This past week, Al Raby’s Science Giants went over a whole bunch of cool topics and unique experiments! Before we could even begin with those, however, the teens were prompted to do a little research on a wide variety of topics, ranging from polio, to autism, to nuclear power, to hydroponics, and more. This was all in the name of discovery and to learn what they knew about what went into good research. Once what they knew was established, they were then given helpful hints on how to identify good sources of information and prompted again to find out one more detail about their topic. Following their searches, each teen gave a two minute presentation on their topic and what they found out about it.

This activity served two purposes: to see what everyone knew identifying good sources, given they will be doing a lot more research later in the program, and to instill the notion that part of being in an advanced apprenticeship program means that there is high standard, which they can meet with the right tools.

At the close of the activity, many of the teens were surprised by how much they did not know about identifying a good source. Additionally, most of them could identify something really fascinating in their own, or other’s topics. When all was said and done, the example I remember best was when Armante stated in a tone of surprise and wonder, “I never knew autism affected so many more boys than girls, and that it is because of the chromosomes.” Right then and there was a moment of pure scientific learning! When a student learned information, and that information awakened a curiosity in them.

With such a great beginning, I knew things would only get better. Throughout the rest of the week, the teens discussed acids and bases, combustion, polarity, ions, and homogenization. Initially, the students were encouraged to delve into finding out more about each activity – the idea being they should strive to know and understand the concepts surrounding the activities as best they can. The more one knows the minutia of a subject, the easier it is for them to put it in their own words and simplify it for others. Throughout the week, it was great to see the students begin to research a topic, and, on their own, research a term or concept when they came across something unfamiliar.

The last activity of the week was a super fun one: the teens learned how to make slime and homemade bouncy balls. In the midst of their research as to how and why the materials we would put together would make slime, Ethan came to me to ask how to pronounce “Newtonian.” He had been researching what physical state slime falls under when he came across the term “non-Newtonian fluid.” After verifying its pronunciation, he took it upon himself to learn more about what the term means. He had already found the answer to his initial question, and the fact that he took it upon himself to go above and beyond with his research is what brings out the “Giant” in this Science Giant 🙂

At the end of each day, we did one last activity to bring home the key elements of this program: building confidence and career skills. At the start of the week, the students were given poems at random by various authors (John Donne, Langston Hughes, Omar Paz, etc.). They were take these poems home and memorize them in chunks, so that each day they could recite more and more of the poem. Many of the students came into the program very soft spoken, but, through these recitations, across the board, their volume, their diction, and their tone have all improved. The best part of it all was that they enjoyed reading these poems and trying to comprehend the messages in them, so they could then read it again and speak it as it was meant to be read and understood. Destiny read Langston Hughes’ “Let America Be America Again”, the first day she stumbled through words, just saying what was on the paper in front of her. After a brief discussion on the words in the poem and inquiring to her peers about what they thought the tone should be when reading it, she came back the next day, and her tone was exactly in sync with Hughes’ message. The fun the students had with this practice and watching them learn and implement the tools to great public speaking was beautiful because they realized the power of their own voice. They are learning such a great skill without even realizing it. The ability to present to an audience of your peers is a nauseating thought to many of us. These teens, however, are getting practice and gaining a level of comfort in this area. This will benefit them in whatever path they choose in life. There is so much these Science Giants will be taking from this summer. This first week of program was a definite success! I cannot help but think of the song by Queen “Don’t Stop Me Now” :)… I think Science Giants just got a theme song.

Written By: Caitlin O’Brien

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