Living Democracy

Girl Scouts of North-Central Alabama Help Students Discover Science Through Art

Living Democracy student Shaye McCauley talking to young students“Listen to the noise it makes!” Zack Wilkins demanded as he squeezed his Gak, prompting giggles from the eight other kids at the table. The room burst with chatter as the kids twisted the putty they had made. Christine Megill, Community Development Manager for the Girl Scouts of North-Central Alabama, walked around with capsules of food coloring, releasing a few drop in each student’s bag.

“Science is so COOL,” the 6-year-old redhead next to me shouted.

“Yeah Mallory!” her brother Caleb agreed, nodding vigorously. “And Miss Christine said we can even make this at home.”

“Ask your mom first,” Megill laughed, coming around the table with the food coloring.

This was the scene when I assisted with the first day of Discovering Science Through Art, a program for elementary school students hosted by the Girl Scouts of North-Central Alabama. Megill, who also runs the Girl Scout day camp at Camp Cottaquilla, kept the boys and girls engaged in each story and project she presented.

The free classes are hosted at the Collinsville Public Library every Tuesday in June from 11 a.m. to 12:30.

Discovering Science Through Art engages children’s natural curiosity about the world, allowing them to explore those interests in safe environment. Megill said she believes it is a foundation for life-long learning.

“The benefits are obvious in the kid’s attitudes: they love the projects and are excited to learn,” she explained. Megill’s words proved true based on the excited, electric environment that surrounded the children at the workshop.

She started the morning preparing by setting up display boards, counting materials, and testing ingredients for Gak, or homemade silly putty.

Discovering Science Through Art studentTen local children showed up for her first lesson, all leaving with smiles and pleas to their parents to come back.  By the next Tuesday, the number of participants doubled. I credit the colorful chalkboard sign posted daily outside the library and my flagging people down to hand them a flyer, but many parents were also referred by word of mouth.

“That’s when you know a program’s working,” Jennifer Wilkins, director of the Collinsville Library, revealed. Her son, Zack, came back for the second week eager to see what he would take home that day.

The program incorporates science lessons with arts and crafts activities, like a story about primary, secondary, and tertiary colors exemplified through a mosaic the kids created with glue and chalk. The next week, kids played with magnets, testing the attracting and repelling effects of the north and south poles on magnet ends. They swirled magnetic, metallic beads in transparent tubes, an exercise accompanied by many oohs and ahhs.

Parents are grateful for the program, too. “It’s great my granddaughter has a way to stay engaged academically now that school is out,” commented Anita Bowers, grandmother of three Discovering Science Through Art students. “We were looking for ways for her to keep working this summer, you know, just so they aren’t rusty in the fall, so this has been a blessing.”

Discovering Science Through Art studentOther parents joke that they’ll petition the Girl Scouts for a math program next summer. “Any way to keep them learning while they have fun!” remarked one mother of four.

The library has also benefitted from hosting the program, as some children mill around afterward, scoping out library books or surfing the Internet on one of the ten computers. It’s also a great opportunity to promote other programs the library has to offer.

“We can better advertise our book club to these parents and kids when they’re already here, participating in something going on,” Wilkins said. It also promotes the library as a community organization that provides an array of services: book clubs, English as a second language classes, free computer programs, and more—all designed to help expand our community’s education.

Wilkins is passionate about reaching every child in the Collinsville community, handing out flyers to every parent who enters the library with young kids. The program is also promoted at church services, local restaurants, and even the auto repair shop near the interstate. Due to the promotion and high turnout rates, the Collinsville library expects attendance at the program to rapidly grow.

By Shaye McCauley
Last Updated: June 17, 2014