Our goal is to provide activities that are meaningful to the participants, get them involved, and promote critical thinking. We hope to provide educational experiences in the classroom and in other forums that offer activities for students and others to investigate, research, and participate in interactive learning about the world in which we live.
If that seems a little formal we trust that the following explanation of what we have been doing, are doing now, and plan to do in the future will make it clear.
For the past 12 years we have been working with students here in eastern Kentucky. Over that time we have developed science programs that we have presented for enrichment in schools. We have also supported organizations such as 4H and Girl Scouts when they asked to have us come to work with their kids. As we became known locally other opportunities to get kids involved in science have become available to us with more schools and organizations asking for us to help them. Most of the programs we present as volunteers. A few of the organizations/schools will reimburse expenses and one program has been paying for our time. We have taken any income and used it to purchase materials and supplies to allow us to work with groups and schools that aren’t able to pay for programs. In addition to science programs we also occasionally do crafts with school kids and seniors. We have also presented programs about countries we have visited when requested by a school or organization. In every case we try to get active participation from everyone present. Beyond short (20 to 90 minute) programs we have also done week long science day camps.
We began the camps in 2000 with the Pikeville Science and Math Camp which we have participated in every year since then. Originally it was a one week program for 5th through 8th grade students that has now expanded to a week for 5th and 6th and a second week for 7th and 8th. During that time we have been responsible for the physics activities with other instructors covering computers, biology, space, and chemistry. Each year we have created a web page for each week showing the kids and all their activities. Those pages can be seen here. In 2009 we were part of Kids College in Elizabethtown KY. There we had morning and afternoon sessions with kids from 4th through 12th grade. Pictures and descriptions of some of the activities from that camp can be found here. Last summer we added a week long science day camp here in Elliott County KY. Each day there was a morning session for 4th, 5th and 6th grade students and an afternoon session for 7th and 8th graders. A web page showing their camp is here.
At various times the campers have built and flown hot air balloons. They have investigated parallax, a concept that allows us to judge the distance that things are away from us, makes 3D movies possible, and that is used to measure distances on earth, within the solar system and to nearby stars. They used holiday lights, paper, a drop of oil and a meter stick to “discover” for themselves the inverse square law as it applies to light. That law is one of the ways that astronomers use to measure the size and age of the universe. They have investigated waves both as they apply to optics and sound. They have experimented with using magnetic fields to make electricity and electricity to make magnetic fields. With what they learned doing that they built a telegraph (the original digital communication) and sent a message using it. They have duplicated some of Benjamin Franklin’s experiments with high voltage electricity. Friction and its fluid equivalent viscosity were the subjects on several occasions. We have sent students on a scavenger hunt for components that are inside obsolete computers and cell phones. We provide tools and pictures of what they are to find and they get to explore some technology. They have experimented with eggs and discovered that an egg will support more than 190 lbs. if you are careful about how you apply the force. They have launched rockets that they have built and measured their maximum altitude.
Another of our major activities is the Elliott County 4H program. We have been active volunteers since 2002. We normally meet with 4 groups of 6th graders in the three schools in the county 5 to 6 times during the school year. At various times we have helped them build bluebird boxes and make rock and mineral collections ensuring they have properly identified each sample. One of those collections received a first place blue ribbon at the state fair in Louisville. Insect collecting and identification was another project. It won a red ribbon for second place at the state fair. The web page we made to help kids with insect identification can be seen here. They learned about photography, disassembled disposable camera to see how they worked and then built their own camera, took a picture, and developed it. Recent programs have been about electricity. During the year the kids learn what a circuit is and investigate electric currents and magnetism. They become part of a circuit, see how batteries can do math, and receive a picture via electric signals. They measure voltage, current and electrical power. We show them that a wire can get hot enough to start a fire if there is a short circuit. They wire a lamp, make sure it is safe and take it home, and build circuits using batteries, switches, and lights that mimic computer logic.
