Del Lago Academy sophomores invent science exhibits for third-graders
The San Diego Union - Tribune . Deborah Sullivan Brennan. November 17, 2017.

For a day, the gymnasium at Del Lago Academy was transformed into a science museum as sophomores from the Escondido magnet school prepared exhibits to teach third-graders from neighboring Rock Springs Elementary School about ecosystems, animals and other science themes.

The sophomores were tasked with creating interactive displays to illustrate key science concepts to younger students, and presenting their inventions on Friday.

“If they play with these, they’ll get a basic knowledge of different science topics,” said Angad Boparai, 15, a sophomore at Del Lago and a former Rock Springs student. “When they get to high school and learn it in depth, they’ll be able to understand.”

The project pairs the curiosity of grade schoolers with the creativity of high school students through an event co-hosted by the San Diego Children’s Discovery Museum in Escondido. Museum officials judge the displays, and the top 10-15 projects will be showcased in a reception at the museum. Students who created them will have the chance to interview for internships there, said Javier Guerrero, executive director of the museum.

This is the third year that Del Lago, which focuses on biotechnology, has held the event. Teams of sophomores randomly drew topics centered on the third-grade science standards, which include ecosystems, animals and adaptations, weather and climate, and forces and adaptations, Del Lago science teacher Alyssa Wallace said. Each team had to brainstorm an interactive exhibit that would illustrate those themes.

To illustrate climate types, for instance, Bianca Madera, Thanh Nguyen and Emma Arce, all 15, created display boxes decorated to represent different zones, with rocks and succulents adorning the hot climate exhibit, cotton snow and miniature pine trees on the cold climate box, and artificial ferns covering the tropical box. Students could also experience what the different climate zones feel like by placing a hand in each box, where a hair dryer, ice packs and wet cloth simulated their respective temperature and humidity.

“We wanted to make it really hands-on, so you could feel it with your fingertips,” Nguyen said.

At another display titled “Wheel of Fate,” a group of third-graders tried their luck with plastic animals, spinning the wheel to see if they would live, breed, or die.

“If they go right here and they trip, and they die,” said Angelina Funez-Limon, 8, pointing to a treacherous clay mountain that her horse was climbing.

The team who designed the children’s game was assigned to create a display on life cycles, said sophomore Abigail Traxler, 15. Despite its grim outcome, the game was a lot more fun than the worksheets and lectures she remembered from elementary school science lessons, she said.

“We didn’t get much chance to really see hands-on (projects) and play with them like this,” she said.

It was more difficult than she expected to create an activity that illustrated those themes, she said, but during her research for the project, she gained an understanding of concepts such as metamorphosis and asexual reproduction.

Across the room, other third-graders played with balloons and bubbles to learn about electromagnetism. Following the high school students’ instructions, two girls rubbed balloons on their hair to generate static electricity, blew bubbles onto a sheet of aluminum foil, and used the charged-up balloons to move them.

“I didn’t expect that when you move the balloon, that the bubble would move across,” said America Juarez, 8.

Her classmate, Arixel Torres, 8, agreed with that.

“It was very surprising,” she said. “It was very fun. The other (displays) were about doing some fun little games, but this was really about the technology.”

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