At the Mall: Science Jam

Thought I’d take the road trip in a different direction this week.  I went to Aberdeen Mall in Richmond last week  to check out all the activities and displays the Richmond School District was putting on for Education Week.  This is one of the few times we get to take what happens inside schools out in public, and it’s an interesting alliance  –  the mall and the school house.  The mall is the closest thing we have today to a public square, and the kids were wildly excited about having the chance to take their work to a “real” place.  Aberdeen Mall did everything possible to make all feel as welcome..

Singing performances by former students Paulina Cantoral and Alea Andaya kicked off the week.  Both these young women have amazing voices.  When Paulina sang “Alleluia”  people stopped in their tracks and leaned over the railings just to  listen to that beautiful voice floating through the Mall. It seemed so incongruous with shopping, and yet so right to have the remarkable voices of Pauline and Alea out there for people to enjoy.

Tuesday was “Science Jam” which was a chance for all our young scientists to set up their experiments and better yet, explain their findings to passers by.  The Mall was filled with elementary school students, and the parking lot, to their credit and my despair, was filled with their parents.  By some miracle, after inching along most of P1 in the Parkade, I got a parking spot, which is noteworthy, since I’m chronically unlucky in parking.  I was on for a welcome speech after Richmond Mayor Malcolm Brodie and our Board Chair, Donna Sargent, and actually got there just in time due to the sudden improvement in my parking karma.

Maggie and Jeff with the lowdown on pesticides

But on to the real story, our budding scientists and their discoveries, all set up with storyboards and scientific evidence the children put together.  First up, Maggie and Jeff from Walter Lee Elementary showed me that pesticides can be safe, if you make them yourself and use soap as a main ingredient. Commercial pesticides and safety? Not so much, and they had the graphs to prove it.

Tavinder and Matthew have doubts about Gatorade

Matthew and Talvinder from Kidd had some shocking news of their own.  After testing the speed of their reflexes post drinking various sports drinks, they found the one that had the best effect on speed was . . . water?  Gatorade finished third, so another commercial myth busted right there.

Emma and Mackenzie from Dixon Elementary had done extensive work on human respiration, and offered to let me test an asthma simulator.  Still feeling a bit breathless after my rushed entry, I took a pass on that, but got a great explanation of why grapes were a part of their display .  Those girls know their lungs and alveoli – and in French no less.

Mackenzie, the bilingual expert on respiration

Pondering the ins and outs of respiration as I was, I almost missed Quinn from Quilchena and her Soda Volcano Fountain, but she soon had me examining the turbulent relationship between Mentos mints and various kinds of soda pop.  The most dynamic partner for the Mentos?  Coke. Rather than The Pause that Refreshes, Coke and Mentos seem to be  The Combo that Foams – and doesn’t stop.

Quinn and her volcanic Mentos

What I liked about all this is that the inquiry question was designed by kids for kids, and yet they got to go outside and talk about it in public.  A rare opportunity, and one that the students, their teachers and parents clearly enjoyed.

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