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'Quest in Science' leads to student understanding

Posted: March 18, 2008 2:18 a.m.
Updated: May 19, 2008 5:02 a.m.

Faith Vizza, center, adds salt to colored water while James Spencer, left, and Genesis Velez watch to see if it dissolves during a science experiment at Mint Canyon Elementary School in Canyon Country. The experiment was part of the Quest for Science program.

Third-grader Genesis Velez looked very carefully at the mixture of salt and oil before determining whether the salt had dissolved and then turning to record her answers on the worksheet provided by Quest
in Science.

To provide hands-on learning of science to its students, the Sulphur Springs Union Elementary School District utilizes science experts from the Quest in Science program who visit district schools and
provide everything from equipment for experiments to follow-up resources for teachers.

For six weeks, the program will be offered to students at Mint Canyon Elementary School in Canyon Country. Hope Ashton, science lab assistant, is responsible for setting up the equipment before each
lab session and assisting teachers during the experiments provided by the Quest program.

"Everything is ready for them when they walk in, for them to just learn and do," Ashton said. "It's so much better than learning about it in a book."

On Thursday, Karen Kraut's third grade class learned about "Mysterious Mixtures" and took turns mixing oil, water, salt and food coloring to get various results.

Kraut likes the Quest in Science program because it is standards-based and focuses on things the students are supposed to be learning anyway, she said. "It gives us specific experiments that relate to the standards," Kraut said. "It's easy to follow the directions that they leave for us."

A Quest specialist visits the school each Monday, bringing all the equipment, supplies and learning materials for that week's topic. The specialist then leaves follow-up assignments for the teachers to do with their students for the rest of the week.

Quest in Science was founded in 1979 by two middle-school teachers to address the lack of science education among incoming middle-school students. The courses are designed with the cooperation of the classroom teacher to foster real content learning and an introduction to essential science skills.

But according to Genesis, Quest in Science is a great program because the experiments are fun.

"It was fun, and I learned a lot about how salt doesn't dissolve in oil, and oil doesn't dissolve in anything," Genesis said. "I love science - it's very scientifical and it's very fun for me."

Each course consists of lab experiments and hands-on activities directed toward a specific topic. Students are involved in experiments that challenge them to think critically, solve problems and discover the relationship of science to other subjects and life.

"I thing they're learning a lot, because it's so hands on," Ashton said. This is the first year Mint Canyon has taken advantage of the Quest program because the campus now has a science lab. The $7,000 program provides six-week courses for second grade through fifth grade, along with an an eight-week program for sixth grade.

"The kids love being in the scientific environment," said Principal Betsy Letzo. "It gets them excited about science."


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