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Scituate steps up science learning with new initiative

Posted by Jessica Bartlett  March 29, 2013 01:38 PM

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Scituate parents say that for years, after-school science events at Scituate Public Schools have been limited. The science fair at Scituate High School was small, and other schools in the district had difficulty putting together their own events.

Yet with a new community-wide science event, parents, teachers, and students are hoping to give the subject new life and kick-start scientific learning in every area of the school district.

“It’s a science open house,” said Cheryl Riedel, co-chair of the event. “We created an event that includes all six schools in our district and the town as well. What we’re doing is trying to make science as interesting as possible.”

The program, Scituate Science Spectacular, will take place on April 3 at Scituate High School, and has mainly been organized by parents alongside High School Science Department head Dab Dakin.

Included in the program is a community-wide science fair for students in every grade and at every school. Elsewhere, there will be a hands-on science exhibit where people can come and participate in experiments and demonstrations, and a Science in Scituate exhibit to showcase how science is being used in the community.

Behind the scenes is a mentorship program organizers have put together that connects High School students with younger kids.

For the past several weeks leading up to the event, mentors have helped their younger peers with their science experiments for the fair and guided them on how to get the project complete.

“It takes the burden off the family to be responsible to motivate the kids, to help them with their [project],” Riedel said.

The program also mimics how science works in the real world, Riedel said, where mentorship and collaboration play key parts in scientific learning.

But the end game is bigger than just a community-wide event. According to Riedel, the hope is to develop a platform for high school students to enter national and international science competitions.

Even more ambitious is the desire to get kids more interested in careers in the science, technology, engineering, or mathematics fields.

“The ‘STEM’ jobs - science, tech, engineering, and math - supply numerous jobs, especially within our area … There is a big push for those jobs, a lot of job opportunities there, and a lot of advanced development come out of those STEM jobs. We want to give students and community members [a chance] to interact with that level of science,” Reidel said.

Already, the program is doing part of what it set out to do – opening opportunities for scientific learning for students across the district, as approximately 100 students are participating in the science fair portion.

The event will also enable those who don’t have the time to create their own experiment to still come and browse the event.

Hopes are high that the community will turn out to see what organizers have been working on since September.

“We had no idea what to expect,” Reidel said. “There is another event based in the arts – Spring for the Arts. That ends up bringing in 2000-3000 participants. Because this is our first event…we weren’t sure we would get those numbers, and we’re not sure who is going to come, but … we’re hoping to bring in some numbers.”

In its first year, organizers hope to continue the event on an annual basis, and see many opportunities for growth.

“But we needed to start small to be as successful as possible,” Reidel said.

For more information on the event, click here.

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