Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Trucking in a Science Exhibit: COSI arrives at East

At my first PTO (parent teacher organization) meeting, I was clueless as to what COSI meant. Soon enough I gathered it was a mobile science exhibit. Today COSI came to fruition with truck contents emptied into a school gymnasium, table displays set up, parental volunteers in place, food donated for lunch, and an all student body assembly followed by time for hands on interactions between kids, science displays, and the parent volunteers who manned the stations.

Each station had a point that related to ecology and the interaction of environment and animals. There were toy bird beaks to use to get food, there were tree cookies to count the age of a tree, there were roadkill pelts to touch like the otter, there were seeds to blow into a wind sock, and models of larvae and butterflies. There were pictures of natural environments with animals hidden in the scenes. The kids could touch, feel, and try each activity. The all school assembly had children chanting, guessing, clapping, and laughing with teachers in costumes and students as volunteers.

The questions ranged from, "What is this beak best at doing?" to "Why is fur soft?" to "How does a bee tell it's friends where to find lunch?" to "Which tree is the oldest?" "Who needs camouflage more, a predator or a pray?"

I was intrigued with the outreach educator who went with activities and interactions and where the students lead with questions. It was not the usual "listen to me drone on and on" approach. When I was able to chat with her later, I asked about the program's approach to engaging the children. "When a kid says, 'Look, a bug!' You follow their lead, not because it is on your list but because it is what they are interested in. If you teach them what they're interested in is not interesting by not acknowledging it, by not seeing it, you close them down, you lose them. If you say, 'Let's all come closer and look at this bug,' you create a positive experience that shows what they are interested in, is important." She called it inquiry based learning.

I'm action oriented as are a lot of children. I became a nurse because I could do so many things like change dressings, pass medications, and assist patients in recovery after surgery. I bake because I like to stick my hands into dough. I have to sew the wrong seam, and I have to see for myself how things go together. If I can build it, make it, see it, shape it, then I can understand it, whatever the name it goes by.     Watching kids try on insect viewing glasses then owl viewing glasses and then pecking fish with a pseudo pelican beak and then making different shaped seeds disperse in different way, demonstrated to me that many others like doing, making, and interacting with the environment, whatever our age.

This event happened because a lot of people made it happen. Parents who clipped "box tops" and signed up for Kroger Community Rewards;  children who brought curiosity and papers to and from school,  volunteers who coordinated the program, ran the exhibits, and donated food, and the school and teachers that supported it being there. Engagement and interaction made it happen.

Now, what else can we do? What question did you ask yourself today?

COSI exhibit, parent volunteers, and elementary school children interacting