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Family time takes a spin into the science realm

Posted by on March 4, 2013 – 7:24 am

Diana LeSueur, instructor at the Salk Flight Center in the Mesa Unified School District, gives my son some flying tips during his visit to the flight center’s display at Mesa’s SciTech Expo last month.

Science beats through most daily activities: cooking, television, even exercise.

So when I took my children on three different outings in the last month involved in the Valley’s SciTech Expo, the number of displays and topics shouldn’t have surprised me.

But they did.

Just last week, my children “flew” in a flight simulator, starred in their own television program and ran on top of a roller coaster. We did all this at the Mesa Unified School District SciTech Expo. It was an awesome event at Red Mountain High School. We spent a lot of time at the district’s Flight Center display. My 8-year-old daughter wants to be a pilot, but it was my 10-year-old son who “flew” three times!

The district’s education television department also had up a green screen. Again, my not-shy boy did this one. He hopped in front of the television, made a few funny faces, and then the television crew put him on a beach in Hawaii.

One of the highlights was seeing a working hovercraft built by a student at Shepherd Junior High School. Nicholas Bristow, 12, said it took him about four hours! And it really did get up off the ground about an inch.

He even handed us the instructions on how to make one ourselves!

My children gravitated to the “pretty colors” being made by students in Red Mountain’s AP chemistry class. Not sure what they had on fire behind the protective screen, but the different bowls burned at various bright colors.

The last stop at the SciTech expo was the Brain Breaks display. Inside the classroom, my kids joined a few others “boxing” in outer space and running on a roller coaster. The short activities were displayed on a screen so all the children could follow along. Debra Pangrazi, who is the district coordinator for elementary school physical education, helped create the idea that is now available to all Mesa elementary schools. Classroom teachers can used the breaks to get the children moving between lessons, a method that’s been proven to increase learning.

The week prior, I joined my daughter’s class field trip to the Arizona Science Center. She and her classmates are studying weather. Our first stop was the nature’s forces display on the third floor. There, the kids were exposed to the wind of a hurricane, rain of an Arizona dust storm and heat of a desert summer.

My daughter’s favorite stop, I believe, was the stomach slide on the first floor. Gross! But they got a kick out of it.

But I think my favorite trip last month was to Mesa’s Arizona Museum of Natural History. There, we came face-to-face with dinosaurs and the stars all in one visit. The museum is hosting NASA’s Destination Station display. It’s all about the International Space Station, how it was constructed, how astronauts live there and how Earthlings are benefiting from it.

I grew up wanting to be an astronaut, so this display brought back memories of Space Camp and writing letters to astronauts. My son, however, after reading a lot of the display concluded that wasn’t the job for him.

The display is on until March 24, so don’t miss it!

There are two more weeks of the Arizona SciTech Festival, with activities across the East Valley. Check it out at http://azscitechfest.org/azscitechfest.


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