fifth-grade girls continued their presentation by showing the students how germ-filled their hands were with an ultraviolet light in a dark box.
The kids washed their hands with soap and water, then stuck their hands back into the box under the light, where most of them still saw germs light up, particularly around their fingernails.
"You have to be really careful with your fingernails," Raimi said while inspecting one boy's hand. "They can hold a lot of germs."
She questioned students about whether they thought a standard hand wash was good enough for a surgeon or a chef.
Raimi and Karac's station was just one of more than a dozen stations Monday morning at Theodore Robinson Intermediate School's Science Exploration Stations Day in Evansville. The girls are two of 31 fifth-grade students in the science club, which put on the new event.
The club members coached their classmates through the hands-on experiments, meant to inspire and motivate students to experience the scientific process. Third- and fourth-grade students will visit Wednesday, and club members also will set up the experiments Friday night for the city's annual energy fair.
"I did this mainly to get kids interested in science," said parent and science club organizer Cecile David, who has a daughter in the club.
Another goal was getting girls involved, she said, which has been a success. Two-thirds of the club members are girls.
"I hope this is something that keeps them going," she said.
She'll be crossing her fingers after they enter middle school and high school, when students start choosing their own courses.
"I hope they stay with it."
Students at the station staffed by Garrett Townsend and Mitchell Parr crafted aluminum foil boats in an attempt to make a platform that would hold the most pennies in a tub of water without sinking.
They encouraged students to try to beat the record of 200 pennies.
Christina Eagen took on the challenge, forming a rectangular platform that she plunked pennies in one at a time. She hit 100 pennies … then 200 pennies … then the center started giving way as she hit 201. Dumping in three more quickly, she declared "204!" as the platform sunk.
Amidst the frenzy, a teacher wandered back into the room with another four rolls of paper towel. The steady buzz of dozens of students turned to silence only for a few seconds when a balloon popped across the room.
Assisting in the experiments Monday was Tom Zinnen, director of Biotrek, the science outreach program of the Biotechnology Center at UW-Madison and UW Extension.
He asks kids to spell the word "scientist," but then make the second "I" into an "E."
"That's what scientists do, they test their ideas through experiments and other investigation," he said. "It's fundamental to view science as a way of figuring stuff out.
"To me, the great thing about science is not only knowing stuff but figuring out stuff that nobody knows about," he said.