Learning through experimentation; Ed Org students create educational opportunity at Factory Friday
May 9, 2017   //   By:   //   Achievements, Real-world Learning

What a perfect way to learn science: Explore and experiment on your own and have fun while doing it.

For three years, Elizabethtown College education students have spent an evening each spring at Lancaster Science Factory. They work with students from pre-K to high-school age, leading them through activities at the interactive technology and science center.

“We were thinking of ways for our students to work in community outreach,” said Rachel Finley-Bowman about the connection between the College and the center. “Coincidently Lancaster Science Factory had reached out to Tina MacKenzie,” the College’s assistant director of internships and employer engagement around the same time.

Perfect match.

That first year was a success, said Finley-Bowman, associate professor of education and department chair, but it was mainly for Elizabethtown area families. “We wanted to expand it.”

The idea, she said, was to have Elizabethtown College education majors interact with students in other areas of the county to add diversity and numbers. “It was partly recruitment and outreach,” partly a way to give families of lower income an opportunity to visit the Science Center for free and a way to give education students an opportunity to work directly with students in a unique setting.

“This ties in with the College’s motto of ‘educate for service’,” said Wendy Bellew, lecturer in education at the College and faculty advisor for Ed Org, an Education Department student group. “We are giving back to the community.”

It’s a great experience for our student to see that science can be engaging and hands on.”

Elizabethtown College rents the Science center from 5:30 to 7:30 on the night of Factory Friday and makes it free to those who attend, said Bellew. Students from several area districts are invited. “There were more than 200 attendees and we had people at the door waiting at 5:30,” she said.

About 20 education students positioned themselves in groups of two or three at various stations around the Science Factory. “It offers experiences for the pre-service teachers (education majors),” said Bellew. “It’s a great experience for our student to see that science can be engaging and hands on.”

To some education majors, science can be a bit scary, she said. This exercise helps take some of the fear away.

The young students in attendance get a one-on-one explanation of the science behind the activity in which they were participating.

Among other stations, there were toothpick-and-marshmallow activities that represented engineering concepts and a one with oobleck (a cornstarch and water experiment) that gave a glimpse at states of matter—liquids and solids. Each attendee had a passport that would be stamped at each station, said Bellew. They were free to go in any order.

So the learning could continue after the event, Ed Org students created take-home packets, said Erika Hudock, a senior early childhood and special education major, who has been involved with the program since the first year. Hudock also is president of Ed Org.

This is the second year the education organization has been involved, she said. “This year I decided to do it and refine it a bit, tweak it.” The idea, she said, was to reach a different or wider community. Invited were students from School District of Lancaster, Conestoga Valley, Elizabethtown and Manheim Township. The youngest in attendance was 2.

Hudock said the Science Factory helped promote the event and the College shared on social media. “Any school-age children were welcome.”

In the end, year three of the event was even better than expected, Hudock said. “There were all these people crowded into the place. Families were talking and interacting. It was a great night.”

About the Author :

E.A. (Elizabeth) Harvey is the communications manager and news editor at Elizabethtown College. She has worked in the Office of Marketing and Communications since 2008, after more than two decades as a newspaper feature writer. She holds a bachelor's degree in corporate communication from Elizabethtown College.