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CBB students launch rockets, sink boats in the name of science

Buckets in the upstairs hallway of Clara Byrd Baker Elementary School were filled with water; kids huddled around them.

Kids piled blocks and bears on plastic disks and aluminum foil, the makeshift boats teetering under the weight.

One block too many and splash, down goes the boat. That happened to 7-year-old Kai Braxton.

After multiple tries, Kai knew the perfect number of blocks to add.

"No weight is the best choice," Kai said.

Kai and his family were more than 170 that stopped by the school for its second annual STEAM night Thursday, to get kids interested in science, technology, engineering, arts and math.


STEAM grew out of a traditional science fair, said reading specialist Tammy Williams, a member of the committee behind Thursday night's event.

She said the committee wanted to entice the community into the school and not restrict experiments to the home.

"It gets our kids to be thinkers — that's what we really want," Williams said. "The parents get really involved too, that's the fun part."

Families followed a STEAM passport through the building, earning stamps with each experiment.

Each grade level hosted an activity, from kindergarten's floating and sinking, to third grade's pipe cleaner towers and first grade's paper airplane race.

Because she's a reading specialist, Williams' project played off of the "Three Billy Goats Gruff" fable. Students were challenged to build a bridge out of wooden blocks and paper that would hold the most billy goats — oversized glass marbles — without collapsing.

Down the hall, fourth-grade classes hosted a rocket-building and launching competition.

Rockets, crafted from straws and paper, had fins, and builders had to think about thrust and lift, fourth-grade teacher Alma Chiesa said. Sometimes it took a few launches to be successful, she said.

"These kids are going to try to go into aerospace engineering," Chiesa said. "(The experiments) help them be creative, and also learn about trial and error, which you really need for science and engineering."

Earlier in the day her students measured 12-inch intervals down the hall to measure how far each rocket flies out of the air compressor launch.

Fifth-grader Katelyn Langdale volunteered to be a lab assistant for the night, helping participants in the rockets room.

Katelyn said STEAM night introduces kids to science if they don't know much about it, or give them a chance to do experiments if they already love it.

"I like science," Katelyn said. "I want to be an archeologist when I grow up, and I need science to do that."

Two years and counting

The passports were new this year, as was the fourth- and fifth-grade science fair, principal Mike Hurley said.

Although it was optional, Hurley said a large number of students a participated.

The committee added a second-grade musical performance, three guest speakers and a pizza dinner this year in an attempt to draw in more families.

"Parents have a hard time logistically finding time to fit dinner in, so we tried to alleviate that and allow for dinner at the same time," Hurley said.

More families attended this year than last, but Williams said she would always like to see more.

Hands-on science and engineering activities benefit all children because those are the careers of the future, Williams said.

Kai said he loves events like STEAM night.

"There's so many fun things to do," Kai said. "I like it because science, it helps you grow smarter and learn new things."

Williams can be reached by phone at 757-345-2341.

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