Budding beaker lovers break into science

by Hilary Thomson
Staff writer

Kids will turf their textbooks and get their hands on Frisbees, parachutes and bicycle gears in a new after-school science outreach program created by Assoc. Prof. Niamh Kelly.

Called Hands-on Science, the program sees groups of up to 12 children aged seven to 10 years conducting a series of fun science experiments at Vancouver's Science World under the leadership of UBC scientists and students.

"When kids have fun with science, they learn important life skills," says Kelly, a faculty member in Pathology and Laboratory Medicine. "Thinking critically, developing hypotheses and testing ideas are all part of exploring science."

Workshops with titles such as "May the Force Be With You" cover topics that include molecules and matter, electricity, the senses, friction, gravity, chemical reactions and flight. Children working in pairs are grouped with their peers in a seven- to eight-year-old class or a nine-to 10-year-old class and progress according to their level of understanding.

The graduate students who volunteer with the program come from various faculties, including Education and Science. They gain experience in course design, motivating, communicating and class management.

"This program has a unique teaching style," says fourth-year Science student Sarah Hargreaves, who has taught at Kelly's summer science camps and is one of two UBC students employed to deliver the Science World program. "The children are encouraged to think for themselves so they learn the concepts much more readily."

"The kids' brutal honesty and willingness to take chances was inspiring for me," she adds.

Classes are held in two terms Jan. 9 to March 18 and March 26 to June 3 at Science World on Tuesdays, Wednesdays or Thursdays from 4-5 p.m. and cost $95 plus GST per term. For more information or to register call (604) 443-7505.