Family science nights return to schools

By Sarah CR Clark

Teaching science to kids in person, rather than virtually, is “way better!” according to St. Anthony Park Elementary science teacher, Jim Schrankler.

And exciting things are happening in our neighborhood’s science classrooms, both at SAP Elementary and Murray Middle School. This fall’s second grade lessons on plants extended into the school’s yard where freshly planted tulip bulbs now wait for the spring.

Also, this fall, Murray’s science students ventured to the Belwin Outdoor Educational Lab to set up camera traps for a mammal habitat study, to study in-depth the plants and animals of three different ecosystems and to collect water samples for quality testing.

Continuing a tradition since 2003, SAP Elementary science teachers Schrankler and Katlin Walsh are hosting live family science nights again after a two-year, pandemic-imposed hiatus. Grade specific Family Science Nights were held virtually earlier in 2021.

Supplies for this year’s science events are funded through an Ecolab grant and the St. Anthony Park School Association.

The first Family Science Night this year, for first graders and their families was held on Oct. 25 and included Halloween-themed experiments with pumpkins and ping-pong balls decorated to look like eyeballs. Students were then invited to make spoons balance with wire and counter-weights, to dig through small samples of sand to find fossilized shark teeth and to engineer towers using cups and index cards.

First grade student Margot Renner, who attended the event, said in an email that her favorite part of the evening was the cup stacking, because she likes “to explore free-style.”

Her brother Collin Renner is planning to attend the fifth grade Family Science Night because “it sounds fun and exciting. I am hoping to get more science knowledge.”

Meanwhile, Murray students have also resumed science and engineering programs halted by the pandemic. The RoboPilots, Murray’s First Tech Challenge team and Lego League, have been designing their robot for this year’s events. The team is particularly excited to work with their new 3D printer, which was funded via the Donors Choose website and 3M.

According to Murray science teacher Nicholas Altringer, the 3D printer will significantly “expand their robot design possibilities.”

Also, thanks to other 3M donations, Murray’s new coding elective course students have been studying physical computing. Their activities include programing Circuit Playground computers chips and LED lights.

This semester’s 29 coding students have also experimented with web development and game development. Murray science teacher, Jessica Atkinson expects to have 28 students in next semester’s coding class. 

Sarah CR Clark lives in St. Anthony Park and is a regular contributor to the Bugle.

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