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Children Learn About Science with Help of Parents

Rockets were built, barges were sunk and cats were “paulted” at Dutton Elementary’s first Family Science Night.

Don’t worry, the rockets were made from paper and powered by straws, the barges were made of aluminum and real cats were not used in the experiments.

“I think kids need to see science is fun,” said Mindy Dyke, a Title 1 Reading instructor about why the event was held. “It’s not all about textbooks. It’s hands-on.”

About 50 students and their parents attended the event. Each of the 12 stations taught different science concepts and took about 10-15 minutes to do. Parents and high school students helped at the stations.

Some of the activities included figuring out what flavor balloons smelled like using a process of elimination, a reflection relay, finding out what is and what isn’t magnetic, identifying animal tracks and the cat-a-pult launch where students tried to hit a target by adjusting tension and trajectory knobs. Olivia Norberg learns what objects will sink an aluminum barge

The equipment and instructions for the experiments came from a kit Grand Valley State University has created that teachers can rent for special events or classroom lessons.

“We just wanted to try it this year for the first time,” Dyke said, explaining that students were learning about inquiry and discovery, which are important for learning on their own.

Curt Norberg and his daughter Olivia, 5, built barges to see what it took to sink them. Norberg’s daughter Ella, 7, and son Sam, 11, and his wife, Debbie, were all trying experiments.

“The kids have a lot of fun,” Curt Norberg says. “They get out and explore. It’s a comfortable environment for them because they’re used to being here. My son can finish a station and take off to the next one.

Principal Shawn Veitch’s favorite thing about the night is seeing parents and students and staff members all working together for the best of the students. “Seeing everybody smiling and learning, it’s awesome,” he says.


Dutton Elementary School

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Linda Odette
Linda Odette
Linda Odette is a freelance writer and editor with more than 30 years of experience in journalism. She’s worked primarily as an editor in feature departments at newspapers in West Michigan, including the Grand Rapids Press, the Muskegon Chronicle and the Holland Sentinel. She lives in East Grand Rapids near the Eastown edge, has a teenage son and a daughter in college. Read Linda's full bio or email Linda.


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