Over 400 second grade students visited Slippery Rock University to learn about science from 65 SRU students as part of a service-learning project.
The second graders came from Butler Area School District on Oct. 19 and 24. Krishna Mukherjee, assistant professor of physics and engineering said that the groups were divided into two, having 200 second graders a day so that the college students were not overwhelmed with too many kids at once.
Emily Pauley, a freshman exercise science major said that her group taught the students about movement and Newton’s Law of Motion. She said that they called up volunteers to sit on a chair and attempt to stand up without using any outside forces.
“This experiment revealed to me that working with kids is a delight, but that it can also be challenging,” Pauley explained. “You must find the perfect balance between entertainment, information and control.”
Mukherjee said that for the past several years, sixth graders from Aliquippa visited SRU, but this is the first call that she has received from the Butler Area School District.
“I have a service-learning component of my Space Science Class, and when I heard that Butler Area Elementary wanted to visit our planetarium after learning about the solar system in class, I thought it was a great opportunity,” Mukherjee said.
She said that the students got to learn about the solar system and planetarium for an hour and the SRU students got to teach for an hour. The second-graders wrapped up their day by having lunch in the ballroom.
Student Robert Prokopchak said that his group used a variety of different sized fruits to represent the size of the planets in relation to each other.
“I was impacted by the kids responding to our call, so to speak, for them to take interest in science,” Prokopchak said. “They dug it, and I want to spend part of my life getting kids to dig science and learning.”
Mukherjee said that she knew 400 kids would be a handful, so that is why they were divided into two days.
“The feedback from my students is that maybe if it was not so crowded it would have been better,” Mukherjee said.
Besides that, she said that her students loved the experience and that the elementary students seemed to love it as well.
“The kids love to learn from younger people like college students,” Mukherjee said.
Freshman exercise science major Aubree Ferek said that her favorite part of the day was getting to ask the kids questions and seeing how excited they were to be on a college campus.
Mukherjee said that her students were surprised how much the second graders knew for their age because of the STEM program being heavily implemented in schools.
“I think that the Slippery Rock students did a good job,” Mukherjee said. “There were about 30 students from my Space Science class and 30 from my Physics Class.”
One of the SRU Students, Kaylee Bussard, said that this program helped her realize that she is definitely in the right major.
Mukherjee said that the biggest challenge was getting clearances for all of her students. She said that the ones that could not get their clearances will make a video to make up the points.
The second graders were rewarded with gravity wands at the end of their session and sent on their way.
Luke Wenger, a senior physics major said that his group worked with the second graders on building electric circuits.
“Seeing the joy on the children’s faces as they got their circuits to power up and turn on a light or small fan was my favorite part,” Wenger said.
Mukherjee said that she hopes to continue working with this school district in the future.