RANCHO SANTA FE — The anticipation was palpable as students, parents and teachers gathered in the gymnasium April 2 to interact with animals from the Wild Animal Park during the R. Roger Rowe School’s Science Discovery Day. Eyes widened as the handlers brought out a Burmese python that stretched the length of seven students.
The annual event covers many areas of science from live animals to anatomy to technology and robotics. Organizers said the goal is to expose students to various aspects of science and allow them to discover their own passion within the field.
“The kids absolutely love it,” said fifth-grade teacher Mrs. Jensen. The 15-year veteran schoolteacher said it’s one of the highlights of the entire year. “The kids are so engaged by all of it and they are able to really get up close and experience science,” she said. “The presenters use very strong teaching techniques.”
Indeed, students from kindergarten to seventh grade were transfixed by the myriad of experiments during the daylong event. “It’s a time when our kids come to understand that science doesn’t just happen but that they are a part of it,” said parent volunteer Elise Molin. “The programs are very hands-on and real-world connected.”
The event had its inception in 1992, when Lindy Delaney, the current superintendent, was a science teacher and started the program. Science teacher Elena Colvin, the current coordinator for Science Discovery Day, plans year-round for the event. “It’s a great partnership between parents, teachers and students,” she said. “Half of the presenters are outside vendors and the other half are parents and teachers.”
Dr. Gillespie, a parent at the school, taught third-graders about healthy habits in the presentation “Follow Your Heart.” Besides learning about the dangers of high blood pressure and smoking, the students were able to dissect an actual pig heart. “It feels so weird,” said student Julian Schearer, as he inspected the heart.
“Every workshop is as hands-on as possible so every child can get involved,” Colvin said. “We try and make it a completely different experience than a typical science instruction.”
As a group of second-graders dissected owl pellets and classified the bones they found, Mrs. Dirkes, a parent volunteer, carefully guided their efforts. “I like the fact that the kids are having fun and are engaged all day,” she said. “The kids work together to make discoveries with as little intervention from the workshop leader.”
The event also served as leadership training for the school’s eighth-graders. “The older students lead the younger grades to the workshops and help with the experiments,” Colvin said. “We try to come together as a community for the day to experience science.”