A nonprofit publication of the Kentucky Center for Public Service Journalism

Cardinal Valley fourth-graders deepen their pool of knowledge in after-school science program

By Tammy L. Lane
Special to KyForward

A group of fourth-graders at Lexington’s Cardinal Valley Elementary dove into a water-themed after-school series and came up sputtering all sorts of facts about water quality, conservation of natural resources and even frog slime.

“We learned how to keep the water safe, about not using a lot, and keeping it from being polluted,” said 9-year-old Alauna Davis. “We don’t have much water, and if we pollute it, we won’t have it to drink. Also, frogs wouldn’t be able to breathe through their skin because pollution clogs it, and that’s how animals die!”

The excitement was contagious as the youngsters shared several experiments and hands-on activities they completed during the Science Explorers program, led by the Living Arts & Science Center.

“I like science, and it turned out to be fun,” classmate Ruthie Worthington said after the six-week series.

In one experiment, students tested water's adhesion to a string. (Photos by Tammy L. Lane)

In one experiment, students tested water’s adhesion to a string. (Photos by Tammy L. Lane)

Sixteen students participated in the program, meeting on Wednesday afternoons at Cardinal Valley. A total of some 120 youngsters signed up this fall, including groups at Arlington, Russell Cave and William Wells Brown elementaries and Booker T. Washington Intermediate Academy. Each site hosted a show-and-tell finale, with dinner for students and their families. The kids received award certificates and gift bags, and several took home t-shirts and LASC class coupons after the prize drawings.

Cardinal Valley science teacher Adonya Boyle, who has worked alongside the LASC instructors for six years, appreciates what Science Explorers offers her students.

“They’ll pick a topic, and the things the kids learn are more in-depth,” she said. “They also do a lot of hands-on things that I might not have the time and resources to do. One year they got to touch human brains and spinal cords from UK. Overall, they get to do things they normally wouldn’t do. Mostly they have fun learning science.”

This semester’s free sessions, which were offered at five schools with high percentages of at-risk students, were funded by an LFUCG stormwater incentive grant. The lessons covered such topics as the Earth’s water cycle, amphibians, the chemistry of water, salt water and freshwater habitats, and conservation and pollution.

Students showed their families what they had learned in a paperclip-floating activity.

Students showed their families what they had learned in a paperclip-floating activity.

Among the highlights that left an impression was the H2O Olympics, when students learned about the physics of water and then constructed tabletop sailboats, floated paperclips, and tested water’s adhesion down a string. The youngsters also tested water samples from five locations – Berea, Millersburg, an Alumni Drive creek, LASC and their own school – checking the nitrate levels.

“We talked about how plants need nitrate, but in excessive amounts it can be harmful,” said Debbie Harner, assistant to the LASC’s Discovery Education director.

The LASC staff gave pre- and post-tests and noted a significant jump in the children’s comprehension and knowledge base.

“It’s interesting to see what they know and what they remember,” Harner said. “Science so many times gets overlooked, so I hope this plants a seed.”

Tammy L. Lane is website editor for Fayette County Public Schools.

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