Exploring science

HANCOCK – Great Explorations, in conjunction with Gordon G. Barkell Elementary School, hosted a Family Fun Night Tuesday evening. GE and Barkell prepared presentations and provided an ice cream social for local families.

Barkell has been celebrating March is Reading Month with its students. Some classes tracked the minutes students read and different grades prepared examples of different types of literature. Displays of haikus, tall tales, fables, fiction and many more genres prepared and often illustrated by the students adorned the hallways of the school. Families were invited to explore the selections before heading to the gym for an ice cream social and many students proudly dragged their parents and friends to view their work.

GE holds three Family Fun Nights per year in the fall, spring and summer. With each new night they try to find creative and interesting ways to get families engaged with their children’s education and often include demonstrations where parents can also learn about technology. At this Family Fun Night, Michigan Technological University students volunteered to teach the attending children about science.

“It’s often harder to teach kids about science than it is to teach adults,” said Rachel Carpenter, program director of Hancock’s GE program. “They’re so honest, they’ll just tell you if it’s boring.”

The ice cream-fed children did not seem bored as they ran around displays on static electricity, projectiles and computer mechanics. At the static electricity station, kids used static generated by rubbing a balloon over their hair to make aluminum cans move across a table. They were able to make projectiles from toilet paper tubes to launch ping pong balls around the gym. Michigan Tech volunteers at the computer mechanics table helped younger kids use a MaKey MaKey kit, which turns ordinary objects into computer keys.

“What it does is turn inanimate objects that are semi-conductive into the keyboard buttons of your computer,” Carpenter said. “So then they get to play with those to essentially turn a banana into a space bar or quarters into arrow buttons. Then they get to play games on weird things.”

In this demonstration bananas were connected to the computers as keys that allowed participants to play the piano and video games by pressing on the fruit just as if it were a computer key.

“The hope is that we get parents and kids interested in basic computer mechanics,” Carpenter said.

Tuesday’s event marked the last GE Family Fun Night of the school year with one more scheduled the summer. GE is planning to again host three Family Fun Nights next year during the 2013-14 school year and summer.