Classes elevate fun to a science Center's Saturday sessions capture the imaginations of youthful researchers

November 02, 1997|By Mary Maushard | Mary Maushard,SUN STAFF

Julian Della Puppa used to be afraid of crickets and ants.

Now they don't faze the 5-year-old.

His mother credits the Maryland Science Center and its Saturday children's workshops with shoring up her son's bravery. He is one of nearly 1,000 youngsters registered for this fall's PRISM -- Programs to Raise Interest in Science and Mathematics -- sessions for pre-kindergartners through eighth-graders.

Geared to specific grade levels, the two-hour sessions at the center focus on a different topic each week. Calculating the cost of caring for a pet, exploring space, tracking digestion and experimenting with bubbles are a few of the more than 40 workshops offered over eight weeks.

"He's gotten interested in a lot of things I never thought about introducing him to," especially bugs, the solar system and the science center's planetarium, said Julian's mother, Geraldine Hill.

Such exposure is one of the main reasons for the PRISM programs, said Bernadette Stallings, the program coordinator. Getting -- and keeping -- children interested in science is the reason for the workshops.

"I want them at 3; they're never too young," Stallings said.

Yesterday's Eco-Art class included 3-year-olds, such as Andrew Maddox, who was busy decorating picture frames with beans and making a leaves-in-plastic coaster. The class introduces youngsters to natural resources, recycling and creating art from nature, Stallings said.

While Andrew dabbled in beans and sand in the pre-kindergarten class, his brother, Michael, was next door at The Body Processor session for 5- and 6-year-olds. The children were putting together diagrams of their gastrointestinal systems, complete with balloon stomachs and yarn-and-noodle intestines.

Jeanne Maddox, who accompanied her sons to their first PRISM classes, hoped to learn some things, too.

"We're home-schooling the boys, and science is one area that I don't have a lot of strength in," said the Pasadena woman, who was watching carefully for ideas she could use or adapt. A home-schooling group in Anne Arundel County recommended the science center as a supplement to home instruction, she added.

"The boys love coming to the science center," she said of their occasional visits, and they seemed to be enjoying the classes.

Body Processor instructor Jennifer Telfare began her session by drawing each youngster's outline on a large piece of white paper, and then asking them to put in essential body parts. Although Telfare told the children to put in eyes, ears, noses and mouths, Saul Wilson's body was faceless. "I'm doing the inside," he said matter-of-factly.

Emma Bratton had her own ideas, too. Though she may have put in the essentials, no one will know because she insisted on colorful clothes.

Julian, who attends kindergarten at A Child's Place at the College of Notre Dame of Maryland, was putting bones and an Orioles cap in his picture, but was more interested in talking about dinosaurs.

He wanted to know whether his mother had registered him for Dinosaur Adventures, another class this month. She had.

Youngsters may register for as many of the eight sessions as they are interested in. Each session costs $15 for center members and $22 for others. Pre-kindergarten sessions are mornings only; middle-school classes are afternoons only. For those between, the science center runs two sessions every weekend.

Information: 410-545-5951.

Pub Date: 11/02/97

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