Grandview Heights' All Science Day goes on as virtual program

Alan Froman
ThisWeek group
Jim Bruner, a STEM professor with the PAST Foundation, interacts with students via Zoom on Nov. 24 as part of Stevenson Elementary School's annual All Science Day event. The event was held remotely because of the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic.

Organizers of Stevenson Elementary School's All Science Day had to find a solution to a problem caused by the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic.

How could the annual event be held when visitors aren't allowed in the building and Grandview Heights Schools' hybrid model means students attend class either in the morning or afternoon?

The solution was to have Science Day go virtual, which it did Nov. 24. 

"We still wanted to give students the chance to experience Science Day in the best way we could find under the current circumstances," said Rick Granger, who served as co-organizer with Jennifer Kinsinger. "In the past, you'd have people coming into the school and spending the day doing presentations and leading activities for the students." 

"It was important to maintain the tradition of Science Day," Kinsinger said. "Our students kind of expect it and look forward to it."

Traditionally, students would spend the day rotating among stations set up throughout the school building. This year, students participated in three modules with a synchronous Zoom session featuring community partners.

Granger, who serves as managing director of workforce and economic development at DriveOhio, participated in a module about self-driving cars and drones presented by the Ohio State University Center for Automotive Research and DriveOhio.

The session included brief presentations about autonomous vehicles, food-delivery robots and drones and the Buckeye Bullet, experimental electric cars created by Ohio State students and designed to break the land-speed record for an electric vehicle, he said.

Students were given a challenge to design a paper-airplane food-delivery drone.

"It was up to the teachers whether they wanted their students to try out their drones in the classroom or wait until they got home," Granger said with a laugh. "That would be a lot of paper airplanes flying through the air."

The second module was a virtual Animal Adventure with COSI.

"COSI has a program where they bring animals into a school, but it's something they can't do right now with the pandemic," Granger said. "So this is a live Zoom presentation where they show students some of the animals from COSI's collection and students have a chance to ask questions."

The third module featured science experiments via an interactive Zoom session with a STEM professional from the PAST Foundation, a Columbus-based organization that promotes STEM education.

The same schedule was used in both the morning and afternoon sessions.

As part of Science Day, students were asked to create their own journal to record observations and thoughts after each module, Granger said.

One of the goals of Science Day is to encourage students to explore science in a variety of ways, he said.

"We're trying to get kids excited about science, but not everyone has the same interest level or desire to do coding," Granger said. "If your strong suit is writing, that's a way you can choose to engage in science."

"What I love about Science Day is that a student may discover they have an interest in a subject they didn't even realize they had," Kinsinger said. "We want to encourage them to explore science outside of school."

Students were given kits with several fun experiments and activities they could do at home with materials they typically could find around the house, she said.

The at-home activities included creating frost using ice water and salt in a glass; creating paper-bag lungs with the use of straws and making fizzy lemonade by mixing lemons, water, baking soda and sugar.

As with the remote- or hybrid-learning models districts are using, the virtual Science Day program was designed to make the best of a less-than-ideal situation, Granger said.

"I think students are still getting a lot out of the virtual Science Day, but we're looking forward to hopefully being able to return to the regular program next year," he said.

Second-grader Molly Clements said she got a kick out of the fizzy-lemonade activity she had tried at home.

"When I added the baking soda to the water, it turned all bubbly," she said. "I wasn't expecting that to happen. It surprised me."

Molly describes herself as an animal lover, so she particularly enjoyed learning about the animals on display via Zoom during COSI's presentation.

"My favorite animal they had was an opossum," she said. "Because he's so funny and cute."

The most interesting thing she learned about the opossum, a marsupial, is that it uses a pouch to carry its babies around, Molly said.

Silas Thompson also liked the animal presentation, especially when the COSI team showed the students a python and tarantula.

Some people might find those creatures creepy and crawly, but the third-grader said he wishes he could have visited with them in person.

"I don't think it would have bothered me to have a tarantula crawling on me," Silas said.

He hasn't tried the at-home activities yet.

"I'm going to wait and do those during Christmas break," Silas said. "It will be something to do while we're off from school."

He's looking forward to creating a paper-bag lung.

"I want to find out more about how lungs work," Silas said.

Second-grader Teddy Kalnow was amazed when watching the video about the experimental Buckeye Bullet vehicle created by Ohio State students.

"It sort of looked like a bobsled, but it can go like 400 miles per hour," he said. "It set a world's record in competition."

It takes a big parachute to slow the vehicle down, Teddy said. It would be thrilling to ride in a vehicle that goes so fast, he said.

Teddy said he always looks forward to Science Day because it is a fun way to learn about all kinds of science.

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