November 22, 2014

Elyria
Flurries
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Scientists in training

Students’ ingenuity tested

ELRYIA — What happens when you put one NASA scientist, two artists, three musicians, a filmmaker, an eighth-grade science teacher and about 100 of her students together?
Before you answer that question throw in some PVC piping, irrigation hoses, plumbing fixtures, spool upon spool of heavy gauge wire, plastic twist ties, and tons and tons of Dawn dishwashing liquid.
And, if that is not confusing enough, also add a touch of music and poetry and a splash of scientific concepts like surface tension and bubble structure.
If you are still at a loss for what could be going on, head over to Northwood Junior High School.
There you will find the answer to that intricate question: an interactive kinetic bubble sculpture that resembles a double helix coil and blows a bazillion little bubbles, while poetry is read against a backdrop of hip-hop, Afro-centric and Cuban beats.
“This is so cool,” one 13-year-old girl chimed in as she cranked a dial to the rhythm of the beat, watching as tiny bubbles formed from her smooth movements and floated to the heavens or just popped against the school’s brick wall.
“This is such a cool way to learn things,” Cassie Overall said.“I never saw myself as a science kind of person. I’m better with English and art, but this way I can just do it all — be creative as well as know what I’m talking about.”
It’s absolutely magical when a teacher can weave the occasional life experience into standard textbook teaching. And this particular life experience is not only for the enjoyment of the students but is also the Elyria school’s contribution to this year’s Ingenuity Fest to be held later this summer in downtown Cleveland.
“This really correlates with everything we have learned all year long,” teacher Heidi Banjoff said. “There’s physics, scientific method, math, problem solving and language arts. They’re just learning it in a way that allows them to freely express themselves.”
Six school days ago, who would have imagined this one-of-a-kind art piece was possible? After all, how often are 13- and 14-year-olds handed power tools, told to create art and given free rein over the end result?
But on Wednesday it proved to not only be possible, but also fun.
“I hope when people see this they will think it’s cool and it’s something they will never forget,”
14-year-old Anna Gibbons said.
The collaboration is the perfect example of what happens when art meets science, said Julie Goldstein, director of education and family programming for Ingenuity Cleveland.
“Life is more than just art alone and more than just science alone,” Goldstein said. “Art and technology together make the world as we know it today.”
It’s not rocket science, but who cares, NASA scientist Tom Benson said.From the beginning, Benson said he was more than willing to get his hands dirty. In his opinion, the students he helps today will be the astronauts heading to the moon tomorrow.
“NASA is heading back to the moon, heading to Mars, and the person to do that is not me or anyone else my age,” he said. “They are somewhere in someone’s sixth- or seventh-grade science class questioning the way we do things.
“Actually artists and engineers are more similar than they are different,” Benson added. “We both start from a concept of what we want to create and work the plan until we run into problems. But it’s the good engineer or the good artist that takes advantage of what is happening when it doesn’t go according to that plan.”
As such, Benson said he’s happy to put a little rocket fuel on the fire.
Contact Lisa Roberson at 329-7121 or lroberson@chroniclet.com.

060607science.jpgCarl Sullenberger / Chronicle photos
Ryan Turner, 9, of St Jude’s School in Elyria blows a “flubber bubble” at the Kindergarten Science Day on Tuesday.