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From microscopes to magnets, science night is a megahit at Penn Elementary

By Lori Lindner
North Liberty Leader

NORTH LIBERTY– It wasn’t just about making ice cream. It wasn’t just the chance to watch things implode, play with worms or make objects dance in midair seemingly by themselves.
It’s that Penn students love science.
Penn Elementary School in North Liberty held its first-ever family science night on Friday, Feb. 21, and attendance exceeded expectations such that families were standing in lines– long lines– awaiting presentation times or for the chance to get up close and handle the items on the tables.
Eleven different organizations brought hands-on activities that allowed children to experience and explore various scientific principles, from organic composting to robotics, the properties of liquid nitrogen to the effects of magnetic fields.
Co-organizer, PTO member and Penn parent Shishonee Hughes is also a chemistry teacher at West High School. Hughes said when the Penn PTO discussed having a free family fun night, they decided to center the event around scientific investigations.
“We thought it would be a great way to get families involved and engage the kids’ inner scientist,” said Hughes.
There were 12 hands-on stations for children of all ages to sample all realms of science– biology and chemistry, physics and environmental innovations.
“Of course, the most popular has been making the ice cream,” Hughes laughed, though they were learning about liquid nitrogen at the same time.
“We’ve had huge community support and outreach,” Hughes said. All of the participants were volunteers, and the activities were all free. Some of the participants stepped in at the last minute to fill in where cancellations had been made, and Penn’s hallways were packed with kids eager to make things happen with the science-related materials available to them.
Penn student Jackson Tubbs is nicknamed “Mr. Scientist” in his classroom. He enjoys all things scientific, including Penn’s first science night.
“It’s pretty cool,” he said. While his favorite scientific topics are the studies of plants and powders, Tubbs was impressed with all the evening had to offer. “Some of these things I’ve never done before. It’s fun to experiment, because you never know what’s going to happen.”
Fifth grader Mike Ogoli also enjoyed the event.
“I knew a little about science, but it’s cool to see how many ways stuff can blow up,” Ogoli said. “We should all pay attention to the things we notice in science because it’s really interesting.”
And Hughes reminded parents that studying science does not have to involve high-tech lasers, complex chemical reactions or even electrical gadgets.
“Anytime children ask questions, help them investigate the answers,” Hughes said. “Letting them explore their own questions– that’s science.”