Science is a hands-on subject by nature. Students investigate and learn through exploration and experimentation.

Science is a hands-on subject by nature. Students investigate and learn through exploration and experimentation.

But the Ohio Energy Project, a nonprofit agency committed to developing energy-conscious students across central Ohio, turns up the heat on science, adding an element of fun through a unique approach.

Nearly two dozen Whitehall-Yearling High School students will help lead the fun at the project's annual Columbus Energy Fair, set March 18 at Otterbein University. The group attended the Columbus Energy Leadership Summit last week in Worthington to train for the part.

It was an experience they will never forget, organizers said.

"It's awesome," said Susan Wasmund, an educator with the Ohio Energy Project. "I always thought that this was wonderful because the students get to be in a leadership role -- and when you teach science, you really understand it.

"Hopefully, we're opening eyes and doors."

During the Feb. 4 leadership summit, the Whitehall students joined 62 others from Bexley, Buckeye Valley and Metro high schools, among others, and were trained on energy activities, practiced their leadership skills and had the opportunity to meet and work with other students from central Ohio.

At next month's Columbus Energy Fair, the students will teach energy concepts to around 120 area fifth-graders at Otterbein. The younger students will rotate through four stations during the fair, learning about all aspects of energy via interactive activities led by the older students.

"Hands-on learning is a very effective way to retain material into long-term memory," said Dan Ensign, a science teacher at Whitehall-Yearling. "The energy summit requires students to be actively engaged and interact with the various demos. When students teach material in a simple fashion, they have to master the concepts."

While some young scientists are learning about electricity by building a human circuit at the fair, others will use a thermal imager to learn more about the body's energy. Fast-paced quiz games will help get the students engaged in science, while a hop on the energy bike will demonstrate energy concepts in a memorable way.

While the fair may mean a day away from the classroom for Whitehall-Yearling students, the leadership opportunities are powerful, said Wasmund.

"It's kids teaching kids," Wasmund said. "The younger ones really look up to these high school students. They emulate them and want to be just like them."

Whitehall will have the largest group next month as its students facilitate the annual energy fair. Ensign said he carefully chose the students, all of whom are current or former chemistry students, and most of whom also are members of the school's National Honor Society.

"Even before attending the event at Otterbein University on March 18, I know I will be very interested and looking forward to participating in the program again next year," said Ensign, in his first year taking a group to the summit. "The students had a great time and the facilitators were very impressed by our students' engagement, attitude and effort to participate and learn."