(Photo by Jill Bock, Staff)
NEW MADRID -- The things they teach in schools these days are shocking.
For students in the New Madrid County R-1 District's summer school program, the shock was part of a lesson on static electricity, magnetics and positive and negative charges.
David Busby, one of the three Americorps volunteers working with the Bootheel Youth Museum, powered up the Van de Graaff generator to begin the program, which is part of the district's enrichment classes offered during the four-week summer school session. Patiently he explained how the machine created the positive charge which was then discharged as he waved a wand adjacent to the generator, sending out a spark.
It wasn't long before the fifth graders crowded around for their turn to create their own spark. Some even opted to get a "taste" of electrical charge sticking out their tongues, in between the giggles.
Americorps volunteer Lauren Collins used a magnet to push bits of aluminum string floating into the air while Kayla Book showed the youngsters more about static electricity using balloons rubbed over felt to pick up bits of pepper.
Valerie Robbins, a fifth grade teacher, said anytime students have an opportunity for hands-on science projects, they are excited about learning.
"It is one thing to read about how something is done, but when they see it, it stays with them," she said.
Jennifer Machiran, who guided the first graders in for their chance at the experiments, agreed. "During the school year, they will come to a lesson and say 'I remember doing this in summer school.' They remember it because it is fun."
Fifth graders Alexis Jordan and Kaitlyn Long said they enjoyed their lesson on electricity. "This gives you a lot of information and stuff about science," added Kaitlyn.
For the Americorps volunteers, making learning fun for the students is just as fun for them. In addition to the class on static electricity, they have also conducted experiments with the students on optical illusions and flip books, with the last presentation, which will be on sound, planned for Friday.
"We have had a lot of fun watching the kids learn," said Book. "And I've learned a lot, too."