Library turns science into fun experiment

Program at Eldersburg branch uses different hands-on projects to teach children some basic concepts

Education Beat


The 13 youngsters at the Eldersburg library branch vigorously rubbed the bow string across the wooden dowel rod, trying to heat a spoon held on top of the rod.

"This is neat," said Joseph Padula, 7, of Eldersburg. "Do we get to keep these when we're done?"

Joseph and Joshua Stem, another 7-year-old from Eldersburg, rubbed the string so hard that the spoon bent from the heat, teaching them the lesson for the day - friction makes heat.

The experiment was part of an "Aha! Science at Your Library" program offered Wednesdays and Saturdays at the branch.

Created by three librarians at Eldersburg, "Aha! Science" offers 7- to 10-year-olds a hands-on way of learning about basic science such as friction, magnets, pendulums, flight and simple machines.

"The idea came out of an e-visioning conference on technology and science and math and keeping up on skills," said Jacqueline Sollers, Eldersburg branch manager. "Juan Enriquez, a Harvard professor, challenged people to improve those literacy skills."

From the seed planted at the conference, Sollers started a science club at the library that evolved into "Aha! Science" using computers, experiments and take-home kits.

Nadine Rosendale, adult services supervisor, and Beth Dori, children's services supervisor, worked with Sollers to create the program.

"Beth died of cancer in August, so she didn't get to see it through," Sollers said.

The three researched various programs and ideas, and came up with about 30 topics.

"The program was funded by a grant from the Maryland state Division of Library Development Services at the Maryland Department of Education," Sollers said. "We got $27,000 for software, books, and to buy concept kits and all the materials to conduct the experiments, and we wrote the experiments for different topics."

Rosendale added, "We talked to the schools when we were writing the grants so we would not duplicate their curriculum, but support it."

So far, 69 programs, mostly at Eldersburg, have been scheduled through spring. Sollers and her staff also arranged to hold some programs at the Taneytown and Westminster library branches.

The librarians are also taking the program into nearby elementary schools, where they give a modified group presentation.

The programs at the library are kept to a maximum of 14 youngsters, so that each can have a computer for programs that use it. The "Freaky Friction" session included a "Science Court" video story that involved the children in trying to figure out how a cake left overnight on a spinner to flatten it was burned.

Was the cake sabotaged? Or did a piece of wood leaned on the spinner to slow it down create so much friction that it burned the cake?

The point was the concept of rubbing the string, then later rubbing two sponges and two plates together to see which created more friction - a smooth or a rough surface.

Also allowed to spin their desk chairs, Stephanie Thompson, 7, said her chair was creating friction.

"Good observation," said Heather Owings, one of two library associates leading the class Wednesday.

Stephanie, and Paige Hoheneder, 7, both of Eldersburg, were the only girls in the class. While one held the spoon, the other rubbed the string.

Both girls are among children who have been to several of the programs.

"I thought it was neat," Paige said. "I've been to magnets, they were pretty cool."

Stephanie said, "I like to learn about things, and I like science."

Sollers said the program has been successful. The 30 circulating kits all have waiting lists.

"We hoped for 600 kids total, and we've seen 600 in one month," she said. "Parents have even called from Baltimore City and asked if they could bring their kids. We said, `sure.' I think they got into the program."

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