Science Class Makes Newton's Laws Of Physics Simple For Fourth-graders

COCONUT CREEK | Thursday, September 01, 2005

Science class can get a little dull for Maria Guadarrama. "Sometimes I like it, sometimes I don't," the 9-year-old said. "I don't like boring things, like writing. It makes my hand hurt." On Thursday, the fourth-grader put away her pencil at Tradewinds Elementary School to learn science in a new way. Using her hands, she yanked a piece of cloth from beneath a pile of plastic bowls and cups. The lesson: Sir Isaac Newton's third law of motion.

A few minutes later, Maria recited what she had learned. "For every action there's an equal ... umm ..." she paused, thinking.

"Reaction!" she crowed. Welcome to "Newton in a Nutshell," a crash course in physics presented to Tradewinds Elementary fourth-graders by a Coral Springs-based company called High Touch-High Tech. School officials invited High Touch educators to teach students about Newton's laws during an in-school field trip for fourth-graders. The company reaches schools in Broward, Palm Beach and Miami-Dade counties. Most schools pay for High Touch's programs through grants or PTA funds.

Leading the class was "Ladybug Lori" (teacher Lori Smith) and her assistant "Rocket Ryan" (Ryan Paskow.) All of High Touch's teachers are christened with science-related names and teach students how to conduct experiments with household items.

Coral Springs resident Daniel Shaw founded High Touch-High Tech in 1991. A former microbiologist, Shaw ("Dinosaur Dan") has created more than 60 programs that cover pretty much every chapter in a typical elementary-level science class, including Earth, space, plant life, molecules, insects, nutrients and weather. He has nine employees, most of whom are real-life scientists.

"Most people think science is pretty boring, but we try to make science come alive for kids," he said. "We have the supplies on hand where every child can touch and do and feel. That's where the magic comes in." Assistant Principal Tofi Atohi said the interactive program is a perfect way to introduce scientific concepts to kids. He said it's a tough subject to teach because many educators lack training in science.

Donning white coats, Smith and Paskow arrived at Tradewinds with a cart stocked with several items, including bottles, plates, cups, wheels and clothespins. Students worked in groups as they conducted their "experiments" in a makeshift lab.

"Scientists!" Smith shouted, addressing the kids as they worked. "Who are we learning about today?" "Jimmy Neutron?" ventured one boy.

Smith smiled. "No, no," she answered. "Isaac Newton." Teacher Samantha Gac said High Touch's demonstration helps kids master concepts such as energy and inertia, wHigh are tough to explain using textbooks. It's also a fun way to study science, a subject they'll later be tested on during FCAT exams, she said.

"Newton's Law isn't an easy thing to grasp," Gac said. "When they see it, they remember it longer. They can experience science." Another subject taught at Tradewinds: tornados.

Michael Tirado, 9, grabbed two plastic bottles connected at the mouths, one filled with pink-dyed water and glitter. He shook the bottles and watched the liquid spin like a tornado and funnel to the other side. "It goes really fast," Michael said.

In another group, Peter Wisocki, 10, stood on a contraption called a gyroscope, holding a wheel. As he twisted around on the gyroscope, his body moved the other way, wHigh demonstrated Newton's third law: For every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction.

High Touch teacher and Boca Raton resident Carol Raywood, "Cosmic Carol," said it was rewarding to watch students get excited about science.

"They learn something new and they have fun while they're doing it," she said. "They get it."

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