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Sugar House Journal

Hands-on Science

Jul 13, 2016 10h47 ● By Liz Suggs

In a move to help children immerse themselves in science, Hands-on science gives students that opportunity.

By Elizabeth Suggs

Students at Highland park Elementary have a chance to get their hands dirty with Sue Dickey, in Hands-on Science. 

Hands-on Science isn’t just part of Highland Park Elementary, but, according to Dickey, schools that offer it are few and far between even if many schools wish to get involved. Dickey explains that it has to do with the involvement of not only the schools, but the students and volunteers as well. 

“I’ve had a number of schools contat me of the last ten years.” Dickey said. “The problem is they think is something that I can just manage, but it can’t be done that way. It takes a highly committed person. It’s a lot work to set it up.” 

The problem is, according to Dickey, was to sell the program. Because of the time allotted to the presentation of the potential program it can be difficult to get a foot in the door, according to Dickey, but once the children are committed, it’s much easier. 

“You get the kids to enjoy that and then the parents will get involved.” Dickey said. “It’s not just throwing money at stuff.” 

For Dickey, the kids like the program for the science itself, but also the stress free environment given. The program is taught during school hours, students will have classroom time at the Hands-on science, but no tests are taken. 

Students instead go into the classroom to understand their science first hand with both Dickey and volunteers. The ideal number of volunteers is about six, according to Dickey. This way volunteers have about four or five students for 45 per science session. Compared to Unitah, who also takes part in Hands-on science, volunteers are given about 50 minutes per science session. 

Both 45 and 50 minutes isn’t a bad amount of time, according to Dickey, but more time could be given and the students would benefit, but what is in place now isn’t troubling, according to Dickey. Moreover, it’s the amount of volunteers per student. 

Volunteers can sign up online or by phone with Dickey. After thirty minutes of training per unit, the volunteers will then conduct the same experiment or demonstration to the children. This includes a wide spectrum of sciences, according to Dickey, but it’s the dissections the children love. 

It’s comparative anatomy, says Dickey. Students can have a rat sans body with all the insides hooked up for the fifth graders. And for sixth graders, the option is pig lungs and hearts. 

While the third graders don’t do dissections, they students will ask for it. 

“The kids absolutely love the dissection units.” Dickey said. “These are the most popular, but also the ones that cost the most.” Before things were cut back, Dickey had students use cow eyes and three-foot sharks. However, in the practice of comparative anatomy, Dickey will still occasionally bring in one. 

Though things haven’t always been bright and shiney for Dickey. People, according to Dickey, have tried to take the dissections out, but in the light of the students’ better understanding of their own anatomy, Dickey pushed back and has successfully kept in dissections. 

“I’m not trying to make anyone a doctor.” Dickey said. “Most of the kids, even the ones that thought it was icky, will remember dissections later in life.” 

Because of this, Dickey said, it was important to keep the dissections in the program. 

“There are lots of people out there that if we could just tap into someone’s passion through the different fields of science we need to try to do it.” Dickey said. “This is a program I love and I believe it connects with kids even if they don’t enjoy every single unit, but maybe there’s one unit that does turn on the light.”