Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

CHILDREN DISCOVER FUN AT SCIENCE NIGHT HANDS-ON EXPERIMENTS SPARK INTEREST, CURIOSITY, SOME FRIENDLY COMPETITION Series: In Our Schools an Occasional Series

Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

CHILDREN DISCOVER FUN AT SCIENCE NIGHT HANDS-ON EXPERIMENTS SPARK INTEREST, CURIOSITY, SOME FRIENDLY COMPETITION Series: In Our Schools an Occasional Series

Article excerpt

CLAIRE KNIEPKAMP, 4, wasn't intimidated by the bigger kids conducting science experiments around her. She plunged right in and started experimenting, too.

"She wants to do everything her big brother does," explained Claire's mom, Pam Kniepkamp.

The little girl was imitating brother Jared, 11, who was standing across a table from Claire and trying to build a platform using Popsicle sticks balanced on small plastic coffee cups.

The platform was almost finished, but it sagged and eventually collapsed under the weight of a couple more sticks.

"`Oh, no!" Jared shouted. "I almost had it, but. . . ."

Never mind. He began building another platform immediately, while his mother and sister watched him try to figure out basic engineering principles.

It was one scene at Family Science Night recently at Belle Valley South Elementary School, 1901 Mascoutah Road in Belleville.

The event was held for fifth-graders like Jared and their families. School officials couldn't have been happier than to see all of the Kniepkamps and several other families participating.

"This is a chance, first of all, for (pupils) to have fun with their families," said John Brueggeman, a fifth-grade teacher at Belle Valley South.

Barbara Hoercher, another fifth-grade teacher at the school, added: "This is something that parents and children can do together in a positive way, and it helps the children learn."

Family Science Nights at schools throughout the area grew out of what officials saw as a need to get pupils more actively involved in their studies. The "hands-on" approach has been shown to get children interested in science and often improves their grades in the subject, according to Mike Schneider of the Educational Service Center in Belleville.

"Education should be fun, but sometimes we lose sight of that," Schneider said. "We want kids to solve problems and discover things on their own."

The Educational Service Center was established in the 1980s. One of its main missions is seeking grants to improve science and math teaching in seven counties in the Metro East area.

The idea for family nights came after an initial $5,000 federal grant in 1986 was used to buy math and science hands-on kits, called MASH kits, Schneider said. …

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