‘Science on Wheels’ Rolls Through Edison Elementary School

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The Pacific Science Center brought a unique opportunity to Edison Elementary School on Monday, allowing children to engage in STEM-based activities.

This is the second year the center’s “Science on Wheels” tour visited the school, this year with a focus on STEM — science, technology, engineering and mathematics.

Three representatives from the science center taught three different classes, which included machine makeovers, super structures and making slime.

In the machine makeovers course, students were tasked with building a crane out of lego-like blocks that were able to move certain objects. The goal of all the classes was to give the students hands-on experience with science-based activities. 

Holly Abbarno, a first grade teacher at Edison, said the event provides a very special experience for the school’s demographics. 

“We took a poll to see how many kids have been to the Pacific Science Center and out of our population, only one-tenth of the kids had been there,” she said. “This brings science on a smaller scale and gives our kids first-hand experiences that they wouldn’t be able to have otherwise.”

Abbarno said the full-day program engaged the kids and encouraged them to learn more about STEM.

“There’s no right or wrong answer here,” she said.

The day was broken out into three different segments. It kicked off with an all-school assembly, and provided a half hour presentation in the classrooms, as well as half an hour in the gym where students were able to build structures, assemble Legos and make other contraptions. 

The event closed with a family-based assembly. 

Andy Justice, principal of Edison, said it was an opportunity for the students to learn, without realizing it in some cases. 

“You see their wheels turning, and I don’t know if they know they are learning,” he said, pointing to one of the students creating a structure. “Every time she tries to design something and it fails, or it doesn’t match up, she’s pulling it apart and redoing it. It’s all part of the process.” 

The Science on Wheels tour was funded by Edison’s Parent Teacher Organization. Ed Petersen, communications and public relations coordinator for the district, said Edison is the only Centralia school that has hosted the event, but he said other schools are also looking into it.

Edison has an enrollment of approximately 375 students. About 20 percent are English Language Learners, while another 40 to 45 percent are Hispanic. To help the students better engage with their parents during the family portion of the event, the descriptions and plaques on each activity were presented in both English and Spanish.

“That’s beneficial to the evening event,” Justice said. 

As the world focuses more on STEM-related activities, Justice said it’s important to get the students to work hands-on and make them think in a scientific way. 

“There’s something about engaging the kids with things they are working hands-on with versus just out of a book or just being taught from a teacher’s perspective,” he said. “To be able to even at a young age get hands-on and be able to explore and learn through exploration is very important.”