Paying It Forward: The Joy of Teaching at Science and Discovery Night

Audrey ‘20
When I was in third grade, my favorite class was science. I would stroll into my teacher’s classroom, ready to make paper airplanes or marble towers as well as learn about the human body. It was the class where I forgot time, where I was inspired to go home and try my own experiments. Science class sparked a light in me that continued into my high school career as the paper airplanes grew into model rockets and reading Neil DeGrasse Tyson books transformed into taking Physics and Mechanics as a senior. 

I realized that not all children were as fortunate as I was to have a science program at such a young age. As a result, I co-founded a chapter of STEM You Can! at the Lawrenceville School, a club dedicated to providing STEM opportunities to children in the local Lawrenceville and Trenton areas. As a club, we participated in Science and Discovery Night at the Lawrenceville Elementary School.

Science and Discovery Night is like a maze of wonders. Each room has an interactive science activity ranging from robotics to my room, which had pig lungs and “Harry Potter”-themed density, static electricity, and chemistry activities. Seeing the kids’ faces light up was priceless; it was the kind of joy that could only be captured by those who see the world with pure wonder and amazement. For my activity, I rubbed a “magical stuffed animal” on a stryrofoam plate, then had the kids say the magic words before pressing my hand to the plate and lifting it into the air without grabbing it. As the kids watched the plate defy gravity, they were amazed and instantly wanted to try the experiment. I appreciated their curiosity and attempts to discover the secret behind my “magic trick.”

I also noticed a divide between the younger and older kids; the kindergartners were simply amazed by my trick while the fourth graders had learned about static electricity and immediately explained to me how my performance worked. I found both reactions equally exciting. For the kindergartners I loved how they took on a challenge with wonder, hoping to solve the seemingly impossible. For the fourth graders, their ability to apply classroom knowledge to an outside application impressed me as well as their continued interest and fascination despite knowing how the trick worked. Across all ages, the kids left my table with a huge smile on their face.

The event took a lot of work, but the wonder and laughter that resulted made it totally worth it. I would like to thank Science Department Chair Ms. Ilana Saxe for helping the STEM You Can! group as well as Ms. [Elizabeth] Ferguson and Ms. [Rachel] Cantley (leaders of Lawrenceville’s Community Service Program) for supporting our group and bringing this opportunity to us.

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Through House and Harkness, Lawrenceville challenges a diverse community of promising young people to lead lives of learning, integrity, and high purpose.  Our mission is to inspire the best in each to seek the best for all.