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Pablo science session adds problem solving skills, fun to after school program

PABLO — For Pablo elementary students in the after school program, science is more than just fact gathering and data computing. For these lucky third and fourth graders, science is a concrete, hands-on activity that is actually ... fun. 

Along with 60 other schools across the United States, Pablo school was chosen as a field-test site for a new science curriculum from University of California, Berkeley. The curriculum is called AfterSchool KidzScience and supplies the chosen schools with the tools and materials necessary to have an after school science program. According to the after school coordinator and teacher, Carolyn Pardini, Lawrence Hall of Science at the University of California, Berkeley is renown for their work in science education and continues to be a leader throughout the nation. 

This particular curriculum focuses on environmental science and the impact we have on the environment. Wednesday marked the third after school science session in the set of four. Every Wednesday in January, third and fourth graders were given a statement about the environment and ideas for experiments regarding the subject. Then they were expected to use critical thinking skills to form their own conclusions from the experiment.

“The information they gain from the experiments,” Pardini explained. “They use in making decisions.”

“How can we make choices that are better for the earth when we buy things,” Pardini wrote on the board last Wednesday as the dozen or so youngsters sat anxiously on the art room rug. The enthusiastic elementary students bubbled over in excitement, quickly choosing “lab” partners and tables in order to perform their experiments themselves. 

The theme of the experiment was ‘Buying Green.’ The students compared cleaning up spills and messes with paper towels as opposed to the effectiveness of a sponge. 

The happy youngsters dipped their paper towels into little pans, filled with water and squeezed the excess water into beakers. The kids compared their results with one another before zealously reporting their findings to their teacher, Pardini. 

“My favorite is science,” third grader, Maggie Racine said. “Because each time, we do different things.”

She then explains that in previous science sessions, the students learned that a clean lake is better to swim in and drink from.

“Science is fun,” Des’rea Johnston said. “It’s so cool.”

According to Pardini, the program is designed to encourage the children to think critically as well as to learn how to problem solve. It’s not necessarily trying to teach science concepts to the students, who are already tired of being in a classroom all day. Rather, its goal is to encourage the children to have fun with science and to think logically about everyday issues.

“It’s a fun thing,” Pardini explained, nodding at the groups of four at different tables. “Just look at them. They are pretty engaged.” 

At the end of the class, the students fill out a small survey that documents their attitudes towards science. Pardini also fills out a survey before and after the class, which looks at how the teacher feels about the preparation and time commitment. 

Researchers at the university will then compare the procedural data and make any changes deemed necessary to the session. 

The activities will be published in 2011 by the Developmental Studies Center. 

Much to the kids’ dismay, this month marks the end of the after school science program. Children at Pablo Elementary School will spend their Wednesdays participating in other after school activities like computers or physical fitness. 

“(The kids) love it,” Pardini said of the science program. “They were very disappointed that next week will be our last (session).”

As for Pardini, she will be on the lookout for new and exciting science programs to implement in the after school program. 

“I really hope that when I return the kit ... I’ll have a chance to do something similar in the future,” Pardini said.

 

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