Program brings science to students

Pacific Science Center’s 2-day program comes to Centennial Elementary in Olympia

lpemberton@theolympian.comJanuary 27, 2014 

Students in Melissa Hayes’ fourth-grade class at Centennial Elementary School in Olympia have been studying Washington and its geology.

Last week, they had a chance to view a “clue” from Mount St. Helens’ 1980 eruption: a melted walkie-talkie that was found in the devastation.

“This walkie-talkie was in an area that got up to about 680 degrees Fahrenheit in temperature,” explained Rose Chartier, an outreach education teacher with the Pacific Science Center’s Science On Wheels program.

Scientists melted similar plastics to determine the amount of heat that was in the area when the mountain blew, she added.

The Centennial Associated Student Body paid about $3,450 to bring Science on Wheels to the school. The money was raised at events such as the Pumpkin Fun Run, district spokeswoman Rebecca Japhet said.

One highlight of the two-day visit was an all-school assembly. The event also included 22 different classroom presentations, each tailored to the appropriate grade level. Exhibits in the school’s library emphasized subjects such as physics, space and geology.

Science on Wheels has visited Centennial several times, Hayes said.

“Every year, it’s something different,” she said. “It’s always a new topic for them. I love it.”

The program was born out of the 1970s gas crisis, when children could not visit the Pacific Science Center on school field trips.

“We try to bring the Science Center to kids who may never get there,” Chartier said.

Science on Wheels is one of the largest science outreach programs in the country, officials say. During the past decade, it has brought science and math to more than 1.5 million children and adults.

“I liked it,” Centennial fourth-grader Paige Layton said after Chartier’s presentation in her class. “I like volcanoes, and I learned how they erupt and what the rocks look like after they come out of an eruption.”

Lisa Pemberton: 360-754-5433 lpemberton@theolympian.com

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