Hard knowledge meets Vaudeville
The Franklin Institute in Philadelphia has entertained and educated generations of science buffs since it opened in 1824. Halstead has been with the Institute since July. She said she worked last year at the Great Lakes Science Center in Cleveland but wanted to move closer to family and friends in her hometown of Pottstown, Pa. The science show is a mix of hard facts, experiments and demonstrations. Each segment is designed to be understood by the particular grade level.
"A lot of it is building off concepts we think kids already know and pushing them further in their understanding," Halstead said. "We want to get them out of textbook learning and into real life circumstances - besides getting them excited by science."
Halstead gives a fast paced account of basic science ideas like gravity, orbits, and new ideas like freefall mixed with concepts from chemistry and physics. Plus, there is adolescent humor thrown in to make a point and keep the kids laughing as they learn.
There is noise, color and jokes about bodily functions. There is also question and answer and a lot of audience participation.
The climax of the show was when 11-year-old Austin Francisco was dressed up in a makeshift spacesuit, demonstrating a $40 rendition of the $12 million original.
What's so great about science?
"I enjoy learning about all things of the earth," said Laura Eisler, 11. "I really liked it when she made the bottle into a rocket ship."
The exercise illustrated how liquid evaporates and changes into gas. Halstead had a makeshift "rocket launcher" where she hung a soda bottle with a little water in it upside down and held a flame under its mouth until it was propelled into the air at "25 miles per hour."
"I like it when you can learn and have fun at the same time," Thomas Abramowitz said. "This was very fun. I wish it could be like this all the time."
Jeremy Wheeler, 11, said he likes studying about orbits and galaxies. "Outer space is very interesting, and the show was fun," he said. Clarendon science teacher Pam Wurst said the yearly event was to encourage student interest in science so that they may "pursue inference and experiments."
"Certainly it gets their curiosity up," she said.
Wurst said the Hudson County Science Fair, where middle and high school students compete, is optional for Clarendon students, but fourth to sixth graders must participate in the Secaucus Science Fair. This year the Secaucus School district will have a new feature - a "science week" in April that will involve public elementary, middle, and high schools in town.