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Hands-On Activities Give Kids Unusual, Creative Ways to Get Involved in Science


A Science in the Summer participant tracing a prehistoric shark tooth

PHILADELPHIA—Pinkish brown miniature shrimp squiggle in a jar of seawater as schoolchildren look on, saying Awesome! and Gross! A teacher's assistant places a single brine shrimp in a droplet of water on a microscope slide. The students watch the brine shrimps movements under a microscope. Mimicking the shrimps many appendages, the children sway their arms. One kid exclaimed, I think mine just pooped!

It's all in a 45-minute session of the oceanography course in the Science in the Summer program, sponsored by the healthcare company GlaxoSmithKline and administered by AAAS. For 23 years, the program has given elementary school kids in the Philadelphia area experience with hands-on science activities through two- or four-day courses led by certified science teachers.

Watch a brief video of kids participating in an oceanography course, part of Science in the Summer at Bustleton Avenue Branch Library in Philadelphia.

Tienne Myers, who has taught courses for Science in the Summer for nine years, said the program is an unusual and creative way to get kids interested and excited about science during the summertime. During the school year, Myers teaches science to second through fifth graders. here are so many children who have so much to offer and they don't get a chance to share it, she said. The summer program helps those kids express themselves, she said.

In this summer's oceanography course, kids view brine shrimp through a microscope, examine prehistoric shark teeth, and determine whether shells are left- or right-handed in their openings.

The courses began in late June and will end in early August. Libraries in five counties in the Philadelphia area host the courses, which include oceanography, bioscience, physical science and electricity, genetics, and chemistry.

Since 1997, AAAS has administered the program by helping to maintain relationships between sponsor GlaxoSmithKline and the libraries. AAAS provides scientific expertise, works with science teachers to update the programs curriculum and to make it align with the science content standards of Pennsylvania. AAAS develops materials for the program, including the teaching manuals, the student workbooks of experiments, and designs promotional materials.

Science in the Summer promotes positive attitudes about science, said Betty Calinger, the program manager in AAAS Education and Human Resources who oversees AAAS's involvement in Science in the Summer.

Not all of the students who participated in Science in the Summer will go on to have careers in science or engineering or mathematics, she said. But one of the things that the program does is that it creates excitement about science. It shows them that this is something that everybody can do. We hope our efforts are helping to foster a life-long appreciation of science.