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Kids, parents experience science

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Ricky Parks, left, and his son Alan Parks participate at the 'Don't sink the Sub' exhibit at Rocky Mount Prep science night at the Dunn Center at N.C. Wesleyan College.

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By AMELIA HARPER
Staff Writer

Tuesday, March 28, 2017

Science, technology, engineering and math dominated the Dunn Center on Monday night as parents and children explored a host of hands-on exhibits designed to provide knowledge and awaken curiosity.

Some of the alliteratively-named events demonstrated Gross Goo, Sticky Sand and Garden in a Glove. Others included demonstrations of various types of robotics, fingerprinting, electrolysis and hands-on encounters with animals.

Matt Gilliland, who teaches Leadership in the Workplace and ACT preparation at Rocky Mount Preparatory School, demonstrated line-following robots to an avid group of children and parents.

“Kids like these because they are a lot of fun and they allow kids to learn the basics of circuits and motors,” Gilliland said.

Rocky Mount Prep teamed up with N.C. Wesleyan College to offer a local science night courtesy of science festival grants from the Biogen Foundation, Duke Energy, Google, the North Carolina GlaxoSmithKline Foundation and other North Carolina sponsors.

Irene Brown, a science teacher at Rocky Mount Prep, said this was the third science night the school has hosted but the first to be offered in partnership with the education department of N.C. Wesleyan College.

“Both of our schools won Duke Energy Science Night grants and we decided it made more sense to put these events together,” Brown said. “It has been an awesome collaboration.”

Dr. Patricia Brewer, associate professor of education and coordinator of special education at N.C.Wesleyan College, agreed that the partnership had worked well.

“For us this project was an outgrowth of the special needs after-school program we offer here on Monday nights,” Brewer said. “But with this collaboration with Rocky Mount Prep, we are able to make this the largest community service learning project we have ever offered.”

Brewer said the college sought the grant because of the the impetus of Wesleyan senior Robin Todd, who attended a week of professional development at the NASA Langley Research Center last summer.

Todd, who is double majoring in elementary education and special education, said she was impressed by how STEM learning could be adapted to serve students with special needs.

“STEM learning is really beneficial for students with special needs because it provides a hands-on opportunity to explore the world around them,” Todd said. “Sadly, they often do not get that opportunity to explore STEM fields because their education is focused on reading and basic math, which, of course, are also important.”

Linda Cooper, another Wesleyan senior, was volunteering at the Garden in a Glove exhibit at the science night festival. Cooper, 54, is a majoring in middle grades education at Wesleyan and is currently doing her student teaching at Rocky Mount Middle School. For Cooper, teaching is a second career after retiring from the U.S. Navy 17 years ago.

“I love watching how the kids and parents respond to the exhibits,” Cooper said. “We have had a really good turnout for this event, especially considering that it was held on a weeknight.”

Brown agreed.

‘It has been awesome to see the smiles on the kids faces and to see families here experiencing science together,” Brown said.

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