MEDORA

The Medora Community Schools building recently turned into a science lab for a day.

Jason Lindsey, also known as Mr. Science, brought his Hooked on Science program to the small southwestern Jackson County school. He conducted experiments for kindergartners through sixth-graders during the school day and for a Reach for a Star after-school program family night event in the evening.

Also during the evening event, the school’s parent outreach group had science, technology, engineering and math activities in the cafetorium.

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Shannon Hunsucker, coordinator of the after-school program and parent outreach group, said it was a great day of learning for everyone.

“I hope the kids gained an awareness that science is all around us and can be fun,” she said. “I hope these events help the parents realize the value of their involvement in their child’s education and that learning can take place in the simplest of activities.”

Lindsey was invited to the school after Stephanie Rex, 21st Century Community Learning Centers district coordinator at Blue River Services Inc., saw one of his demonstrations at a youth leadership conference about three years ago. This is the third year for Blue River Services to offer the after-school program at Medora.

When she learned Medora wanted to do a science-focused family night, Rex said she knew his hands-on program would be enjoyable for families.

“With the growing importance and infusion of STEM into seemingly everything, we wanted to expose parents to what STEM is really all about,” Rex said. “We wanted to create an opportunity for parents and students to have a no-stress, no-prep evening together while learning and having fun together.”

Hunsucker said both of Lindsey’s programs were similar. The experiments included showing how matter can foam up and become a solid, adding pressure to Styrofoam in a jar to make it explode and look like snow and putting a chemical in a baby bottle to make the lid pop off. He also put a stick through a balloon and balanced it in his hand and blew air into a large diaper genie bag to see how long it could extend.

Third-grader Robert Baughman Jr. and sixth-grader Kaydence Walker were among those attending the Hooked on Science program.

They both said it made them like science more.

“Because when he was doing all of that stuff, I was thinking, ‘Just try and try at science until you get better,’” Robert said.

“It made me like science more because of how he had us interacting,” Kaydence said.

Hunsucker said that was a good experience for the students.

“It put the kids in the experience and showed them that anyone can be a scientist,” she said.

The STEM activities in the cafetorium included a catapult challenge, a mystery invention challenge, a straw tower challenge and tetrahedron kites.

The challenges allowed students to design and build a catapult, use eight random items to design and build something that serves a purpose or solves a problem and use straws and tape to design and build a freestanding tower. The builder of the tallest tower won a prize.

The kite activity involved using string, straws, paper and tape to build a cell. All of the cells will be put together to create a large kite to display at the school.

Hunsucker said these were beneficial activities because many careers are encompassed in science, technology, engineering or math.

“Engineers, doctors and nurses, computer programmers, electricians … all STEM,” she said. “The sooner we get kids involved in STEM and becoming aware of what really interests them, the sooner they can begin working toward their goals and realizing they can achieve them.”

This was the second family night event offered at the school.

During a fall festival, students and their families participated in games, crafts and a costume contest, and school staff participated in a chili cookoff, which also served as a dinner for the families.

In December, families learned about how different cultures celebrate their holidays during Holidays Around the World, and dinner was provided by donations from local churches.

In March, literacy night will give students an opportunity to participate in activities and take new books home with them. Then in April, a family prom is planned for students in preschool through eighth grade.

Hunsucker said the family night events average around 70 people.

“It is great to see families attending these events together,” she said. “It gets them out of the house, away from laundry, dishes, TV and video games, and allows them to just have fun as a family. In today’s world, I think we often get caught up in the everyday hustle of work and home and forget to stop and enjoy time with our loved ones.”

The after-school program at Medora is for students in kindergarten through eighth grade. It runs from 3 to 6 p.m. every school day.

They receive snacks for the first half-hour before concentrating on homework from 3:30 to 4:30 p.m. The rest of the time is spent participating in club activities and special events.

“Our primary focus is homework and academic needs,” Hunsucker said. “Students typically leave the program with their homework finished for the night, which means they and their parents don’t have to stress about it at home. Students have a safe place to spend the evening, receive a healthy snack and get to participate in fun, educational activities.”

Robert and Kaydence both said they like being a part of the after-school program.

“I like doing crafts and getting to do stuff to help the community,” Kaydence said, referring to the service learning projects, including making cookies for community helpers in December and Valentine’s Day cards for people at the Medora Senior Citizens Center this month.

“I like how they help you with your homework and how you learn stuff,” Robert said. “Sometimes, they will take you on a field trip, and you can learn stuff there.”

On the Web

Find information about Medora’s Reach for a Star after-school program on Facebook or call 812-966-2201.

For information about Jason Lindsey’s Hooked on Science program, visit hookedonscience.org.

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Zach Spicer is a reporter for The (Seymour) Tribune. He can be reached at zspicer@tribtown.com or 812-523-7080.