Science Exploration: Barkell holds night of educational fun

Graham Jaehnig/Daily Mining Gazette Brian Doughty of the MTU Center for Science and Environmental Outreach (with beard, right), led an activity in which fourth- and fifth-grade students explored generating electricity with a lemon.

HANCOCK — Barkell Elementary School hosted Family Science and Engineering Night Wednesday evening, giving children grades K-5 opportunities to think outside of the box in the fields of science and engineering, with educational yet fun activities.

For example, fourth and fifth-grade students explored how to make electricity using lemons, and designing a geodesic dome using marshmallows. Kindergarten and first-graders became biomedical engineers while they designed a helmet for a brain, and explored reasons different birds eat different foods.

The science night was sponsored by the Center for Science and Environmental Research and funded by the Hancock Public Schools.

Principal Dan Vaara said the science nights are good on several levels, because it gives the students and the parents a chance to work together on activities.

“They come, and do a lot of fun activities,” he said, “and the parents get into it, and they’re working with their kids.”

It is a rewarding experience to see parents and children working together, said Vaara, because at school, it is only the kids he sees. After school hours, parents work with their children with homework, but that is not something teachers get to see.

The majority of instructors leading the activities are student from Michigan Technological University.

U.S. Forest Service worker Joe Panci of the Ottawa National Forest helped second- and third-graders explore animals with a game of Wildlife Pictionary.

Sallen Gurtler of MTU’s School of Forest Resources conducted an activity that explored trees and what happens when they grow too close together.

“They have all these small, hands-on science activities,” Vaara said. “One of them is learning about electricity, ecosystems and how they’re interrelated. The activities are fun.”

Family Science and Engineering Nights are funded by the Hancock Public Schools Foundation. Schools pay a stipend to have a program like this, said Vaara, and every year the foundation awards a grant to fund the activity.