Since the spring of 2002 we have been helping with the Elliott County Schools 4th grade Field Day. In the fall of 2004 we added the Carter County Schools 4th grade Field Day to our regular schedule as well. The program we present for these events is Cryogenics, the way cool science. Using liquid nitrogen we demonstrate how extreme cold (320 degrees below zero F) changes the properties of common objects such as balls, bananas, marshmallows, and even air. We introduce the kids to measurement units and states of matter. Heavy stuff for a fourth grader but they enthusiastically participate. We show how rain, frost, and snow can be produced from the moisture that is always in the air but that we only see when we cool it. The program always finishes up with ice cream that we make in 20 seconds.
For several years we helped with the Girls in Science and Girls in Research programs in Lexington, Pikeville, Somerset, and London KY. We worked with the girls and their mentors as they investigated electricity, cryogenics, built and flew hot air balloons.
We have participated in the Regional Science Olympiad held in Pikeville KY since 2007. This is a competition between teams of middle and high school students in a number of fields of science. Over the years we have been responsible for evaluating their knowledge of basic electrical circuits, construction of wind turbines, evaluating the team’s ability to design and carry out experiments to understand ballistics and pendulums.
We also have taken programs to classrooms when teachers have requested them. Preschool programs have included measuring things (length, weight, and volume), making ice cream, and rockets. One of the most popular in the elementary grades has been force and motion. Here the kids investigate mechanical advantage with levers and pulleys arranged as a block and tackle. Using them a student is able to easily lift their teacher. They also find out how rockets work and become one using a skateboard as the body of the rocket, themselves as the fuel with bowling balls providing the reaction mass. We have also brought a scale model of the solar system to their classrooms. The planets and moons are all presented in their true colors and relative size. With the earth about an inch across and the moon just a bit more than a quarter that size, the disk we use for the sun is 9 feet across. When they see, or in the case of a blind student in one class, feel, the differences they have a much better understanding of the solar system. We take a program in fire safety to all the elementary schools in Elliott County during fire prevention week. Classes have accessed the weather station we operate to learn about the weather and how to plot data. Occasionally we are asked to do programs when we are traveling outside of our usual eastern Kentucky area and we are happy to help out there as well.
The geology , plant, and animal life of the nearby Laurel Gorge has given us the opportunity to present programs there about geology, meteorology, entomology, paleontology, and astronomy to classes from several nearby counties.
For older students we have a collection of the stable elements we take into classrooms. When we ask “What is your favorite element?” the most common answer is gold. But one student got a thoughtful expression and replied “Oxygen … I think.” Chemistry demonstrations are big favorites as well, especially “dangerous” ones. We always are careful to perform them safely but watching a thermite reaction that produces molten iron at more than 4500 degrees leaves a lasting impression of the power of chemistry. The spectra of elements allow them to be identified in flames, electrical discharges and in the atmosphere of stars including our own sun. Students get to see some spectra and use them to discover the element helium in the same way it was identified on the sun before it was found on earth. We also demonstrate superconductive levitation, electrical quantum effects, and chemical changes that happen at liquid nitrogen temperatures. In addition to science investigations in our programs we may also present physical, mathematical, or logical puzzles to challenge the students.
We have also done programs for the general public or students have brought their parents to evening programs. These have at various times included demonstrations of cryogenics, high voltage, mechanics and chemistry. For these events we have added to the cryogenics demonstration a cannon (10 inches diameter and 10 feet long) loaded with Styrofoam packing peanuts that are propelled by very rapid boiling of liquid nitrogen and fired at several prominent members of the audience who have been invited to the stage. A whoosh and a great cloud vapor add to the effect. There will often be students in the audience who have seen some of the demonstrations in class. They are more than willing to help even when it means they will be subjected to more than 300,000 volt output of a Van de Graaff generator as they light a fluorescent lamp they are holding.
