Math and science camp participants 'reach for the sky'

July 12, 2011|By RICHARD F. BELISLE |
  • Emily Butts admires a graph she constructed Tuesday in a math and science camp for 4th- and 5th-graders at Martinsburg High School. She had to solve how much an elephant would weigh on the planets of the solar system.
By Kevin G. Gilbert, Staff Photographer

MARTINSBURG, W.Va. — A good way to find out how much a 15,000-pound elephant would weigh on Jupiter is to go to the fourth- and fifth-grade math and science camp at Martinsburg High School.

The elephant would tip Jupiter's scales at 37,500 pounds. It would weigh 60,000 pounds on Mercury and 6,000 pounds on Mars.

The students, 9- and 10-year-olds, worked out their own formulas for the weight problem at the camp under way this week and next. The camp's theme is "Reach for the Sky."

High school math and science teachers Kristy Fisher and Kasey Whisel run the camp. Seven students are enrolled for the first week of camp and eight for the second week.

So far, in addition to working out formulas for the elephant/planet problem, the students made and flew birds made from soda straws and construction paper, learned through role-playing how bats use radar to catch food and studied weather patterns in "tornadoes" fashioned from two-liter soda bottles and water.

They also made rockets fueled by baking soda and vinegar, some of which reached the first-floor roof of the school, said Wanda Miller, chairwoman of the Martinsburg High School science department and coordinator of the camp.

Next week, the students will do experiments that depict human flight in planes, helicopters and balloons.

Miller said Martinsburg High School Principal Regina Phillips came up with the idea for the camp as a way to show younger students that math and science are not subjects to be feared and can be fun.

Miller said a team of eight teachers brainstormed ideas on how to set up the camp and its experiments.

"We targeted fourth- and fifth-graders because they are still excited about learning, and they're always ready for new stuff," Miller said. "We also had young teachers ready to offer new content."

Miller discounts critics who claim American students are behind their European and Asian counterparts in math and science.

"If you compare apples to apples, then our best students are as good as their best," she said. "In the United States, we have to educate everyone. They only educate very high-performing students, so the discrepancy is not as great as people think it is."

Eldon Scheib, 10, attends Eagle School Intermediate in Martinsburg. He said he's in camp "because I'm good in school, and my dad wants me to get interested in other things. I'm glad I'm here. It's fun."

Schieb was fascinated seeing a feather under a microscope.

"I've never looked in a microscope. It was cool," he said.

Emily Butts, 10, also attends Eagle School Intermediate and is the only girl in camp this week. She was proud that her bird came in fourth.

"It flew 87 inches high," she said.

She's enrolled for both weeks.

"It gives me something to do instead of staying home and being bored." she said.

There are openings for the second week, which begins Monday, Miller said. To register, call 304-267-3530.

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