STEELE CREEK — What would 200 elementary students, unencumbered by parental supervision, do with four hours together?
More than one might think.
At Lake Wylie Elementary School on Friday, they played with fire and ice, wiggled their ways through soil, shot marshmallow blasters and powered lights with bicycles, among other things. They also took lessons from area science and education pros as part of a parent-free Science Night Out.
“This event is only for the students,” said science lab teacher Cynthia Dey. “We tell the students that even if their parents cry because they like doing science so much they still have to stay home. When you get home, you can teach them the new things you have learned.”
Friday’s Science Night Out was the second annual event at the school. Principal Tracey Hayes said there were 180 students last year, a number that jumped to 250 this year.
“This truly demonstrates that our students are seeing themselves as scientists,” she said.
The school always looks for ways to integrate science, technology, engineering and math principles in its curriculum. A committee of teachers organized the event with local universities, businesses and other partners. Parents joined in to put the plan into action.
“Our intent for holding this event is to generate excitement in our students about science outside of the classroom setting,” Hayes said. “Our students will have the opportunity to learn about science through hands-on, minds-on experiments and particularly how it relates to real life experiences.”
In its two years, generating excitement hasn’t been an issue. Three years ago there was a sparsely-attended parents night out fundraiser planned. Last year, the parent-teacher group “dared to change the focus,” Dey said, and implemented the educational side.
“The student response has been amazing,” she said. “The event has sold out both years.”
About half the school’s K-5 enrollment signed up for the $10 event. Some students even saved birthday money or did extra chores to earn their tickets. On hand were volunteers with Siemens, Belmont Abbey teaching students, Olympic High School students and teachers, two master gardeners and others. Covered were everything from Bernoulli’s Principle to iPad Mania.
“The event extends the learning that happens during school hours,” Dey said. “It also broadens the experiences.”