On occasions we have been asked to bring our programs to groups of seniors. They are as fascinated as the kids with bubbleology. We have them but their hand into a bubble without breaking it or put their hand through a square hole in a flat bubble. They are like kids when we put them inside a bubble or when they make their own that are a foot or two across. Young and old are amazed to find out that the colors that you see in bubble film depend on the thickness. The clear areas are thinnest, about a millionth of an inch thick. The cryogenic experiments, described above, have been exciting to them as well and of course the 20 second ice cream is fascinating to those who remember spending what seemed like hours cranking an ice cream maker cooled by ice and salt. They have many of the same questions that the kids who see the program do but we have never had a kid ask about cryonics.
Though not our usual program we have been happy to show pictures and items of daily life that we have brought back from other parts of the world. When one person from the audience commented here in eastern Kentucky after we had given a program on Egypt “Those people are just like us.” we felt that much had been accomplished.
We work principally in the sciences but have included other programs such as Reality Store in Elliott County schools. In this program each 6th and 7th grade student sees what it may be like for them in the future. They are assigned the job, income, and family that they may have and then have to visit a series of tables where they have to talk with the people there to buy everything from houses, cars, food, and insurance to haircuts and pets. Making their money reach to the end of the month can be eye-opening for them. Reading to elementary school classes on Dr. Seuss’s birthday is a lot of fun as were library based summer reading programs. We have also helped the elementary students learn about Native American, African, and early American crafts and we have also done crafts with senior citizens. Our travels throughout the world let us teach others about the history, cultures, and environments we have experienced. Our programs on Egypt and Greece have been requested multiple times and we usually work in information about the science and math that they used.
It is our goal to help others learn about the world around them in any way we can.
Our objective for ourselves is the same as for others. In order to pursue that we have participated in training programs in a wide variety of subjects. Many of them provide background elements that can be incorporated in our classes. They include classes in: caves and karst, stream quality monitoring, reptiles and amphibians, holography, Master Gardening, community planning, asset mapping, astronomy (cosmology, eclipses, and meteorites), National Weather Service weather spotter, Firewise (protecting homes from wildfires), firefighting and hazardous material response, search and rescue including man tracking, first aid, CPR, Medical Reserve Corps, FEMA emergency operations, and, Red Cross (Caseworker, damage assessment, shelter operations, mass care).
The Elliott County School District Newsletter has occasionally run articles about some of our activities.
We are continuing to present programs like those outlined above. Recently we have done programs for elementary, middle school, high school students and senior citizens. We have been invited to repeat programs that we have done in previous years and are adding a few new ones. During the remainder of the school year there will probably be requests for more if past experience is any indication. This summer we will again be doing the camps at Pikeville and in Elliott County. We have every intention of doing what we can to help others learn about our world.
As word has spread about our programs we have been asked to work with students over a wider area. We hope to be able to respond to more of these requests. Those of us presenting programs will continue doing it as volunteers. The only compensation we ask for is the enjoyment we feel when we see the eyes of a kid or adult when they suddenly understand something new, or when a simple demonstration leads a kid to exclaim “Way beyond cool!” It is hard for us to imagine a more worthwhile endeavor than inspiring an interest in learning more about the world of which we are all a part.
In the past most of our programs have been funded by those who were presenting them. A few of those requesting our services will pay us for mileage, materials, and supplies that were used and occasionally they would give a little more than our cost for a program. The Pikeville Science and Math Day Camp has paid for two of our instructors working for two weeks at the camp. That money (about $1000) has been used to support other programs we present. Any expenses for mileage, materials, and supplies beyond that have been paid out of our instructors own pockets. We would like to be able to offer our programs over a wider area but travel costs are often a large part of our expenses and can therefore be a limiting factor. As an incorporated nonprofit organization we are able to apply for grants to support programs over an extended coverage area. We also hope to be able to attract donations from individuals who may not be able to participate as volunteers but can see the value in what we do and would like to help out.
We hope that this has helped you understand Science Fun, Inc. and that you will be able to help us in our endeavors. Please contact us if more information is needed. Thank you for your time and consideration.